It’s funny. Last week I became furious after someone made a lewd comment about my breasts. It was wildly inappropriate, but it was only six words long, and it was, after all, just words. The asshole didn’t attempt to touch me or anything like that. All it took was one degrading statement and I flew off the handle, didn’t calm down for two days.
So there I am the next day at the Girl Parts doctor and the nurse is all concerned because I’m scheduled with a male doctor.
“It’s fine,” I tell her. “Not a problem.”
“But he’s a… are you sure?”
Doctor-who-happens-to-have-a-penis proceeds to check my breasts for weird stuff and check my reproductive organs for more weird stuff, using a creepy medieval instrument of torture, i.e. the speculum, and it doesn’t bother me a bit. I’m lying there on my back in a skimpy paper gown and not much else, and I’m not the least bit nervous. Doesn’t faze me a bit, because the guy is a doctor. It’s his job.
It’s all about context. Doctor felt me up six ways till Sunday and that was fine. I expected him to. I expect lovers to feel me up six ways till Sunday, preferably eight, and in fact I get upset if they don’t. I laugh it off if coworkers at a bar say off-color things about me. They’re people I know, and it’s a bar, ferChrissakes. But a stranger in a library? He’s got no rights. None. Not to touch, not to comment, not to ogle. None of the above—and he managed to sneak in “comment” and “ogle” before I told him off.
I’m proud of the way I responded to him. I am not going to reveal details because this is a public blog, but trust me on this, it was a fine feminist moment.
The sad thing is, I only managed my firm, deliberate sounding-off because I’ve had so much practice at deflecting unwanted attention. I’ve got pitifully little practice in dealing with wanted attention, but the uninvited kind? Hoo boy. I started wearing a bra in third grade. I have double-going-on-triple-D breasts. Except for those days when I wear my 3x heavy men’s parka, I know I’m subjecting myself to potential sexual harassment.
The situation is especially grim when you realize I don’t own a 3x heavy men’s parka. I do not own a parka AT ALL. But it was 70-odd degrees today in mid-December. You understand.
There have been times in the past where I did not respond well to sexual harassment. If it’s a comment from a passerby on the sidewalk, such as “Hey there, hooters!” (I actually got that once) I tend to duck my head and scurry along, when instead I should be delivering a lecture on women and respect. The time this asshole I worked with tried to get me in bed, all I did was blush and politely decline.
(Though, for the record, when I filed a formal complaint, the investigators determined that “he seems like a nice guy” and that my story “didn’t ring true” and that I should seek psychological help for my “problems.” Excessive quote marks used derisively, albeit accurately.)
Ideally, I would respond to sexual harassment with acerbic comebacks and scathing, humiliating putdowns. I would further respond by kicking out with my thigh-high, lace-up shiny black leather boots, and my cape would twirl glamorously, and my fishnets wouldn’t tear, and I’d kick the badguy into the next county.
Only one problem with this plan: I don’t have any thigh-high, lace-up shiny black boots. I will be sure to purchase some next time I’m in a thift and/or sex store, along with a parka. (Do they sell parkas at Priscilla’s?)