College Life

ARE YOU ASKING FOR IT?

I am 21 years old. I am also a girl, a young woman living in the 21st century. People might say that we are living in the modern age, the liberal age, a time of change. Yes, there is a lot of change happening but there are some areas of society that are alarmingly stuck back in the dark ages. I’m talking about the way that women are treated in practically all aspects of society. I have wanted to write about this for so so long, and I finally feel I have the ammunition I need to write how I feel.

Before writing this properly, I decided to re-read the letter by the young woman sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. I was in the US on my J1 when this case went viral. I read article after article about the case. Even now, reading her thoughts chills my bones and an ache forms in my chest. What was so shocking about that entire case was so many media outlets did not refer to Brock Turner as a rapist, someone capable of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He was labelled “Stanford Swimmer”. His family and friends wrote letters to the prosecuting judge belittling the victim and dumbing the act of sexual assault down to “20 minutes of action”. Reading those five words actually brings tears to my eyes. As if someone could define the act of violating a young woman, forcing yourself on her when she could not even fight you off as “20 minutes of action”. It makes my blood boil.

Women are often defined as always “up for it”. While reading articles on the Ched Evans case, a comment on one of them read; “Many women go out at the weekend with the objective of getting lashed and laid”. I myself enjoy having a few drinks and going out with friends. But that doesn’t mean I go out looking for sex, not at all. It’s no secret that young people, including young women, like drinking. It’s a fun way to let loose. This whole idea that women dress in short dresses, low cut clothing to please men is nonsense. I dress for me and me alone. Another frightening concept we hear all too well is that if a woman is wearing a short dress she is “asking to be raped”.

As a young woman, when an older man starts talking to you – day or night, in a slightly sexual way you are paralysed with fear. Why, you may ask? Because you’re at risk of angering them if you don’t respond to their advances. Or what about the time where you’ve been verbally pressured to kiss someone you don’t want to? “Ah go on”, “Give him a chance”? Sometimes it’s joking but there are so many times when it goes too far. Pressuring someone to do something they don’t want to is one of the worst things you can do.

I live in a society where wearing a pair of shorts and walking through a college campus elicits shouts from cars saying “nice legs”, feeling the eyes of young men you don’t even know staring at your bare legs like they’re pieces of meat. I felt as though a spotlight was put on me just because I wore shorts on a warm day.

It’s the same in so many different places, different countries. At the moment I am living in Belgium and last week I went to a bar named Cuba Libre, a bar I spent less than 10 minutes in. During the ten minutes from entering the bar to use the bathroom and leaving again at least 3 men grabbed at me. These absolute strangers touched my neck and grabbed at my waist as I walked past them. I can’t even remember their faces because it happened so fast. I felt positively disgusted. In work places I have had a guy I call my friend touch my back inappropriately and grab at the back of my bra. I remember having to laugh it off while my mind screamed “this feels wrong”. But don’t forget, it’s all fun isn’t it? Only having a laugh.

There are young men out there that will not take no for an answer. It’s almost girl code to swoop in and deftly save your female friend from the unwanted advances of an eager male. Who remembers the incident in Dublin where a group of men in UCD were discovered sharing explicit photos of girls they’d been intimate with in a group chat on Facebook? Those women can never get those photos back.

One of my friends was punched by a man who first interacted with us by putting his hands on my waist, taking my friend’s hands and pulling her against him without her permission. Yes, you read correctly, punched. And he got away with it too. My friend was even told by the manager that perhaps she had been “too drunk” to remember what had exactly happened and accused her of lying about the whole incident. Which was absolute bullshit.

There is this romanticism around forcing yourself on someone and I am guilty of even reading books where these kinds of scenes are written.

FACT, it is not sexy or romantic to force kisses on a girl that doesn’t want them from you.

FACT, having sex with someone who can’t even speak one sentence properly is not appropriate.

FACT, a girl is not a slut for having had sex with more than one person. To this day, it astounds me how men can have sex with any many willing partners as possible and is celebrated for it. This is what men have been taught to believe.

I want to stress that it is not ALL men that do this. There are some genuine gentlemen out there that would not dream of laying a finger on a woman in an inappropriate way. I have never been involved with any young man that did not give me the respect I deserved so I am very lucky in that regard, some young women are not so lucky. We need to teach them not to be silent.

Thank you thank you for reading, I hope it hasn’t made anyone upset. I am just tired of seeing this kind of behaviour around me all the time.