Monday, 11 December 2017

Sexual Assault Is All Over Now. Still all over.

A friend....a man....well-intentioned and very kind....told me last week that he was hopeful. Weinstein’s abuse and unmasking really might change everything. There always has to be a turning point. It seems like something is happening. This is hopeful. He pointed me to the Time front cover.

Forgive me. I held my head to one side in that way we have. You know the way. The one that says “I want to punch you in the neck for that naive comment that makes me want to scream but I like you so I will breathe hard while not punching you and then my head will sag over with the effort”.

Eva’s piece said that our hope – as women - comes and goes every year. I thought... you, as a man, can hope. Because having that hope dashed every year simply means the world isn’t going to be as moral or kind to women as you would like. But it won’t mean that the world will remain constantly hostile to you as a sex class. It won’t mean that you are despairing as to how things will ever change. I wondered if I was being a bit.... well.... me. Hard. Pessimistic about the patriarchy. Angry.

Then came Saturday night.

I never go out to busy bars in the centre of town. Ever. I rarely go out late around men. I tend to avoid bars where a certain type of man will be drunk, and especially, drunk late at night. I class a problem time to be anywhere past 9pm. Most men will not understand this. Some women will.

Saturday night I had promised to go and see a couple of male friends sing at a bar. I took along a female friend. It was only 8pm. I figured we would be ok. It isn’t a swanky, trendy bar. Quite old and well-established. Surely anywhere with live music by a hoard of gay blokes would be ok? Surely?

But this is Christmas. Everything I ordinarily fear about this is worse at Christmas. It should be better. But it isn’t. You can’t put a bauble or fairy lights on a sexually risky situation. 

As we entered it became clear that personal boundaries were being eroded by alcohol. People pushed. You pushed back or fell. I made my way to the bar and my friend indicated she would wait at a distance.  A man at the bar looked me up and down and then “made way” for me. Except with that look. The one that says .... you can cram in here but you have to do it by rubbing past my body. Again.... women will know that look.

I held my arm out to invite him to step out of the way first. He did but suddenly “fell” into me. I massively eye rolled and waited for him to move on. No real harm done. I don’t get automatically pissed off at every time someone touches me in a bar. No matter what the Twitter Trolls might say.

I waited to be served. It was very busy. I knew it would take a while. Suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder. I expected it was one of my friends. I turned. It was a sea of male faces. None of whom I knew and not one of whom acknowledged they were trying to get my attention. I turned back to the bar. Then it happened again. I realised someone was trying to wind me up. I turned around with a smile and offered to the sea of unidentifiable faces, “Come on lads. Pack it in now.” Many women will know not to anger drunken men. Fighting is not sensible. Glass is involved.

Why would the men do this? Easy.  “Woman alone. Fun. Bit of a joke?” Or something more along the lines of “Woman.. alone.... confident.... let’s take that away! That will be fun. She is few and we are many.” The latter is what experience teaches me.

And so I registered all this rather quickly and thought that continuing to ignore was best.

And then I was tapped on the shoulder again. This was swiftly followed by a hand firmly though my legs and a grab, quite hard, of my vagina. I spun around. Not a face moved. All men stared ahead.

All. Men. Stared. Ahead.

And that’s when you know.

Nothing has changed. Nothing is changing.

Unless ordinary women keep fighting, I will be long dead before I can go to a bar and expect to keep myself, and my vagina, safe.

For women... the Weinstein case heralds no new dawn. These men won’t even know about it. They won’t have seen the hashtag #MeToo They won’t have got the “stoppit now” memo. They won’t have read the front part of the newspapers before clicking through to the football. They won’t have clicked the ardent blogs before clicking on Pornhub.

Why the hell would they? The world and bars and women are theirs. Women should stop being hopeful. They should stop listening to men being hopeful on their behalf.

When all men stare ahead while a woman is sexually assaulted, women must stare at the future and know it will not change unless we change it.