Sexuality Happens


Ok.  As many of you know, I try my best to be kind to all (or at least equally snarky to all groups of people).  I’ve worked very hard to show people I am *not* a man hating queer feminist; I’m just a queer feminist.

However, what happened on Saturday really just made me want to kick into high gear on a rant on space. Because lately, I’ve been having trouble with men understanding what the hell space is, and not being invasive.

Granted, most of the other things were small; two or three guys grabbing my arms to help me off the stage at the derby after party (I *did* need the help, but hadn’t asked them for it), a guy coming up and putting his arm around my shoulder to talk to me without asking (a stranger, might I add), a couple of guys trying to get in between my and my derby wife as we were talking, a guy following me as I walked a woman to a cab, the guys who come up to me while dancing and grab me or put their hands around my waist and try to dance with me…without even introducing themselves.  Little things, but they certainly build up.

But Saturday night was just bad.  F was celebrating her friend’s birthday at a bar, and she gave me a call asking me to come over to meet her friend, and to give her a ride.  Lovely.  I met her friend; super sweet woman. Chatted with some people, and then decided to head out.  I had to pee, so I grabbed F a glass of water, and deposited her and the water by a pile of bones that said “Drill, Baby, Drill.” (Welcome to the oddness of Colorado).  I came back from the bathroom, and there was a guy standing next to her, talking to her…kind of.  It looked like he was, but she was also intoxicated, so she wasn’t really making eye contact. I came over as she finished her water, and he walked around her, and touched me. Petted me, really.

Now, I was wearing a really cool fuzzy coat, yes. However, the polite thing to do for people of any gender in this case would be to say “that’s a really cool coat – can I feel it?” instead of just petting it. But no.  He stroked me.  And then did it again.  ”Hi, my name is Jimmy” he said, offering me his hand.  I shook it and introduced myself.  And then he said “shake it again.” I did.  People are usually very surprised at the firmness of my hand shake.  

I didn’t really like this guy, but I was also not in the mood to deal with creepy men (and he was either quite drunk, or on some sort of drugs – I’m going to go with drugs actually).  And then F grabbed my hand and said “Please get me away from him.”  I went into protector mode. I don’t know what he’d said or done when I was in the bathroom, but when someone I care about wants away from a creeper (of any gender), I do the patented “hand grab-pull the fuck out of here” more.  I got to the door.  He was following us, still talking.  F politely told him to have a good night, and good bye, and we crossed the street towards my car.

As we crossed, she was talking about how we was really making her nervous.  She was talking a little loudly, and I didn’t want to get in a shouting match with him, so I told her to hold on, and we’d talk about it in the car.  I clicked open my doors, and she got it.  It takes me a little longer, so I was still easing down and sliding in, making some joke about gym clothes when she said “fuck, he is crossing the street.” 

Having been attacked. Having been stalked. Having been assaulted….my reflexes kicked into panic mode, and I slammed my door shut as I hit the “lock” button. This may seem extreme…but as the locks clicked, he reached the car and pulled on my door handle. Yes. ON MY DOOR HANDLE.  Thank god my reflexes are still trained to be scared of creepy people.  In my shut and lock mode, I’d dropped my keys, so I was grabbing around of them as he yelled at us, made faces and banged on the windows, trying my rear door handle too.  Thank god I found the keys – I was about to call 911 if I couldn’t.  I turned on the car.  He didn’t move. I apologized to F “if I hit him and he dies, please tell the cops it was self-defense.” As I started backing the car up and pulling out of the space on to the street, he FINALLY backed off and crossed back over while we drove off.

F was a little shaken up by it.  Obviously.  Wouldn’t you be?  Here’s the thing though…while I was certainly upset…I’ve gotten used to it.  I’ve gotten used to being followed to my car. I’ve gotten use to having to hide on the floor of my car in my college parking lot because a truck full of drunken military guys followed us back to campus and were trolling the parking lot.  I’ve gotten used to having my cell open with 9-1-1 dialed and ready to be called as I walk back to my car from bars and clubs. I’ve gotten used to always having “rescue signals” with my female friends when we go out dancing, for when guys start getting grabby (I am a fan of the ear pull).  I’ve gotten used to it taking 45 minutes for the cops to show up with a guy banging on my apartment door trying to break in. I’ve gotten used to being touched by random guys. I’ve gotten used to being followed around. I’ve gotten used to holding in my anger for fear of pissing off some dick who will then take it out on me, or on the next woman he sees. I’ve gotten used to my 6′ tall domina friend throwing men into tables because they surrounded me and wouldn’t let me through.

Why the FUCK have I gotten used to these things? Why is it, in today’s day and age, still so “run of the mill” for men to be in my space? I set limits.  I ask people to back off. But why are they even getting into my space in the first place?  Words can be annoying, yes. No, I don’t want your drink, thanks for asking.  Yes, thank you for complimenting my dancing, but I’d prefer not to go dance with you.  But those are words. They give me options.  Men (or anyone, for that matter) cutting into my personal space, touching me, threatening me, scaring me, stalking me, following me, intimidating me (or anyone, for that matter) is NOT ok. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, it’s not the way to flirt. It IS, however, incredibly invasive, and unacceptable. I don’t accept alcohol as an excuse. Or drugs. Or testosterone.  Take responsibility for your actions.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I see no immediate solution. All I know is that I’m sick of it.  And I am going to say something about it.  It doesn’t mean I hate men. It does mean that if you have male privldge, I ask you to think about how you use it, and how you might be being invasive of other people’s space, even if you don’t mean to.  And if your friends are doing it, tell them to stop.  The power for change comes from within.  This isn’t a women’s problem, it’s a people’s problem.

So fucking stop.

-Essin’ Em

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29 Comments so far

  1. X-rated Candy - 24 Pc Display September 30th, 2008 1:05 pm

    [...] Invasion(30 September 2008) Ok. As many of you know, I try my best to be kind to all or at least equally snarky to all groups of people. I8217ve worked very hard to show people I… [...]

  2. PunksPrep (aka Heather!) September 30th, 2008 1:34 pm

    Its funny in a not very funny way that you posted this, because on our way out of the bar on Friday night, some guy got snarky with J, and while I stood there and tried to laugh it off and just get the fuck out of there, she went into fight mode, she stood up to him, got in his space and intimidated him into backing off. I didn’t defend her, I didn’t even step in physically to stop it from happening. And you know what? I was ashamed that I didn’t have the courage to step up and say something. Looking back, there have been countless times when I have merely laughed something off, or quickly fled an uncomfortable situation – and now I begin to wonder, if perhaps my non-confrontational approach is the right one? I wonder how many guys would be the way the guy was to J, or to you, if people like me would stand up and say something? It isn’t only a male or female problem, I agree, it is a people problem – and this person thinks she might need to change her approach to call bad behavior like she sees it!

  3. Wendy Blackheart September 30th, 2008 1:37 pm

    I was just thinking about this last night. I travel a lot alone, since I now live far out from NYC. I’m comfortable with it, and generally don’t have problems.

    Last night I was taking the escalator down to the subway, and a big dude pushed past me to walk down the side (which was annoying and rude, as its not a double wide escalator, its narrow) but whatever. THEN the guy behind me feels the need to lean over and start talking into my ear about how rude that was and how New York was a horribly stressful place to live, and I *think* muttered some racist stuff (The guy who brushed by was black, the guy behind me was white. And why is it that just because I’m a white girl people assume that if they talk racist stuff to me, I’m going to be approving of it?)

    I didn’t like this. I was creeped out. I was along and it was late. Yeah, it was a crowded station with lots of police, but I don’t know where this guy is going.

    What bothers me, what always bothers me, is my reaction. What I wanted to say was “If you lean that close to me again I’m going to elbow you in the fucking stomach.” I think that’s what I ought to have said. Instead, I just kind of sighed, ignored him, and power walked to my train.

    I’m mostly pissed that I can never react in a decent way. That ‘girls don’t do that’ training is just too ingrained in part of me, and it pisses me the fuck off. I really need to just act that way I want to, instead of trying to be nice all the time. Grrr.

  4. Molly Ren September 30th, 2008 1:59 pm

    Aw, man, I am so sorry! That sounds like a horrible thing to happen to anybody!

    I dunno why some men/people have such a lack of ideas about proper behavior or personal space. It hasn’t happened to me as much as you, though. I (stupidly?) always thought it had more to do with the income level of where you were living than anything else. When I lived in the affluent historical district I never got catcalled; now that I’m out in the suburbs I do every day.

    I remember hearing a long while back that someone had even tried going to the streets with a kind of re-education program about how to treat women (Brooklyn, maybe?) because the boys had the idea that throwing bricks constituted “flirting”. I’m afraid I can’t give you any more than that (I’ll have to go Google hunting), but it made me think that these things showed some kind of lack of training at home about how to treat people, that it needed to be addressed as a cultural thing. The boys had somehow gotten the idea that women wouldn’t want them, that they wouldn’t get any attention unless they made a scene. (I think the article even quoted one of the boys as saying, “They don’t want us, they want women!”)

    Which doesn’t make the guy that tried to break into your car any less of an asshole (and possibly on drugs.) And it doesn’t mean you don’t have every right to be angry. But I always gain courage from knowing that it’s actually a problem that can be addressed, rather than one of the “facts of life” that I have to live with.

  5. Amalthea September 30th, 2008 2:05 pm

    I don’t usually comment here, possibly because I find myself in awe of you regularly. :) That’s a tough spot to comment from sometimes. However, I would like to say that I felt resonation with this blog on such a deep level. I am always afraid that if I respond the way I want to, it will escalate and I won’t be able to defend myself. I wrote a blog about all of the… out there… experiences I have had that have resonated with me. However, this sort of thing happens much more often and I think is even worse in some ways. I could write off the extremes as extremes, but when every time I am out at night I feel the need to position my keys defensively between my fingers, hold my finger over the 911 speed dial number, etc…. isn’t it sad? My male friends now never allow this, but even I used to have some that did these things. They think it’s just being masculine, and dominant, and assertive… but it is so much more.

    You’re very fair, and this was very well written. Thank you for being the change you want to see in the world, you inspire me.

  6. Screaming Lemur: Femme-inism and Other Things September 30th, 2008 2:48 pm

    Non-Depressing Linky Goodness…

    BEST RANT OF THE WEEK: Essin’ Em lets loose on guys who get in our personal space. This is a big thing of mine, so it’s nice to see it addressed! That kinda made my day, and I had to include it at the last minute….

  7. greg September 30th, 2008 3:11 pm

    I can’t stand it either! I am so absolutely sick of having to be in defense mode at all times. I can see them coming from a mile away and I do everything I can to avoid them but they still find their creepy way into my space.
    It is starting to be a problem when I go out with my girlfriend and for safety reasons I don’t want her saying anything to them. She feels like she is constantly being disrespected and I am always worried about a fight. Although she doesn’t say anything out right, I know that she now pays extra attention to what I’m going to be wearing before we go out b/c she knows as soon as the stares start that it’s going to upset her. It’s ridiculous.
    It’s not just at the clubs either, it’s at the train station, it’s walking down the street, it’s even at a dyke bar, wherever.
    Me too, I just wish they would fucking STOP and respect our space and our very, very valid fears when they get too close.

  8. Jerry September 30th, 2008 3:54 pm

    Good grief. I am male and never have nor ever would behave in this manner. Maybe it’s my exposure to the kinky/alternative world where consent is so important, but the more I think of this the more I realize that I had manners long before I examined anything kinky!

    Yes, fucking manners! I suspect the current generation of folks have simply lost the idea of manners/space/asking permission etc…

    I’m really sorry about the experience the folks have described here. From my perspective, there’s no reason to ever tolerate it, not call the police, etc….

    I spent a nice number of years studying the martial arts. Mostly it’s been helpful in raising my awareness so that I can avoid “situations” but sometimes there’s just no choice.

    I remember being at a club one evening with a good female friend of mine and her sister. A male who was an ex of my friend kept bugging her, talking to her, getting in her space etc…When I came back from my potty break and saw what was going on, I asked my friend if she’d like me to help out (didn’t want to make any assumptions, although I have a huge “protect my friends” mode too). She said yes and I promptly walked up to the guy who was on his way over yet again to my friend. I asked him very politely to please stop and that my friend wanted nothing to do with him. Whereupon he reached out and grabbed my hand. I smiled inwardly for a microsecond and the next thing you know this gentleman (gosh I really shouldn’t use that term with him!) was on his kness and his hand was in a wrist lock. He got the message and theevening ended uneventfully.

    I mention this story not to show off, or say I’m great or anything like that. I mentionthis because I’m a big believer in all people, men and women, getting apropriate training so that they can respond to the dangers around us. The 1-day “wonder class” in self-defense is really not that useful, IMHO, but regular defense or martial arts training can mean the difference between being badly hurt or killed and surviving. I strongly reccomend this.

    It’s truly a shame we live in a world where this is “neccesary” but that is the reality of today. I would much rather have it that this was never needed by anyone.

  9. Elle September 30th, 2008 4:42 pm

    I was reading your post and thinking, gee, this never happens here… But then maybe I’m wrong. I get catcalls often, but I shrug them off. I walk alone at night, but never very far or not in certain areas… I’m not afraid to tell a guy off though because I figure if he does anything, since I’m a girl, other people around wouldn’t stand for it. Hope I’m right about that… I’ve been annoyed by creepy guys at clubs before, but the simple truth is, I always go out to the same spots and know so many people there, including the bouncers, how could I ever have any problem?

    Interesting, but sad, topic. I don’t know how these creeps don’t realize they’re being creeps?

  10. PantheraPardus September 30th, 2008 6:29 pm

    I don’t get a lot of this happening with the same frequency others do, because I’m a tall, strong woman and tend to cultivate a somewhat mean look when alone in public…

    The thing is, I _had_ to cultivate that mean look. And even with it, I have been touched, grabbed, petted, and talked down to. If I were smaller or less mean-looking, what would happen?

    Awareness of this problem is good. Thanks for this post.

  11. saintchick September 30th, 2008 7:43 pm

    Great post. I have been in that situation a number of times. I am usually nice, and explain that it does not make me happy to be touched by some random stranger. This is because I can’t say what I really want to say. Because you just never know what type of person you are really dealing with. One time though I really went off on this guy. He had been saying things to my friend and I at the bar in front of his friends. I had gotten up to go to the restroom and his hand made contact with my bottom. That was the last straw. I guess he never expected me to say or do anything. I turned around and told him who the hell do you think you are ? Did you just put your hand on my ass ? What the hell were you thinking ? I made sure it was said loud enough to call attention to him and his lousy friends. The look on his face was of shock, this little 5ft woman was calling him out. He deserved it. Actually he deserved much more than that.

  12. Roland Hulme October 1st, 2008 8:48 am

    Can I just say it’s not ‘MEN’ who do this. It’s idiots and assholes who just happen to be in possession of a penis.

    It’s a question of arrogance, insecurity and not being raised knowing how to deal with people (not just women) in a civilized fashion.

    I think all drunken idiot men who can’t respect other people’s personal space should be slammed up in a New York city police department ‘bull pen’ for a night.

    By the time they’ve had big, creepy men wrap their arms round their shoulders, breath hotly in their ear and invade THEIR personal space, perhaps they’ll be a bit more understanding of how threatening and unpleasant it is when they do it to other people.

  13. Lili D. October 1st, 2008 10:54 pm

    Sheesh, you haven’t had a good year for personal space, have ya? So sorry to hear – it makes me want to hop a flight and have Joey talk me through electrifying your door handles or something :( Sons of bitches.

    You have a better head than I do, I would have gotten furious and burst out of the car looking for a fight!


  14. Essin' Em October 2nd, 2008 12:22 am

    Great thoughts everyone.

    I’d like to re-point out that I do not hate all men. However, it is men that invade my space, not women. Hence, why it is directed towards men :)

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