I was reading San Diego Momma's blog this morning and her post really resonated with me and got me thinking. (Thank you, Deb for inspiring my post today).
Deb's blog was about boundaries and not being able to set them. Not being able to say no. She also wrote about the inability to stand up for herself when a man had gone too far. This is the part that really hit home for me. I have always been confident and self-assured (in most ways, not all) and really believed I deserved the best treatment. But for some reason, when a man would over step bounds I always blamed myself. If he were to hit me or assault me verbally, I never would have stood for that shit for a minute. I can't figure this out. Is it because as women, we want men to find us desirable? We dress and put on make-up in an effort to get their attention, so when it's a little too much attention it must be our fault? I don't know. But I hope I figure it out before my girls hit double digits.
I have never really had a problem telling anyone "no." Whether it was asking me for a favor I wasn't comfortable with, time I didn't have or just doing something I wasn't interested in doing. I was (I hope) polite, but firm. I was never unable to make it clear the type of treatment I thought I deserved in a relationship. No one was taking me to McDonald's! And I certainly wasn't paying. Not until we'd gone out a couple times at least. (Of course I would offer, but if he took me up on that, he was out). No way would I put up with being stood up, a man being late without a good reason, or cheating. And definitely no berating me or any sort of verbal abuse. I never had a man raise a hand to me, but I wouldn't have put up with that crap either.
So why, when a date took it a little too far, did I just sort of stand there and stammer? Why didn't I assert myself and say "Hey! That's not OK!" Why when a boss or co-worker would leer at me and whistle would I do nothing but lower my head? Do you know I had a boss once tell me I was good for his marriage. When I asked him to elaborate he said he shouldn't. Ew. Are you kidding me? I was 24 and he was 50! And I was his employee. Hello?? Sexual harassment much? But I never would have dreamed of scolding him, much less going to HR to report this. I mean, it had to have been my fault right? I was too friendly. I wore tight skirts and had big boobs. I fixed my hair and put on make-up. I must have done something to give him the wrong signal. To make him think that I was the type of girl who he could speak to like that. And the type of girl that would welcome a boob grab at the end of a first date. It was me. All my fault.
Once when I was 16 I was at friend of a friend's house with a group of friends. I'd been flirting and talking to the very cute guy who lived at this house all night. Slowly people started to take the party outside and it was just the two of us. We were kissing on the couch and I was OK with a little over-the-clothes groping. But before I knew it he was tugging my pants down and pushing my underwear aside. I was saying "no" and I wasn't kissing him, but he was insistent and murmuring things and then suddenly he was inside me. I kept my legs together as tightly as I could, but that didn't matter. I did not tell anyone about this for years. I knew it was my fault. What was there to tell? I had let him do it. I didn't scream "NO!" so that the group outside could hear me. I didn't hit him. I didn't even cry. But, I didn't do those things because I was so stunned. Shocked, that he was continuing when I was saying no and wasn't responding to him in an encouraging way at all. The whole thing probably took 4 minutes, but it felt like forever and I felt I'd been changed. And not in a good way. I still can't figure that out. Why I didn't yell or hit him or tell someone. Well, that's not entirely true. I know I didn't tell anyone because I thought for sure they'd just laugh at me and say that was nothing. I didn't really protest. He didn't hit me or threaten me or anything. So how was I forced? Or even coerced? This makes me so sad and so angry! Sad for myself and angry with myself.
I really want to understand this about myself. I cannot be the only woman to have these feelings. What is it about us as women that allows us to accept this sort of treatment? I had parents who instilled confidence in me. Taught me to say no to boys and men who went to far. Told me these things were their (the boys/men) problems and not mine. So why didn't I believe that? Why did I always blame myself? I have no idea. But I need to figure it out so my girls won't make the same mistake.