Monday, October 20, 2014

Manhandled in Public

I've thought about sharing this story for awhile but have not because I didn't know what purpose it would serve. I decided it would be good to share today for awareness sake. I never assumed this would happen to me. And, before you ask, this isn't a terrible horrible story, just an awkward one that shows something about society. Something I'd never encountered before.

So, one Friday my husband came home with tickets to a Virginia Tech game. As he was driving home he'd called into a radio show and won them! I was really excited--he graduated from Virginia Tech and I also had lived there for two years and worked on campus. They have an excellent football team and my husband had enjoyed going to their games when he attended campus. Tickets are usually $60 a person, and we were both trilled for the weekend getaway, even if I am not particularly fond of Football (but I love marching band). My husband also mentioned there was an amazing Creole restaurant in town that makes soup to die for, and that he would take me there after the game. I've never had Creole food, so this also piqued my interest.

So, we get to the game. We survived a huge crowd. We spent $4 on one bottle of water. It was very noisy and my husband was very happy. The game starts and I quickly lose interest. My husband is standing up (most everyone is) but I'm sitting. And the guy next to me is drunk.

I didn't realize he was drunk until much later. He just sounded like he had a strange lisp.

He comments on the fact that I am wearing a sweater. I tell him with a smile it's because I don't want to get sunburned. I'd forgotten sunscreen. It was about 70 degrees out, but I wasn't that hot. He then comments again about the sweater. I suppose he can't hear me. I repeat what I said before. I start to think something is weird about him, but I can't place it.

He tells me I should take off my sweater. I'm confused, I tell him again about the sunscreen. I pull up my sweater arm to show him how pale my skin is. He throws an arm around me and leans into me and says something, I can't remember, because I feel sort of awkward about a strange man putting his arm around me. I'm very relieved as he removes his arm. Perhaps this is a football thing? I don't know.

He asks where I'm from, and we talk some. He tells me about his work and how his girlfriend just broke up with him and how sad he is and how his two friends (sitting on his left) brought him to the game to help him have a good time. I tell him about what I do. I start to relax, maybe he is just being friendly.

It's the second quarter now, my husband sits down during a break and introduces himself to the man and they talk a bit about VT and Hokies and Engineering. When my husband stands back up the guy throws his arm around me again and asks me why I don't have any keys. (something about waving your keys during a play?) I again feel stressed. Didn't I just introduce him to my husband? His arm is sliding up and down my side and I don't want him touching me anymore. It feels weird and I don't like it.

But I don't know what to do. It's then I notice he is drunk, and currently consuming alcohol from a flask as well. I'm immediately alarmed. But I still don't know how to correctly traverse this situation. I don't want to cause a scene. I don't want to be one of those girls who needs her husband to help her out. I also don't want to be rude. The guy puts his hand on my leg. I am ticked off.

I decide to pretend to be interested in football. I stand up. The guy stands up. He puts his arm around me again and grabs my boob. I freeze. He lets go. He turns to his friend. I don't know what to do and I wonder if that just happened? Did he stumble? Was it an accident?

I look at my husband but he is focused on the game. I feel really weird. Did I just get groped by a drunk men in a crowd of people while standing next to my husband? Why yes, I did. I don't know what to do and I find my confusion even more overwhelming. I mean, I hear stories about this happening to girls and always thought that if it ever happened to me I'd scream at the guy or lecture him on feminism or something. But this person is drunk. He'd probably just ignore me. I feel tense, anxious, and the fact that I feel this way annoys me.

So, I sit down, and lean away from the man and pull out my book. I think he got the picture.

At halftime when the guy left to go use the bathroom or whatever, I told my husband that the man was making me uncomfortable. My husband offered to switch seats with me. I felt...mortified. If I switched seats he would know me made me uncomfortable! For some reason the thought of that was worse then moving away.

Well, I'd tried to tell my husband this discretely, but it's loud at a football game and the guy's two friends heard me. They apologized for him and scooted over so he'd sit on the end and they would sit in the middle of us. I felt much better after that. He tried to talk to me a few more times but I ignored him.

I'm fine, I mean--just shocked. And that is really all to the story. Now I'm left to think over what I should have done or what I could have done. Mostly I just mull over why I felt required to be nice to a man who took advantage of me and grabbed my chest. I still don't know.


Rachel G said...

Every lady has stories like this one, I bet, even me, though I really prefer not to remember them. You don't have to be nice to not-nice people. It's the privilege of a husband to sit between you and annoying people. In this type of situation I would have definitely sicced Angel on him. It's totally the olden-days lady in me who likes to see a husband defending his beloved's honor. Not that I'm incapable of speaking up for myself, but guys, especially drunk ones or the ones ignorant enough to perform atrocities against our gender don't usually have the brain power to understand my eloquent would-be reasoning for why they should behave decently--so in that case I'm comfortable having my husband or brother or whoever I'm with make sure that the person backs off based on pure intimidation alone.

Michelle said...

I cringed so hard for you reading this! You poor thing. I'm typically very shy and non-confrontational, but given past experiences, I'm convinced I would've smacked him and reported him to someone, and had James deal with him in the meantime. I think it would be good to let him know he made you uncomfortable; he needs to know what he did, drunk or not. But it's hard to say what I would do for sure in that situation given the shock.

Angi said...

Well I was going to say everything Michelle and Rachel just said so instead I will say - I agree with them 100%!!

Elle said...

Most of us are conditioned to be nice to people, because we live in a society that values the outgoing. Women are especially pressured to be "nice" because it's built into the "This is how to be attractive" spiel that most of us are fed from birth in one way or another (and whether or not we buy into it consciously, we internalize it all the same.) Plus, a human being was trying to communicate with you - it's probably, like, instinct or something to respond. You also recognized that this person was intoxicated, and you reasoned that you'd rather humor the silly drunk and chat with him for a few minutes instead of saying something that might be interpreted as "rude" and potentially escalating the situation. You were having a nice day with your husband - sure you felt safe, what harm could come of you chatting with him? At least that's how I see it. I hope you don't feel as if you "should" have done something differently, or that if you had that you could have prevented what happened from happening. It's in no way your fault, which I sincerely hope is clear.

It's funny (by "funny" I mean awful and stupid that it happened to you and I'm so sorry you had to deal with that, of course) that you're sharing this now because I just recently posted something similar-ish. My breasts were not molested, thankfully, but I've been dealing with a similar situation and reading a lot about other women's experiences lately. (I already read your blog, I didn't find it in a google search about harassment or anything, ha.) It's mind-boggling. And it's extremely interesting stuff, objectively - balance of power and societal influences and things, but the bottom line is that it's utter bull that so many women have to deal with this kind of thing: Can we please raise our sons to respect women, and raise our daughters to respect themselves, and try to live collectively in a way that respects everybody and dehumanizes no one so that we can all go to baseball games without worrying about our privates getting groped? Mylanta.

I'd also like to comment on what you said about him knowing he made you uncomfortable would make it worse. Oh, lady. I'm glad you said that because I have the same feelings. And it's like, "Um, excuse me sir? You don't get to control my feelings. And I don't want to give you the satisfaction of knowing that your shenanigans had any effect on me. I want you to think you don't matter. THANKS BYE." And then it's like, yes, involving my male significant other will probably force you to leave me alone BUT. Then it's like I'm accepting the fact that you have more respect for another man than you do for me. And I'm a real live person, too, doncha know.

Sorry I exploded all over your comments. Thanks for writing! (: (:

Carolynn said...

so I have so many feels about your comment I don't know where to start. For one I wanted to just copy everything you said and post it on my Facebook because it's exactly what I was feeling/trying to say! It's like you understood everything about what happened and put it into easily understandable words and it helped me so much!! I agree, and I may have squealed in affirmation while reading your comment!!!

Brita Long said...

I really appreciate you taking the time to share this. Unfortunately most women I know have been "groped" aka SEXUALLY ASSAULTED at least once like this, if not many times. It's become so normal-place in our culture that many men have told me not to call it sexual assault because it's "no big deal" and "just a laugh" or "an innocent mistake."

Groping IS a big deal, especially because of how common it is and how many people are complicit in it. He might have been drunk, but I guarantee you that he knew what he was doing. The guise of intoxication allows men to "excuse" themselves if they get caught, but as Elle eloquently stated, women are conditioned to be nice and ignore it. He tested your boundaries with inappropriate, but nonsexual touching first, to see if you would uncomfortably accept it (again, as we're conditioned to do) or if you would freak out (as less people do than you'd think).

I am so sorry this asshole groped you. It's not okay. Him being drunk does not make it okay. You freezing in response does not make it okay. In fact, that's a fairly normal reaction, because it seems so totally UNREAL that it's like an out-of-body experience and you're watching and have no idea what to do.

Cody Doll said...

Sorry that happened to you. I am glad you posted it. You should never ever feel the need to feel rude about moving. You are a wife. As a wife you duty is to your husband. Just saying. I often move or tell my partner what's going on. Plus I don't like anyone touching me. Unless your a close friend, I'm not for touching so the arm around me thing would have POd me.
I hope you don't think about it to much. He was just a drunk guy and I doubt he remembers (I hear feminist screaming now). It's okay that you were shocked.
This story reminds me why I HATE alcohol and places with it. My father is an alcoholic so that's why I have a strong feeling for that.