April 17, 2008 by 8junebugs
For all that I talk of being born in the wrong century, I am a clear product of my generation. Growing up after the bras were mere ashes, I have had very few traditional obstacles in my way. I came out roaring and have been encouraged to continue. (If you ever had Ms. Carol Bradley for English at Foothill High School, you know whereof I speak.)
But no amount of opportunity or recognition can lessen the impact of physical assault on the parts that make us women.
I’m struck by this, having learned that a distant friend was molested by a “massage therapist.” This is a woman who puts my strength, candor, and commitment to equal rights to shame. She works in support of women’s health and volunteers at clinics on the weekends. She raises money professionally and personally for the causes she believes in. She can manage a database and make her own cheese — in fact, she has often inspired me to be more self-sufficient, eat locally, and try new things every chance I get.
She is also responsible for the apple cake, for those of you reading this locally. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see me in October.
Yet when this creepy older man whom she paid to relax and restore her muscles went too far, she froze instinctually. This woman is smart, savvy, and trained in self-defense, but her first response was to think she was overreacting. She automatically tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when he grabbed for her crotch, all ambiguity disappeared and she took off.
I am not sharing this to point a finger at her for not standing up for herself. She did, actually, just not the way I might have expected. I’ve known her from a distance for six or seven years, and it would not have surprised me at all if she’d reached out and pulled his scrotum right up over his head. But even she is susceptible to the guilt and shame and confusion that can follow inappropriate — and illegal — sexual contact. She got groped, and she couldn’t help but hope that no one would do something like that to another person on purpose.
I was, of course, angry and sorrowful and…yeah, still angry. And shocked. She isn’t naive in any way, and if even she is affected this way, how much worse must it be for the woman or girl who is afraid to walk out?
To be fair, I know males can be molested, too, but it’s the objectification I’m fuming about, not the contact itself. My friend was not a person, not a woman, to this pervert — she was just some thing for him to play with. Too long have we heard that it’s our fault, that they “can’t help it.” Even now, women are too often seen as existing for the comfort and pleasure of men.
Bullshit. People exist, and when they choose to give comfort or pleasure to another beyond the Love Thy Neighbor level, it’s a gift, not an obligation. The gift is of the self, not of the body, and when that is taken by force or expected as a right, the damage runs very, very deep.
Deep down, my friend knows what’s right and what’s real. I pray the humiliation of the assault is fleeting.