A couple of weeks ago hubby and I were watching the local evening news, when a story came on that divided us completely. That doesn’t happen very often in this house, usually we are on the same page with most things. The story reported was disturbing to me yet provoked him to giggle. I am not saying I am right and he is wrong, we discussed both of our reactions immediately after the news item aired, it gave us both an insight into how male and female brains work. He was shocked at how most of us women view things and I got to understand why he reacted the way he had. It exposed the differences in our thinking.
Now before I go into this in any detail I need to say my husband isn’t a sexist pig, he isn’t even slightly sexist. He was outraged on Monday morning with how little coverage the England Women’s Cricket Team got on Sky Sports News, the headline being Chris Froome winning the Tour de France and then Jordan Spieth winning the Open. He felt that England's Women's Cricket Team winning the World Cup should have been leading the news. He also loved the fact that two female chefs made it to the banquet on The Great British Menu, which we are still catching up on. He believes that women should be treated equally but that doesn’t mean he is a mind reader, knowing how we / I think and feel about certain issues.
The story was also covered in the local newspaper (which you can find here), for those of you who don’t have the time to read the article I shall give you an overview. A young woman in her 20’s was sat alone in her house when she became aware that someone was attempting to get into her property. As she walked into her kitchen she saw a man outside the window, masturbating. He had been trying to gain access into the property for around 30 minutes and obviously this young woman was terrified. She managed to get the man to leave her property but he continued to expose himself. Understandably, well to me anyway, the lady was shaken up by the experience.
My immediate reaction was revulsion and feeling angry that yet another young woman had been put through this ordeal. Yet hubby’s reaction was to laugh, now I am not going to lie and say this didn’t get my dander up. I don’t know if he was laughing because the very posh news reader was having to say the word masturbation on the evening news or that he genuinely thought the whole thing was funny. I was too cross at this point to ask him. However it became clear as I was talking to him, he had no idea that some (possibly most) females would feel threatened by this behaviour. He had no clue that many of us would panic and fear the prospect of being raped, should a man expose himself and masturbate in front of us. He had no idea that the female brain would make that leap (obviously he does now).
Now some of you reading this may think that I am over reacting but having spoken to several female friends about it, I know that my fear of sexual violence isn’t mine alone. A man, unknown to you exposing himself or exposing himself and masturbating in front of you is a frightening thing. For the man I am guessing it is all about the power of generating fear in his victim, he may get off on that.
I explained to hubby about my feelings regarding the story. That men who expose themselves tend to jump out on their victims or corner them when alone. I have never heard of a case where a man has exposed himself in the middle of the high street at rush hour (but that doesn’t mean it's never happened). Events like these a premeditated they don’t happen by accident. Had the man who terrorised the woman in the news article seen that there was a man present on the property the chances are he wouldn’t have done it. I won’t pretend I know the motivations of why a man would choose to terrorise another person like this but it makes me very angry. I am still angry.
Hubby had never made the connection that I made and many of my female friends made about the link from a man exposing himself to the fear of rape. Why would he? Although men are raped by both sexes, very little appears in the press about it, which only adds to the sense of shame for the victims. (statistics on male rape here) He never realised the fear that an act of exposure / indecency could induce. He was quite shocked that this was how I felt. Why would he had known it wasn’t a subject that we had discussed in 21 years of being together. It made me understand why he didn’t initially see it the way he did because as a man he doesn’t see himself as a potential victim of any kind of sexual violence, whereas most women (I believe) do.
I think what made me angry about his laughter at the news item is the fact as a child I was the victim of sexual harassment / sexual assault. I was 13 years old, waiting to meet up with friends before going into school for the day. I was dressed in my school uniform. The street was busy with kids arriving and a few adults were around. I became aware of a man crossing the road directly opposite to me. He was wearing big dark glasses and was using a white cane. As he stepped up on the pavement in front of me, he used the white cane to lift my skirt up, exposing my underwear for all to see. I was so shocked that I screamed, the man ran off, folding up the white cane as he left. He wasn’t blind he had merely used that as a disguise.
The kids that saw what happened laughed, no one took what had just happened seriously. Because of their reaction, I thought by screaming I had over reacted and didn’t say anything to the teachers. Now obviously years later I realise the man who did this to me was some sort of pervert or paedophile. At the time I hadn’t feared being raped, I was just mortified that my body had been exposed to numerous people without my consent. I feel guilty that I didn’t report the incident to the police or the teachers and that this sicko may have gone on to do this to other girls. However we are talking about an incident 30 years ago and things were treated very differently then.
That wasn’t the last time that I was sexually assaulted, in the early 2000 when I was at work, I assisted in escorting some rowdy customers leaving the store. As I was walking behind the two men, one of them turned around and grabbed my breasts. After they had left the store I raised it with the Manager (male) and he laughed. I was really angry and pointed out that I had just been sexually assaulted, I wanted the police called. I was basically told I was making a fuss about nothing. As I hadn’t found my voice then I let it go. Which obviously I now realise I should have made an enormous fuss, this was not ok.
Now on both these occasions I was in a public place and I didn’t fear being raped. However if I had been that woman alone in her house, with someone prowling around outside that would have scared me. Without then looking out of a window and seeing what she saw. I don’t think, well I know, I am not the only female on the planet that would have been terrified by this.
Now my husband understands the fear we as women can have, I can’t blame him for not ever thinking about it. Rarely do we think about these things unless we have had something similar happen to us. He was horrified that women think like that and he had no clue. No one should be made fearful in their own home or outside in the rest of the world, regardless of their gender.
And if you want to know he was laughing at the word masturbation being on the news. If different circumstances I may have giggled like a teenager also.
A good article on Everyday Sexual Assault can be found here.