I'm going to pash you so hard the next time I see you.
I was, literally, walking through the dark with Ruby, last night.
The park I go to to exercise her at around 6 is now pretty dark these nights, and generally I feel safe. As a woman, however, my first thoughts as I enter are what I would do were I to be jumped on from behind.
It's a very large park - around 4km, and because Ruby is offleash (and there are hares out and about at the time of night) she's off and running having a lovely time.
She's also muzzled so were an attacker to appear, my thoughts are that, given she is scared of suspicious strangers, and has a very scary bark, that would scare them off. Then I think, well, would she come back when I called out for her in that situation? Could I get her near enough to me to remove her muzzle? Because it is at the front of my mind, and I have no compunction, that I would use her as a weapon if needs be. And then I worry about that too - about what would happen if the attacker tried to hurt her? No, I decide. Let them try. Unmuzzled, feeling threatened, she would bite, without question.
These are the thoughts that rumble through my mind, as I watch the shadows behind me (part of the park is lit from an industrial site over the road), as I scan constantly.
I'm pretty tired of it to be honest.
And the changes are a long way from coming.
I like Emma's piece because it suggests that it's possible, and I know that it's possible. It's an ongoing discussion, and much as I would wish that people would just hurry the fuck up, and do what's needed to be done, I understand that this is all a process.
I would never muzzle our dogs if I was walking them in the dark for exactly this reason (and I have gone through this thought process too).
I have to say I actually feel quite safe walking around Greymouth, even at night. I certainly feel a lot safer here than I did in Christchurch. To be fair to Christchurch though, I have never been hassled even when I did walk there at night. The closest I got to anything was a glue sniffer who wanted to chat to me as I walked down Bedford Row after dark.
Still, it's always in your head that you have to be careful and have some kind of plan.
She has to be muzzled, by law (she bit a suspicious looking person over a year ago), but yes, it crosses my mind that no-one else is there at that time of night, and I could likely unmuzzle her when we're there.
Doesn't it suck that we have to do this kind of risk assessment just to be outside our houses at night? I remember being 11 and walking to the bus for school and always keeping in mind which houses I could run to if a pedophile tried to snatch me and keeping watch for being followed, or cars that slowed near me. We learn our lessons early.
Because it is at the front of my mind, and I have no compunction, that I would use her as a weapon if needs be.
I have been in this position, and done just that. It was broad daylight, I was 13, and out walking my dog on the waste land across from my Mum's house, with a friend. A guy grabbed my friend and tried to drag her away, and I set the dog on him. Huge stupid friendly labrador who just wanted to be allowed to jump all over someone, but it worked.
Every time this stuff has happened to me gradually, or from someone I know, I've ended up just freezing up. But the one time it was a sudden shock? A guy grabbed me from behind, walking alone in Timaru at night, and on reflex I shoved my cigarette in his face. This is how far it gets inside your head: every time I smoked, I was aware I was holding a weapon in my hand, and no-one would realise.
Doesn’t it suck that we have to do this kind of risk assessment just to be outside our houses at night?
Bloody oath - it sucks, blows and hurls rancid chunks all over the good carpet. And I think that's precisely why men find things like the #yesallwomen hashtag really... um, challenging. It's really hard cashing that reality check that we're all part of a very ugly, scary world for an awful lot of people. But it's not even in the same ballpark as living it.
That's why the "you're being so dramatic about this, the risks are lower than you think, not all women are victims, it's all in your head" brigade are sort of missing the point. You're damn right it's in my head. It's ALWAYS somewhere in my head. That's how successfully we're colonised by fear and threats. Even if nothing "that bad" ever happens to you, there you are with your weaponised car keys and your worries about writing in public and your risk assessment strategies. It's so tiring.
stick my hand up as a non-contributing-but-actively-listening person
The weird thing is that we're all set with our "weaponised car keys" (I LOVE this description btw because it is so freaking accurate) yet the likely cause of sexual violence isn't that stranger in the coat walking 10 meters behind you, it's the pissed off boyfriend who calls you a cocktease and holds you down, while you are crying, forcing you to have sex. It's the drunk "friend", it's the guy you know, the one you thought you could trust.
And then there's the whole, was it really rape thing that goes on in your head, the "I don't want to ruin his life with a formal charge and our friends would hate me and besides, it's 'he said/she said' and I don't want the hassle".
And the really sad thing is, most women I know have had this happen to them. So we weaponise our car keys, our dogs, we make sure we can run in those shoes, and track who's around and who might be a threat, but how do you avoid the bloke in your living room that you invited in, thinking he would respect your dignity and consent?
it’s all in your head
If you feel it - then it is real.
It is so strange that a species that has this amazing ability to have emotions, to share emotions, to empathise and sympathise and express all those things in numerous forms of art that can literally stop you cold with wonder, can turn around and insist that someone's feelings (a whole gender's feelings) are not real.
...we make sure we can run in those shoes, and track who's around and who might be a threat, but how do you avoid the bloke in your living room that you invited in...
That's right. The only times I've been physically and sexually assaulted have been by an ex-partner (female) and "family" members.
But I wonder if one of the reasons we are hyper-vigilant about stranger danger is precisely because we encounter assaults (and the lead-up controlling or dismissive behaviour) from our "nearest and dearest". If my ex-boyfriend was so much of a prick to me, how much worse could a stranger be?
Of course, assaults and murders by (ex) partners and family members have been just as horrific as those of any random serial killer. They just tend to be more targeted and less elaborate (but much, much more likely). But those embedded fears aren't rational, in the moment.
reasons we are hyper-vigilant about stranger danger
Is some of that because the victim is so often blamed for not doing X or Y and in reality the more common assault by someone known is so very difficult to do anything about that you over-compensate with the stranger assault? Holding your keys may not actually reduce your chance of assault significantly at all but since it is something you can do you are obliged by society to do it?
Not sure that thought made sense.
I think Emma said it better, but this is a persuasive video.
Even if nothing “that bad” ever happens to you, there you are with your weaponised car keys and your worries about writing in public and your risk assessment strategies. It’s so tiring.
And expensive. I spend more to park near my destination, catch a taxi rather than walk or bus late at night, and just miss out on some things I don't feel safe doing on my own because female.
I once told a guy who seemed to want to be educated about such things about one of my experiences. His response was instructive.
In my case nothing ‘seriously bad’ happened but only because of the evasive strategies I took to protect myself once I clocked where the situation was heading. Oh, and because I was REALLY lucky. This guy was seriously thinking of raping me. No question about it in my mind at all. I had drunk a lot and he was walking me home, I had just broken up with a boyfriend. We were getting along, and then he turned on me. I described in detail what what happened next to this guy who seemed to want to be educated about such things….
His response: ‘but how do you *know* that he was a threat, isn’t that a bit unfair suggesting that he might be a rapist’ or words to that effect.
So I learnt that sometimes men don’t really want to hear the truth about your experiences because it might be a bit challenging and they might end up identifying with the guy and feel a bit defensive.
One thought on that vid - interesting that in a discussion of 'traditional' masculinity, the sherriff felt able to dismiss the guy as a non-threat because 'he seems kind of timid' - i.e. not exhibiting traditionally masculine traits. That possibly says as much about the culture and expectations as anything else.
A thought: would it be a good idea to have another thread, possibly an open thread, more to provide a separate space for general or more male-oriented discussion? I've got a few thoughts, but am wary of clogging up this thread and talking-not-listening.
I guess what I would say too is, on a public forum like this with my full name, I know this will turn up if anyone googles me. Even a veiled reference to this topic really does feel taboo. Most women don't want to talk about what it feels like to experience these realities. We don't *really* get to talk about these things that often.
This community has matured in handling these kinda convos which is excellent. Long may it continue.
Listening is good though.
I, for one, will be posting lots more light hearted things on other threads so this convo doesn't rank high on my google rankings *shrugs*
After reading writehanded girl's recent post on Yes All Women ( TW, if you venture to those posts) I really wanted to find some NZ stats and I was bloody shocked, but maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.
According to Rape Prevention Education:
In Aotearoa New Zealand, up to one in three girls will be subject to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16 years. The majority of those incidences would be considered serious.
Up to one in five women will experience sexual assault as an adult
For Maori girls and women the likelihood of sexual violence is nearly twice as high as the general population
Reporting of sexual violence in New Zealand is very low, with an estimated 9% of incidents ever reported to police.
Sexual violence has a very low conviction rate in Aotearoa New Zealand, with only 13% of cases recorded by the Police resulting in conviction.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
There is a damn big problem here. What kind of society do you have when only an estimated 9% of women feel safe enough to be able to report offending against them? And a 13% conviction rate? What is WRONG here?!
Shame it's taken such a horrific act to bring this conversation to the surface, but it's clearly so, so important. I think I need a cup of tea and a lie down...
Don't you think women have always had this conversation? My mum got told by her grandmother to made sure her drinks weren't spiked and I'm in my fourties. And when mum worked in the office of the DSIR back in the late 60's/early 70's they had a case where a young man poisoned his girlfriend (and killed her) with Spanish fly because it was a supposed aphrodisiac and he wanted sex before marriage.
Amongst women? Yes. As a society as a whole? I think it's largely no, not to this extent. I'm a young 'un, but I don't ever recall men being as engaged as we are seeing here. Even if it's just "Ok, I'm going to sit down and shut up and listen to you."
reading writehanded girl’s recent post on Yes All Women ( TW, if you venture to those posts)
Christ. I mean, I know intellectually this happens all the time. Lesser versions of these things have happened to me, even. Why am I so shocked every time?
or more male-oriented discussion? I’ve got a few thoughts, but am wary of clogging up this thread and talking-not-listening.
The internet is a very big place. You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, etc...
But seriously. You get this discussion is about men, right? And the most valuable part of it is men actively engaging with it? I appreciate that you've distinguished "talking-not-listening" from just talking, but we need men talking about this. Women, like Tess says, have always talked about it, but quietly, in corners, where men wouldn't hear.
After you've actually listened on this topic, it's hard to shut up the next time one of your mates jokingly calls a woman a "fucking slag". But I reckon it's even harder after you've actually engaged on this topic, listened and responded.
To be crystal clear, no thread of mine has ever been a place where men aren't welcome to speak, and I'm not going to start now. There are women-only spaces for people who find that too uncomfortable. Likewise, whatever discussion you want is out there somewhere, if this is too uncomfortable.
What is blowing my mind at the moment, is how many things I have not recognised as problematic because, at the time, I saw them as normal and unremarkable.
Like, as a teen, engaging in intense, romantic, hand-holding because that was the best way to stop my date touching where I didn't want him to and a verbal "no" would lead to belittling and persuasion.
Like, having agreed, in principle, that (PIV) sex might be a thing I wanted at some stage meaning that consent was, henceforth, assumed.
Like knowing that, when the skinhead in the cafe where I was waiting for a bus invited me out back for a fuck, the only safe refusal strategy was to invoke my large, possessive, boyfriend.
These things, and more, happened at a time when I would have cheerfully told you that, apart from that one intermediate school art teacher who liked to wind me up, I had never encountered sexism. I'm rather more aware these days but still rarely call anyone out as to do so often feels, socially if not physically, unsafe.