Sexual Harassment and Abuse

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…have happened to me several times in my life. I will relate a few of the events as illustration, not necessarily to add credibility.

The first time I was a college sophomore and my creative writing teacher, a guy in his late 40s/early 50s, claimed to love my poetry, was taking me around Denver to various poetry groups to read. I believed he sincerely liked my work. He was a semi-famous poet, had been published in The New Yorker, so this was very nice. Then, when he brought me back to school after one of these, he grabbed my breast and tried to kiss me. We were ON CAMPUS in broad daylight, and he seemed not to have a second thought. I pulled away and ran.

From that moment on, I have doubted the quality of my work.

The following summer I got married. It was a mistake, and I knew it, because already before the wedding the guy kneed me in the groin. The marriage lasted six years and one good thing that came from it is that a friend (male) I had back in those days became a champion in Berkeley for abused women and began a landmark program to help them. In those days there was no where to go and the attitude was, “It’s your marriage.” I later learned from my mother-in-law that my father-in-law treated her similarly…

In grad school I was invited to a party by a professor, but the party turned out not to be me and a few others, but just me and some Scotch. First we played ping-pong in the rec room of the prof’s apartment waiting for the others, then we went up to his apartment where he poured me a Scotch (that I did not drink) and grabbed my tit. “Ooooh what a nice little booby,” he said. I was out of there in seconds, drove home on the Valley Highway to my apartment near DU, trying not to puke inside my car and, thank the gods, succeeding.

Though I have many more stories, I don’t want to say much more, but suffice it that stuff like this happened until I was nearly sixty — situations including not getting tenure because I had refused to “put out” to a guy on the tenure committee and being offered sex by students for a higher grade. “I’ll do anything for an A.”

And I was not then — or ever — an obviously sexy, provocative woman. I have no idea what part I played in any of this. I’m not sure I played any part in it.

So, to those of you who think that the Woman’s March yesterday is about bitter feelings because Trump won, no, it isn’t. Maybe you’ve never experienced these things and you’re willing to give a “chance” to a man who openly admits to having done them.

40 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment and Abuse

  1. Bravo! I couldn’t have said it better. Any man who thinks that women don’t have cause to complain is probably one of the perpetrators of these or similar acts. I was told I had no sense of humor when I got mad at such men. With two rapes and innumerable assaults in my history, I feel your anger at the sneering at the women’s marches. Screw all of them!

  2. How can a man as insecure, asking, ‘did you like my speech?’ become president?
    Such wise words in your post and I can relate to your experiences!

  3. Trump has the same issue a lot of people have in society, He had father who cared more about work than spending time with his family. I developed a similar inferiority complex early in life and am now finally getting over it, although it helps you strive to achieve (you think that accomplishments are why people love you)…it is a never ending story of erratic and uncontrollable behaviors

    • I’m sure that’s true and he’s not alone, and as interesting and meaningful as the “Why?” is, this is not the person I want leading my country. 😦

  4. The few good men I have met can be counted with one hand. What causes men to be such sexual deviants is beyond me. We have a sexual predator for a president. Ergo, expect to see more of this in the next years. My retired police neighbor is horrified because she had to pick the ‘pieces’ of abused little girls, including one that was murdered. She claims this nation has gone mad.

    As for me, I suffered some of the things you did. My little revenge was having one of these sexual predators get fired from his nice job.

    • I love your name. If I’d had a daughter, I would have named her Miranda and what is more important than ones “alma”?

      I’m sure some of the men who messed with me got what what coming to them, but since this kind of behavior doesn’t seem to be socially deviant (until it becomes criminal) it is all nothing… It’s a two way street, too, which I did not write here. Some women take what advantage they can from it (even though I know I’m not “supposed” to say that) in their willingness to “sleep” their way to the top.

      It’s so complicated but at least there has been an awakening to the behavior and its fundamental unacceptability.

      • Thanks. Miranda is my last name. If I were to translate literally it would be Soul Lookwalk.

        I agree about women’s behavior. The difference is in many parts of the world, the USA included, many women are ‘taught’ to use their sexuality as a weapon. I have to thank my mom, a Xena type woman who taught me self respect.

      • Hmmmm…I think women learned long ago to use their sexuality, maybe long ago simply to capture a mate? No idea, but maybe it’s part of who we are? I believe this is a very complicated subject… Standing up for ourselves is both necessary and dangerous. 😦

  5. I read one theory that females learned to use their favors to get protection. When the lion showed up, the males would run off, saving themselves but leaving the women and children to fend for themselves. That is until the females bargained for protection. I’m not sure if I buy that, but I’ve often wondered how some of the guys I’ve run into got any sex. They certainly didn’t deserve any, but women would line up to give some of the most despicable men I’ve ever met sex. Trump is a good case in point. He has never went without. There was never a shortage of women lining up to be the next trophy wife. And as far as I can see he’s never been worthy of getting any. I’ve also known some really good, hard-working guys that never got any unless they bought it because they weren’t good looking enough or didn’t present the bad-boy image that’s so popular with females. So, I think young women should give more thought to the screening process before they give it up. As far as guys running around thinking they’re entitled to impose themselves on any female within sight, that’s a matter of how they are raised, and not being raised that way I can’t relate. My dad told me to: “Take care of the girls, they’re the only girls we got.” But it’s hard to compete with the bad boys; they get most of the sex.

    • I love that, “Take care of the girls, they’re the only girls we’ve got.” That’s awesome.

      I agree. I think a lot of this is hard-wired into humans as animals, even to body-type and behavior being the “winners”. Trump has nothing going for him other than $$ and I’m reasonably sure he’s an abusive asshole to his women because it’s a way of displaying and maintaining power. Lots of women are willing to be bought and even as far as my icky old professors went, I’m sure there were plenty of girl students who were only too happy to be their “consort” either for a grade or because “Oh! The Professor!” One of my profs got a new wife every four years from the students he taught. It was a girls college… We used to conjecture who’d be next when the “time limit” was approaching.

      I think guys imposing themselves on women might have something to do with the “mate, spawn and die” instinct. I sometimes think it’s like a friend of mine said (a guy), “Oh! I have an erection! She wants me!” Some guys might never have been taught that’s not necessarily true…

      It’s a really complicated subject and I’m sure so much of it is part of our species that it will never even be possible to see the whole picture. I’m just happy I don’t have to play any more.

  6. Some of these types of situations sound vaguely familiar (to a lot of women I imagine)
    You shouldn’t have let a guy get away with grabbing your breast without some severely bruised testicles.
    I find that’s a language they all seem to speak.

      • Please do tell. I like a tale of justice.
        Although I would question whether anything hurts men more than a well-aimed kick in the balls. I do have quite a hard kick though.

      • I was in grad school. A friend had a party. I went early to help her set up. We got drunk. I told her the story and then we performed it not knowing the professor was already in the room. Mocking and ridicule were universally heaped upon his grizzled head and he left. I wasn’t the first but possibly the last. He left the school soon after. He was an asshole. The first day of class he said to all of us, “Why are you here? Why don’t you get real jobs?” I’d had one and had one at the time. He shouldn’t have been teaching anyone.

      • That sure sounds like a bad professor. Glad you were able to come out on top, so to speak.
        Didn’t you say there were 2 professors who did the same though? You manage to get the other guy back as well?

      • Oh the OTHER? He just tried to kiss me and I 18 and was completely unexposed (so to speak) to this kind of behavior. I had NO idea it was just part of life. I was just hurt, demoralized and disgusted quietly in my dorm room. I never even told anyone.

  7. Those all sound pretty terrible. Some men can certainly be rather presumptuous with women.
    I learned my lesson when I was still a teenager in high school, and not particularly well behaved at that age. I pulled a girl’s swimming top off during one of our school swimming lessons so her breasts popped out in public.
    She then waited for me after swimming practice and kicked me in the nuts when I walked out of the building, so hard I collapsed on the floor and was down for about 5 minutes.
    I certainly never tried that again and learned my lesson quite quickly when I told my mum about what had happened and she basically just said “well you got what you deserved”.

    • Good mom! I think pulling off the girl’s swimsuit top was a prank, not harassment or a power play, but still, not the right thing to do. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      • I dunno. I think if it was only a prank and not sexually inappropriate then it’d be a bit unfair that she kicked me in the balls? Whereas if it’s seen as sexual assault of some kind, I can see that it’s fair that women can defend themselves however they see fit.

      • I think a prank can be sexually inappropriate and seen by the girl as sexual assault. You crossed a boundary but maybe (I don’t know) not out of malice or the desire to control another person. You did something wrong but your motives might have been nothing more than mischief, if that makes sense.

      • It definitely wasn’t out of malice or desire to control. It was curiosity (I’d never seen a girl’s breast before) combined with mischief.
        Do you think there was a better or fairer response she could’ve had? Or was kicking me the best thing?

      • “Fair?” What you did was unfair. We can’t always evaluate another person’s motives, and from her perspective, you took off her swim top and exposed her to the world. You had to know that was unkind at the very least.

        I don’t know if kicking you was “fair.” I can’t possibly judge that. I don’t know how she felt, I don’t know the relationship between you, I don’t know who else was there, how she was raised, nothing.

        As far as communicating clearly to you that you’d acted inappropriately, the kick sure did that.

      • Of course, yes. What I did was unfair. I wouldn’t say ‘exposed to the world’ though. Probably only about 4 people saw before she managed to get her breasts covered up again.
        The relationship between us was just very loose friends. Maybe spoke to her about once a week.
        What do you think you’d have done if you’d been in her position?
        Of course the kick did teach me a lesson. It left me with really sore aching balls for a few days though.

      • What I would have done would have depended on the guy, where we were, a lot of things. I don’t think I’d kick a guy in the balls unless it was a reflexive defensive action, or I was really angry, or I felt significantly trespassed. I think that girl could have felt any one of those things. I had a brother and that was just not something you did to a guy (because you could hurt him).

        Neither you nor I can judge how she felt about “only about 4 people saw” — she might have felt exposed to the world. Don’t trivialize it. You might have been (relatively) innocent in your action, but it was still really wrong, disrespectful and embarrassing to her. You were out of line.

    • If you’re gonna pull pranks like that, you’ve definitely gotta be willing to accept the consequences Gary.
      That girl did the right thing and taught you what boundary you couldn’t cross. I bet you’ve not done anything like that again, have you?
      And would you have done it in the first place if it had already been made clear to you that a certain portion of women will respond to abusive behaviour by giving you a hard kick in the testicles?
      In my experience guys tend to want to avoid that as much as possible. Please feel free to correct me if you think this is a bit too strong a message Martha.

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