Last weekend, my boyfriend and I braved the rainy lineup to go party at the Work Less Party’s annual masquerade ball. Drinking beers. Dancing. I was covered in black sequins and hot pink fishnets, sporting a devil bandit superhero mask (I don’t know what else to call it… it is cute though… and I crocheted it myself.) Admiring the body-painted performance artists. (The pole dancer? Impressive.)
Anyways, we were drinking away, when all of a sudden I got sneak-smooched (and simultaneously ass-patted). And not by my boyfriend. For a split second, I thought it was maybe one of my friends who’d finally found me. I am on kissing-on-the-lips terms with a few of my friends, so this would have been totally fine and welcome.
But no… it was a total stranger. A girl no less. I was stunned to say the least. By the time I realized what was going on, she was already walking away. I didn’t really have much of a reaction at the time, I just kinda went back to drinking my (terrible) beer. (Seriously. Cariboo Lager. Ew.) Kinda chalked it up to things that happen at parties and I didn’t really make a big deal of it, although I was a bit weirded out. I pretty much shrugged it off. We ended up leaving the party soon afterwards.
For the most part, when I’ve told people what happened, their reaction has been something along the lines of “good for you!” or “was she cute?” or “jealous”. And the men have for the most part been particularly high-five-y about it.
SERIOUSLY?? HOLD THE PHONES. NO.
If it had been a man who’d kissed me, reactions would have included “ewww, what a CREEP”, “OMG”,”what??”. Ie. this would have been perceived as an uncool invasion of my personal space. But because it’s woman-on-woman, it’s OK? No. In retrospect I’m actually surprised that *I* didn’t have much of a reaction at the time. Granted I was tired, tipsy and just plain stunned.
Can you imagine people being all like “yay, you got your ass groped by some guy at the club!” *fistpump*. No. Not any people I’d want as friends anyways. But it’s fine when it’s a girl?
NO. It’s not OK. I don’t know if it’s just because women are generally perceived as less threatening than men, or if it’s part of the fetishization of girl-on-girl action (particularly by straight men*), but why are people stoked about this? I’m effectively getting high-fived for having my personal space invaded. I don’t get it. The more I think about it, the more fucked up it is.
I feel I should mention here that I’m not entirely straight. Heteroflexible is probably the best label, if I have to pick one. I make out with girls. I LIKE making out with girls. Sometimes more than making out. So it’s not the being kissed by a girl bit I have a problem with. It’s the being kissed without my consent part. And people’s reactions to it. MAJOR distinction.
I have no idea what her motivation was. Maybe she thought my hot pink fishnets were, well, hot. Maybe she thought “oooo, girl standing there with her boyfriend, I’m going to give her a taste of the wonderful world of lesbianity/pansexuality/[whatever construct gets straight girls out of their man-only-kissing shell]”. Maybe she was just high and was hallucinating some mistletoe hanging over my head. I have no idea. And the motivation doesn’t even matter. It didn’t feel predatory or anything like that but still. It’s not right.
I can hear some men out there saying “oooo, but I’d TOTALLY want to get surprise-kissed by a girl”. Ya. I’m sure that you do. But you might think differently if you’d had years of experience getting your butt grabbed at clubs, being visibly given the up-and-down, overhearing people daring each other to get the biggest handful of your ass, getting molested on the dance floor at salsa parties**, getting catcalled by old men sitting outside coffeeshops, seeing people make sexual gestures at their crotch while watching you dance, getting thrown a slew of insults because you politely declined to make out with somebody, basically having your personal space and dignity apparently be fair game all the damn time. Never mind all the anti-choice, anti-sex, rape-as-method-of-conception conservative/Republican types who really are of the opinion that a woman should not have sovereignty of her own body, which is essentially another facet of the same mindset. You deal with that your whole adult life, you might not be as enthused with getting kissed without your consent. And you might especially not be enthused about other people wanting to high-five you for such things.
And I really can’t think of too many straight men who’d be fine with being surprise-kissed by another man. Most would take rather, um, unkindly to the situation, to say the least.
So to EVERYBODY out there: please ask before you kiss somebody you don’t know. I don’t care about your gender, or that of your potential kissee. I don’t care about your sexual preference or that of your prospective smooch-target. Doesn’t matter. Ask. Please. No sneak attacks, whether that’s ass-grabbing, kissing, whatever. Get consent. Every time.
(And, if you’re wondering, if the girl had ASKED if she could kiss me, I’d have probably have gone for it.)
*As an aside: If you’re a straight man who likes watching girls make out but opposes same-sex marriage, you are an asshole. Just putting that out there. I mean, if you oppose same-sex marriage at all, I already think you’re an asshole. But this makes you a super-douchebaggy asshole.
** This happened to me the first time I ever went out salsa dancing. I almost quit dancing right then and there. It was a particular group of men visiting from out-of-town. My salsa scene is generally super safe, but you better believe I keep my eye out, especially when there are men that I don’t know.
^ This is what I sat down to when I opened up my internet box the other night when I got home from work. Some days I really REALLY hate the internet. This was one of those days. A few folks I follow on Twitter were calling out this guy for making the above statement. (As they should). It offends me to no end that people a.) believe this stuff and b.) say it in public. And even on the off-chance that this was somehow either trolling or a joke taken out of context (and I doubt it based on the guy’s profile and other tweets), it’s not funny. It is so BEYOND not funny.
It is rape. Even if she’s “your woman”.
It is rape. It absolutely is. I should know. It’s happened to me. Twice.
I’m not going to go into details. Don’t ask if I could have stopped it. Don’t ask me if I saw signs beforehand. Don’t ask me if I reported it. In fact, don’t ask anything. Just listen.
I can tell you that there are few things more shattering than experiencing someone who you love and trust (or did until that point) negating your consent and violating your body.
There’s that horrible moment of having to choose whether to fight back and risk escalating the situation or to just give up and take it. I’m a small person, the chances of me winning a fight with a man who is intent on getting what he wants are slim to none. In some situations, you don’t fight back unless you are prepared to die. If you’re horribly outmatched in size and strength, and if the other person has the will to do damage, this is a reality. I have fortunately never been in a situation where I felt death was preferable. I hope I never do. But I had one moment where I sure as fuck had to think about it.
Then, after it’s all over, you have to choose whether to tell anyone. Because there is no proof. And you don’t know if people will believe you. And you like his family. And these were both people I was just dating. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a woman who is far more trapped in a relationship than I ever was… because he owns the house. Because he makes most of the money. Because you’re married to him. Because he is the father of your children.
And beyond my two specific experiences where my lack of consent was fully ignored, I’ve had incidences with several people where I’ve had to say no more often and more forcefully than anyone should have to. They eventually listened, but not before I started seriously questioning whether they would end up taking no for an answer or not. And freaking out over what would happen if they didn’t.
Since the first time my lack of consent was ignored, my “STOP” has always been followed by a split second of fear that the other person won’t respect my wishes. That may never entirely go away. It has faded to near-nothingness as time has passed and as I accumulated a lot of really wonderful, completely respectful sexual experiences where ‘no’ and ‘stop’ were heeded immediately. But it’s still there. That “what if”. I hate it.
And I know that these experiences are far more common than anybody would like to think. The true prevalence of these moments of threatened and actual violation of non-consent within relationships is unknown. And unknowable. This report from the US estimates that 1 in 5 women in North America has been raped, with 90% of those rapes by an intimate partner or acquaintance (which can include more casual dating/relationship scenarios). If you were to include women who have ever felt threatened (overtly or implicitly) by a sexual partner (even if consent was ultimately respected), the numbers are obviously higher. But numbers aside, ANY is too many.
Sleeping in the same bed as someone gives you zero rights to their body. Marriage. Cohabitation. Sharing a bed, whether a regular occurrence or not. None of these involve women (or anybody) signing away their rights to decide what happens to their body and when. There was a time when marital rape was NOT illegal. Thankfully this is no longer true.
If she doesn’t want it, it’s rape. It’s that simple. And if you disagree with me, then there is something terribly wrong with you. And I’m terribly glad that I’m not your woman.