Warning! Blue Language! I Read the News Today, Oh Boy :(

Used to be I could avoid the news. The Internet (and Facebook 😦 ) have made that almost impossible. I get to learn about the multitude of disgusting people who populate the world and make headlines. Many of these people are exceptional only for their nastiness.

There’s the movie producer who has been fired by his own company because numerous women have come forward and accused him — complained of — sexual harassment. And then there are the OTHER actors who said, “I had no idea.” And then there is the outrage.

I don’t understand the outrage. No, it should not happen, but it is extremely common.

My theory is that it wouldn’t be so prevalent if so many women were not complicit, if it didn’t “work” to help further the careers and aspirations of those being harassed.

Even in my little life there was this kind of thing — often. It started when I was a sophomore in college and my poetry prof started praising my poetry and taking me around Denver to read my poems at various organizations and gatherings of poetry lovers. I thought it was because my poetry was actually good, until he hit on me.

Then I saw it in a completely different light. Maybe my poetry was shit, and he was just trying to get into my pants. After that, I was far more aware and it happened again and again over the years. The men who attempted to foist themselves on me, offering what they believed was something I wanted (not them, but things like tenure) took their revenge. I also learned it is very difficult to prove sexual harassment and bosses are unlikely to believe the woman who’s been harassed.

Why? It’s a way to “the top,” and lots of women want to go there badly enough that they’ll put out (on some level) to improve their chances. It’s a cliché. “She slept her way to the top.”

On the other side, as a teacher, I was harassed by students thought sleeping with me would get them a better grade. “I’ll do anything for an A,” said one kid as he pressed himself against my back as I stood in the rear of the classroom preparing handouts for a presentation. The number of disgusting meta-messages in that “offer” is staggering, but on top of the pile is that he thought I might actually WANT him. I was at a complete loss, but having spent a lifetime teaching post-adolescents, I was fairly sure he’d do something to hang and/or reveal himself, and he did.

One of their group projects was to come up with a product and a marketing plan and present it to the class. His group came up with the idea of putting packets of condoms on windshields while frat parties were going on. They dramatized an advertisement for their service. He came in wearing a plastic bag as “Condom Man.” I held my shit together as I evaluated the group’s idea and commercial, all the while I was thinking, “Perfect costume, you dick.”

I have no idea how to stop sexual harassment. NOT giving in cost me things I really wanted over the years, but I didn’t want them THAT bad. I’m sure I’m not the only woman for whom that’s true. I was just sickened and moved on. Twice I tried complaining. Twice it availed nothing.


11 thoughts on “Warning! Blue Language! I Read the News Today, Oh Boy :(

  1. It cost all of us. The great job I quit because the boss — who was actually attractive and except for being married might have been attractive. The supposedly subliminal (not really) offers that if you give a little, you might get a little. It is such a common occurrence and rarely dealt with, except personally and privately.

    Garry and I were laughing about “the shock.” Seriously? In HOLLYWOOD? Shock that a producer would hit on you? Like … this doesn’t happen all the damn time?

    Your girl friends believe you. We’ve all been there. But short of wearing a body cam, you’ll never prove it legally and even if you did, you’d probably unglue your career in the process. You’d think we’d have come farther than this.

    • As long as it works it won’t go away. And there is something about some men — they are predators. Maybe it’s some biological thing, maybe it’s insecurity, maybe (as in the case of Weinstein and Trump) they KNOW they’re absolutely without any personal attraction, I have no idea. I know that three of the men who attempted to use me this way had NOTHING going for them except they were professors and one was a person with the power to see that I got tenure. Others of the men were just skanky creeps. One of them ended up in a mental hospital. And yeah. Why is anyone shocked?

      • The only thing that surprised me is that they finally nailed the asshole. The guy who gave me the hardest time was a really good-looking guy. Smart, too. Maybe he really liked me, but he was also the owner of the company and by the third time he told me we would be working late … very late … alone … together … I got the point. I quit because it was obvious I couldn’t stay in the job. He should have stuck with flirting. It might have worked, if anything would have worked.

        • Wow. One of my bosses authentically fell in love with me. He was married with kids. I wasn’t interested. I felt truly sorry for that guy. He couldn’t behave inappropriately. Some guys are not assholes, and can’t fake it. He was a truly awesome man. He tried to kiss me (we’d just done legal research in another city) and I stopped him. He said, “Thank you, Martha.” I said “Don’t throw your life away.” It was 1978

  2. It’s domination of a woman that offends so greatly. You can’t do anything about it, no one will listen or believe. I cry for the women who have taken sexual harassment abuse and rape to court (especially when they had proof) and who were painted as sluts and worse while defending themselves and their honour (in an attempt at regaining their personal power) only to be denigrated again and again. It was a first offence so he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist. How many attacks on women are too much? Innocent until proven guilty. No woman in her right mind would go so far as to speak about it publicly or take it to court (the humiliation is so great) that fighting back is almost impossible. I’m equally offended enraged and horrified by those that yell abuse for media attention or their 15 mins of fame as they further destroy the credibility of those with legitimate claims. ARRRRGH.
    I’m truly sorry you both went through this. It leaves a stain on your soul that was never meant to be. Am I angry at this? No, I’m livid, I’m furious! In part because it happened to another woman, another teenager another talented bright witty smart woman who through no fault of her own was denied a future without the perception that woman are things, playtoys, to be used abused and thrown away. I know because it happened to me. To others I know too.

    • I don’t believe it will change ever, and certainly not until women are NEVER OK with using their bodies to advance their careers. Some — many? — women are.

      I don’t feel I have a stain on my soul. I would have if I’d surrendered myself for the sake of getting tenure or whatever other ultimately worthless thing being dangled (ha ha) in front of my face at the time.

      Rape is another thing. I actually understand the courts’ view of women as temptresses, though I don’t agree with it. I’m sure there are cases where women cry “rape” when their motive is revenge. It’s incredibly complex.

      The whole thing is so complicated and ultimately so deplorable. My experiences with men over the years have made me a very wary person today.

      • You and me too! By stain on the soul, I meant that it’s not something that goes away, it’s with you forever, once bitten twice shy and you never look at a man the same way again without wondering what his motives are. I’m older now and don’t care, but teenagers and young women, it can affect them a long time until meeting someone worthwhile. It’s also the loss of the potential for a position you richly deserved and wanted and couldn’t attain as a direct result of a man’s actions. That’s all

  3. My husband and I have been discussing the issue you address. and I intend to discuss it with my daughters and granddaughters when we visit them next week. I’d like to know their thoughts, particularly my granddaughter of 23 who is making her way in the corporate world. I know how I feel. You described it in response to a comment when you wrote, “The whole thing is so complicated and ultimately so deplorable. My experiences with men over the years have made me a very wary person today.”

    • I’d be very interested to hear what your granddaughter says. I have a theory (based on my students) that younger generations are less apt to employ macho domination over women. Maybe that’s just hope. 🙂

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