Please remember the following:
You deserve to feel safe in your expression of your sexuality.
You do not have to apologize for other people’s violations.
The world will try to make you feel ugly; you are not.
Recently, I was at bar with some friends. I was buzzed and we were dancing. The bar was full of beautiful people. The blacklight made dust motes look like galaxies. I was happy.
Abruptly, a man shoved his way over to me, grinning. He pinned me up against the wall with his ass and started grinding, hard. I didn’t approach him, hadn’t been dancing with him; it was jarring. Out of a combination of drunkenness and anxiety developed from my personal history, I panicked and lashed out. I barked into his ear: “Hey, get the fuck of off me, okay?”
He stepped back, stunned. He looked at me with disgust. He looked offended.
I stood around awkwardly. Eventually my friend and I moved to the other end of the dance floor. I wondered if I had overreacted—I had been dancing hard. Maybe I looked like I wanted to dance harder. I posed this to my friend and she, of course, called bullshit. “You do not have to apologize. If you were uncomfortable you did the right thing. It’s not about his feelings.”
She was right. I was okay; I’d dealt with this. I had dealt with worse. I wasn’t going let some bro ruin my night. We kept dancing.
Walking home, we happened to pass the same man. He was wasted and apparently pissed. He yelled at us. “You girls are all fucking ugly. Fucking ugly. Especially the one in the middle.” I was in between two friends. We flipped him off and kept walking.
The fact is, I could tell him to fuck off but his words still got under my skin. Ugly. Something to manhandle.
This is how rape culture works. This is how it plays out on daily basis. Bar Bro believed that my rejection justified verbal harassment from him. Rejected, men are socialized to believe, is on of the worst things you can be. So he spat back at me the worst thing that a woman can be: ugly. He wanted to punish me for being sexually unavailable.
And even though I fought back, my internal response was in essence to victim-blame myself. In the same way that I can promote body positivity and genuinely believe that the beauty myth is a load of shit and yet still feel bad about my thighs, I told myself a narrative that I would never tell another woman. As much as I abhor slut-shaming, I seem to have internalized some slut-shame of my own.
If you’ve been in a situation like this, I’m sorry. Use your astute feminist brain to critique it. Don’t apologize. You are in charge. You are beautiful.