It’s been all over social media. People are making the ubiquity of sexual harassment and assault known. Countless friends of mine, women of every age, race, religion, education level, have spoken up that they have been victims of sexual abuse.
I’ve seen women from the military, stay-at-home moms and even former college professors post those two words, “me too,” on their accounts.
I tried to think of ways I can support them. I thought about liking their statuses or writing a message to them. These would be small acts that they, as an individual, would probably appreciate. But, after thinking about my place in the situation, I decided what would help the most would be to admit my part in it.
I was part of the problem.
I remember a party my senior year of high school. I went to a small, rural school, and a friend of mine was throwing a bonfire. There was a guy from my class who was more popular than me. I saw him at different points of the night, walk up to a girl, put his arm around her waist and rest his hand on her butt.
I had never felt like I was attractive and I didn’t know how to interact with someone in a sexual way. I spent more time than I would like to admit thinking about how to “get out of the friendzone.”
That night, I was also drunk for one of the first times in my life. So I asked him, “How do you do it, man?”
He chuckled and asked, “Do what?”
“Get a girl to be into you? Get a girl to let you touch her like that?”
“You just have to be confident about it. Just walk up and do it and she’ll be into it.”
Flash to my early days in college. I was ready to be a more confident in my new setting. I was going out to more parties, and I was armed with the knowledge that girls like confident, assertive guys.
So, I would start drinking, then when I felt confident enough, I would start a conversation with a girl at the party, wrap my arm around her and rest my hand on her butt the way I had seen the popular guy do.
Hungover, I remember recounting one of these nights with a couple of my friends the morning after. When I asked a female friend of mine if I did anything I should be embarrassed about, she told me, “You do get a little handsy when you are drunk.”
At the time I thought it was something harmless. I thought I was a drunk, college scamp, just out to have fun like a character in Van Wilder.
I remember trying to find a female beer pong partner so we would drink more together. I shared my alcohol with everyone, but I encouraged females to drink because I hoped that they would get drunk with me.
I thought it was fine because I was drunk too. We would just be drunk together and have fun, and whatever happened, happened.
I’m guessing most guys have a story like this. I have been in the locker rooms when the “locker room talk,” was taking place.
I have listened and taken part in conversations about the sorority with the sluttiest girls. I have heard the jokes from grown men to little boys which continues the validation of this kind of toxic perspective.
I have high-fived a guy because he got laid and laughed when guys talked about a hungover female who had to do the “walk of shame” in the clothes she wore to a party the previous night.
Now looking back, I am ashamed of these things.
In the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and previous scandals involving Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Louis C.K., Bill O’Reilly, Bill Clinton and many other men, the thing that seems like it would help the most is admitting that we, as men, are contributing to the problem.
These men used their position of power and their knowledge that they could probably get away with it to take advantage of countless women.
Ben Affleck and many others have come under fire for their part in keeping Weinstein’s “open secret.” People around these men, these sexual predators, knew this was taking place but didn’t do enough to put a stop to it.
Pointing at these people and holding them accountable for their lack of action is a good step towards actually combating the problem. The next step is to understand your place in the problem.
For me, the thing that I can do to support all the “Me Toos” in the world is admit:
I was part of the problem.