I am hesitant to “get political” here. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the GOP candidate to be leader of the free world was caught on tape laughing about groping and kissing women without consent. The fact that he has dismissed this conversation as simply, locker room talk is worrisome at best; and brings a much bigger issue to light- the normalizing of rape culture and the idea that women are sexual objects.
So where do our ideas about sex, self-respect and love come from? Mine started at home.
My parents were total opposites. My mother was a goody two-shoes from the suburbs, voted most friendly her senior year of high school. My father was from the city, hanging on the corner with his boys, sporting the leather coat and pack of Winston cigarettes. They really were Sandra Dee and Danny from Grease.
I was a late bloomer. If my parents had it their way, I would have lived under a rock until I was 40. When I was 12 years old, I told my parents that kids were French kissing at recess. This statement freaked my parents out and they immediately sat me down at the kitchen table for the talk. The talk was mostly a fear based lecture with such statements as, ” God is always watching you.” “Men only want to marry good girls – virgins.” “Your mother was a virgin when we got married.” ” You only have sex when you are married and in love, Jessica.” “You are so smart Jessica! If you got pregnant- you would ruin your whole life . You are better than that.”
“So, that means Dad wasn’t a virgin when he married Mom, and that doesn’t seem to bother God?!”
STOP RIGHT THERE.
“So, that means Dad wasn’t a virgin when he married Mom, and that doesn’t seem to bother God?!” ” And, God is okay with guys having sex before marriage, but not girls?” And, “It doesn’t matter what a woman wants, it’s about what the man wants- a pure, virgin, just waiting around for the guy to sow his oats and decide she is marriage material?” “WTF?!” But, I didn’t say any of this.
I took my parents fear mongering tactics and double standard BS to heart. The Irish Catholic brainwashing in my house growing up was something fierce. The message I got consistently was, to be like my mother (Sandra Dee) and not be like my father. Problem was, I had identified with my father’s personality far more. And, as each year passed more and more of my connection with my true authentic self disappeared as I tried to fulfill everyone else’s ideas of who I was.
I always went for the bad boys (The Danny’s), hoping that they would deem me worthy, fall in love with me and wait until marriage. I never did get the bad boy to fall in love with me. My inability to be intimate came across as cold. And, as one boyfriend told me, ” I don’t know how else to say it to you, Jess. There is just something unlovable about you.” So I remained a virgin until the embarrassing age of 26. And, in case you are wondering- my first didn’t love me either. But, he was hot, kind, understanding and didn’t think I was a weirdo. So-done!
Jamie jumped on top of me, and pinned my arms down. I screamed repeatedly for him to get off of me.
My Freshman year of college I was hanging out in one of the dorm rooms with some other residents after a night of drinking. We were all laughing, and listening to music. This guy, Jamie was sitting on the couch next to me. He put his arm over my shoulders. I remember thinking that he was “okay”. I also thought it was no biggie, because there were a bunch of guys and girls hanging out in the room too. So, this was going nowhere. What I didn’t realize was that he and his roommate, Greg had a plan. That plan was to rush everyone else out of the room, shut off all the lights and lock me in the room with Jamie.
It happened so fast. It was pitch black in the room. Jamie jumped on top of me, and pinned my arms down. I screamed repeatedly for him to get off of me. I broke free, tripped over the coffee table fell flat on the floor, crawled quickly to the door and tried to locate the lock. I was scratching at the door yelling for someone to help me, to let me out. I could hear Greg and all the others on the other side of the door, laughing uncontrollably. Jamie grabbed me, pulled me away from the door and tried pushing me to the couch again.
Then, I heard someone yelling out in the hallway, “What the hell is going on? Open that door right now!” The door opened. The lights came on and in walked my Guardian Angel. His name was Mark Wheeler. He also lived in the same dorm. He was a big dude from Jersey who was on the football team. He grabbed my hand, walked me out into the hallway where the group started to scurry back to their own rooms- fearful of what Mark may do when he returned. He walked me back to my room, calmed me down, tucked me in to bed, and locked the door on his way out.
I never did find out what happened when Mark went back to Greg and Jamie’s room. But, the next day in the dining hall I came face to face with Jamie. He started shaking, and his milk fell right off his tray to the floor. The next semester I switched to a different dorm on the other side of campus that was more convenient for me after my winter break hip surgery. I never saw Jamie again.
I just buried it down, deep inside me and was appreciative that I didn’t lose my virginity by rape.
What’s most upsetting to me is- my story is far from uncommon! This happens all the time. I was one of the lucky ones, right? I didn’t get raped that night. I also never went to the authorities about it. I just buried it down, deep inside me and was appreciative that I didn’t lose my virginity by rape. But, that isn’t good enough. Our society needs some serious healing. We need to let go of our ludicrous double standards. We need to teach our young girls and boys, self-respect, self- love and empathy. We need to hold sexual assaulters accountable for their actions and words, regardless of socioeconomic class, athletic abilities, or celebrity status.
College senior Syra Ortiz-Blanes, who is the events chair of Penn V-Day and a co-founder of the We Are Watching campaign, said it perfectly when discussing Trump’s “locker room banter”, “If people cannot see why his words were dangerous, then they are either blind to his misogyny or share it — and in either case, they are complicit in rape culture,” she said.
I am sick to my stomach just thinking this man could be the President of the United States. That this man could be considered a “role model” for all our children- for my son.
We need more men with positive, loving messages who speak up against such lewd and deplorable behavior toward women; like Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Joe Biden all did this week. We need more Mark Wheeler’s in this world.
Because it is through inaction and silence that we condone.
I want to send out a very special Thank You to Mark Wheeler- wherever you are. Twenty three years ago you saved me. I am forever grateful. You are an angel.
Love, Joy, Truth, Gratitude.