Until last night, I used to think I was a fairly liberal person. That I would never fall for the usual, that I knew what was right and what was wrong. That I understood the concept of consent, that I understood what was okay and what was not. I knew that no one asks for it.
And then yesterday happened.
On new year’s eve, at a party, a man kissed me. A man I did not want to kiss. I did not fight, I did not say no, I was so surprised and it was over before I even realized what was going on.
I walked out of that room and straight to my partner. But he was busy and I could not be alone. So I went to my friends who held me. Who told me it was okay. To ignore it all and not let it get to me.
Later that night, I did tell my partner.
Two days ago, we had that conversation again. He said he’d forgotten I told him anything of the sort. So I told him again. I answered what he asked. He said he’d talk to his friend ‘in his own way’.
Yesterday he did. The friend called me. Called us both, repeatedly. Said he was scared, he did not want to lose his friendship with my partner. That my partner was taking this ‘too seriously’, that it was nothing, that I had asked him for it.
I don’t know what happened to the person I thought I was at that time. I didn’t know what to say. I agreed I had teased him, I had said things, but those were outside, sitting with him on separate couches. I had never asked for it.
But I did not want to be the one to cause a rift in their friendship. The only refrain in my head was Yoko Ono. Again and again, that is all I heard. I did not want to be the one who became a reason for a friendship to end.
I felt terrible for telling my partner. I felt terrible in general.
He kept saying he had no ‘intention’ behind it. He kept saying I had asked for it. That I had said ‘it’s just a kiss’ in the conversation outside – something which I did not remember saying. My partner said there was a world of difference between ‘its just a kiss’ and ‘kiss me’. I didn’t say anything, so lost in my own misery at being put in this particular spotlight. My partner became so frustrated with me. “What do you want from me?” he asked when I kept saying I didn’t wanna be the reason their friendship ended.
I kept feeling guilty. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to just curl up under a blanket and for the whole world to go away. But that is not how things go. I was in office. There was work to be done. Afterwards, I just could not go home. So I went to my brother instead.
And as I parked my car, I realized what I was doing. I was blaming myself.
I was doing exactly to myself what I have been completely against others doing to anyone. It did not matter what I had said. Because if he was doing what I had asked, he should have done it when I had asked it. Why would he wait till I entered another, dark room where he happened to be. Instead of constantly claiming that I ‘had asked for it’ or that he had not had any wrong ‘intention’ he should have apologized.
I do not want to blame him. In fact, I actually don’t blame him. Maybe he did think I had asked him. Maybe his intentions were the purest they can be during such a situation. It did only last a few seconds. He hadn’t forced me in anyway, because well, he didn’t need to. By the time I had even realized what was happening, it was over.
Even now, it is so deeply ingrained in me that I am giving him the best of the benefit of the doubt, even when I showed myself no such mercy.
Yet, finally it has started to sink in. I read something that summed it up for me:
My delayed reaction had put the validity of my sentiment in question. I tried explaining that one can’t immediately confront a situation for which one is unprepared. One doesn’t want to be hasty; one has to be sure one isn’t misinterpreting things. And yet, every time a woman is harassed, physically, emotionally, or sexually, it comes up – If it is true, what took you so long?
I do not think I was harassed. I do not think I was abused. But I know something was not right.
Because I know, no matter what anyone said to me, ever, I would not do the same thing to them.