Difficult Conversations: My #MeToo Moment

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

First They Came – Martin Niemöller C.1950s

2018 is an amazing time. Really. A lot of things that were in darkness are coming into the light. Like abuse in the film industry and the very necessary unmasking of people that positioned themselves as champions of virtue, denigrated whole communities, telling them to ‘pull their pants up’, whilst simultaneously abusing others for decades. What I appreciate about 2018 is that women are (finally) being believed when they speak about the constant harassment that they face from men, and I genuinely believe that a change is going to come and the Weinsteins that lurk in every workplace will soon face a moment of reckoning.

I was inspired by Terry Crews to speak about my #MeToo moment. For those of you who don’t know, Crews is the former NFL player who has transitioned into a successful acting career, known for his performances in “Everybody Hates Chris”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Expendables”. Here’s a picture of him.

Terry Crews

Crews alleges that Adam Venit, at the time a senior Hollywood agent, grabbed his genitals at a party. He has been lauded as brave for speaking out and is a leading voice in the #MeToo movement.

My story is similar. At the end of April this year, I was in a pub with a number of friends that I had worked with. It was my unofficial leaving party and I was having a great time with these former colleagues of mine. There was a lot of good-natured ribbing and we each took turns being the butt of the joke. As I have spoken about, leaving work was difficult, but this evening was cathartic. Right up until I had a finger poked directly up my ass.

I was, as you can imagine completely shocked and turned around. Behind me were a group of middle-aged women and they were laughing. Yes, laughing. One playfully accused another of doing it. The other light-heartedly denied it and all four continued to laugh. Did I, like Terry Crews, rise up and condemn this as an act of sexual abuse? Did I follow the advice I had often given to my students and report it to the authorities?

You know the answer.

I assessed the situation. On the one hand, you had four middle-aged, professional-looking women laughing. On the other: me, a 6’5 unicorn.  We were in a pub on a Friday night in a village. I felt like an outsider. More importantly, I had a pretty good idea how people would react. When I told my friends, there was some disbelief, but there was also more than one that said that I had been ‘lucky’. Not wanting to spoil the genial tone of the evening, I suggested that they, as middle-aged men, find some younger women and do to them as had been to me and, after, enquire if the women felt lucky. Surprisingly, none of them thought that a good idea.

What has really stuck with me from that evening isn’t the assault itself, but the aftermath. The woman who assaulted me had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to join her group. I did not. The confidence of this woman to know that in that setting she could assault me and be bulletproof led me to question whether I was somehow to blame for not challenging her. Why, in 2018, a time of calling out bad behaviour, did I feel so powerless?

Maybe it’s because of videos like this, where the teacher who sleeps with a student is given a platform to say she didn’t think there was anything wrong (the tone of that video is fascinating, especially the fact that we only hear from the abuser and not the abused). How about this one, where the abuser is described as ‘having a history of falling for her students’ (I added the emphasis because that is one hell of a verb choice).

Maybe it’s because the idea of older women abusing younger men is hilarious. See, that video is funny because the teachers are hot and abusing young boys makes them happy and studs, with no downside whatsoever.

Look, I’m not trying to minimise the power of the #MeToo movement (and a massive pre-emptive nope to anyone who tries to use this post to support any kind of misogynistic argument) . I am fully aware that women have had a terrible deal for thousands of years and I am glad that society is (too slowly for my liking) saying that this cannot continue to happen. But there has to be nuance to this discussion. I promise you if one of my male friends had stuck his finger up the ass of a woman at a pub, he would have been challenged by me and the people around me. We would have supported the woman who had been abused, not laughed and made her feel like complaining would have been to spoil the good atmosphere.

We should all strive for equality of the sexes. I just don’t feel that a woman sticking her finger up my ass whilst people of both sexes look on is the kind of equality that I’m looking for.

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