[Trigger warning: Sexual assault]
I can’t tell you how many times someone has heard my story of being sexually assaulted, and thankfully hasn’t been the type of person to say “well, women lie. It’s all a lie, and you’re a liar,” but instead has believed the truth – that everything I said happened happened.
They thought about me being underneath this man, crying (in large part because I hadn’t been listened to a *lot* that morning, the previous night, the whole previous week, or quite honestly even a lot before that. And it was all bubbling over).
They thought about my crying as this man climbs on top of me. They thought of me saying out loud the reason I was crying was because he was making me uncomfortable. They pictured how after I told him he was making me uncomfortable (as I’m crying underneath him in his grip), he laughs at me, tells me that’s ridiculous, and grabs me tighter.
They think of me physically uncontrollably shaking, trembling with fear, saying out loud I’m not okay, begging out loud to go somewhere else where I feel more comfortable, and him yelling at me for wanting that, climbing on top of me anyway, putting himself inside me as I scream “I don’t know!” and looking me dead in the eyes, telling me, “it’s time.”
None of us argue that he didn’t hear me because he made it clear he did – when he told me I was *wrong* about my own comfortability, when he laughed at me…
We are all on the same page about what I am literally saying with words, sounds of discomfort and despair I made, body language (including many tears), emotional/visceral reactions, and facial expressions – all that.
They imagine all of this – a man willfully and aggressively ignoring what’s right in front of his face and continuing with a crying woman who refused to touch him back… and then they don’t agree that it was an awful or traumatic thing, or “officially” assault or something. They agree on all the details, but not necessarily the conclusion. They justify that it’s okay because, “Well, Aurora, you know how guys are. They just don’t listen.”
Can I tell you a little secret?
MEN ARE PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF LISTENING. THEY DO NOT HAVE SOME SORT OF BRAIN DEFECT THAT PREVENTS THEM FROM COMPREHENSION.
Like, look, America. Either you agree with all these derogatory things you’re saying about men all the time like, “well, men are just idiots,” “men don’t get it,” “men don’t listen”… And then you should barely trust them to look after themselves (if you think they can’t function in so many necessary ways). You maybe shouldn’t choose them to be every president we’ve ever had, the majority of CEOs and on and on and on. How do you trust men to run your country if you don’t think their brains work?
You know their brains really do have the capability of listening and empathy and understanding, but you like to give excuses why women’s feelings/comfort/needs/etc. don’t matter (even if they’re clearly heard by those men).
So which is it, America? You believe those things that “men don’t listen/don’t comprehend anything/are “stupid,” and therefore women need to start running things and looking after these men who seemingly aren’t fully functional human beings; or you don’t believe those things, at which point, why are you saying them?
Anyway, as per usge, I’m tangenting. So, let’s go back to what I was saying before, which is that my whole entire life people have been saying to me, “well, boys don’t listen.”
When you’re a girl (or at least in my experience, and many I’ve heard), all the way from elementary school, if a boy harms you in any way – hurts your feelings, hurts you physically, you’re scooped up and told basically that this is what you must expect. It is an unchangeable fact of life. The way fish swim and birds fly, boys can’t listen. So learn to be better for them, and/or just deal with it.
So, you grow up, and you acquiesce, and you try not to get too mad if boys do some inconsiderate things… “Well, of course he forgot to wish me luck on my big thing today. Boys don’t listen.” “Well, of course he still makes fun of me for that thing I don’t like (that I’ve asked multiple times for him to stop doing). Boys don’t listen.”
(And that doesn’t mean that you’re never the one who forgets or does inconsiderate things… Women aren’t perfect. (And, I know this may even be shocking, but I’ve known some men who are way more fantastic listeners than me… a woman.) And even though, of course, we’re not perfect, a) we often try to be. B) We’re usually held accountable for things we do, if we mess up (and sometimes even if we don’t)…)
So, anyway, your threshold for what’s considered “inconsiderate” or “not okay” – your whole spectrum is off, because you’ve been told that the best you can expect is a half-listen. That’s the bright green of the spectrum of how boys are gonna interact with you. So we’ve shoved the whole spectrum up – a bunch of this behavior that would’ve been in the super red (not okay) zone before is maybe just yellow or even light green now. After all, this is the way the world works. No changing it. Boys don’t/can’t listen to you…
And I always thought it was small things that wouldn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t realize what an ingrained societal norm it is to exuse all boys always for not listening until I heard story after story of assaults and rapes and everything where it’s like,
“Well, did she let him know that’s not what she wanted?”
“Oh, yeah, definitely.”
“He heard her? She didn’t whisper it?”
“Oh, he heard her ’cause he responded [any number of things like “shhhhh” or “you’re fine,” “calm down,” “I’m almost finished. I’m just gonna finish. SHHHHHHH!” Or “no, that’s not right/you’re wrong/you’re being too emotional,” or on and on and on and on]
“I mean, okay. But like… crying could mean anything. And, ‘you’re making me uncomfortable. I’m crying ’cause of you – somehow that could all mean anything [semantics, semantics, semantics gymnastics away everything else she said/did].” And then it becomes, “did she say it enough times?”
Like how many times do you need it?! I’m sorry, do I need to weld you a neon sign really fast that says “I’m gonna need you to get off me *immediately.* Do not pass go, do not collect $200. GET. AWAY. FROM. ME. Is that clear enough?”
I mean, do you need me to start learning how to say get off in 20 languages? Does it need to be an in-your-face, get-off-me version of the “It’s A Small World” ride?
Like at what point do we say the woman’s done enough?
If you were with a friend who saw a sign for something that said “Caution! Extremely hot! WILL cause burns!” And they shove their hand on that hot surface anyway, you might be empathetic to your suffering friend in the ambulance, but aren’t you also gonna be well aware that it was your friends actions/decisions who got him in that mess – not those of the hot surface?
“Well, why didn’t the hot surface have more precautions?! Why not more signs? Why not a force field that activated when my hand gets close? FORCE me to get away. Keep me away ’cause I can’t be expected to show any judgement or comprehension.” (What?)
It’s not everyone’s job to protect that person at all costs. So when someone tells a man, and tells him clearly that something really hurts or that something is really uncomfortable, etc… it’s his job to get off. Period. Full stop.
(And to reiterate the title of my post: If I Never Hear “Well, Boys Don’t Listen” Again For The Rest Of My Life, It Will Still Be Way Too Soon)