When I was attacked, it began with a demand for a cigarette. It escalated to the point where I was on my back on the pavement, being strangled. Not even a decent man who takes rejection with good grace can tell me, or any other woman, that our fear of violence is unfounded. We know what rejected men can do – we have seen what can happen. And many of us have felt it.
OPK. Well, no, not OK that it happened, but OK to the story as told.
Good progress is being made on teaching consent in schools. But ultimately it comes down to men treating women with respect and regarding them as equals with agency over their bodies. Unfortunately this sort of sea change can take generations, especially when it is undermined by the surrounding visual culture.
We used to laugh at this, the idea that this somewhat feckless, harmless man could be perceived as so frightening. But having suffered some of the long-term health implications of being attacked, I don’t find it funny any more. When you combine the larger male physique with rejection and a bruised ego, the situation can become frightening and violent. There are men who take rejection with good grace, of course. But not enough of them. And so women learn to smile and look down, to defuse the situation with soothing words and platitudes, to make our bodies smaller, to comply. We undertake the emotional labour of minimising men’s feelings of pain and humiliation.
That’s why we had all those old rules of the patriarchy. Never strike a woman, no matter what, for example. Societally enforced by every other man around being ready to administer a thrashing to those who erred.
Sure, you don’t have to like that solution. But it was a solution to that very problem you’re complaining about.