It’s been brewing.
A few weeks ago in a random discussion with a couple of male friends, sexual harassment and assault came up. I have been the victim of both and am admittedly very sensitive about the topic. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not offended easily and I can take a joke. I often have something inappropriate to add to a conversation. I don’t cross lines though. I never make them personal or directed at someone.
During the conversation, one of the men said, in all seriousness, “Sexual assault should be graded, not punished. Women need to learn to take a fucking joke and be flattered.”
Wait. What? No. Abso-fucking-lutely not.
I try so hard to check myself and to not react to every statement that bothers me. So I shrugged it off and didn’t say anything other than “Yea, no.” before I got back to work. The comment hung with me all week.
The following week, Taylor Swift was in the news because of the “Groping Lawsuit“. The relevance, for the sake of my rant, is that she was counter-suing a DJ for $1 because he felt it was okay to grab her bare ass during a photo shoot. For me, this was important because she stood up to a man who did something that is not okay. Something that happens to women daily while on the subway, at work, on the sidewalk, in stores, at school. There are men that think it is harmless and within their right to touch women, regardless of how women feel about it.
Newsflash, little boys: IT’S NOT OKAY. It’s never okay. You can attempt to rationalize and trivialize all day long, but it will never make it right.
Yesterday morning when I walked in, before I even said “good morning”, one of the young guys said “Paul isn’t here today. You should have worn shorts and a white shirt so you could wash cars.” Paul does a myriad of things around here…one of which is washing client cars. That’s how my week started.
So here we are on Tuesday…surely it will be better than Monday. We had a client come in that needed a ride. The young man that normally does this is not here and because I had just walked in the door, I was asked if I would mind giving him a lift.
Before we were even out of the building he said to a coworker, “Well, well…now who is this?” and kissed my hand. It was uncomfortable but I shrugged it off and went to the car. As soon as he got into the car and shut the door, my stomach churned. It was 9 o’clock in the morning and he reeked of alcohol. I truly don’t know if he was hammered or if it was lingering from last night.
As I pulled out onto the main road, he put his hand on my knee (I was wearing a skirt) and said “Go right, honey.”
He pulled out his phone to call someone and the first words out of his mouth were that he “was having a great day being given a ride by a cute blonde with no wedding ring”.
::more cringing:: Lies. My wedding ring is always on my hand.
We had barely gone half a mile and the stench of the alcohol was making me nauseous. He got off the phone and I told him I’m married. He asked what my husband does for work. I told him. He remarked that I must never see him (I do), and what a waste of a beautiful wife.
He kept touching my shoulder, rubbing my arm, putting his hand on my knee, leaning in way too close. He wouldn’t stop looking at me. He said “I hope you don’t mind me touching you.”
YEA. I FUCKING DO. If you can’t see how uncomfortable I am with this entire situation, you are drunk, stupid, or just a complete asshole. I’m guessing all three.
I hate feeling trapped. Driving a car with an apparently intoxicated man with groping hands sitting in the passenger seat made me incredibly claustrophobic, embarrassed and angry. I should have turned around and gone back to the office the second he put his hands on me. By the time I dropped him off, my head was screaming from the stench of the alcohol. I rolled the windows down and fought back tears. When I got back, I told my coworkers that if they have another drunk pervert client that needs a lift, do it themselves. I am the only female here. I will not be put in that position again.
I spent the rest of the day angry. Not just with him for putting his hands on me, but for myself for not elbowing him in the face when he did. I hate how normalized this type of thing is and that laughing it off is expected. I hate how it makes me feel. How my eyes burn with anger and how my skin crawls. I hate that I spent the rest of this day with it gnawing at me. Mostly, I hate that my sweet little girls will one day be subjected to this behavior. I can only hope that by then, it is not socially acceptable.