Why we need to talk about how we talk.
We’re all familiar with cat calling, being stopped in the street and hurled with verbal abuse, verbal abuse in relationships, unwanted comments in the work place, the gym, events and so on. But, can we go as far as calling verbal abuse, verbal rape?
Recent events that I have experienced have led me think, yes we can. All over the world right now people are fighting for equality, equal rights and demanding that enough is enough on sexual abuse, harassment and inequality. Verbal abuse is just as harmful, so what are the repercussion of it and should there be some? Currently, words have to be threatening, abusive or insulting to then be committed. This implies that we just have to take this abuse when it is thrown at us. The law is very sketchy on verbal abuse, this is probably down to freedom of speech. I value freedom of speech, massively, however, when it comes to that freedom allowing racism, sexism, hatred, something has to change. Specifically, society and attitudes.
Whilst thinking across my life, I call myself “lucky” for not having met anyone who has been controlling, manipluative and sexually and physically abusive. I use the word “lucky” with a lump in my throat because it should be our given right to never fall subject to abuse in our short lives. Yet, when I think about how many times I have been subject to being cat called, spoken to with disrespect and even whilsted at, the list is endless.
Recently, an ex-manager, ex-friend of mine, whilst drunk (which is no excuse) graphically and vividly described what he would do to me and my body in bed, if he got the chance. Firstly, it began as something to slightly giggle at, but as this continued and the more grotesque and graphic he got, I realised this is not funny. I did not ask for this, so why am I sitting here uncomfortable listening to this. Texting my mum and brother to come and collect me from the city centre, I did not want to leave in case he got angry or followed me. I felt angered and vulnerable, then I felt sick and violated.
Thinking about it, this isn’t the first time I have been subjected to listening to a man describe to me what he would do me, what he wants to do to me, without me asking. In my early twenties I remember being on my guard, but taking comments like this as a joke or a compliment; trying to find the funny, quirky, meaningless side. However, there really isn’t one. It’s very insulting to think that, that is what this person saw me as and thought that is what I want to hear. The thought process being that after all this mental pleasure you’re describing is going to make me suddenly want you, suddenly my whole being will be changed by your poetic words and I’ll fall to my knees. Absolutely not.
At a bar in Leeds, I felt completely victimized by someone I knew and cared for as a friend, who has a problematic relationship, verbally rape me. There is a massive difference between a few jokes between ‘ya boys’ or even a cheeky wink and being told “you’re a fit bird, good-looking lass, amazing eyes” you know, all those chat-up lines, so here’s a little transcript of what I remember.
“If I were with you, I’d go down on you for hours and I mean hours.”
First of all, ouch, no thank you.
“I mean I’d show that pussy of yours a good time, I’d treat it right, I know how much you like it.”
Second of all, revolting, no thank you.
“I’d be better than all the others who’ve gone down on you.”
And finally, stop, no thank you.
Sitting there cringing I remember asking him to stop. Firmly, saying, give it up, give it a rest, and even saying, no thank you. Then he carried on as if he were trying to convince me, prove me otherwise. Saying how we would be great together and I felt sick. Eventually, this, pathetically, turned into bouts of “whatever you want, I’d do, anything, anything”, almost begging. Which I found very manipluative- changing tacktics to get what you want.
Thinking back to what a fun, working and friend relationship we had, does this come down to respect. Does being equal mean loss of respect? Is this an impact of equality or is this completely about character? When a person becomes comfortable enough to say whatever they want or they don’t care and still say whatever you want, whenever. I doubt people understand their choice of words have an impact, that this type of interaction is not okay. Humans have powerful imaginations and I don’t doubt that people have fantasies or special thoughts and dreams about people they know, but keep that stuff to yourself. Especially, when it is not welcomed.
I’m sure plenty of women (and men) have been subjected to this at some point, and this is not okay. This type of language is not flattering, it’s uncalled for and frankly should not be taking place in decent conversation. Drunk, sober, tipsy, whatever.
With such powerful movements taking place such as #metoo and #timesup, I feel this is another area where women and men are subjected to being nothing but an object for sex and sexual desire. Just because it is not a physical act does not make it right. Words can be harmless and they can be harmful. I for certain do not want to go back to that bar and I am thankful I had quit my job a few weeks prior, otherwise I would not have been able to work there. I hope and encourage people to speak up and not allow for others to verbally abuse them in a way that makes them feel violated and used. To also not be the one keeping their mouth shut, respecfully.
How I feel trying to talk to some men.