Columns, Opinion

What Grinds My Gears: My experience at a club

If he’s going to forcefully shove his business card into my back pocket, why not also ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn? Or is that crossing the line?

It’s OK to grab me in a club, drag me across the room, slap my butt and put your business card in my back pocket — but finding me on LinkedIn is stepping over the line? I don’t think I’ll ever understand what his thought process was.

He’s a symptom of the rape culture that plagues society. Boys tell rape jokes because they think they’re being edgy. Sexually crass speech is dismissed as locker room talk. A man who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women is the president of the United States.

The boy who grabbed me is a product of all this. Rape culture exists generation after generation, and now we live with the consequences. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, women between the ages of 18 and 24 who are college students are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than all other women.

I went to the club with my friends. When I realized that they didn’t see what happened, how could I be the one to ruin their fun? I kept telling myself that it wasn’t as bad as it felt. He didn’t touch me that inappropriately. His hands stayed painfully, but modestly, above my waistline. Besides a few bruises, I was fine physically. I wasn’t raped, groped or forcefully kissed. I was safe — I was OK.

And I still tell myself this, which infuriates me even more. If this happened to a friend, I would tell them that what happened was a big deal. I would have told them to notify someone. I would remind them that this wasn’t their fault, and they did nothing wrong.

But why can’t I do this when it comes to myself? Maybe it’s because we teach young girls that violence and sexual advances are forms of flattery. Whenever a boy picked on me in elementary and middle school, I was told by every adult that his behavior meant that he liked me. Why are young girls taught that affection from men comes from a place of anger and unkindness?

In high school, I told the administration that I believed a boy was stalking me, and instead of asking for evidence, they told me to be nice to him because he didn’t understand social cues. Why was my comfort sacrificed for this boy’s feelings? Why didn’t someone just tell him his behavior wasn’t acceptable?

People say this to women all the time. We’re told that our dresses are too short and our tops are cut too low. We need to smile more and talk less. We’re reminded to always — above anything else — be ladylike. For the amount of times I’ve been told I’m being unladylike, I’ve never heard a boy be told he’s being ungentlemanly.

I’ve been raised to believe that being harassed is always my fault. It’s funny how I’ve been told not to make situations about myself, but then something like this happens and it’s all about me: what I wore, what I said and what I should have done differently.

It’s never about him; it’s never about the boy who grabbed me. And that hurts me more than anything he ever did.

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