Me, too. If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, write “Me too” in a *comment.* With 7,000,000+ in our #elephantjournal community, and over 85% of us identifying as women or gender non-conforming, we might be able to give the world a sense of the magnitude of the problem. (with thanks to) #pantsuitnation #riseup #chorusofvoices For more, read #katebeckinsale’s statement on the front page of elephantjournal.com
While the focus of the media is hot on Harvey Weinstein right now, with many women coming forward with allegations of inappropriate behaviour and possibly sexual assault, let’s not forget that this, unfortunately, is not an unusual occurrence.
Based on what I, and many of my friends, have personally experienced, I would say that there are similar men everywhere—on every street, quite a few in every bar, in every work place, and tragically there will be one in many of our homes.
Predatory behaviour by men is something that many (I would guess the majority) of women and girls, have been forced to experience throughout their lives.
Generally speaking, it is somewhat socially acceptable for men to aggressively pursue a female. Many women are taught from a young age that it is men who make the first move, men who ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, and men who instigate sex. It is unladylike, apparently, for women to be forward in their advances, and whilst many women may not be interested in being seen as “ladylike,” they also may not want to be seen as desperate—and unfortunately that’s the way females are often labelled when they take the lead.
This entire culture of it being acceptable, and even expected, that men take control leaves the male/female dynamic wide open to abuse, as there are many men out there who take it way too far—and get away with it.
There is currently a “me too” campaign on social media asking those who have been affected by predatory behaviour to post it as their status, or in a comment. I believe that if everyone who has been violated sexually wrote it, there would barely be any women without it on their status, and there would be a hell of a lot of men speaking out too.
I’m praying that the Weinstein allegations being brought into the spotlight will cause a cultural shift to take place, whereby men (or women) fully realise that it is not okay to continue to make sexual advances toward anyone who is not interested, and neither is it acceptable to use power, status, or wealth to attempt to manipulate and coerce women, or men, to engage sexually.
This needs to be taught to boys from a young age, as it is not just grown men who are predatory; many teenage boys also think that it is “normal” to continue with sexual behaviour even when it is clear that if the teenage girl had the confidence to speak out, she would scream, “No!”
A lot of men need to understand that when a male comes onto a female, not all women, or girls, have the mental (or physical) strength and courage to explain that they are deeply uncomfortable and do not appreciate the sexual interest. Many women freeze when their personal boundaries are disregarded and violated—but please take note; an absence of a “no” does not mean it’s a “yes.”
Whether we write “me too” on our social media accounts, or whether we silently say it each time we hear another allegation of sexual abuse, we all know how it feels to feel powerless in another human being’s company.
It is ironic that for so many years, being sexually abusive has been more socially acceptable than speaking out about sexual abuse. Many people chose to remain quiet about abusive, aggressive, and manipulative sexual experiences because they feel that would bring shame, embarrassment, and unwanted attention to themselves, rather than to the person perpetrating it. Not only would many people be shamed for speaking out, they would possibly stand to lose friends, family members, their career, and possibly their home.
We, as a collective, have to turn this around and send out a loud, clear, and consistent message that sexual advances toward any male or female have to be mutually welcomed.
It is so important for us all to spread the message that there are no gray lines.
If you are using a position of authority to assist your sexual advances—that is abuse.
If you are making sexual advances toward someone who is underage—that is abuse.
If you are using threats or blackmail to make sexual advances—that is abuse.
If it is clear that the sexual interest is not welcomed and non-consensual but you continue anyway—that is abuse.
If the other person says “no” or backs away and recoils, and you continue—that is abuse.
If you are harassing someone so that they will engage in sexual activity—that is abuse.
If you force yourself on someone sexually and physically—that is abuse.
If you are using alcohol or drugs to intentionally cloud the other person’s mind so that they engage in sexual activity—that is abuse.
If the person is intimidated, fearful, or is motionless and you continue anyway—that is abuse.
Let’s also not forget that there are female sexual predators, too. Many women use power to make sexual advances, or are sexually abusive and inappropriate—this is not just a male issue.
While many think it is dark to talk about abuse, it is shedding light on something that has been kept in the darkness for too long.
Together we can change what tragically has somehow become widely accepted culture.
The #MeToo hashtag was launched on twitter by Alyssa Milano.
“While I am sickened and angered over the disturbing accusations of Weinstein’s sexual predation and abuse of power, I’m happy—ecstatic even—that it has opened up a dialogue around the continued sexual harassment, objectification and degradation of women. To the women who have suffered any form of abuse of power, I stand beside you. To the women who have come forward against a system that is designed to keep you silent, I stand in awe of you and appreciate you and your fortitude. It is not easy to disclose such experiences, especially in the public eye. Your strength will inspire others. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for fighting this battle so hopefully my daughter won’t have to.”
There are various figures stating the amount of people who have been sexually assaulted; however, I have not quoted them, as I do not believe they are a true representation. It is almost impossible to measure how many have experienced some form of sexual abuse, as many do not report it, and even when they do, as happened with Harvey Weinstein, often there is no clear evidence of a crime, and the case is dropped.
I would say that almost every woman has experienced inappropriate or abusive sexual behavior, and a high percent of men too.
Abuse can happen anywhere and to anyone. Sexually predatory behavior has to end.
As a friend of mine, John Moore, today so eloquently explained:
“I am profoundly affected by virtually every woman I know posting ‘me too’ about sexual assault and harassment. I know it’s most likely every woman, just from the conversations I’ve had with female loved ones and women I’ve taught.
But it’s stunning to see it this ‘in your face,’ and I know that’s part of the point.
As men, we are uniquely situated and have an inherent responsibility to be a part of the solution. Beyond just being a decent human being who doesn’t harass or assault other human beings, there’s a lot more we can do:
1. We can call out, confront, and condemn victimizing behavior when we see it. It becomes about changing the culture where the norm was to sweep these things under the rug.
2. We can speak out, hunt down, bear witness, and help prosecute offenders. We can get involved in the movement to change the society where this behavior has flourished.
3. Maybe most importantly, we can examine ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about women. ‘Real men’ are not threatened by the feminine, do not objectify, do not attack, do not use. Those things are about fear of a loss of power. Be an ally. Hold space for women, listen to them. Don’t be a dick!”
Please click this link for an extensive list of sites working to eliminate and eradicate sexual abuse and support those who have experienced it.
If you are ever unsure what constitutes abuse, remember this video:
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