Was I abused, or was she just being friendly?

Posted: December 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is the 5th time I’ve started this entry. That very rarely happens. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend not to waste too much time in getting these written and published. I had a bit of ‘writer’s block’ recently (I use inverted commas because it was mainly tiredness that stopped my creative juices flowing) and struggled to write one blog entry (which ended up being about marriage). That’s understandable, it’s something that can be explained.

The problem I’ve had with this one is slightly different – it’s very personal and relies on me revealing a lot more about my personality than I perhaps would normally. The anonymity of this blog has afforded me the privacy to talk about topics I would never be able to raise elsewhere, it’s allowed me to express a side of my personality I had kept suppressed for so long, so it’s only fair I lay everything bare. If I can talk about things that annoy me about others, things that annoy me even though they don’t directly affect me then I need to talk about things that affect me directly, no matter how difficult that is. I can’t use this blog as a platform to attack things that annoy me without putting some of myself back into it. But before I get on to the subject of this blog, I need to paint you a picture. An intimate picture of John Salmon.

I’m an introvert. I don’t need to go in to all the details of what an introvert is (look it up), but it’s important to know in regards to this particular story. I love my own personal space. Aside from my family, who I love very much, I have 2 people who I would call close friends. I have lots of ‘acquaintances’, people who I can talk to when out in public, but only 2 people who I would ever phone and talk to, or ask to the pub. I’m fine with that, I really am. I’m not a ‘people person’, if anything I’m a people watcher. I can sit and people watch for a long time without saying or doing anything. If I don’t say anything for a while, don’t assume I’m bored, I’m happy to just sit and watch the world go by. It’s very, very annoying when people say ‘cheer up’ as if I’m miserable. I’m not miserable; I’m just waiting for the right conversation to crop up. When it does I’m perfectly happy to engage. Small talk? Not a chance.

However, along with the introversion I am also pretty shy. I do like to go to places I feel comfortable with, and I can interact with people, but my social skills are pretty limited. I find it impossible to tell if women are flirting with me, and if a conversation isn’t about something I’m interested in I’m pretty useful at interacting with people.

I’ve been told people think I’m arrogant or aloof. Nothing could be further from the truth. My ego is limited because my anxieties don’t allow it to inflate. For every nice thing someone says about me, I can dream up a hundred reasons why they’re wrong. I detest it when extroverts say shit like ‘well, I’m shy really, I just appear loud as a cover.’ And everyone goes ‘aww, I think it’s really brave, you shouldn’t be scared about being who you are.’ In that situation, all I can think is ‘fuck off, try being me if you want to know what shy feels like.’ It means I often don’t read social situations very well.

Well, that lasted longer than I thought, but I shall move on the point of this blog. Last night was the staff Christmas Party at work. I might be an introvert, but I do try and break my anxiety by going to social functions if they seem like they could be fun. This one seemed like it could be fun, it was in the food hall at work so I knew it well, it was with other staff members so I would be surrounded by people I knew, and most of my department were going.

But, after I left and got into my car to come home, I wrote this status on Facebook, a brief one, about my experience at this party:

“Staff Christmas party tonight and I’ve been molested twice. I’m not even kidding. Two older women with their hands all over me, playing my hair, trying to get me to dance, trying to kiss me on the lips, etc. for someone like me, who is a people watcher rather than an interactor, it was very, very uncomfortable. I tried enjoying it because, hey, at least I was getting some attention and any ‘normal’ person would love it, but I didn’t. So screw you feminism and your one-sided everyday sexism project, cos it happens to men, too!”

That was 25 and half hours ago. I wrote it about an hour after the second incident. It’s not the greatest status I’ve ever written, it’s a little misleading and a little confused. It was two separate incidents, reading it back it looks like they were both after me at the same time, they weren’t.

It’s confused and a bit of a ramble because I was confused. What I describe in the status actually happened, I’m not making it up, but every time I’ve sat down to write this particular entry since I got home from the party (I actually started draft 1 as soon as I got home, draft 2 and 3 were this morning, draft 4 was a few hours ago and this is draft 5) I can’t help but hit a stalemate.

Every time I sit down to try and write I keep getting one question constantly racing through my mind: What actually happened? I don’t know what stance I want to take. Was I actually abused? Or were these two women just being sociable, completely unaware of how awkward it made me feel? In order to really explore it I need to write out the incidents in full, even now, just over a day later, I can feel my brain trying to re-wire my memories, trying to block everything out, I can feel my stomach tighten, almost as if I feel sick, but I don’t know why.

So, from the beginning. I was sat at the table, there were at least 5 or 6 other people there who saw all this. We were right next to the dance floor and a few people were dancing. I hate dancing, it’s not something I like doing, I’m a terrible dancer, I’m very self conscious and I don’t want people looking at me embarrassing myself. The first woman (we’ll call her Woman A) came over and tried to get me to dance. I said no, in as friendly a way as possible. She tried again, with a little coercive ‘c’mooooon’, again I declined. I should mention at this point that she had one hand on my shoulder, the other on my arm, already something that was making me uncomfortable. I don’t like to be touched without being asked, I’m not a tactile person, I don’t hug or touch other people and prefer it if they don’t do it to me, unless I feel ok with them doing it. But she went straight in there with the touching. Her face was really close to mine as well, which, again, made it feel very close and intimidating. She then decided that, if she couldn’t get me on the dance floor, she would sit on my knee. So, sit on my knee she did, with her back to my chest. Then, she grabbed my hands and started ‘dancing’ with them, in time to the music that was playing. Whether by accident or not I ended up glancing her breasts at least twice, all while she had hold of my wrists. Then the song finished and she let go of my hands.

To be fair to her, at that point she looked at me and, probably because of the look on my face, said “was that a bit heavy? Sorry.” Which I kind of appreciated. It was at this point she tried to kiss me, fully on the lips. I managed to turn my head so she only got my cheek but it was pretty embarrassing and I honestly didn’t know where to look. After that, I had a couple of minutes peace, so I went on my phone and just checked around on Facebook. That peace was interrupted by the same woman grabbing my chair and pretty much tipping me out of it to get me stood up. I was wearing a t-shirt underneath a zip-up fleece. She immediately tried to take the fleece off. I managed to keep it on and, because I thought it was probably the ‘social’ thing to do, went on to the dance floor with her. Despite the fact there were a lot of other people on the dance floor with us she was only dancing with me, she had my hands again and got in pretty close. At the end of the song she tried to kiss me again, this time managing to get some of my lips. I went to sit down and she went off somewhere else. A few minutes later she came back to say goodbye, her taxi had arrived and she was leaving. That was when she went in for a third kiss. This time, I kissed her back, for the simple reason that I had no idea what else to do, she was already pretty close in and I couldn’t see any way out, so I kissed her back. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it wasn’t something I would have initiated.

After she was gone I went back on my phone, surfing the internet. I don’t think I looked up for another 5 minutes. At one point I thought I was going to burst into tears. I honestly don’t know why. I don’t know what I felt. It hadn’t been entirely atrocious, the fact that she wanted to dance with me in the first place was kind of flattering, but I had felt so out of my comfort zone, so out of depth and so willfully ignorant of what to do that I didn’t know how to react. Did that count as sexual harassment? I mean, she did try to kiss me 3 times, but I’d kissed her back on the third time. She did have her hands all over me, including in my hair (I have long hair which I always tie back for work, so it would have been the first time she’d seen it down) but I’d got up to dance with her?

The second incident happened not long after, and this is where I say my Facebook status is a little misleading. Another woman came up to me and asked if I was dancing. I said, politely as always, no. She had her hand on my shoulder, too, much like the other woman, and her face was very close to mine. She again made the little coercive ‘c’mooooooon’ motion and again tried to get me up. Again, I said no. She then tried to guilt me into getting up with her: “are you turning me down?” I said, polite as ever, yes. She then said I would make her upset, that I should get up and have a dance because I looked so lonely sat on my own (there were 4 other people on my table at that point, they just weren’t say next to me) ad that it was a Christmas party, I was supposed to have fun. This is where being an introvert bites me in the arse. No-one ever seems to believe that I’m perfectly happy sat on my watching other people. I was perfectly content sat there on my own; I was still recovering from the previous incident so I didn’t particularly want to go through it again with a different woman. This time, although she kept pestering me, the encounter wasn’t as intimidating as the first one. She stayed very close to my face and kept her hands on my shoulder and arm. I wasn’t ‘molested’ this time, but I was harassed and intimidated, and shamed and guilted and all manner of other things.

The second incident fizzled out pretty quickly after she realised I wasn’t going to change my mind; she went and danced with other people, but again I was left wondering why I felt so odd, why I felt so strange, why I had a massive know in my stomach that I thought was either going to end up with me crying or throwing up.

This is not a plea for sympathy, but I very rarely get attention from women at parties or in pubs. There have been times when drunken women have wanted to touch my hair, or been a bit free with their hands, but generally I can look past it. This was different, it was like everything I hated, everything I’d experienced in the past x10. I left about 20 minutes after the second woman left me alone, I went straight to the car and just sat there for about 5 minutes. Then I wrote that status. I don’t know what state of mind I was in, I was struggling to come to terms with what had happened, to rationalise what had happened.

The one thing that kept playing on my mind was a very simple question: Why had I disliked it so much? I had a woman all over me, showing me affection, trying to get me to dance, trying to kiss me, what was there not to like? They were both older than me (older women are a turn on for me), not sure about being married or not, and they were both attractive. What’s wrong with me? Other men would kill for two women to just seek them out of the blue for a dance and bit of a kiss, what kind of moron am I for turning that down? What does the second woman think of me for turning her down? Am I suddenly not a real man? After all, what kind of real man would turn down a dance from an attractive older woman? That makes me weird, right?

I think that’s what was so confusing about the whole situation, I couldn’t seem to think of a reason why I didn’t like it, I just didn’t. There was nothing massively untoward about the whole thing, yeah I copped  a feel of some breasts and there’s a chance her hand brushed my groin, but it wasn’t overly sexual. So why was I ready to cry? Was it just because my introverted nature had been pushed to the limit, or was it something worse?

It’s taken me a day, and that knot in my stomach is here right now as I type this, but I think I’m slowly coming to terms with it – I don’t feel like I’m supposed to think of it as abuse. I tried to think about a reversed situation, where a middle aged man would try and kiss a 27 year old woman 3 times. It doesn’t matter how affectionate, or how much in jest, it was, there isn’t a feminist in the country that wouldn’t claim that as sexual harassment at the least, possibly even sexual abuse or some form of rape. And yet, here I was, two incidents in 30 minutes that left me incredibly uncomfortable and intimidated, and wondering why I felt so bad about it.

Feminists spend so long talking about how sexual abuse and harassment towards women is this daily occurrence, something that every woman goes through in her life, something that needs to be stopped, and yet there is never any mention, aside from a cursory mention here, a token re-tweet there, that the same thing happens to males. That’s because males love the attention. Men are sex fiends, if a woman tries to kiss them well men love that, men think about sex every 6 seconds so if a woman is ready and willing to kiss them then it’s time for sex. Men can’t be intimidated by women, women can’t cause real damage, only wimpy men are damaged by women, a real man can’t ever be abused by a woman.

I’m here to tell you otherwise. I think I was abused. I think I was harassed. I feel so stupid saying that. I feel abused because a woman wanted to kiss me while we were dancing, because a woman wanted to get me up on the dance floor. What kind of idiot thinks of that as abuse? I spoke to my mum and sister today about it. I chose to omit the part about her trying to kiss me because I felt so stupid saying it, but I included the rest. My sister said “I don’t think that counts as being felt up” (I told her I was felt up and not molested), my mum simply laughed and said that it should have been “the highlight of [my] year, surely?” I don’t think they understand the effect it can have on men. They know I’m introverted, they know I’m shy, so attention from a woman is good, no matter how close it lie to assault.

Whist I’m pretty sure what I went through could be labeled abuse, and if I were a woman telling this story I’m sure it would be unequivocally defined as so, I don’t feel there was any malice behind it. The women were drunk, but I expected people to be drunk as I knew I was at a party, they were just trying to show some affection, to show how fond they were of me. They may have gone overboard but they were being nice, just having a good time. That’s why I’m so torn about it, yes I didn’t enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see how well-intentioned it all was. Do I want to cause a fuss over something so innocuous and good-natured? I don’t know.

What I do know is that, for all the feminist crowing about how women can’t hurt men to the same degree men hurt women, or how harassment is worse for a woman because there’s a bigger sense of intimidation and danger, I say Go Fuck Yourselves. I’m 5’8 and 16 stones; I have long hair and, currently, a pretty thick beard. I’m not one who should be intimidated by women half my size and 5 inches shorter. But, let me tell you something loud and clear – I was uncomfortable, I was intimidated, I was way out of my comfort zone. Yes, it may seem like a rather innocent situation, a rather innocuous occurrence that any other man that night would have given his right arm to experience. Not me, I don’t believe what I went through was any less abuse because other men would have enjoyed it. Just because the women were smaller and lighter than me, it doesn’t mean what I went through was any less traumatic. It still sounds stupid me saying that word. I’m sure other men, and other women, will laugh: “haha, you didn’t like the attention from 2 women, what kind of loser are you!”

I still don’t know what happened to me last night. What I do know is that I read things all the time about how women are harassed on a daily basis by people saying stuff like ‘hello’ or, god forbid, asking them out for a drink. What they effectively say is ‘we acknowledge things happen to men, but it’s not as bad as what happens to women, so it’s not the same.’ What does a woman have to do to be guilty of sexual assault or sexual harassment towards a man? If the genders were reversed I’d say what happened to me was either of the aforementioned terms and all I’d have to do is go to Everyday Sexism on Twitter for a good round of sympathy. Being a man, where do I turn? Who’s going to listen to a 27 year old man who rejected female attention? Where’s my twitter account? Where’s the account I can go to where I don’t feel ostracised, or outcast, or ashamed.

And before you start, this is nothing to do with Patriarchy, it’s to do with the double standard of women being able to pretty much do what they want when it comes to contact with the opposite sex because of the perception they can’t intimidate a man, or the perception that all men are sex-obsessed beasts who can’t wait to get their cocks out at a moment’s notice. If I’d touched a woman’s shoulder when she didn’t want me to I’d be in a whole heap of shit if she complained,
and yet I have a drunken middle-aged woman trying to kiss me three times on the lips and I’m hesitant to call it abuse because I don’t feel there’s a support network in place that would take me seriously? How fucked up is that.

So yeah, at my staff Christmas party I was the victim of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Where do I turn?

  1. Janet says:

    I would say this, I don’t think you are alone in your feelings when you first get approached by women and you are not used to it. I know a lot of male friends who were about your age when it first happened to them and it is incredibly overwhelming. The emotion and the anxiety that you feel is just extreme. Its particularly hard when you don’t have people there that are your true friends (as opposed to just work colleagues) that can pat you on the back and offer some comforting advice be that a (oh wow nice one !! or a OMG how can she get away with that). I think the only thing I can say is, it does get easier the more you do it, and when you start to have relationships and you completely let go of all your fear and anxiety and trust in the other person it does feel amazing. Unfortunately you do have to keep doing what happened at the Christmas do to get over that hurdle. Once you have you will be equally as confident as the women that approached you and you will be asking the pretty blond that IS your age and who YOU want to be with to dance.

    Like I said in the replies to your status, they may have meant it in a nice way, perhaps they fancied you. Perhaps they were just looking for a little bit of fun, I don’t know what position they hold at your school or if they were at all attractive. However all of that aside if you are not happy with their approaches and if things escalate at work you are completely within your rights to complain. It sounds like you have made yourself quite clear and if it continues and you don’t want to engage with any of them, then just take it up the chain of command at the school.

  2. Donald Duck says:

    ‘Who’s going to listen to a 27 year old man who rejected female attention?’
    People who don’t adhere slavishly to traditional gender roles?

    • johnsalmon86 says:

      Ah, if only it was that simple. Feminists claim not to adhere to traditional gender roles and most of them downright refuse to accept women can assault men, so it’s not as easy as that.

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