This afternoon, I stared at my friend’s #MeToo status as I typed and erased #MeToo as a comment to her three or four times, before deciding to give her a sad face and send her a text instead. In light of all the Harvey Weinstein news and his accounts of sexual assault and rape, women are coming forth with their own stories using the hashtag #MeToo to shed light on *just* how often assault takes place.
It’s not like I’m at a loss for examples. I remember seeing a grown man’s penis when I was about 7 or 8 years old, just for a moment. He’d been flirting with my mom all day at the lake, when suddenly mid-swim, he flashed me. I told my mom right away, and we went home, and I’ve always felt guilty about it — even now as an adult, knowing he was likely a dangerous person for me to have been around…but I wasn’t even sure he meant to show it to me, or if his swimsuit had just fallen as he stared at me. And I guess that’s the first time in my life I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, because, I don’t know, I feel guilty accusing people of things they didn’t do.
In the seventh grade, I remember a classmate grabbing my butt and asking if my parents were home while we walked home from school. I remember screaming loudly on the sidewalk. No one had ever touched me there before, and I was so caught off guard, that I was literally scared by the action. I was humiliated by my reaction. We’d been flirting for weeks, and I was at the age where I’d begun wanting that kind of male attention, and I couldn’t believe that when I finally got it, no matter how unexpected, that I wasn’t able to play it cool. He felt like shit, I’m sure. We were in middle school and everyone around us was doing shit like this. And I guess that’s the second time in my life I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, and the first time in my life I took the blame for it being awkward when a guy was inappropriate with me.
In college, I hooked up with a good friend of mine. We were very drunk and I nearly forgot who was on top of me every time I closed my eyes. I told him to stop every time I “came to,” and he’d comfort me for a few minutes until we were making out again, and I was forgetting who I was with again, and we were eventually having sex. I woke up in the morning and felt awful. I’d been flirting with him for years, and I don’t even know why I said no that night, rather than just sucking it up and doing it. Except I did, I guess, suck it up and do it. And then I realized that “technically,” I’d been raped. And I guess that’s the third time in my life I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, the second time in my life I took blame for it being awkward, and the first time in my life I used a word like “technically” or “basically” or “only” to minimize the actions of a man who’d done something pretty fucking terrible to me. Technically.
After college, I was in a terrible relationship for years. It was mostly verbal and emotional abuse. But he’d often grab my arms or physically restrain me when we argued. He hit me repeatedly, only once, but played it off like it was a few playful love taps that ended up being too hard because he was drunk. He raped me, only once, after I came home drunk, initiated sex, and then stopped it when it became too painful to handle. But he told me it was “almost over,” and I cried as I waited for him to finish. When I talked about any of this with him, he twisted it, took no responsibility, and I was being dramatic by bringing this up to him. And I guess that’s the fourth time I gave a man the benefit of the doubt, the third time I took the blame, the second time I used a quantifier like “only” to minimize a man’s actions, and the first time a guy literally told me “no I didn’t” when I told him “you raped me last night.”
So, like, all things considered #MeToo.
Yet I found that I couldn’t say it. And at the time of this writing, I still struggle to say it. Not because it’s not true. And not even because I find these things hard to talk about. I’ll talk to anyone about any experience. I’m an open book. I just…somehow…feel like my experiences weren’t “bad enough” to say #MeToo. I’ve mostly recovered from all of this. I don’t think about any of it too often or feel too deeply affected by any of it long-term. I don’t feel like a victim. And because I don’t feel like a victim, I struggle to call my experiences what they really are: indecent exposure to a child, assault, rape, abuse.
I feel guilty using those words. I feel like I’m being dramatic. Or desperate to be part of a conversation for attention. I feel like I’m exaggerating. And I truly, in my heart, can’t figure out if I am. I can’t and don’t trust my own judgment with the severity of less-than-pleasant occurences that have happened in my life. It’s never been a matter of me thinking people wouldn’t “believe me.” It’s been an issue that I barely “believe” myself. And I don’t know what that says about me.
But I do know this: my attitude, my feelings, and my self-doubt are part of the problem. I consider myself to generally be a strong, educated, feminist woman with a decent platform where my voice can be heard. Yet I have trouble identifying these things, and further excuse them when they happen to me. That’s not good. It doesn’t have to be “bad enough” for it to count. And regardless of whether I’m comfortable or you’re comfortable saying #MeToo, we all need to admit that we have a problem..