No matter how successful, street savvy, or together a woman is, it only takes the briefest moment to remind her that she is nothing more than an object of sexual gratification in our sexist patriarchal world.  To make matters worse, when violence does occur, it is too often suggested that somehow the victim brought it on herself.  How many times have we seen that after an assault the question quickly becomes, how much did she have to drink, what was she doing in that location, and (my personal favorite) what was she wearing?  All of these questions suggest women are somehow to blame for the crimes committed against us.

In an incident that has recently gone viral, 18-year-old Aaron Morris  grabbed a woman’s behind at a North Lauderdale, Florida, Walmart and justified his actions by claiming “her booty looked so good, I just couldn’t resist touching it.”  Clearly, Morris believes his attraction justifies his actions, but what is more disturbing is the fact that his supposed reason has become the punch line of various jokes, with people commenting that the booty should be introduced at his trial. By turning Morris’ alleged assault into a joke, people have minimized the idea that women have the right to live their lives without fear of assault. Morris’ actions, as well as the public reaction, are a manifestation of rape culture.

The truth of the matter is that to be a woman in this world is to be subject to all kinds of indignities based in gender.  It means that in public spaces, even when engaged in the most benign endeavors, we have to guard our person, while men occupy space at demand and walk freely.  Look around at a mixed-gender room and you will see that women attempt to make their bodies as compact as possible, while men sit with their legs spread and their bodies largely sprawled about because of a sense of not only safety but also entitlement. With each act of assault, or street harassment, we become less free. Though these incidents happen on a daily basis, they are not deemed important enough to be part of our national conversation. Yet all women have at least one story to tell about experiencing something like this.

I was 13 years old and on my way home when I felt something pressing against me from behind.  I wasn’t sure what it was and assumed at first that because the train was so full it was simply a matter of high traffic.  It wasn’t until I looked down and saw an arm wrapped around my thigh that I realized what was happening. I suddenly became aware of his hot breath on my neck and I remember shivering with revulsion.  I looked up at the man in front of me, my heart filled with fear, praying that he would say something.  I continued to feel the press of my abusers erection against my buttocks, but felt paralyzed to do anything, and it only stopped when my abuser had to switch trains.  I never saw his face, but I will never forget the fear I felt that day or how by his actions my personhood and right to bodily integrity was erased, simply because I dared to occupy a public space as female.  I felt dirty and cheap through no action of my own. We always hear about the fast-assed little girl, but what about the girl who becomes a victim because we live in a culture which teaches men that such invasions are a right of passage? What about the fact that we live in a society which teaches that female bodies are objects or commodities to be bought and sold at the whims of men?

The Hollaback movement was created specifically to give voice to the daily assaults with which women are forced to deal. It currently has activists across 50 cities and 17 countries and communicates in nine different languages. Women are attempting to stand up and hold abusers accountable, yet, in the face of all we have done, the assaults continue without abatement, and popular culture continues to encourage them.  No matter how much effort women bring to putting an end to these kinds of assaults, nothing will change until men universally decide to police their own behavior and respect the bodily integrity of women.

These crimes against us are not harmless, nor are they victimless, and whether we acknowledge it or not, they have become a part of our psyche. We are encouraged to take self defense classes to protect ourselves, but where are the social lessons to boys and men that teach that assault is not a right of masculinity but the sign of a predator? Where is this justice and equality in this situation? These everyday assaults are not minor incidents because they represent the perverseness of rape culture. If a woman cannot go about her daily affairs without worrying about unwarranted and unwanted attention or physical attacks, then we are still not equal and none of us is safe.

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  • Jaslene

    Maybe from now on we take the action of grabbing their penises and pinching them or saying derogatory comments back or take the action setting them straight by knocking the shit out of them.

    • The Comment

      I’d rather just stab them 10x’s like they do in prison. Just turn around stab them in the chest, with a smile of course….exit.
      And while they dying stare in their eyes and say,”next time u decided to grab my a$$ make sure you brush your teeth and comb your damn hair.”

      I know this isn’t very PC but that is how I feel.

    • Leena

      They would probably like it…

  • hmmmmm

    From the Huffington Post: “The teen should be glad he didn’t suffer the same fate as the man who allegedly grabbed a woman’s buttocks on the L train in New York City in July. The woman chased her attacker onto a train, where passengers dragged him out onto the platform, and held him until authorities arrived, according to the New York Daily News. The incident was also recorded on bystander’s cellphone.”

    The message: Stand up. Speak up. In the moment.

  • Candi83

    @ Renee Martin

    A similar story happened to me on public transit. When I was 19, I got groped on the bus. I regret not trying to tell the bus driver or the police. I was worried that no one would believe me or some one would think that I brought this on myself. After that incident, I vowed to myself that if anyone touched me or said something that was very overtly sexual, that I will speak out.
    Unfortunately, there going to be miscreants like Aaron Morris, but women AND men need to speak out against them. Whether it be telling someone that their sexual advances are not welcome and in this case prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.
    Also people have to teach their sons that it is not ok to sexually harass women.

  • a man has self control.

    do not be fooled by punks. they are doing what they want to do because they feel they can get away with it. when some of them get their ass kicked it will stop.

    • ChillyRoad

      Thanks for your perspective James. Ive thought a lot about this subject. Many would suggest that if men had a greater respect for women, than these abominations wouldn’t happen. I tend to disagree. I think if men had resect for themselves, they would not exhibit such dishonourable behaviour. They would view themselves as above such gutter lifestyles.

      What self-respecting man would want to grope a woman? What self respecting man would want to be standing on a street corner grabbing his privates and yelling obscenities to total strangers? The thing about men having respect for themselves is that everyone, not just women, will benefit from it.

    • a man has self control because a man has self respect.
      there is a big difference between a man and a dog.

  • somewhiteclutchfan

    Yay, like buttons! Ugh, this Walmart story and all related points. Good article.