A couple of months ago, I was in my old hometown having lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a number of years.
As we chatted about life, she told me about her employment lay-off that happened over a year ago. After struggling, still struggling, to find another full time job, she started driving for Uber and Lyft as a way to make ends meet.
“How’s that going?” I asked
“It’s fine,” she said. “For the most part, everyone has been cool and I’ve only had a few issues.”
“Like, what kind of issues?” I asked. “Creepers?
“Yeah,” she said, “definitely some of them.”
She told me about a young guy she picked up from a not so great part of town. She doesn’t like driving over there, but no one does, so the shortage of drivers means more opportunities for her to make some much needed money.
The ride started out quiet, but as she drove, she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, something waving back and forth between the driver and passenger seats. When she looked, it was the guy waving a twenty-dollar bill.
“No,” she said. “You’re all set. The app is linked to a form of payment and that’s how you’ll be charged. We don’t take cash.”
He continued to wave the twenty.
“We don’t take cash and we don’t carry cash. I have no cash, at all” she said, at this point fearing she was about to be robbed.
“What else do you do?” He asked.
“This is all I do.” She said.
Then, he asked if she wanted to suck his dick. For twenty-dollars.
“WOW, a whole twenty-dollars? I said. Do you think it’s because you’re getting old and you’re not as hot as you used to be?”
“Probably,” she laughed. “I told him I was old enough to be his mother, but he didn’t care.”
“Ah, well, maybe he has some kind of poor, old lady, mom fetish.” I said.
“You suck!” She laughed through her signature cackle.
“Not for twenty-dollars, I don’t.”
All joking aside though, it was a scary experience for my friend. She told this guy repeatedly and without an ounce of ambiguity, “No,” and “You are making me uncomfortable, please stop,” before pulling over in a busy parking lot and telling him to get the fuck out of her car.
To which he replied, “Seriously?” As though she were being unreasonable.
She also told me about another man she picked up from the airport. She said he was nice looking, dressed well and for the first few minutes of the ride, made polite small talk before launching into his troubles with women.
He said he was shy and sensitive, which he repeated….over and over….as he talked about his struggles with dating. Then, he told her that his biggest fantasy was to just lie in bed naked with a woman and talk.
When they arrived at his home, he invited her in to fulfill his fantasy. In exchange for a great review on the ride share app.
I told her she probably dodged the kind of bullet that results in being chained up in a basement, before being deposited into a dumpster.
At one point my friend sighed and said, “I knew what I was getting into when I decided to do this.”
A statement which can be applied to virtually everything, if you are a woman. We are practically born a cautionary tale.
“She knew what the risks were when she went to the grocery store for milk after dark.”
“She should have known what she was getting into when she decided to go for a jog in a park.”
“It’s her own fault, really. She answered the door.”
“Ah, well, it’s the price she pays for, you know, existing.”
Women want to be able to walk safely through life. We want to go to our jobs, go out with friends, walk through a parking lot, have a drink in a bar, call for a ride, take a bus, a train, a plane….all the stuff of basic living….and do so without the risk of being harassed, molested, raped, murdered.
So, this one is for you fellas in the back. The guys who hear “NO” and think it means, “I can be forcefully persuaded.”
Let me put it out there in words you might better understand:
l. No woman who isn’t advertising her sexual services for pay, wants to suck your dick for twenty-dollars, or any dollars. No matter how cleverly you try and work the request into a cheesy, lame, awful pick-up line.
In fact, I’m going to go ahead and speak for all women-kind when I say….no woman is particularly interested in sucking your dick.
We may offer it up when engaged in mutually consensual sex, but it’s not on the top ten list of things we like to do.
So if we don’t directly offer it, kindly keep your chump change and your penis out of our faces.
2. A short skirt isn’t an invitation.
Would you like it, if every time you wore one of those stupid t-shirts that says something like, “I Make Inappropriate Choices When I Drink” or “My Pen Is Huge” (eye-roll), someone bigger came along and forcibly violated you in YOUR orifice?
How about I just walk up to you and kick you directly in the balls?
Or, would you prefer I grab hold of them and squeeze until it makes you want to cry from both humiliation and pain?
That seems a fair exchange for an unsolicited slap on the ass, or a boob grab, no?
3. Remember that time you were working as a pizza delivery guy and you showed up at that Malibu beach house where that sexy housewife answered the door and then invited you in for a threesome with her equally sexy neighbor who just happened to be hanging out topless and spread eagle on the kitchen table?
No, you don’t. Because it didn’t happen and it didn’t happen for any of your buddies either.
We don’t hang out naked with our girlfriends in locker rooms/saunas/hot tubs, getting all hot and bothered with each other hoping you’ll burst onto the scene dressed like a plumber.
We aren’t wearing sexy lingerie under our workout clothes, waiting with bated breath for you to take us behind the gym, or more realistically, Target.
In other words, if you saw it in a movie. No. Just no.
When Debbie does Target, she really just wants to go in there for one thing and come out with fifty things….none of which include you, your commentary, or any of your DNA.
4. If you’re just standing there, you’re guilty by association.
In college, I worked at a popular local restaurant in Virginia Beach. A male manager named Matt bombarded me on the regular with offensive comments. He also couldn’t keep his hands to himself.
Once, he came up behind me and kissed me behind my ear and then bit me on the shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise in the shape of his teeth.
Another time, he approached me while I stood with a group of my co-workers in the dining room, waiting for the restaurant to open for the evening. As we all stood chatting and laughing beneath a giant paper mâché dragon that decorated the room, Matt walked up and said to me, “Why don’t you go slip on a pair of black panties and dance with the dragon for me.”
In the early years of my professional career, it wasn’t unusual for me, at times, to be the only woman in a room full of men who called me sweetie and honey and never once used my actual name.
Once, prior to a financial planning meeting with an all male executive team, a female Admin who was sitting in on the meeting, told me afterward that before I’d arrived, one of the local VP’s had asked the group if they’d all met me.
A few said they hadn’t, and in response the VP told them, “Wait until you see her. She’s hot. You’ll never be able to tell her no.”
I was humiliated. I had worked hard on my presentation and the research that backed up the financial requests of my department. At the time, I was the youngest and the first female in the organizations history, to have been promoted into the upper level management role I held.
In the wake of that meeting, I wondered how much of it I had earned through the hours of hard work I’d put in and how much of it had been handed to me because I was a good looking token.
In both of these examples, the other men in the room didn’t say a word. Many were men I trusted, considered friends, and/or even professional mentors.
Over the years, I would learn to identify, by their awkward and nervous shuffles and the way they averted their eyes, which men found the behavior of their male counterparts inappropriate, but none of them had the, um, balls, to speak up and say so.
I know the good guys are out there. Step-up and speak-up. We need your advocacy and partnership and support.
5. No means fuck off.
It doesn’t mean maybe.
It doesn’t mean….please keep on harassing me and/or groping me, because I’m right on the cusp of saying yes. I just need a little more pressure to get there.
It doesn’t mean….no, but I’m kind of hoping you’ll slip me the date rape drug.
Want to know what does mean, yes?
It’s really not that hard.
It’s 2019 and we’re still debating whether or not a woman should have complete control over her own body.
There are many who still grouse about how young women dress these days and people who say things like, “cover up, it’s too distracting for your male counterparts.”
We’re still teaching young women that they are responsible for a man’s behavior. While teaching young men that they have no accountability for their actions; that women are a free for all.
Too many shrug and say, “Ah, well, boys will be boys” and “That’s just locker room talk.” But when a woman expresses/explores her sexuality, she’s a slut who had it coming.
When women are assertive, we’re told we’re too bossy, too frigid, too much, a bitch. And to be fair, when men aren’t, they are too soft, too much of a pussy, a bitch.
It reeks. And not just the typical stench of misogyny, patriarchal ideology, oppression and abuse of power. It reeks of weakness and desperation and fear, really.
I think it’s the fear that strength of character will become more important than strength of power and force….and not just when it’s fashionable, or convenient, to say it out loud, on public platforms. But because it will become, fundamentally, the right thing to do when everyone is watching and when no one is watching.
Imagine a world where the shit actually rises to the top and is skimmed away and discarded, immediately.
And if that were the way of things, imagine all the actors and musicians and sports figures and religious leaders whose names we might have never known, but who might have been replaced by better talents. People who never got a chance, because the wrong kind of people were taking up all the space. What might they have accomplished?
Imagine all the politicians and lawmakers and businessmen who would have never had an opportunity to impact public policy.
And imagine what might have become of the victims, if they’d never been victims.
It changes everything….