I wrote that post about Jamie Dornan yesterday in a rage, and with little time to do so. Then as the day wore on and I thought about it in a bit more depth I realised there were a lot of issues I didn’t cover.
One of the things that made me realise there was more to cover was the comments I got after posting it – or more specifically the comments I didn’t get.
No one said to me
“I hope you called the police”
“Wow, I’ve never heard of anything like this happening”
“I’d have told him to go away”
And why not?
Because these things don’t even cross your mind as a woman in this situation.
When he attempted to sexually assault me I didn’t call the police, I didn’t even tell my boss at work. I told my colleagues in my department, all women like me, and we did that cringing laughter. The commiserated on me having to deal with a creep like that, they shared their creepy stories, and we all carried on like normal. Because it was normal.
When he kept coming back looking for me we turned it into a joke, while at the same time they’d keep me hidden if they saw him appear.
When he stroked my hair on the bus I didn’t shout for help – I didn’t want to provoke him.
When he followed me off the bus I didn’t confront him – I didn’t want to provoke him.
When he followed me off the bus I texted my mum rather than phoned her – because I didn’t want him to hear me talking about him and get angry.
When it was all over we didn’t call the police, because it didn’t strike us as serious enough to get them involved, it was too normal. Seemed too trivial to bother them with.
I do wonder if some men will read this and think, “surely not, it can’t be that common”. But the majority of messages I’ve had have been other women saying thank you and saying they’ve been through it too. And I imagine that most of them did the same as me, kept quiet, avoided confrontation and didn’t take it further.
It’s so normal that it’s even seen as a valid way of flirting with a woman.
I even dated a bloke once who, prior to even speaking to me and before social media was a big thing, had a photo of me in his wallet, knew my full name, and knew exactly where I sat in all my college classes despite not being in any of them. First I knew of his crush was the message left on my desk.
And he was a nice bloke, nothing nasty about him.
In films we see the romantic man win over the object of his affections by following her, not taking no for an answer, not being put off when she rejects him.. it’s seen as a valid way to win a woman. Our verbal requests to be left alone are just an obstacle to overcome. What chance do we have with more subtle hints that we aren’t interested? And how often do we dare verbally reject men when more than a few of us have had hostile responses to saying no?
A man like Jamie Dornan might not see the big deal in stalking a woman in order to benefit himself because he doesn’t have the same experiences, he doesn’t know the delicate balance a woman has to maintain with unknown men just to feel safe.
Must be nice.