When I hear “not all men,” I want to tell you how my step-father sexualized myself, my sister, and our female friends at young ages. To my knowledge, he never touched any of us inappropriately, but he made lewd enough remarks to make our friends refrain from coming back to our house. They were uncomfortable. Throughout my life, my friends–from puberty onward–have consistently said, “Your step-dad is creepy.”
I want to tell you how he would forbid me from going on a double-date with my friends to a pizza shop, because in his mind we might have sex in the booths because it was Valentine’s Day. We were 15, and it was a school night. And it was a pizza shop.
I want to tell you how he would constantly leer at my female friends, either complimenting them in a sexual manner or negging them. I want to tell you how he did the same to my mom.
I want to tell you how many times he insisted I was having sex, being ‘bad,’ how many times he slut-shamed me for…nothing. For having a boyfriend, for not having a boyfriend, for going on dates, for doing homework, for hanging out in my room alone.
I want to tell you how he did this to my sister, too, but that isn’t my story to tell.
I want to tell you, getting away from my step-dad, how the first guy I thought I loved raped me. And I want to tell you how I thought that because he did that, I had to marry him, because men had taught me that my purity was that important–that the first person to put their penis in me was the one to claim me, no matter how it happened, no matter my will in the matter. I want to tell you how I’m so scared to tell you that this guy raped me, because I’m afraid he’ll find out even now, so many years later, that I’m telling people and he’ll tell you ‘his version’ of events, and you’ll believe him over me.
I want to tell you that I had talked with this guy I thought I loved about sex. I’d told him I wanted to wait. I’d told him I didn’t want to have sex until marriage. I’d taken my vow seriously, even though my parents both thought I hadn’t. And this guy still raped me.
I want to tell you how this guy continued to use my body for months after that, complaining that I was “too stiff” and “not virginal enough” for his tastes, even when I tried to leave him. He would just say, “Right, I’ll pick you up at 7 tomorrow.” And then he would show up, and I would go with him, because I didn’t think I had anyone to back me up.
I want to tell you how when I finally got away from this guy, because college started, he came to visit me once. And he pushed himself on me. And when I pushed him away, he said, “Isn’t this what you want?” and tried again, and I felt dead inside.
I want to tell you how he invited me out to a bar in my hometown once, to ‘make amends.’ And I thought, “Okay, this is a public place.” But he insisted on driving. And when I wanted to go home, he insisted on making a stop at a friend’s house. He had me come in with him. And they tried to spike a drink they gave me. They tried to get me to drink it. They tried to get me alone in a room with a strange man. I got out, and to this day I don’t know if I was some kind of delivery? some kind of payment? just a random potential victim? And I don’t know if they later lured someone else in.
I want to tell you how this guy isn’t the only one. I want to tell you about the guy who saw me in my car, trying to pick up someone at the train station, and thought it was appropriate to catcall me, loud enough to be heard from the entrance of the station all the way to the back of the parking lot, over and over. I was too frightened to stop my car, so I just kept circling as I waited. I didn’t know what would happen if I stopped.
I want to tell you about the man who randomly began serenading me in a McDonald’s. I didn’t know him. I was with a partner. I was just trying to order food. Suddenly, he’s in my space, singing to me, this random stranger with dramatic gestures. I tried to be polite and hoped my partner would step around me. I didn’t want to cause violence.
I want to tell you about the partner who violated my consent because he wasn’t thinking about me, he was thinking about what he wanted. I’d expressed a need for space, for time to myself. He thought that was an appropriate time to stroke off in front of me. When I asked if I got a choice, he paused, and when I acquiesced to a certain form of play, he took it further. When I tried to pull back, he didn’t let me.
I want to tell you about the classmate who thought it was appropriate to comment on women’s clothing choices–because he thought some of us wore ‘too tight’ of clothing. I happened to be wearing skinny jeans that day. I wondered if he was talking about me.
I want to tell you about the gay male classmate who elected to tell an entire classroom of students that he was the only queer student in the room–as I stood right there in the room with him.
I want to tell you how my dad constantly interrupts me, belittles me…and how it took me telling him that I was suicidal to get him to stop.
I want to tell you how one of my male partners defaults to fat-shaming me when he feels defensive about something.
I want to tell you how one of my male partners slut-shamed me for enjoying sex.
I want to tell you how in one day, I had three men slut-shame me–two for enjoying sex and one for not being sexual enough.
I want to tell you how I have received death threats from men for writing Letters to the Editor about President’s Day.
I want to tell you how a man tried to shut me up by presuming I was married to a man: he said he would ‘tell on me to my husband’ and that I needed to ‘go make my husband a sandwich.’ This, because he didn’t like some comments I made online.
I want to tell you how a man asked for my credentials, and when I provided them, he then sneered that I hadn’t done enough work to get them.
I want to tell you all the times that more of these things have occurred, but I can’t remember all of them. They’ve stacked up over time into a huge, exhausting wall of “actually, yes, all men.” Because this is the responsibility of all men. My existence shouldn’t cause all of that.