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Live Action Sexual Harassment Continuum

Warning: Triggering for sexual abuse, harassment, rape

Dear Internet,

I did not throw the t-shirt out. I plucked it out of the trash before leaving the hotel for good and I’ve worn it several times since. I’ve attempting to pretend nothing ever happened.

But of course this doesn’t work that way, now does it?

On the day Live Action Sexual Harassment was published, I had over a thousand page views to EPbaB for that day, when I normally get 1/5th of that on a very good day. Since that publication and taking in the history of my site since June 2012, LASH has twice as many direct page views as any other article I’ve written on any topic at any time. There has not been a day in the nearly three months since writing it that I don’t get a smattering of visitors who read it, whether it has been referenced from a direct link somewhere or from someone searching.

Today, I want to give you an update what has happened to me since that night.

  • My sex life has waned considerably. At first I dismissed it as effects of coming off of Lithium, but as time has gone on, I am finding myself more unwilling to be sexy compared to even my darkest hours. It used to be when TheHusband, who loves my boobs above anything on the planet (Admittedly, I do have a nice rack.), would stroke my breasts, it would give me great pleasure. Now, not so much. My sexuality and my desire to be sexual is very important to me. I’m working with my therapist on moving past these feelings of inadequacy.
  • I have dreams, frequently, where I’m the recipient of unwanted heavy sexual manipulation. In the example of the dream I had last night, I was seeing a doctor who could only examine me while I was unclothed and he was unclothed, his erect penis pressed up against my side, my back, my belly as he moved around me, stroking me as he probed and touched. As someone who used to find great enjoyment in subscribing to Penthouse Letters and watching porn, this should have been some kind of wet dream and instead, I found my dream self and my real self both simultaneously unwilling, repulsed, and frightened.
  • I’ve been told privately, and openly, by men and women, they would not have let the asshole who was assaulting me go on as it had. I was also given examples by these same men and women of other women who would “not stand for that kind of thing.” I don’t think anyone would agree I am a weak woman or unable to defend myself, but these comments, even if the intention was not to be assholes, were assholish. After receiving one of the latest comments, I waited a good while and made vague series of comments on Twitter that to say such things was effing stupid. You have NO IDEA how you’re going to react in all manner of situations. I always thought of myself as a cool cucumber in place of high panic, because often I am the one who is that way when I’ve been with people who were in their own crisis modes, but in several situations I had no way to prepare myself, and thus was in panic mode supreme, forever cured me of that illusion.
  • Men, often well known men in certain circles, writing they had no idea such travesties were occurring in the work place, at conferences, etc despite the fact they were told repeatedly of such things and still denied it was happening until they heard it from a woman of note discussing it. It is striking to me that the ONLY way to get the point across is if someone of note brings it across. As someone who is not of note, being dismissed of my experiences that do not represent what these men were experiencing with females in their own circle moved these men into personal circles of frenemy I did not know I needed to have.
  • Private comments told to me that many well placed male figures in the library world who promote feminist allyship publicly while sexually harassing women privately.
  • Women commenting either on blog pieces or subtexting on Twitter that since they never personally experienced sexual harassment or gender inequality, it either does not exist or exist to the degree being discussed and/or the need for ALA’s Code of Conduct is stupid.
  • Watching conversations on gender/lib/tech being had only within certain circles, with articles on the topic being promoted only within certain circles, and forgoing, either for personal reasons or other, important bits  and people of the conversation. If you want to advance the conversation, stop preaching to your acolytes and MOVE BEYOND your comfort zone. There are quite a few people I’m not terribly fond of but I try to not let personal feelings marr their work on these topics and include them without reservation.
  • I have been criticized, numerous times, that my work on these topics and in keeping content clear and concise on my sites for others is damaging and promotes the troll behaviour I portray to be so vehemently against.
  • I’ve called various disparaging names and have been personally attacked online for my writing, discussing, promoting of others work as I find it online.
  • I’ve lost “friends/followers/whatever” for calling others out if I disagreed with their stance and when discussing this topic publicly.
  • I’ve been told by various my pieces only present a singular view and therefore are not potent to the conversation as a whole.

In the 3 weeks and 6 days I was off for winter break, I left the house less than half a dozen times. I have become more isolated and withdrawn from everything and anything in the physical world. The struggle to be ME from the plundering of my brain from all the drug trials the past year vs the struggle to not be defined by 2 minutes of someone’s sexual aggression is hard. Every time I see read my own past words, watch a movie with sexual assault, or hear about sexual assault/harassment from a third party, it is like picking at the scabs of a barely closed wound. It is never not painful.

This is not a pity party. None of this is written for you to feel sorry for me. It is written to present you with facts of a singular incident in a long history of incidents. In 1999, I confessed all of my sexual pathos, including discussion of date rape, possibly familial molestation, and being beaten by past lovers. In 2011, I finally posted a piece I wrote in 2008 about the ending of an abusive relationship and the aftermath. In early 2013, I introduced the 17th anniversary of one of the first pieces I wrote on the Internet, which includes how 24 year old me’s innocence was kind of shocking in regards to being date raped.

But I know my back story, I know how I struggle with my own emotional boundaries, and all of the protection I have worked so hard has now been weakened, my borders are compromised. I start to question how even my most benign of clothing choices became the object of his attention, his needs, his wants.

Some are going to read this and think,”What’s the big effing deal? You were at a bar, some drunk asshole was a dick, you weren’t hurt physically. Get over it.” But that’s my effing point, it IS a big deal. me, Live Action Sexual Harassment

It is timely today that Jezebel, though as much as I tend to abhor that publication, Lindy West provides a anger fueled visceral, yes even in print,  take down on why we must not stop shutting up.

Anyone who genuinely cares about anything is bound to sound like a broken record from time to time. If you actually give a shit about a problem (and I don’t mean a “problem” like “the co-op is out of Honeycrisps,” I mean a PROBLEM PROBLEM), then you don’t just lodge your complaint and sit back down while the world rolls on around you. You do not shut up until that problem is fixed. You repeat and reframe and repeat and reframe and message, message, message, and eventually—hopefully—you manage to lodge that message somewhere in the public consciousness. That is how things move forward. Lindy West

As it was, so it will be; this will be fodder for future panels, for examples and illustration purposes. The cycle continues.