I’ve been victimized by sexual violence. Lucky me; it’s happened twice, and I was horrified.
Let me clarify. I wasn’t horrified when it happened. I thought it was funny back then, and laughed. Rather, I was horrified when told that what happened to me was sexual violence. An educational program I’m taking recently obliged all students to take an online course on that subject. Catcalls, they said, was sexual violence. A quick grope also fit the category. The course to prevent sexual violence trivialized it instead, and I think that’s horrible.
I don’t remember exactly what those gay guys yelled at me as I passed, but it was lewd. I don’t even remember where it happened, just that it did. My response was to wave back at the guys, blow them a kiss and continue on my way. I didn’t think much of it till recently, when the sexual violence classification upgraded my experience.
Even more violent was the grope. I had been hitch-hiking to my newspaper route at four in the morning. When the driver stopped at my destination he reached over and grabbed my crotch, making a lascivious remark. I smiled, got out of the car, and delivered my papers. I decided not to be upset, and promptly put the grope out of my mind till it was horribly brought back by this online course. Now I wonder if I have PTSD or need years of therapy to help me recover.
Nope. Except for intense anger, I’m good. I’m not mad at the guy who groped me or the fellows that made lewd remarks as I sashayed past them. I’m furious with the people who put together that online course, the people who equated catcalls and a quick grope with physical violence, with forced sexual contact. I’ve talked with women who have been raped, or beaten for resisting rape. It wasn’t something they could laugh about afterwards. It’s a qualitatively different experience.
In my novel Quantum Cannibals the main character is gang-raped. A friend of hers is gang-raped. Revenge is the only therapy available to them. Read the novel to find out how they dealt with it.
In the #MeToo era, every act, every word can be spun into being a form of aggression. True sexual violence, brutal sexual violence gets buried under the detritus of hurt feelings and trumped-up sensitivities. When everyone’s a victim the authentic victims don’t get the attention, certainly not the revenge or catharsis they deserve. The online course that I took was in itself a form of sexual violence.
What Is Suffering?
Half a century ago suffering was looked upon as a moral, religious or even philosophical issue. What did it mean, and did that meaning provide any comfort to those who were suffering? With the intense secularization of western industrial societies in the latter part of the twentieth century, suffering became rationalized: an issue to be treated either through drugs, psychiatry, or the wide range of happiness industries. With #MeToo the ordeal of sexual victim-hood regained a moral flavor, but without any chance for meaning. The only treatment is to widen the definition, name more culprits, identify more people as victims.
That’s the spirit in which my two experiences were labelled as violence. It’s not a comforting spirit. How much worse it must be for the people who have suffered real, physical sexual violence.