"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Friday, August 23, 2013

speak now #28: mr ticklefight

Now Playing: Swingin' Party by Lorde (if being afraid is a crime we hang side by side)

Have you ever been cooing at and playing with a baby, and then you give them a little tickle and they gurgle with laughter, and then when you stop they start bawling and you feel guilty and confused because you don't know whether they're crying because you stopped or crying because you did it in the first place, and then you brush it off because they're just babies and it's no big deal anyway?

This is how we look at sexual assault and lack of consent.

I hang out with a lot of guys, most of whom are older than me. I don't choose my friends by age or gender, but it just kind of ends up that way. I'm not going to pretend that there's never any sexual tension, or that I don't like the sexual tension; I have something of a reputation that I am a woman who likes the company of men and I happen to be friends with a lot of men who love the company of women. When you hang out with older boys things can get kind of rough, but I like it; I like playfights, I like the physical contact and proximity, the hugs that are always a little bit too tight and hands that are always a little bit too strong.

I hate being tickled.

I just don't like being tickled, mostly because I'm not in control of the situation. I am very short, pretty small and quite physically weak; especially considering that the company I keep universally tower over me and double my weight. I always have to remain in a position where I can say stop, and I always have to be with people who will respect that. When you're giggling uncontrollably it is impossible to convey how much you are not liking what is happening, and impossible to fight someone off. It's actually quite scary, because I know what it's like to be incapacitated - when you can't move, can't stop things from happening to you; it's one of my anxiety triggers. It's a combination of incapacitation and provoking a response that is completely antithetical to someone's true feelings; you're making someone laugh when they're in a position that they hate and can't get out of. And the people who resort to this kind of thing aren't the kind of people I like spending time with, the kind of people who say 'see, I made you smile!' or 'hey look, I'm cheering you up!' or 'I thought you liked it'. These are the people who guilt me into spending time with them. These are the people who are irrationally angry that I don't like them, that they don't amuse me, that I don't want them to touch me. It's my time and my body. I choose who can do what with both.

I am someone who laughs often and easily; anyone with half a brain and an ounce of charm can get a smile out of me. I am someone who loves touch and being touched; it is well documented that human beings die without physical contact, it's as important as food and water. I am someone who keeps up a collection of individual relationships instead of a network of friends, so none of my friends are really associated with the others, much less jealous of anyone else. If you have to resort to physical assault to get an involuntary smile out of me then all signs suggest that we really shouldn't be together. Ever. In any way. Actually, I'm having doubts over sharing this planet with you.

A lot of people don't understand my aversions to things that people don't consider to be things; they're always like 'oh my god, he was just being silly' or 'so he sat next to you on the bus every day for a month and put his arm around you, so what?'. A lot of people also think that just because I have close relationships with other people I have suddenly become public property, stuff like 'well he does x, so why don't you let him do y?'. This is because we think of interaction - physical, emotional, sexual, whatever - as a list of do's and don'ts, instead of a simple matter of consent. The only thing that validates what anyone does to me isn't who they are or what they're doing, but whether or not I like it and let them. What anyone else does isn't invitation for you to do it. My relationships with other people have nothing to do with you. No matter what I do or who I hang out with, I have the right to say yes and the right to say no. Why is this such a hard concept?

It is important for people, especially women, to learn how to say no. Most of the times I got into this kind of trouble happened when I couldn't say a clear, upfront 'no' at the beginning; either I was shut down or not listened to, or I felt guilty and didn't want to hurt someones feelings. If someone crosses your boundaries and makes you feel uncomfortable, they are an asshole and you have every right to hurt their damn feelings. It doesn't matter if it was 'accident' or 'they didn't realize' or 'didn't mean it'; what matters is that they are hurting you and that is not okay. It is equally important for women to have the right to say yes; and it is important for people to realize that saying yes to something doesn't mean that you can do it whenever you like, or that anyone else can do it. I am not being uptight or bitchy or arrogant or overreacting. And it's hard to say no to bodies bigger than yours, to voices louder than yours, to hands stronger than yours, to legs faster than yours, to tempers more volatile than yours. It's really scary. But I wish we taught girls that saying no is okay, and I wish we taught boys that rejection isn't some unforgivable insult that needs punishing. It is disgusting that in this day and age we consider protecting our bodies and our rights to be an overreaction. It is disgusting that in this day and age we teach girls to put the safety of male pride over the safety of our own bodies.


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