#MeToo and #TIMESUP: Beyond Shaming Gross Hollywood Dudes

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(via @azizansari, Instagram)

Trigger Warning: This piece contains a detailed account of a non-consensual sexual encounter.

About three and a half years ago, I lost a close friend. He was one of the first friends I made in college, we spent holidays at each other’s houses, and he was one of the only straight guys I was able to maintain a relationship with without feeling like I owed him physical intimacy. Years into a healthy male-female friendship, we started to develop feelings for each other. We lived in different states, and I valued the rarity of our friendship…so I wasn’t ready to jump into a romantic relationship.

Months later, I knew he was going to be in town. I was nervous about what our dynamic would be like with our feelings out in the open, so I invited him over during daylight for a casual catch-up sesh.

I was playing it cool. He kept pushing the time back all day until around 10pm he wanted to come over. Naïve as I am, I still knew nothing good happened when you invited a guy to your house at that time. I declined. He insisted and reminded me that we never get to see each other, so I said he could stop by briefly.

I was already in my pajamas and ready for bed when he arrived. His hug when I opened the door lasted a little too long. I cared for him, but in that moment I knew I was not ready to cross the line of our friendship.

The rest of the night was a series of awkward exchanges and missed cues. For example, he opened a bottle of wine and poured himself a glass despite the fact I insisted on drinking water and wanting to sleep soon. He kept patting the sofa cushion for me to sit next to him after I deliberately sat in the chair across from him. Finally, I was able to convince him to leave because I needed to sleep before work. We hugged goodbye, and I sent him on his way.

From my bedroom window, I saw him walking slowly to his car peering up into my apartment. I waved and turned the lights off to go to sleep. I watched for his car to pull away for at least fifteen minutes. I texted him to ask if everything was ok, and he said that the friend he was staying with was still out and the house was locked. After several more minutes, I told him he could sleep in my guest room.

When he came in, he followed me to my room. I told him I didn’t want to hang out because I needed to sleep. He got in my bed and said that was fine. About a thousand alarms went off in my head, but I told myself that he was my friend. And I liked him. Everything would be fine and I just needed to lay down, act normal, and go to sleep. We didn’t have to do anything and he would understand. Then he put his arm around me…

I pretended to be asleep. Barely breathing, not moving, praying that he would go to sleep, too. Then he reached between my legs. I rolled onto my stomach. “Be asleep!” I told myself. Then he rolled me back over. I told him I was tired. Then he kissed me. I leaned back pushing him. My mind screamed, “Say stop!”

“Stop!”

The more I pushed, the harder he fought back. Does he think this is a game? The harder I make it, the more fun it is? I laid there and then decided to do whatever I had to for it to be over. After he fell asleep, I cried all night.

I tell this story because I am a regular-ass person who was violated by my regular-ass friend. I did not and do not think he is a bad person who should lose his job or his dignity, mostly because it would not make me feel any better about that traumatic night. What would have actually helped me is a culture around sexuality that encourages men to respect a woman’s social cues and words rather than interpreting them as a new challenge to overcome. What would make me feel better is not having to be wary of sitting on a couch next to a man at night without fearing he’ll take it as an invitation to touch me.

How do we use #MeToo and #TIMESUP to do something more tangible for those that most people will never hear of, rather than as an en vogue Hollywood dude-shaming that centers men?

While I agree that it is important for women to feel like they can share their experiences with sexual assault, I think the recent trend of publicly shaming male celebrities is unproductive. Aziz Ansari being outed doesn’t do much to help me in a threatening situation with a guy, and frankly, attacking his career and character rather than talking about how messed up it is for men to continue to make advances when women have repeatedly said no is a distraction. Healthy, respectful sexual relationships that don’t play on power imbalances should be the goal.

How do we use these stories to educate all people to engage in sex thoughtfully and respectfully? Teaching consent is obviously not enough and not working. I get that this is an unpopular stance to take, but I really do not care to hear about another gross dude in Hollywood doing shitty things to people with less power and then talking about whether they should keep their TV show or awards or other meaningless crap that misses the point.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not and have not talked to my ex-friend. What he did to me, as my friend, is unacceptable. AND, I have to acknowledge the larger problem, which is that he learned such behavior from somewhere. When confronted, he insisted he did nothing wrong and told me it seemed like I enjoyed it despite everything I said and did to communicate that I did not.

How do we use #MeToo and #TIMESUP to do something more tangible for those that most people will never hear of, rather than as an en vogue Hollywood dude-shaming that centers men in a conversation that should probably be about our culture’s Playboy, pornographic understanding of sex and intimate relationships?

I support the women who share their stories and feel like holding men accountable is how they can contribute. As a woman who has been harassed and assaulted by friends, family, and strangers, I am advocating for a culture shift and education reform in how we teach young people to engage in healthy relationships. I’m wary of Hollywood’s involvement with these two movements, and I am hopeful that we can move the conversation beyond a fear of being caught and shamed very soon.

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