Almost two years ago a guy tried to finger-bang me in a public place without asking first, and for the longest time, I struggled to understand it.
At first, I thought it was my fault. I thought maybe I had given him mixed signals. After all, I had been flirting with him that night, a bit. I rested my head on his knee while playing cards, looking for some human contact. When he asked if I wanted to go skinny-dipping, I agreed, though when the pool was closed and our plans altered, I felt nothing but relief. And when he walked me to my room then pulled me playfully to the hotel floor in the hallway, I let him. I was shocked. I left my body. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted him to like me. So I let him grab my body and press his body against mine. I grew silent and still and small and I tried to get away in my mind, because I couldn’t do so with my body. I was drunk and tired and starving. I did what my survival mechanisms taught me. I disappeared, just a little bit.
But when he tried to grab me, I stopped him.
Honestly, if that was it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered speaking out. If he had reached for my cunt and I had pushed his hand away then stood up to go, and he had apologized like a reasonable person, that might have been it. But instead, he yelled at me. Called me a prude. Then pretended the next day that nothing had happened.
And I got angry.
I blamed myself, but I was angry. My anger made me blame myself all the more. I grew up in a patriarchal religious tradition. I was taught never to blame the man for anything. I was taught if I got angry at a man, I should punish myself.
So I did. For the longest time. While silently seething.
Then I realized that I was missing the point. He tried to put his hand down my underwear without asking first. He made contact with an intimate part of my body when I did not want him to touch me at all. He did not ask for permission first. He yelled at me when it was clear he did not have permission. These are not the actions of a gentleman, far from it. They are the actions of a predator who has been denied the prey to which he believes he is entitled. Men like this become rapists if they are unchecked. So I did what I could to publicly humiliate him. I checked him.
But still that was not enough.
It was not enough because I realized I was still operating from the fundamental belief that the mistake this man made was in assuming that I am the kind of girl who wants to be finger-banged in a hallway. I believed that he should have asked first because some girls might like that sort of thing, but I do not, and he should have checked first.
That’s dishonest. It’s almost entirely rooted in victim-blaming. It’s bullshit.
I am like most women, I suspect. If I were with the right guy, someone I trusted, and I was a little drunk and enjoying the night and getting off on our mutual attraction, then yeah. I might become the kind of girl who likes to be finger-banged in a hallway.
You know how someone would know if I were that kind of girl? By asking. By developing some kind of mutual rapport. By establishing trust long before we hit that point. By asking. By making sure he was the kind of guy who if I said stop, would stop immediately, no questions asked.
The kind of guy I might feel that way about is not the kind of guy who would yell at me for saying no to him. The kind of guy I would want touching me at all is not the kind of guy who thinks women who say no to him are prudes or bitches or otherwise doing something wrong. I think the predatory rapists of this world know that. I think they are well aware that they are too violent, too aggressive, for any woman to ever love like that. I think they realize they are missing a fundamental ingredient for a healthy relationship, and that ingredient is trust.
Instead, they make do with what they think they can get. This guy was not after me because he liked me, but because I was vulnerable. He did not touch me because he thought I wanted him to, but because he thought I might let him. He was not interested in what I wanted. He was interested in whatever he could get away with.
I am not the kind of girl who wants to be finger-banged in a hallway by a total stranger, but that’s not the point. The point is that no girl is the kind of girl who wants to be finger-banged without her consent.
No one wants to give her autonomy away. No girl wants to be taken against her will. That kind of girl is an invention of pornography. She was scripted by men for men, and she was created to make aggressive would-be perpetrators feel better about their domineering and bullying approach to sex.
Men don’t know what women want? Well, fine. Ask. But don’t ask to be cute. Don’t ask to check some box on the way to getting what you want. Ask, then listen to what she says. Ask before you touch her. If you’re not sure, ask again.
If the very simple solution to the very complicated question of sexual consent is “you should have asked first,” then yes. You might be a perpetrator.
I believe there are guys out there who genuinely want to do right by women. I believe there are men raised on patriarchal principles who are quite rightly horrified by the toxic sludge their brains have been filled with. I believe there are men who want to change.
I also believe that too many of these men still think of sex as either a game or a wrestling match. They have convinced themselves it is the man’s “job” to push, the woman’s job to push back. They think they are hunter-gatherers, and the thing they are hunting is women, and the thing they are gathering is sexual conquests.
I am a person. Not a territory to be conquered. Fuck that colonialist bullshit. This land is already occupied. There is somebody already living here.
When the man invades and takes what he wants, he leaves a bloody, broken people behind. He takes gold and slaves. He destroys cities. He breaks treasures he does not care about and invades holy places whose significance he does not understand.
Just like any colonialist, there is no reasoning with him. He understands only the language of violence.
I am not a violent person, but I believe in the necessity of violence. I am not a hateful person, but I believe hate serves its purpose too. I believe men like this stand on one side of history. I am determined to stand on the other.
My people have become conquerors, in this lifetime. The culture of conquest produced men like this. I cannot cosign it. I cannot get behind it. I refuse.