I clocked him, ten feet ahead and to my right, as I walked down the metro corridor. It wasn’t that he was attractive, it was because I noticed him notice me and this is what women do, our scanners ever gauging possible threats. As he passed me, I instinctively drew my arm in yet he still reached out and caressed the top of my hand, trying to look deeply into my eyes, “Bonjour.”
“Don’t touch me!” I screamed at him in English, snatching my hand back. (I always react in English.) I yelled over the head of a shorter woman and her three-year-old daughter behind me, “What the fuck?!” The creep looked bewildered while the woman backed me up in her French-inflected English, “What is wrong with them? These men have a real problem.” I regretted dropping the F-bomb in front of her baby, but appreciated her support. Too often, I’m the crazy blonde Asian with the potty mouth, standing solo against injustice and sexism in France.
That was Wednesday. It’s Friday and another famous man stands accused of assaulting women. Louis, didn’t your mom ever teach you that manhandling your junk should be reserved for the bathroom or the bedroom? (My kids have heard this from me since they were three years old.) Unless explicitly asked, assume no one wants to see that shit.
I’m not surprised. I’m never surprised.
The first time I saw an unsolicited dick I was five years old, chased down my street by a group of big boys. The youngest of them pulled out his penis and kissed the side of my face as eight teenagers cheered him on and my siblings witnessed in horror. I was frozen, powerless. After, I ran directly to our bathroom and washed my cheek fifty times (I counted carefully) with a striated bar of Ivory soap. Raw and damp, I met my older sister and younger brother in the small bedroom of our one-bedroom apartment. “Promise not to tell mommy and daddy.” Everyone nodded and we extended our pinkies for the binding vow. This was my fault—I should have run faster, should not have let a boy kiss me (my first kiss)—and I didn’t want to get into trouble. I’d already internalized the shame.
I was the same age as my apple-cheeked son is now. Sometimes I imagine what I would do if anyone touched my kids. There would be unmedicated castration, some House Bolton-style flaying, followed by a meat grinder and feeding to pigs. And believe me, it would not keep me up nights.
But before we sink into the blackest hole of my maternal psychopathy, let’s examine what the ever living fuck is wrong with our society. Since that first assault at age five, I’ve been:
- Masturbated in front of by strangers on the subway or driving past me on the street (multiple times)
- Pussy grabbed by Oliver Stone, Russell Simmons, random assholes on the metro, a pregnancy massage therapist, a Zadig & Voltaire salesman
- Sloppily kissed on the mouth by Richard Branson a few minutes after being introduced
- Touched on the breasts, the ass, the thighs, the neck, the waist, the hands, the wrists, the shoulders, the face, the lower back, the ears by men I knew and men I didn’t, even though I never asked to be touched and it was usually in public
- Lewdly, continuously propositioned by strangers, acquaintances, even “friends”—IRL and online
- Threatened to have my face burnt off by a crack-smoking, torch-wielding Perry Farrell
- Pressured by a male photographer and a male editorial team to get naked for a Vibe magazine shoot that wasn’t supposed to include nudity. I later complained to my agency and they conned me into signing the release form. I was nineteen.
- Pushed against a wall and forcibly kissed by a pasty English art director named Oliver. When I shoved back and yelled at him, he crumpled with his stupid British apologies and sent me flowers the next day. I never saw him again but found out years later he raped someone I knew, another Asian woman who was much tinier and less loudmouthed than me.
- Etc., ad infinitum. I honestly can’t remember it all.
It’s been decades of this and I normalized everything. “Sexual assault” wasn’t even part of my lexicon. This is what happens when you’re a pretty young woman. It’s part of life in the big city. At least I’ve never been raped. Every woman goes through this. You should be flattered. It’s no big deal. I’m not a prude. It’s just a funny story. (Funny sad or funny haha?)
What knocks me flat is when I think of my daughter experiencing anything like this even once. No way. Uh uh. (See: revenge gore, above.) This isn’t normal. No one should be subjected to this kind of careless objectification and violence—not once and certainly not as a way of life. I won’t make my kids kiss and hug someone if they don’t want to and in France, not giving “les biz” is the height of impolite.
For some reason, I think of Lady Gaga‘s meat dress. At the time she had some nonsensical, quasi-humanitarian explanation for it, but I think we should take the imagery literally. Women (even famous, talented, successful women) are nothing but meat in our society. A slab of ass. A side of tits. A succulent pussy. Gaga reached for the outrageous and landed on the prosaic. Let’s be real: Justin Timberlake would never put on a meat suit. Because he doesn’t have to.
Years from now, will 2017 be noted as the post-Weinstein era when women could finally come forward and sexual assault stopped being commonplace? God, I hope so. If #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc showed us anything, it’s that every woman has been harassed or assaulted or made to feel unsafe and uncomfortable simply for being a woman. At least now we have the words. At least now we’re being heard, if not always believed.
This is the beginning.
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