I know “not all men are bad” or “you’re not one of those men” but, please, before you roll your eyes at me or leave this page, take five minutes to hear me out. You, personally, may not be “one of those guys”, but I guarantee you know someone who is, or a girl who’s met one.
Over the past few weeks I have been compiling stories from young assistants working across France on the Language Assistantship program. There was a Facebook thread mid-February time in the TAPIF group talking about instances of sexual assault in France and so, at the start of June I asked again if anyone would be willing to come forward either in the comments or via a private message, sharing their stories for me to use in a series of blog posts. Within 24 hours I had around 30 responses and they continued to come in for around a week thereafter.
But they do.
And it’s the sad truth about our society today. Even after hundreds of years of social evolution and, particularly with all the advances in women’s rights during the 20th century, we STILL have a toxic culture of sexual assault and female oppression. If you are reading this and thinking “but…no we don’t”, I hate to break it to you, but YOU are part of the problem here. Ignorance and denial are, arguably, two of the biggest reasons as to why this is still a problem.
In the USA, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds – that’s roughly 882 people PER DAY that experience some form of harassment, unwanted advance, unwanted touching, attempted rape or completed rape. 54% of those people assaulted are between the ages of 18 and 24 (the main age range of people on the Assistantship Program). So, taking those 882 people per day, 54% of them is ~476.3 people. 476.3 people per day aged 18-24 are assaulted AND, to add to that, of that 54%, those in college are 3x more likely than non-college students to be assaulted .
To put those numbers in context, a British Airways 4-class Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet has a seating capacity of 345 people . This means that the average number of people assaulted per day in the USA is enough to fully fill up TWO AND A HALF British Airways flights from London Heathrow to New York JFK.
These are numbers that should not be as high as that, so why are they?
The first article in this series was about racial harassment in France and, shockingly, some people didn’t realise that this existed as a form of harassment?! Racism, used in a certain way, most certainly constitutes harassment. Trying to flirt by guessing which type of Asian a girl is, or trying to “tick a continent off the list” is sexual assault rooted in racism. Racial harassment in France is very evident and transcends far beyond “fun” or trying to prove to be an “alpha” to your mates, racial harassment is based on ignorance and xenophobia and a desire to call someone out for not being “normal” (i.e. a white French native). It’s not funny or impressive. It is, for the most part, juvenile of the harasser and terrifying, and often exasperating, for those on the receiving end.
Particularly in the last decade, with the rise of the Front National and it’s nationalist, anti-immigrant ideals, France has seen an increase in racially-aggravated assault, and, despite there being a law against this (“…the Press Law of 1881, in which Section 24 criminalizes incitement to racial discrimination, hatred, or violence on the basis of one’s origin or membership (or non-membership) in an ethic, national, racial, or religious group…” ) very few harassers are convicted mostly due to people not coming forward, or the fact that it is incredibly hard for the police to find offenders and/or prove that they said something derogatory or racist.
The normalisation of xenophobic hatred and harassment is happening on an, unfortunately, frequent basis and is common French culture. Many of the girls who submitted their stories noted that passers-by kept their heads down, crossed the road or just stood and did nothing to intervene or protect them from the harassment. Those who stand by and do nothing are just as bad as the perpetrators.
Dear men, don’t be the person that stands and does nothing. If you see a woman being called out because of the colour of her skin, step in and stop it. If you are the person calling her out, stop it then wash your mouth out with vinegar. Don’t be a jerk.
Article 2 was on the terrifying occurrence of women being followed home by men.
Guys, trust me when I say this (and I believe I’m speaking for every girl on the planet here): No girl wants to be followed. No girl wants to be touched without permission. No girl wants to feel as though they are unsafe in their own home because you know where they live now. No girl wants you to hunt her down and she definitely does not want sex with you in an alley/garage/train station just because you spent the last 5 blocks begging her to. No girl wants you to cruise alongside her, especially if your shouting slanderous comments at her, and she definitely doesn’t want you to bring your group of horny “mates” into things either. To be honest, if a girl walking alone at night she’s either on the way to supermarket for chocolate, wine and tampons, or she’s walking home from work smelling of beer, food and sweat. Sexy.
In life, we don’t go around handing out our address to anyone and everyone for one main reason: privacy. Who we choose to give that information is our choice and we don’t wish to have that privacy taken away from us by a desperately horny creep at 10pm as we walk from the bus stop to our front door.
The only thing men achieve through this kind of behaviour is fear. They aren’t being chivalrous by “walking us home”, they aren’t being helpful and they most certainly aren’t going to make us run into their arms with gratitude. We’ll ever understand the male desire to follow a woman.
Just stop it, please.
Article 3 was, perhaps, the most difficult to write.
Rape is one of the most degrading and humiliating things that can happen to a woman and no one, no one, should ever have to go through the experience.
Women are not “fair game”. It doesn’t matter what they are wearing, how they have their hair, how much make up they’re wearing, how much they’ve drunk, who they’re with, or where they are. No means no. Silence means no. ANY ANSWER OTHER THAN A DIRECT “YES” MEANS NO.
Women have never understood the level that men must feel themselves to be on to stoop so low as to think that violating a woman is the ONLY way they can get laid. To feel a sense of power over another person by rendering them incapable is not power, it’s cowardice and it’s weakness.
The feeling that the only way you’ll get to touch a woman is through groping and unauthorised touching is, quite frankly, pitiful. But you don’t deserve pity. You deserve shame.
Shame on you.
Hunting women and following them is not a sport, and the constant fear that we have is unfair. Imagine having to plan ahead constantly, trying to figure out where you’ll be at a certain time and with whom. Always having a route B planned to get home in case something happens rendering the normal route not possible and you need to divert. Feeling your heart quicken as a car slows down next to you…only to realise you’re just approaching a stop light. Holding your breath in ready for a scream when you have to walk past a group of people loitering and trying to catch your attention. Carefully positioning your keys in your hand, ready to punch if you have to. Walking ever-so-slightly too quickly the last steps up to the front door.
I’m not making this up. This is real life for girls. We are brought up being taught how to dress and act to avoid men’s advances, how to talk ourselves out of a situation, how to tell if our drink has been spiked (ps, a salty taste means you should probably get a fresh drink, or get the hell outta there (with a friend just in case!)) and how to escape from men should we ever be in that situation.
So, dear men, don’t hurt us. Don’t touch us. Don’t “walk us home”. Don’t guess which Asian we are. Don’t scare us, and don’t degradingly reduce us to the statistic of being one of those 882 people who are sexually assaulted per day. We are someone’s daughter. Someone’s wife, girlfriend, sister, mom, best friend. Don’t do anything to us you wouldn’t do if the one woman you loved most in life were standing beside you.
Dear men, please protect us and have enough respect and dignity to help us reduce the number of people assaulted to 0 because no one, not even if she’s wearing the shortest skirt in world or has drunk one too many double vodka sodas, deserves the humiliation, shame and trauma of being violated by a spineless, cowardly creep.
 All sexual assault statistics used are taken from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence