It Is Not My Fault, and It’s Not Yours Either – A Gender Perceptions Essay

It Is Not My Fault, and It’s Not Yours Either - A Gender Perceptions Essay

Maddy Fisher, Contributor

Receiving stares as I walk down the street. Having the swell of my back touched. Being called sweetheart, sweetie, honey, darling, and pretty girl by customers. Having the words on my sweatshirt (that are conveniently located on my chest) looked at for a little too long. Being looked in the eyes and told that he was in love with me after barely knowing me for three weeks. Yes, all of these experiences have happened to me as a young woman, and I know I am not the only one.
Growing up, during the #MeToo movement, I always heard of sexual assault and harassment. I heard of the “97% of women” and I heard women speaking up about their experiences. However, as an early teenager, I never thought I would end up being in the 97%, never mind already being a part of it before the age of 18. I had always assumed that this sort of attention from men was normal, that I just had to deal with it as a woman in society. I acknowledged that I was uncomfortable with the attention; however, I tried to convince myself that it was a good thing. I tried to talk myself into being grateful for their stares, their comments, and their touches. Other times, I believed it to be my fault for doing too much or not doing enough, but the more aware I became, the more I realized that this is the kind of thinking I am wired to have. This is the thinking society pushes on women. These are the expectations established by the patriarchy. My harassment is not my fault, and your harassment is not your fault either.
A study done in the UK showed that 97% of women between the ages of 18 through 24 had experienced sexual harassment (Faessler). Eighteen through twenty-four. Only 3% of those women had not experienced any “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conducts of a sexual nature” (What is). This horrific statistic is a result of Sexual Entitlement, which is the “belief that men are owed sex on account of their maleness” (Uwujaren) and that it is a man’s right and privilege to have and receive sex from a woman (Bouffard). This very way of thinking is deeply ingrained into our society. It shows up in TV shows, movies, other media, political figures, and even our own parents (Hamad). The idea that men can get whatever they want from a woman, sexual or otherwise, strictly because he is a man is shoved down our throats, and women are expected to accept it. We are expected to stick to the script society has written for us, and if we don’t, it is our fault, and we must deal with the consequences (Hamad). Men’s actions are not inexcusable nor unpreventable. Rather than focusing on protecting women, society needs to educate men and bring to light the actual issue of sexual entitlement.
The truth is, women don’t owe men anything: not our attention, not our smiles, not our attitudes, not our bodies. It disgusts me that by the age of 17, I had to experience the vast array of harassment that I did. I know my stories are not even comparable to what other women have faced, but all stories are important, and all experiences are valid. I have felt as though we as women are taught to keep quiet about our harassment. We are told to feel ashamed and that we are crazy and overthinking it. We are not crazy. You are not crazy. I am not crazy. I am a 17-year-old girl who has dealt with the result of the patriarchy. She is a 52-year-old woman who has dealt with the results of the patriarchy. We have all dealt with the repercussions of the patriarchy, and I am fortunate that I was able to realize it at such a young age. It was almost liberating to know that I no longer had to convince myself that I should be grateful for men’s attention. I no longer need to feel that what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, or how I’m acting is “asking for it” because I was never asking for it. It is not my fault. It never has been, and it never will be.
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How do I know if I’m a part of the 97%?
Take this quiz to find out!
Has anyone ever made unwanted sexual gestures towards you?
Yes
No

Have you ever been cat-called?
Yes
No

Have you ever been pressured into a date?
Yes
No

Has someone ever referred to you as an unwanted pet name?
Yes
No

Have you ever been touched nonconsensually?
Yes
No
See your results →
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you are a part of the 97%. According to the UN, something even as “small” as staring at someone can qualify as sexual harassment. Just know that it was not your fault, and you are not alone. If you wish to explore beyond this quiz and article, please visit the document posted by the UN further explaining the terminology and qualifications of sexual harassment.