“Keep yourself safe” etc

There’s one of those articles up on the Herald, which has the headline “Women must take responsibility for their actions” and ya just know it’s not going to go in a good direction. Adopting the “don’t link, don’t drive traffic policy”, here’s a good piece about it by my mum-blog-crush-in-chief over at Emily Writes.

Well said Emily. 

We all have those stories, right? We all have stories of nights when we acted in a way that would mean, if anything shitty happened to us, we’d be blamed a bit for the outcome. 

I was 18. I was travelling solo in the USA for two weeks before meeting up with a friend in Costa Rica. I did a tour through some company that tried to be not your ordinary tour company (we stayed in cabins and made chilli over an open fire and we went to a drive in and sat on the roof of the van and watched Harry Potter). The tour guide was this awesome guy, built like a bear, from the south and he charmed us with his “y’all”s, and maybe part of that was shtick but he was also pretty cool. And I was 18 and we were in Las Vegas. The guide had organised a “surprise” part of the itinerary, hiring a stretch limo, and inside was lots of premix vodka and Sunny D and some awful cheap American beer, and I got whoppingly drunk on the vodka mix because who can tell how strong it is when it’s mixed with Sunny D?

I remember posing for photos by the Las Vegas sign and I sort of remember throwing up in a bathroom sink in a fancy hotel/casino and then I also remember throwing up in a taxi and then I remember the Bear Tour Guide taking me into my cheap hotel room and buying a bottle of water from a vending machine. I remember him putting the bottle of water by my bed and telling me to go to the toilet then telling me to lie down on the bed and stay lying down until the world stopped moving. Then he left the hotel room and turned out the light, and I woke up the following morning and thought a) I never want to be that drunk again, b) I’m so embarrassed, c) do I owe the guide some money for a taxi clean up fee? d) I don’t feel hungover at all, maybe I threw it all up? But I didn’t think “wow, that was a close one, I could have been raped!” because I didn’t know that women are sometimes blamed for rape. Certainly, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind for even a split second that the tour guide might have been a threat.   

I was 19. My boyfriend got drunk at a party and I took him back to my house because it was closer to the party than his house and taxi money was something to be spent wisely. He lay down in my bed, I cleaned my teeth then joined him, and then he tried to kiss me and I said “roll over and go to sleep, you’re drunk and I’m not interested” and he did. And then that same thing happened again many times over the next several years – if we were out together, we would always go home together to save on taxi money. Eventually we moved into the same house. On no occasion did it ever occur to me that I was sending misleading signals by getting in bed with him when I wanted to go to sleep rather than have sex. I didn’t know then that some people think inviting a guy back to your place automatically means that you plan to sleep with him, and if he then tries to have sex when you’re not interested, well, whaddidya expect? You led him on! 

(Side note – we’ve just finished watching “Master of None” and I love that it shows scenes on the Nashville trip when they go to bed together and nothing happens.) 

I was 22. I was overseas for a geeky law student competition and one of my team mates was a guy I got on well with, and I went to his hotel room to do some prep one night. He was married and I was engaged. We chatted and did serious prep work and then I went back to my hotel room. At no point did it occur to me that we should have done the prep on more neutral territory. He was a friend. We were both with other people. I didn’t know that some people think all men want sex all the time from every woman and that just being in the same room alone as a man is like raising a giant banner saying “up for it!”  

I was 26. I was on a work trip with an older guy, senior to me in the organisation. We went out to dinner together because that’s what you do when you’re on a work trip with one other person and know no-one in the town. It didn’t occur to me that I should make up some sort of excuse to avoid dinner and secretly eat alone in my hotel room, because that’s just ridiculous. Though actually I was pregnant and ravenous so after dinner I also secretly ate a second dinner in my hotel room. 

Let’s imagine women actually did take all the bullshit advice and always behave “in a manner that signals that you are precious” (bleugh bleugh bleugh). What does that mean for men, interacting with women on those terms? If women are taught to see men as potential threats and men are taught to see women as potential conquests, then we all miss out on half the available human-to-human relationships. 

The tour guide who was doing his job by getting me home safe, how much shittier would the already fairly shit job have been if I’d been scared of him and hadn’t wanted to let him take me back to my room? 

(Granted his job would have been easier if I never got drunk in the first place – but who hasn’t been way too drunk a few times in the process of learning how much booze they can comfortably handle? I was 18!)

Or my boyfriend when we were at uni, should I have left him at wherever we were and just gone home by myself? He would have been fairly offended at idea that he was nothing more than a bag of testosterone fuelled impulses.  

Or my friend whose hotel room we prepped in, or the guy from work, how awkward and weird would it have been if I’d tried to come up with some bullshit reason why we shouldn’t be together alone?

Like Emily, I think of my little boy and imagine what the “wise up young women” line of thought means for the boys. ‘Cause it would basically mean teaching them that it’s normal for men to be opportunistic rapists. How can you tell a girl that she and only she is ultimately responsible for keeping herself safe (FEAR ALL MEN!) while also telling a boy that he and only he is ultimately responsible for making sure he always treats others with respect?