November 15, 2009 by 8junebugs
Until this morning, I hadn’t kicked anyone in the balls since second grade (with wooden clogs, then…sorry, Ryan R.!*).
I also, through several layers of padding, managed to pound an aggressor’s radial nerve hard enough to numb his arm for a minute.
And then I ran the hell away.
Today was the final day of my RAD class, the optional simulation portion that gave us the chance to fight off aggressors — a drama in three acts, actually. We stepped alone into three increasingly scary situations, the last of which felt even more alone because the only people in the room were the instructors, the aggressors, and anyone who’d already taken her turn.
I learned to throw punches and kicks. I learned how to get out of chokeholds. I learned that, if I wake up on my stomach and there’s a 200+ man on top of me, I can throw him off of me…even if he knows that’s what I’m going to do.
More than anything else, I learned that I can fight back. In the heat of the simulation, at first, I forgot every technique that I’d been taught, but I fought anyway. That was the key — not being afraid to hurt someone who’s trying to hurt me. If I need to punch someone in the neck, I know I can.
I talked to G about this last night, and about the stereotype of the college girl who’s been assaulted and doesn’t report it because she doesn’t want to “get him in trouble,” the girl who tries to laugh off inappropriate touching from a guy because she doesn’t want to make him mad or make a scene. He said he can’t imagine why anyone would think it’s okay, ever, for someone to touch you, anywhere, when you don’t want them to touch you. But while he was being taught to respect a woman’s boundaries, no matter what, girls his age were still being taught to “let him down easy.”
(I still think it’s odd how many women have been taught how to tread lightly on men’s feelings, but are viewed culturally as the more emotionally delicate sex. What a load of crap, am I right? Not unlike how men are supposed to be the stronger, tougher sex, but women are the ones who push something the size of a watermelon out something the size of walnut. I’ve seen one man panic more over a paper cut than I did when some stitches opened up…let’s just call pain tolerance a draw, shall we?)
They may also have been taught, implicitly or right out in the open, that “men can’t control themselves,” that “she shouldn’t have been walking alone/dressed like that/leading him on,” that “boys will be boys.” In a thousand ways, their right to their own bodies and space has been eroded by a culture that still makes the distinction between rape and “date rape.”
Ever heard of “date murder” or “date robbery”? Yeah, neither have I. Think about what that says about our society. (For what it’s worth, there is no legal difference between “rape-rape” and “date rape.”)
My instructors were incredible. In addition to giving up time and getting beat up, they were endlessly supportive and accessible. They do this for a reason and they’d do it full time if they could…which I knew — the kickass old roommate who got me into the class used to teach it. The goal of the course is simple — to make self-defense a viable option for women in the event of an attack. They empower women, yes…but they empower them physically, which, for some of us, is a totally new experience.
Many thanks, as well, to the officers who suited up today and took the hits. Those two guys, both bigger than I, got taken down again and again, and they did it voluntarily. Thanks to them, I know what it feels like to get grabbed and pulled to the ground, and I know I can still get away.
And knowing that is pretty powerful.
* Ryan R. went on to have several children and carry on his family’s business. Let the record show that I did no permanent damage.