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This Man’s Viral Post Sums Up My #MeToo Experience Perfectly

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

The other day I was out for a drive with a friend when an innocuous song came on the radio. “She’s really good,” said my driver. “She was doing well” — he added — “you heard her on the radio quite a bit for awhile.” I agreed that I enjoyed the woman’s sound, though I didn’t know the story behind why she had fallen out of radio play.

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“When the #MeToo movement came around, she came forward about how her tour manager had assaulted her,” he began to explain. As many women did that year, the singer had come forward with the faith that there would be strength in numbers. 

“The reason #MeToo failed…” my driver went on.

Wait, what?


As it turns out, after the singer came forward, her tour manager had responded by gathered his friends and going on a smear campaign of denial, framing his accuser to be a liar who was out to get something from him. The result? She lost her career; her assailant lost nothing. Rather than giving a victim of assault a voice, #MeToo gave her assailant a renewed sense of invincibility. As many women discovered, coming out was only the beginning of a secondary trauma: the secondary trauma of being smeared, disbelieved and ostracized.

My driver was trying to make the point that this story — along with countless other examples of women who spoke out only to be gaslit into submission — was a sign that #MeToo has failed women.

Has it?

When #MeToo gained traction in October of 2017, I was one of the women that came forward. I was fueled by a newfound courage to speak out.

I wanted to believe that #MeToo was the beginning of a revolution; a revolution that would turn the tables and create a world that respects women’s voices and bodies. #MeToo would shine a light on the insidious and widespread presence of sexual assault in our society; it was a building block towards creating a safer world for women. That’s what I told myself over and over, desperately needing to believe it; knowing there were nights that this hope for a better future was the only thing that kept me holding on. That to live in a world where I could never feel safe again felt unbearable.

But looking back on the past three years, the sense of lost safety I experienced when I was assaulted hasn’t improved. If anything, it’s only been magnified — except this time it’s on a worldwide level. #MeToo has shined a light on plenty of examples in which perpetrators get away with assault; in which the victim calls out for help, only to find the entire world supports her attacker by the quiet complicity of turning a blind eye. Meanwhile, those perpetrators who get away with their crime are granted the affirmation that they can violate a woman’s body at any time with no consequences.

So if #MeToo was not the life-changing revolution women have been waiting for, what went wrong — and how can we fix it?

In October of 2017, a Facebook post from a man went viral. It summed up exactly what he felt was going wrong with the #MeToo movement — and three years later, I think he hit the nail on the head. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

“Women are owning the internet today. Every woman I know is speaking up and reaching out, drawing others into the circle. They are all saying ‘Me too; I have been assaulted, too’.

On the other side of the line, men are being uncharacteristically quiet. While women are raising their voices and implicitly asking if men will acknowledge their experience at our hands, we are saying nothing in return. Effectively, we are gaslighting women with our silence. We are pretending their experiences did not happen. We are implying that while there may be bad men, we must not be the men they’re talking about. We are acting as if all of the bad men stand on the other side of a line that we have drawn in the sand. We refuse to see that that line in the sand is a circle that we’ve drawn around ourselves.

Let me shout it out for those sitting in the back: there are no ‘good men,’ gentlemen. There are no ‘bad’ men. There are no ‘gentlemen’. There are just men. And men are not raised to be gentle. Whether you see it or not, our society has raised us to be women’s wolves…Whether we know it or not, whether we allow ourselves to admit it or not… Men are raised in a society that teaches boys that they are entitled to have access to women’s bodies. You may not be drugging women’s drinks in a nightclub, you may not be stalking sex workers in a van, but you have probably pressured someone sexually more than once in your life. The game teaches men to assume that women want what we want. The game teaches women that they are supposed to want what men want. Men benefit from this, women do not, but the game is rigged to hurt everyone. The only way to end that cycle is to reject the game itself.”

I think I may have stumbled upon this post three years ago. There are passages that no doubt would have moved me. There are passages I probably wanted to deny. At the time I would have wanted to believe the men in my life were different: I wouldn’t want to believe that the men in my life would stand quietly on the sidelines, denying my experiences, out of a fear that what I’ve been through was a mirror of something they or their friends may have done to another woman — out of a fear that by supporting me, they would have to internally acknowledge that they were one of the “bad guys.”

But three years later — as I read and reread the words of this courageous man who dared to look his own wolf in the eye — I realize that most of what he’s said has become a mirror to my experience as an assault survivor.

1. “We are pretending their experiences did not happen.”

Years ago, I was drugged at a bar. When after one sip of my first drink the world was spinning and distorting, and I felt my muscles start to tremor, numb and freeze, I knew something was up. My first instinct was to turn to the friend beside me and ask for help. “Maybe it’s the lights,” he had said nervously — and proceeded to get up and walk away, leaving me alone at the table. On another occasion, a longtime friend of mine threatened me into submission while experiencing from a delusional psychotic break. When I shared a passage of writing that detailed the experience from start to finish, my friends were shaken and moved to tears — but when I revealed who it was about, their attitude changed. Despite the fact that several other people came forward about similar experiences with him over the years, most of our mutual friends offered their support to my assailant. He had told a different story about our “consensual experience.” He was believed, I was not. Both of these examples reflect how hard it is to believe that someone we know and love could be capable of assault. The only conclusion that maintains our sense of safety in the world is to conclude that the victim is lying.

2. “Men are raised in a society that teaches boys that they are entitled to have access to women’s bodies.”

Sexuality has never been easy for me, owing to a history of childhood sexual abuse that’s left me battling PTSD and flashbacks likely to be triggered by almost any form a sexual touch. It’s a disclaimer I’ve learned is best revealed to potential partners from the get-go, because I understand most men have a strong sexual need that I’m unable to fulfill. I tell people right off the bat, so they’re free to walk away if it’s not the right fit. The reality of my experience is that many men choose neither to leave nor accept my boundary — instead, they stick around and try to push through it. “I can’t not,” they’ll say. “I need to.”

It’s their explanation for why they pushed back when I tried to push them off me or pulled me closer as I tried to pull away, why they pressure even after I told them I wasn’t in a place that I could be physical without falling into another nightmarish cycle of flashbacks. They feel justified, I suppose, because they live in a world that taught them that as soon as I become their romantic partner, I give up ownership of my body; that they are entitled to access regardless of the boundaries I set. And while there’s nothing wrong with their sexual needs, the violation occurs when they choose to disregard mine rather than accepting my “no,” bowing out of the relationship, and seeking a partner who is on the same page as they are.


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3. “The game teaches men to assume that women want what we want.”

In every relationship I’ve had since beginning my healing journey from sexual abuse, I’ve headed my therapist’s advice and set a physical boundary. The boundary is accompanied by a clear explanation of how my previous trauma impacts my ability to be physically intimate. And on more than one occasion, my partner denies my experience, instead accusing me of infidelity or sexual attraction towards another man. Why is it so hard for a man to understand that sexual abuse could be a trauma with lingering after-effects? That just like a veteran of war could be triggered into a series of visual, physiological and emotional flashbacks at the sound of fireworks — a survivor of sexual assault could be triggered into reliving her own nightmare with as little as a touch or a smell that reminds her of her assailant? Society has programmed men in a way that many are unable to imagine a scenario where they would be repelled by sex or where a woman would be repelled by sex with them. So when I confided in my partners about my traumatizing experience of sex and my ensuing lack of sexual desire, the only conclusion they could come to was that I was lying.

3. “The game teaches women that they are supposed to want what men want. Men benefit from this, women do not, but the game is rigged to hurt everyone.”

In the short term, I stayed in relationships where my boundaries were pushed. I stayed because I’ve grown up in a society that taught me I’m supposed to desire sex all the time. I stayed because society tells me I’m required to have sex whenever my partner desires it. I stayed because I felt that ignoring my own wants and needs was the only way to receive “love” in return.

I stayed, even though staying meant sabotaging my own sexual healing process by echoing the message I had been told during my childhood trauma: “your body is an object made to please others, and your boundaries and your pain don’t matter.” In the short term, the men who pushed me into submission may have felt they benefitted from it. Their primal urges were fulfilled. But in the end, I’ve chosen to walk away from every relationship where this game of cat and mouse was mutually played out.

And this year — regardless of whether men continue to be persuaded by society of their entitlement to my body — I’ve made a vow that I’ll never stay in a relationship where my needs and boundaries aren’t respected again. Because if “the only way to end that cycle is to reject the game itself,” I’ve got news for you: I’m done playing.

Ultimately, #MeToo was a call for women to find their voices — and though some may view the lack of societal change that ensued as a sign of failure, I have to respectfully disagree.

Though the intended male audience may not have heard us as much as we had hoped, the #MeToo movement did not fall to the wayside. Let’s not deny our own validity, let’s not forget that a massive percentage of the population was listening: other women. #MeToo offered women the opportunity to hear each other. #MeToo showed us that we are not alone in our experience of assault. It gave us the courage to connect with other women who have experienced the same. It gave us the courage to stand up to those who perpetuated a culture of assault by violating our boundaries. And while many of us may have been beaten down, the truth that was revealed in the months after #MeToo cannot be silenced.

The first lines of the viral October 2017 post read:

“Every woman I know is speaking up and reaching out, drawing others into the circle. They are all saying ‘Me too; I have been assaulted, too’.”

History has shown us that the first uprising for human rights is not always successful, and that change is slow and full of retaliatory violence. History has also shown us that there is strength in numbers: and numbers is one thing sexual assault survivors now know they have in abundance.

The October 2017 post closes with a moving statement and call to action to men:

“It would unforgivable to hide the pain I’ve caused women simply because I was afraid that it would reflect poorly on me… Guys, let’s put our egos aside for a second and talk like men: if you think you aren’t a part of the problem, that you’re immune to the problem, or have transcended the problem, then you actually are the problem. Because it’s not a ‘problem’; it’s our society as a whole. Sexual assaults on women are the tide, and the tide is not receding. If we’re going to draw lines in the sand, let’s draw those lines so that they protect women from the men that would assault them, not to protect men from having to confront who we actually are. TL: DR; If virtually every woman that you know has been assaulted, harassed or has been a survivor of harassment, how many of the men that you know do you think have assaulted or harassed women?

What if the real answer is #AllOfUs?

Because, yes, #MeToo

When I read the words of our viral writer, I’m not hearing a voice of defeat. I’m not picking up an attitude of failure. I’m seeing a man who recognizes there are deeply-rooted societal wrongs that need to be righted, and I’m seeing someone who’s acknowledging a huge barrier in the road to justice. But a snag in the road doesn’t equate to hopelessness. On the contrary, this man’s writing has given me a renewed sense of hope. Because by shining a light on the pothole in the road, we stand a chance at pulling those out who have fallen in, and carrying on — this time, across solid ground.

If #MeToo was not the beginning of the revolution women have been waiting for, how can we fix it? For me, the answer is to remember what history has taught me: that those who keep fighting against all odds are the ones who win. #MeToo gave me the courage to find my voice, and to those who once benefitted from my silence — who think that maintaining their dominance is as simple as gaslighting and smearing me back into obedience — I’ve got news for you.

My quiet days of submission are over. My disobedience to patriarchal society is here to stay.

Photo by Marc Maksim via @kalafarnham on Instagram

Originally published: February 19, 2021
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