My husband didn’t know that he had been sexually assaulting me for five years. He’s a really nice guy and he has no problem treating women like equals in the workplace, or talking to women socially. We’re best friends.
The biggest problem was, even I didn’t know I was being sexually assaulted. I couldn’t figure out why I recoiled and started to sexually shut down when he would creep up behind me and stick a finger in my vagina while I was unloading the dishwasher, or cop a feel of my breasts when all I wanted was a hug.
The fact that I told him every time that I didn’t like it, or kept covering myself, or back into a corner when he entered a room never seemed to penetrate his thoughts. He just continued to ignore me to the point that I broke down and sobbed on the floor while screaming for him to leave me alone.
It wasn’t until I used the words “sexual assault” that he realised what he was doing to me. He believed he was showing affection and being spontaneously romantic.
The western society which I live in, and many other cultures around the world, have reinforced the message that men own women’s bodies to the point that both genders are incredibly confused. It literally took me five years to express coherently what I was experiencing in a way which he could understand.
In the wake of the #metoo movement so many men have begun an outcry that they no longer know how to behave around women. And they’re right. No one has actually taught men how women should be treated, not even women themselves. Which means that lots of “nice guys” are finding out that they aren’t as nice as they thought they were.
The sense of entitlement which straight-white-men (SWM) are raised is so pervasive that not even the people subjugated to it are fully aware of the extent it reaches into their lives. How do we expect men to evolve if we cannot breach the barriers which coddle them?
In the fall-out of my husband’s awakening, he became horrified. He was so traumatised by what he had done that he moved out because he couldn’t look me in the eye. I, on the other had, relatively took it in my stride. So much so, that my main concern was for his welfare more than my own.
As a woman I know how to handle recovery from abuse. I have never had a relationship where I wasn’t abused in some way, so with a lifetime of experience I can almost happily shrug it off. Can I function in a sexual relationship? I doubt it. But normal life like going to work, cleaning my house, hanging out with friends and such, I’m still the wise-cracking life of the party.
Men, on the other hand, are ill-equipped to deal with their emotions. How does a man process such an overwhelming experience when the only tools he’s been allowed to use are jokes and anger? It’s like going to build something and all you have is a drill but you need to cut a length of timber.
I have no idea if there is any hope for the generations which are already in place, but we definitely need to start teaching our boys about boundaries and that they do not have the right to do as they please with another human being. Maybe it’s a lesson we all need to keep in mind.