It’s been two years since I published my personal blogpost about consent in the hopes that it spread the message that even the nicest guys are capable of rape.
And in spite of the list sadly – but not shockingly – expanding since I last wrote about my experiences with sexual harassment, this isn’t a blogpost about what I’ve gone through since. Because it’s nothing new. It’s different people in different places but it’s the same shit. It happens constantly and it will continue to happen until we seriously start to do something about how society views consent.
What I want to talk about instead is the conversation we have when discussing how to tackle the issue.
A popular reaction from the public when people share these stories crying out for a change in men’s behaviour is “Stop painting all men with the same brush!” and “I’m a nice guy and I would never do this to a woman!” and I have no doubt that they wouldn’t. But that isn’t enough.
Last week I read a blog post by Natalie Degraffinried called “I Have Been Raped by Far Nicer Men Than You”.
It’s an excellent piece and I recommend you read the whole thing but the gist of it is that if you’re such a nice guy who condemns sexual harassment, can you safely say that you’ll stand up if you see a woman being abused or harassed? Maybe.
Would you criticise your friend if you overheard them make an inappropriate comment? If you heard someone you thought was cool make a rape joke would you call them out in front of all their friends and say “hey, that’s actually not ok”?
Would you? Because plot twist, I wouldn’t.
Now obviously if I saw a situation that was obvious harassment and I didn’t see an immediate threat to myself for intervening, then I would step in and I have done so.
I’m referring to the more casual banter you hear people have everyday. The things that make you say “ooh, that’s kind of dodge” but the atmosphere is cheerful and you don’t want to ruin it.
Because that’s all people think it is, and it’s always been this way. Nothing more than a bit of craic. And it took me a while to realise that some jokes aren’t funny just because everyone else laughs. That some jokes are actually quite harmful and contribute to a culture that doesn’t take sexual assault as seriously as it should.
A chef in the restaurant where I used to work once joked that if I went out with a dish that wasn’t ready again he’d spank me.
I’m at work, it would be so weird if I say something even though that sent shivers down my spine. And I’ve only been here a week. Do I want to be known as the uptight new girl? This man was older than my dad. But I laughed.
It’s the morning after I spent the night with a guy. I fancied the crap out of him and we had fun, consensual sex. His roommate comes in, looks at me and says “How’s your rape victim Eoin?” Both the guy and his roommate laugh. I just look at them, slightly in shock, not sure how to respond. But I say nothing.
I was having lunch with a group of people where it was also a networking opportunity. One of the girls throws out that she still needs to get a hotel room for the night. The most successful man at the table says “Well you’re more than welcome to hop into the bed with me!”. Everyone laughed including the girl he said it to. My instinct was to laugh too. It takes me a beat to realise if an older man said that to me I’d feel so uncomfortable. But no one at this table would like me if I’m that girl who dramatically changed the tone of a pleasant work lunch by speaking out. I want everyone at the table to like me. I’m here to make connections. So I laughed.
Two lads from work are joking about who gets the ride more. The one who has a girlfriend points out he can get it whenever he wants. He then adds “unless the missus isn’t in the mood” to which the other lad responds “well that shouldn’t stop you”.
I feel a pang of disappointment, he seemed like such a genuine lovely guy and it hurt me so much that he made such a horrifying comment. I want to say something. But I haven’t worked here very long, what if by saying something I alienated two colleagues in one go? So I said nothing.
I’m at a house party and don’t know many people here. I’m going around offering people microwave popcorn because I’m that person that brings microwave popcorn to a sesh. And I enjoy being that randomly generous stranger. One lad goes “Ah you can bate the wife but you can’t bate a bit of popcorn!” This one irks me as I hate this joke so much. But I really can’t face drunkenly starting an argument in the middle of a fun party. I don’t want to ruin Sound Popcorn Girl’s image. It’s easier to laugh.
It’s last Friday. I’m vaguely aware of two people beside me having a conversation about how to resolve a work issue. Next thing I hear the woman suggest to the man “You might have to pull a Harvey Weinstein on it” and they both laugh. After spending the last three weeks reading account after devastating account from all the women who spoke up about their experience, that comment made my skin crawl. How could this woman make a joke like that after hearing what others have been through. But I have no idea where I stand in this situation. Can I interrupt their conversation with a simple ‘hey that’s fucked up’ and return to my own business? Unlikely. It’s easier to say nothing.
This list is endless. I hear these casual jokes on a regular basis. And I never say anything because I’m a coward.
Not every man is a rapist. But we enable the ones that are when we let these things slide. You can say “some people really need to learn to take a joke” all you want but the evidence is in the level at which we do not take sexual assault victims seriously. In every “she was asking for it” and “girls who get blackout drunk need to take some of the responsibility”.
But I’m not here to argue with those guys. I still haven’t recovered from the time The Journal lifted my consent blogpost, giving it national attention, and the subsequent distress from reading the comment section swarming with their victim-blaming readers. When people went through the effort of finding me online to tell me personally that I was an overreacting entitled bitch. I’m not interested in arguing with rape apologists.
And I’m not here to argue with someone who thinks that labelling something as “a joke” automatically prevents it from having harmful repercussions. I’ve wasted enough breath on them already.
The person I’m mad at here is myself. Every time I hear something like this and do nothing about it. I’m the biggest hypocrite there is. How am I any better than the men I criticise?
I want to stop caring what people think about me. I want to feel indifferent if people think I’m that bitch who can’t take a joke. I so desperately want to stop being the people pleaser that I am. My desire to be liked is deeper than my desire to call out rape culture when I hear it. I sicken myself.
I want to be better. I need to be better. Otherwise I’m as bad as you.
And nothing’s going to change.
© Nessa Dinneen, 2017
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.