It’s been a lot longer than intended since my last blog post, but my outings this year have been of a purely social nature; no adventures; no grand photoshoots; nothing to report (at least, not yet…).
I usually do my longer more serious, introspective posts (which always give me the stomach-turning feeling that they’ll start up a shitstorm) at the end of the year.
2017 has certainly provided a bit of food for thought in the wake of this year’s eruption of sexual harassment scandals (ranging from rape and other sex acts, to unwanted physical contact, to verbal harassment), going back decades.
I could easily add my name to the #metoo hashtag (if I used Twitter), but I’d have to add it to a #I_am_hardly_blameless_myself hashtag as well.
To put it briefly, learning to socialise was a steep catch-up learning curve in my first year at university, and I found myself socially ostracised more than once because I had no idea what I was doing wrong (but I certainly knew that I was doing something wrong). Maybe I had a toxic personality; maybe it was extreme social immaturity. Whatever it was, if I could go back in time, I’d happily strangle my 17-year-old self and damn the time paradoxes.
Have I ever creeped women out? For certain (I had enough self-awareness to realise that my teenage attempts at flirting were about as welcome as being chatted up by Gollum). Have I ever said inappropriate things? Yes (thankfully I was able to channel these impulses into improv comedy instead). Have I ever touched a woman inappropriately? I’m sure I probably did – but I’m also sure that was the extent of it, though. It’s not like I was a rampant sex pest in the style of Pepé Le Pew; just an annoying teenage shit.
On meeting up with one of my university friends a couple of years back, she assured me that whatever I said or did (that had me twitching and gibbering to myself years or decades later with embarrassing memories) “At least you apologised.”
What changed? I learnt not to be a dick, through a process of trial and error, I guess. A year or two of solo travelling helped as well – going around the world with nothing more than you can physically carry means you have to sharpen your social skills pretty damn quick. I’d say I was in my early-to-mid-twenties before I was an acceptably functioning member of civilised society.
What about #metoo then?
It was also at university that I started crossdressing, and I’ve already written about the great fun I had.
But there were plenty of moments when guys – and it was only the guys – creeped me out: trying to lift my skirt at parties (several times – what were they hoping to see?); inviting me to sit on their laps (certainly not, if it’s going to feel like you have three knees); once asking if I ‘wanted to be fucked like a bitch’ (by a total stranger at a party – I assume he’s had a lifetime of going home alone at night); grabbed from behind and dry humped (three occasions); and then, of course, there was the whole ‘if a man is dressed as a woman then it must be funny’ thing to get over. I prefer to dwell on the good stuff that happened instead (all of these were in the late 1990s, so pre-Twist days).
More recently, however, sometimes people (men, women, or otherwise) grab or touch Twist (or ask bizarre questions) and I either don’t mind at all, or I don’t let it bother me.
Sometimes it’s just curiosity (“Are those tits real?” *poke* – “Would you really have done that if you thought they were?”); sometimes it’s just for fun (I tried very hard not to dissolve into giggles whilst being motorboated at a party once); hugs and touches are perfectly okay too (I’m not much of a huggy-touchy person myself but I won’t ever turn them down).
Some things are okay when I feel safe and it’s among friends. As for how other people might react to those same things, your mileage may vary.
So, is there anything I can conclude?
I can only speak for myself here: feeling sexually harassed was something I felt more acutely when I was younger, and more unsure of myself, and low-status. And it only ever happened when I was cross-dressed, so – and it’s important to note this – it’s not like I had to face this sort of thing all the time.
These days, as Twist, I’m a big girl and I can take a lot, and I’d let someone know if they’d gone too far.
What’s my take on all the sexual harassment scandals? These are only my current thoughts, and they may or may not change (and bear in mind that explanations are not excuses):
- If a guy says they can’t remember something they did years ago, it’s probably true.
But – in my last year on university, a woman I met with some of my friends said I’d made a highly inappropriate remark to her way back in my first year. I had no memory of this at all, but I said that it sounded like the sort of thing I would’ve said, and apologised to her for it. If you can recognise you’ve screwed up, it seems like the least you can do.
- Some guys have no idea they’re doing something wrong.
Maybe it’s immaturity; maybe they can’t pick up on social cues; maybe they’re used to a touchy-feely or bantering culture (I always blame things on stupidity before I blame them on malice). I suspect a lot of people don’t realise that others won’t think the same way they do – while guys might be flattered or amused by (sexual) attention, it doesn’t mean women will be flattered or amused by the same sort of attention (depends on the person, I suppose?). Never underestimate how stupid young men can be.
- Mixing sexual relationships with work relationships sounds bloody dangerous at the best of times.
- Age-wise, if you want to avoid being skeevy, a neat rule of thumb I heard is:
don’t date anyone who is younger than [half-your-age, plus seven years]. Even better, don’t blithely assume that you’re date-able.
- Anyone shown to have abused their high status deserves to be publicly brought down. Justice must be seen to be done, and nobody is above the law.
- Guilt and shame work best when they’re self-inflicted. Unfortunately, some people have egos too big for this to work, and need the evidence of their wrongdoing screamed at them from a thousand directions.
- Lastly, and probably least popularly, there is a damn good reason why the law has presumption of innocence. Mob justice is ugly, fickle, hasty and forgetful, and it can turn against the innocent as well as the guilty, no matter if we like them or not. (The two links in this bullet point give different views on the matter; I recommend reading both.)
I’m a long-term optimist. It’s not going to be quick; it’s not going to be an even improvement, everywhere, for everyone – but things will improve.
Also: I’m really fucking glad I went through my teens before social media was invented.
I have a few Twist things planned for 2018 (if I can summon up the courage), and I still have a backlog of photos to add to the gallery.
More blogging later! 🙂