High school, for me, was kind of a blur. Specifically, my junior and senior years were full of finding the next best party to attend with everyone. We usually ended up at the same, broken down places, but it was always the same crowd. Within that crowd, like any movie cliche, we had college guys abound. For some reason, a few stuck around to hang out and flirt with the young high school girls. It’s not lost on me how weird that is now.
Though, however weird and immature it was on their part, I never once felt unsafe around them. In fact, I felt taken care of. I once made a stupid mistake of stepping on a broken beer bottle while barefoot (don’t ask) and nearly cut my toe off. All of us had been drinking pretty heavily that night. But there was R. picking barely dressed me up and taking me to the bathroom to get it treated. I’ll never forget the innocent kindness that held no hidden intentions for this inebriated young girl.
There is also the time when a girlfriend and I were with two older guys we knew and heavy drinking was another factor. One thing led to another and I was suddenly telling the guy on top of me, “No. Stop.” Immediately, A. jumped off. I recall rolling off the edge of the bed and just sitting there, a little dazed as to what was going on. In the end, I cannot imagine being in the hands or room of someone else who did not respect my body or wishes in that moment.
These were good dudes. I still believe they are good dudes.
I don’t need to be grateful for the fact that they knew the difference between right and wrong. (How about just not assaulting a person?) But I can acknowledge that good guys exist. While my story contains sexual and emotional manipulation and abuse by others, guys like R., A., my close guy friends, and my husband are further proof that all the fish aren’t tainted.
I write all of this, not as a celebration of good men, but as a reminder to each and everyone one of us that the Brett Kavanaugh’s or Brock Turner’s or Bill Cosby’s of the world exist alongside the good ones. They just have an uncanny ability to swim within the shadows of parties, dorm rooms, hotel rooms, and offices. Women know, in the mix of all the good guys, there are still the ones that lurk. We know our bodies and minds are the prey. They’re most likely someone we know, often a stranger, but always a predator. This is never lost on us. It is never not on our mind when we are out.
This is what I wish people would see when women come forward with a serious accusation. It’s not enough for us to “be polite,” “just be safe,” or “dress appropriately.” Because predators don’t care. “No. Stop.” is not a phrase they feel the need to hear or respect. And when the bad ones re-enter the world and its shadows, women are left with the weight of what is next. Sometimes “next” spans weeks or years or decades. Anita Hill tried to tell us this. Every woman who’s been abused by an NFL player has told us this. Christine Blasey Ford has told us this. And still, each are met with a determined roadblock, because their abusers existed alongside the good dude and/or held a position of power.
The #MeToo movement is not a man-hating club. I feel like this is what keeps getting lost in whatever translation and route people are taking. We are a force to be reckoned with, yes. That much is true. The demands of #MeToo are, across the board, of acknowledging the abuses endured and ignored. It’s a wake up call to the societal norm that someone else’s body and mind are not their own. We recognize this lie has been imparted unto the minds of the boys who become men — for generations! — and we are tired of its perpetuation. We are tired of the patriarchal power that exists to silence us.
We are also unafraid, and I think that scares most. Good! It should. But those who pursue equality in their relationships and friendships are not intimidated by such a movement and force. That quality is also known as confidence.
To the good dudes: we see you. Keep your friends in check. Keep your own intentions in check. Speak up and out. While we don’t need affirmation for our stories to have validity, we do need you. We appreciate you and your willingness to disrupt whatever comfort your privilege affords you. Let’s do this together.