On Rain, Pebbles, and Sighs
Of Envelopes and Mirrors

Speaking Up: A Kind of Black Dress

Oasis December 2017

What is it about women and sex? Why do our faculties for observation and nuance, so in-tune in public settings, suddenly become akin to a toddler’s?

What is it about men and sex? Why do their capacities to let women take care of them suddenly evaporate, leaving a vacuum in which they surge to prove something about themselves?

When I was in college a young man told me that he would take me to the airport in the morning. Somehow that morphed into having sex in his apartment, and somehow that involved his using my vagina as a prop for his penis, and somehow the shock of the situation muted me, paralyzed me, so that I became that prop. A crying prop, but one who was scared, shocked, and utterly still.

Why I suddenly became terrified of this guy who moments before seemed a bit of a fool, someone I could use to get what I wanted, still upsets me. He could barely get it up, yet I was overcome by such a paralyzing inertia that I said nothing as he put cooking oil on his penis because I was so dry, rather than stop and think about why I was so dry.

My anger at him and my disappointment in myself have never abated because that situation or variations of it seem to keep happening to other women and men.

What are mothers of sons teaching their sons about women and consent?

What are fathers teaching their sons about self-respect and respecting women?

As a mother of daughters, I can tell you that the phrase “no one is to touch you without your permission” was on repeat loop.

How is it that we still f-ck up such a basic interaction?

How is it that women, finally schooled to speak up, don’t?

How is it that men can possibly think that women are vessels for their needs?

What has been the impact of all those lessons on bullying and boundaries and “No Means No” if we are still incapable of understanding a silent withdrawal into self or a hand pushed aside?

What is so difficult about it? I don’t care about a millennia of behavior: we are not in caves and no man needs to overpower a woman to prove anything about his masculinity. 

I am fed up.

Time’s Up. #Metoo.

Equality. Feminism. How is it so hard?

We’re different, but not so much.

If the little voice in your head that’s always assessing the situation or critiquing your thoughts and actions suddenly gets awfully quiet or overbearingly persistent, it is time to go home. Straight to sleep.

Do no harm.

Men, how about pretending that your ego doesn’t count? How about always consider someone else’s ego before your own? A variation on the golden rule.

Generalization: women are more reticent; men are more boastful. How about we consider those basic guidelines in all our interactions?

I’m on a loop of suggestions that go out without an echo, but I’m going to ascribe to the butterfly ripple theory. Or the “my voice matters as much as any one else’s voice” theory. Or simply, I can’t be quiet. I have no black dress to wear, this is my black dress.

 

Comments

Margaret Lesh

#MeToo is a movement past due. I hated reading about your encounter, Laura, but it is such a familiar story of women not being able to speak up and speak out. Being obliging, not rocking the boat, going with the flow, not wanting to put someone else out or make waves--these traits seem so embedded within us. We've been trained over centuries to accept behavior that should be seen as unacceptable.

Every woman I know has her stories. My mother and one of my sisters both spoke of violent attacks, of having to fight off would-be rapists with everything they had. (My sister ended up in the ER after one of her encounters with a would-be rapist.) My other sisters have their stories, not as violent, but they involve men not respecting boundaries, committing smaller assaults, putting their hands where they don't belong, or exposing parts of themselves we do not wish to see. My own stories can be added to theirs.

It's time for respecting boundaries. It is time for every human to realize and honor the fact that each of us has agency over our own bodies.

The time of the woman is here.

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Sorry to hear about the tough experiences of your mother and sisters. Sorry that we all have a story or stories.

It is time, indeed! Great to see so women stepping out to march this weekend. Stepping up as activists in so many ways.

What I still don't get, and I don't want to get, is how do men still have the gall to keep harassing and raping women, viewing women as inferior? These are taught behaviors and attitudes that must be undermined once and for all. Let us all live unoppressed!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)