Monday, 8 February 2016
Friendly or Flirty ... Beware of Confusion
The world is awash with conflict right now, conflict of many forms. I'm only concerned right now with the conflict being fought between man~woman, male~female. We thought we were equal, but upon closer examination we see that sometimes women aren't treated equally after all. Sometimes, situations arise that shift that intangible force making us equal, and we find ourselves saying wtf just happened?
Examples in the news:
Ghomeshi is on trial for allegedly engaging in BDSM without consent.
Cosby is charged with "aggravated indecent assault", and is being tried by public opinion for allegedly drugging and raping over 50 women.
Emery is on trial by public opinion for his allegedly blatant blasts of misogyny and sexual harassment of his employees, co-workers, activists in the cannabis cause.
Or is it just a normal day on planet Earth?
Whenever I bring up the above situations with certain people, the immediate response is that the women are looking for a payout. The last time this occurred I vowed to never bring it up again. My deodorant was not strong enough for that conversation, but it showed me something. That conversation and the multiple others I've had, showed me that we have a huge perception issue surrounding sexual assault and sex in general.
We put more emphasis on the women who falsely accuse men of rape, than we put on those who are raped. We believe that a woman is more likely to lie for the moolah than tell the truth. When and where did this begin? And why?
I mean, out of 100 cases, 97 of the accused rapists go without punishment. Even if some of those cases involve women who are lying, there are still many who are not. That's one sad and sick stat.
This is a statement I recently overheard from an aquaintance:
"Women and girls shouldn't put themselves in situations that will end up in sexual assault. It's that easy."
Huh. So maybe we are better off barefoot and pregnant are we? I mean, I'll share some of my own examples of harassment, and they all occurred at work.
Situation #1: A co-worker and authority figure saw that I was upset by a recent break-up. He asked if I needed to talk and could he buy me a coffee after work. During coffee, he asked if we could go somewhere else to talk as the restaurant we were in was busy. He asked if we could go to my apartment and I said yes because this man was a "father-figure" to myself and my fellow co-workers. I had nothing to fear, he only wanted to help.
I was wrong. The whole concern thing was a guise to get his rocks off. We sat on my couch and within moments it began. I pushed him away and tried to laugh it off because I had to work with him tomorrow and the next day and the next day too. In fact, I'd likely have to see his lovely wife during that time. But he kept pushing, hard-on in hand, kissing me and pulling me in to him. I kept saying things like, "stop it ... c'mon smarten' up". I kept that sickening self preserving smile on my face so that he didn't take offense. Ya that's right. I was trying not to be assaulted and trying to save face for him along the way.
I'd like to say I was strong in that instance. I'd like to say I was a shining example of what a strong woman would do when being pushed into her own bedroom by an assailant. But I wasn't any of kind of strong, I was still in the save-face mode and the only thing that saved me was Sasha the Rottweiller who knew what was happening even better than I did.
Situation #2: This is where the flirty or friendly thing comes in. I used to be a bartender, and friendly was my thing. Full of suggestions, full of smiles, full of small talk. Heck, I've even been full of free hugs a time or two. The job of tending the bar, or serving a meal is one that requires uber attention and that step above in friendliness. At least it was with me, and my tip cup, and my bank account reflected that.
One night last year during a very busy event, I ran into the hubby of a friend I used to work with. I was in full customer service mode and took a moment to chat, give a hug, laugh at his flirts. I always thought laughing it off was enough. The next event was similar and this guy asked my co-workers where I was working and showed up there. The same chit-chatting went on, hugs were exchanged, and each time that hug got tighter, closer, more intimate. I was at work and in full smile mode. When weeks of this continued, I finally couldn't take it anymore. He kept saying things (jokes) that implied I'd sleep with him any time he wanted. When he did it in full earshot of my friend and co-worker Danielle, I knew that I had to put the hammer down. But I couldn't becuase I'm a pussy and I've been doing customer service since I was 13 years old. Telling someone to back off while in that mode is not possible. And if it ever could be, I'd certainly not be able to regain composure and continue the shift!
So that night he found me before he left the event and wanted his usual hug. I was behind the counter and acted too busy. I said, "no hugs tonight buddy, I'm too busy. See ya next week!" He thought I was joking and started to come behind the counter towards me. Thankfully, Danielle blocked his entry, and told him to get back. Belligerence swiftly showed it's ugly head. His flirty tone turned to anger and embarrassment. I was a bitch and he told me so as he walked off.
Situation #3: I began a new job and after the short training period ended, I met more of the other employees. One of my regular weekly shifts saw me working for a few hours alone with one other guy. He'd been employed there for a few years and was once again somewhat my authority.
Very soon on that first night working, he decided to bring up his personal stuff. I am a good listener and people see this quickly. Over the years, people have told me things they wouldn't tell others. People share details I don't need, but talk therapy is real and I'm usually happy to help. But not this kind of help, which wasn't help at all. Over the span of an hour or two, I was told about his bisexuality, his threesomes, the bars he frequents in the city, the size of his penis, the effectiveness of his penis, certain sexual situations he's been in. Then to top it all off, after coming back in from a smoke break, he stopped beside my desk and put his cel phone in my face-- a shiny cel phone with a pic of his shiny erect penis. And there I am, the new employee.
In each of these situations, here is my thought process (if I can remember correctly).
"Just do your job and ignore him"
"Just pretend you're really busy"
"Just smile, you're almost done your shift"
"Don't show your disgust, you need this job"
"You'll be ok as soon as you get home"
Or should I have reacted differently? My default reaction to someone doing this, is to laugh it off. I mean, we humans joke about things. And yes that response has worked several times for me in lighter situations. But imagine how I felt in each of those situations. Two of the douchebags were authority figures and one was a customer. Flirty or friendly can be confused. In each of the above situations I know those men thought that I was into it.
Situation #1: The co-worker who got escorted to the door by my heroic Rottweiller told our boss that it was consensual and our boss believed him.
Situation #2: In the many weeks of friendly greetings and free hugs, that man truly thought that I was accepting his advances and looking forward to them.
Situation #3: And finally, because I didn't stop the bisexual experience conversation with the third guy, well he likely thought I'd be game for it again. Because I didn't tell him to get his dick-pic out of my face, he likely thought that I wanted to see it in person!
The perception of how others feel is warped in some of us and once we're turned on, some of us don't even consider the possibility that the other person isn't into it. How many times have you heard a rapist say that the victim was into it at the time? What if she wasn't and he just didn't notice? Think about that.
***We've all met or heard of the woman who shoots a man down immediately upon flirtation. Maybe we've only seen them onscreen. We often call her a prude or a bitch even. We think she's no fun if she can't take a joke and a little harmless flirtation. But she's not a bitch, she's me or you in ten years. She's the woman who had the above situations thrown at her too many fukking times. She's the woman who has been let go of jobs because she can't deal with sexual advancements. She's just a human trying to make a living without bullshit drama. Why is that so bad?
I know how to fix this whole thing about as well as I know how to turn my friendly off. I can't do it. My natural way of being is sociable. I'm the one talking to you in the elevator about the weather. I'm the one smiling at you when we pass on the sidewalk. Should I become a hard-ass because those smiles are often misunderstood? Or are we going to ask society to start punishing those who harass, bully, and assault?
I'm for the latter. What about you?