Sexual Coercion. Yes, it’s a thing.

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Previously, on this Ain’t No Bandwagon:

Obviously I’d made some serious error in judgement – again – early in this broadcasting career that brought on this type of debauchery. I wouldn’t do that again. I interviewed at television stations in the larger towns nearby. I sent applications all over the place. For everything.

I got a job with the government.

The Government!

No one could touch me!

They wouldn’t dare.

Right?

Wrong!

Remember I wanted to be able to pay all my bills with one job and have weekends off. Yes, kids, grades are still important. Because of my GPA in college and my ACT score previously, I was offered what was then called a Federal Government Career Ladder. There were hoops and prerequisites and boxes to check off, but the gist of how the career ladder worked was this:

At the age of 23 I would be making almost $29K.

By the time I was 27, I was guaranteed $45K.

I would be relocated to a place within the same region (or not) that needed my skill set.

I would then have a better than average chance to be making $60K before I was 29.

And onward.

Now, if you’ve read my Background, you know I’m from the South.

Being nice to people. It’s what we do well.

Being southern and polite, coupled with insecurities, lack of real-world experiences, low self-esteem and a non-existent support system; it was a prescription for failure.

First there was the fast food shift manager. Then there was the news director.

My first two months working for the Federal Government, some guy who was in Land Surveys would come downstairs for the sole purpose of getting me to make copies of his stuff for him. I was not hired to make copies. I was hired to make hires.

I figured, and still do, the Assistant hired for clerical work upstairs had told him where the copy machine was and which button to push. And it was just too much for him. He was older than my father.

He sought me out the day he retired to hug me. Which ended up being a full body rub. bleh

At least he was retired; now things would change.

One of the people in charge of my training was out of Atlanta. He introduced me to [what became known as] sexting.

The guy over all H.R. from Washington D.C. once gave me a red and black thong in the elevator after a conference dinner and kissed me square on the lips.

No More Leave

Just for clarification, I never had full-on sex with any of these individuals. After a few years, I also decided working in this big city dog-eat-dog environment was not worth it to me anymore. I would rather live in my mom’s basement then continue along this same hypocritical, phony, back-stabbing course.

I was propositioned by the building law enforcement officer soon after I moved. When he left another took his place. I was propositioned by him, too.

No More Nice Guy

Once, it got around the office that my husband was out of town for three days and I answered the phone to find a coworker was on my street with a six-pack to share.

Then when I thought it was finally all over, fifteen year career, there was the front desk information receptionist.

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What the hell?

All the time, I tried to fix me.

And while other aspects of me needed fixing ( self-esteem, anxiety, depression, impostor syndrome ) this was not my fault.

Except that I did not know, really know, what to say, what to do, who to talk to, to stop it.

I didn’t have a label for it. And despite the Federal Government’s official stance that such actions would not be tolerated, they were.

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No one ever told me these were games; that [these kind of] men liked to play such games; that many of them had a compulsion to play. No one told me what the rules were. No one told me I didn’t have to play them. No one told me I would survive in the world if I walked away from these stupid games and stood with the goodness in my heart.

On the contrary. I was given the constant impression that – as a woman in a man’s world – these games were necessary to get to be where I wanted to be.

I thought that money – alone – was success. That not having to set tobacco to make ends meet, and driving a car instead of a used pick-up, and being able to pay rent/mortgage and buy groceries in the same month was where I wanted to be.

I was wrong.

So dead wrong.

I wish someone had explained all this to me before I ever left high school.

What I wanted was to be accepted on my own merit. To prove that I could do and have –  and still care and love.

What I wanted was to live my life free from judgements and assumptions and enjoy being with people who enjoyed being with me. For me. Just me.

That’s what I found in high school. Friends who just liked hanging out with me. I thought I had to be some certain way, but I didn’t. That’s what I found in college. I could do more than write and talk and tie tobacco leaves and dig potatoes. And I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed the work and working with the people and then spending time with the people after work.

I loved that!

THAT’S what I thought I was walking into, when I left college and entered “the real world.”

Nobody told me: Hey, if THAT is what you want, you still need to protect it. Foster it. Make a plan to keep it. Save it. Fight for it.

It. Is. Worth. It.

I needed to pay bills, but otherwise where did monetary success fit into this happiness and success?

No, I got dragged into these unnecessary damned games. And I kept dancing, pirouetting, reinventing aspects of me to be liked, to fit it, to excuse my behavior or my lack of experience.

No More Wearing

There was a huge learning curve and I was so far away from it, I didn’t even know it was kicking my ass.

I would get married and I’d be free to be me again.

I would have children.

I’ll keep that extra weight.

I’ll put on more weight.

It didn’t stop. I just kept on attracting that kind of attention and wondering what I was doing wrong.

This is what I wanted my children to avoid. This is what I wanted my husband to teach my daughters. These lessons that I should’ve been taught before I left the safety of the nest. You are in control. You have to know what it is you want, and you have to protect it, or go after it, and when someone pulls you in another direction, you have to know how to stop it and stay on track.

I was failing at this thing I’d called success.

My background didn’t accept failure as an option: If you fail, you fail alone.

It may be difficult for the young women entering the workforce today to comprehend how I could just keep my mouth shut.

And maybe that’s good, right?

I needed to succeed. I needed to feel good enough. At no point was I given permission – did I know I could give myself permission – to live my own life and to not accept anyone else’s shit. The more I did, the more ‘they’ thought it was okay to dole shit out.

The Fear

So it never went away. Regardless of what I thought I was doing to discourage the attention, it came anyway.

I have the utmost confidence that my eldest daughter would at the very least think twice about accepting any favors for favors. Or she would injure the other person.

My eldest has a friend who received scholarships and plans to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Just last week, they had this conversation.

her:    It’s great exposure. And $<this sum> per show.

mine:  Sounds great.

her:    But he wants me to sleep with him for it.

mine: Is that the kind of exposure you’re wanting?

her:    Is it wrong of me for considering it? I mean, it’s $<this sum> per show.

My daughter’s friend obviously has recognizable talent, she has scholarships already, but whether she gets this gig and gets paid well for it, depends on whether she sleeps with the director? Again? Have we learned nothing?

Okay, if it were me. And some would argue it was. This is what I would need to hear.

You don’t have to.

This is a game. You don’t have to play their stupid games. Even if you think you know the rules, they will change.

You don’t need to bend to their whims. Whims come and go. Just because he thinks he is in the position of power, he isn’t. There is no need to let him continue thinking he is.

You have the power.

If you didn’t, people like him wouldn’t be trying to take it from you, or hide it from others, or destroy it completely. (Wouldn’t be trying to convince you that You’re not good enough without his help.) Because while he may think he’s getting a little something on the side, and putting something over on you, what he’s actually saying is: I can’t let her think she can do any of this without me. She needs to think she needs me, and is powerless on her own.

If he likes one or two night hook-ups, there’s venues for that. Don’t compromise yourself and your principals thinking that oh, it’ll just be this, or that, or once. Or it’s because you’re prettier, or younger, or he finds you attractive. Because if there is you, then there were, and will be, others. Because once they see weakness, they will continue to exploit it. Because they are weak.

Do you want to be exploited? Or do you want to be able to look back five, fifteen, twenty-five years from now and say: I did it my way, on my own, without having to compromise. I was that good then. And I’m even better for it, now.

I am that good.

I am worth it.

I can do this, and I do NOT need you clearing the way for me. Because we can do that ourselves now.

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So where am I?  Still seeing this going on. Not afraid of it anymore. I have it labeled. I have weapons. Wanting my daughters to know they don’t have to put up with it. It’s just like bullying and there should be #NoMore tolerance for it. Even after all of the fall out of the last four months, people think they can still get away with it.

Where does it stop?

You stop attracting certain types of people,

when you heal the parts that once needed them.

Other online Resources:

The Startling Truth about Sexual Coercion

Consent is not automatic.

from Ashley T. Drye @atdrye

https://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/the-startling-truth-about-sexual-coercion-babb/

Someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs can not give consent for sex. That means nights of drunken sex, were all nonconsensual.

“I’m not sure”… “Maybe later”… “I guess a little bit”… These are all words that breathe non-consent. Unless there is an ENTHUSIASTIC yes then it is sexual coercion.

Being blackmailed, threatened, or physically forced to have sex is non-consensual and rape.

 

Let’s Talk About Sexual Coercion

Yes, it’s actually a thing.

from Alexandra Haas @AlexandraGHaas

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/talk-sexual-coercion

Sexual coercion itself is an act of dominance and power.

Not all of sexually coerced (or sexual assaulted) peoples’ experiences are violent, but it can be just as traumatic. Many survivors don’t know they’ve been sexually coerced until long after the assault happened, especially when it isn’t violent, and coming to terms with the fact that it’s happened to you can be an agonizing experience.

 

Victims of Sexual Coercion are Often Blind to the Crime

from Wendy Macdowall

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/26/victims-sexual-coercion-blind-to-crime

“The underlying reasons for a culture normalising coercion to the extent that its victims sometimes fail to see it are multiple and complex. They are rooted in unequal gender norms and power dynamics. Changing these will mean changing the way our society thinks about and portrays sexual interaction, whether in popular culture or our own relationships.”

Also:

http://www.thehotline.org/

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

https://www.rainn.org/

As the leading authority on sexual violence, RAINN is comprised of experts in victim services, education and communications, public policy, and technology.

 

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The Background

{This Ain’t no Bandwagon – part II}

Last week, I decided I needed to go all in with #MeToo. Not necessarily for me. I’ll get nothing out of this except maybe a feeling of catharsis. But … my daughters might need to understand why I feel so strongly about it

I was the youngest, and a daughter, born to a dairy and tobacco farmer. I enjoyed daydreaming in front of the television and reading and fishing.

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I was good at school and swimming. I played the piano because it was a solitary pursuit and it got me away from the farm for at least one evening a week. And that was about it. I always felt like I had to do certain things, be a certain way, follow the right course, in order to be valued and appreciated. I was not raised to ask for help, was not raised to need help. That was weakness, and weakness was failure, and if you failed, you failed alone. I was not raised to find my own way, or make my own path. I was raised to conform.

I assure you, I sucked at it. But I tried.

Reading was what lazy people did. And Dad was not going to be accused of raising lazy children; not even ‘the girl.’ If you wanted to be someone, you went to the garden on weekends and pulled weeds or dug potatoes. In the summer, you picked corn and broke beans and canned tomatoes, and later on you helped plant tobacco. For fun,

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you pulled taffy, baked fried pies, and picked bushels of apples off the ground for apple butter. After school in the winter, you spent long hours in the barn with your feet absolutely freezing no matter how many socks you wore, pulling tobacco leaves and hanging sticks. There was a radio going, but the buzzing of the tin space heaters were so loud you couldn’t hear anything.

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Once my cousin and I (I didn’t have any sisters, neither did my younger cousin so we were together a lot) were on the back of the tobacco setter, making the endless, tedious rounds, water dripping to make the red clay muddy, and our fingernails so dark with dirt

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it wasn’t until they were cut that they were clean. And we sang.  Each new round of plants and water, we had another song from school or off of the radio that we sang with each other.

We were not allowed to set plants together after that. We were obviously just goofing off, if we were singing and enjoying each other’s company as well as the work.

Somewhere around this time, my sarcasm and passive aggressiveness were given life.

I became very good at them.

But enough about my defense mechanisms and super powers. Here’s the deal. I wasn’t pretty, I never did get the hang of fixing my hair so it looked like I knew what I was doing, and I certainly wasn’t ‘cool.’ I was a pubescent girl, not at home on the farm or in the “city school” where I went. Nothing says “outcast” quite like rolling up to the front steps of middle school in a beat up pickup truck, metal pipes on the bed, welded together to make the homemade bars which held in terrified calves Dad was taking to the stock pen after he dropped you off.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love my parents, they loved me, and I am not ashamed of this background. Even then, I wasn’t embarrassed. Not really. I was, however, an awkward, pubescent, backward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who felt out of place and conspicuous for all the wrong middle school reasons.

 

So after eighth grade, I left.

I went to high school in the county with kids from my district (because we don’t have neighborhoods in the county), and I knew I didn’t like whoever I had been, so I reinvented someone new I wanted to be. She was sharp, smart, friendly, confident, blasé, and proud of who she was and who she was going to be.

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It worked.

For about four years actually it worked out quite well.

I could almost believe it myself.

I was in the drama club, I graduated with honors, I had friends, I had best friends, I had the most fabulous boyfriend, and I’d been accepted to a four-year college majoring in science – mainly because it drove my dad crazy. Both the college and the science.

I wish I could make this stuff up. My dad’s advice, given in utmost authenticity, was that I didn’t need college. I was a girl. I needed to stay in town. Yes, I needed to be self-sufficient and not rely on anyone else to pay my bills, but what I needed to go to school for was a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary.

Now, I am not good with kids. Of any age.

Needles and blood either make me ill or lightheaded.

And I have no head for business or organization. None. Nada.

I could write, a lot and well. And I loved all things really, really old and buried. And I was passive aggressive and had successfully found “imposter syndrome” (before it was a thing) to be quite cozy. I had no reason to believe that college wasn’t going to go just as well for me.

I tricked myself into thinking it had. After a couple more attempts at different majors, my sweet spot was in Mass Communications. I wrote and produced scripts. I took care to learn all of the equipment in the studio and then long hours filming and editing.

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I lost my fabulous boyfriend, but I found new friends. Amazing friends.

I found I had actual talent in something besides words.

I discovered I was technically minded and seeing and then doing was the same as mastering. I could support myself without being a secretary.

I got a job.

Things were amazing and my future was bright. I found I not only liked tequila, but I could shoot it with the best of them. My friends were guys and I trusted that they would have my back. And they did.

I now know it was a charmed existence. Seriously. I was seriously lucky.

But I was still in there somewhere. My “Self” hadn’t grown much, buried now beneath this Imposter I was becoming oh-so-proud-of. Who’d never been considered pretty before. Who’d dated only one or two people. Still an awkward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who felt out of place and conspicuous for all the right college reasons.

I graduated. With honors. With job offers. I’d made it. I was free and off the farm. Myself and this Imposter were going to change the world. You know how it goes.

I got an apartment.

I got promoted.

And then. Things began a long, sustained crumbling process from there.

The Fear

{ Next week: “Why didn’t she say something?” }