I was on my way home the other night, riding a fully packed tram, standing by the doors, when three guys got onboard. Since there was no way to get further inside the tram they stood next to me by the doors. The tram left the station and as it accelerated one of the guys who didn’t have anything to hold onto bumped into me. Fine, whatever, it happens. He regained his footing, I gave him an “Ok no worries” smile, he winked at me, and then I turned my head back facing the doors and kept listening to the music blasting in my headphones. That would have been just fine, just one of those small unimportant incidents in your life, but the story did not end there. A few seconds after me turning my head back, the guy started putting his hands on and around my waist, grabbing a hold of me. For a split second when I first felt his hand land on me I thought he had lost his balance again, but I very soon noticed that this was not the case. He just took the liberty of grabbing me by the waist, holding on to me. I immediately tried prying his hands off me, and he tried incessantly to keep them there. After some very uncomfortable seconds I got him off me, with some help from his two friends who were there all along, looking, half-laughing. I then moved my headphones off one of my ears and gave one of his friends a look that said: “If this guy does not stop right now there will be hell to pay.” The guy must have understood it since he then got hold of his friend and pulled him slightly away from me. The rest of the journey home I felt uneasy, getting more and more infuriated, and I kept noticing that they were looking at me, finding it all funny. I was angry, but not only that. I was also afraid. The thoughts circling through my mind; what if they get off at the same station as I? What if they keep bothering me? What if they follow me home? What if.. I don’t even want to go there..
Nothing more happened that night, I got off at my station, they stayed on the tram, still, I walked faster than ever, glancing backwards until I was safe inside my apartment. Is this the way it is supposed to be? Should girls and women have to be this scared walking home alone? Should they have to be assaulted just by riding a tram? Of course it could have been worse, of course some may say: Oh come on he just grabbed you by the waist what’s the big deal?! Well this is the big deal: It’s my waist, my body, and my rules. I did not ask nor did I wish to be touched or grabbed like that, not by him, not by anyone. Neither I, nor anybody else, should have to be touched or grabbed by anyone if they don’t want to. Nobody should put their hands like that on anyone unless they have consent.
This was not the first, or the worst, time a boy, guy or man put his hands on me, without my permission, and it will most likely, unfortunately, not be the last. Just knowing this, makes me feel sick to my stomach. When will this type of behaviour die out? When will it actually become unacceptable, unimaginable, for guys to put their hands on girls willy-nilly? Will it ever happen? I want to say yes, but my gut says no.
At least now I know better than to let them, but growing up, this was not the case. In school, through 1st to about 8-9th grade, us girls, me included, not just accepted guys touching us whenever they felt like it, but it was also more or less encouraged. I grew up thinking something like: “If a boy touches me (inappropriately) then that means that he likes me, or at least thinks I’m cute, and that is what’s important, so even if I don’t feel like being touched right there and then, I should accept and enjoy it, cause us girls are supposed to be touched by boys.” Basically, our self-worth could pretty much be measured by the amount of times some boy grabbed or pinched our behinds. This however, did not work the other way around, it was always: Boys touching, Girls being touched, i.e. Boys = Subject, Girls = Object. Thinking back, I understand why I, and other girls had this type of reasoning, because this is how we, all of us, girls and boys, were brought up. This is what our culture, religion and society has ingrained in us. It’s a disease really, and it should be dealt with as such. I wish there was an easy fix, a smart little pill you can take to make it all change, but it does not work like that. Norms and behaviour take time and effort to alternate; it takes time to learn that you can and should say no when you don’t want someone touching you, it takes time to learn that you are not for anyone else, it takes time to learn how to look but not touch, it takes time and experience to understand the difference between a subject and an object, and to further grasp that you, as a person, are always the first of the two, no matter what gender you subscribe to.
Now I know better, I know that I am not a passive object like the majority of women displayed in the media and ads. I own my own body, I have my own rules regarding it, I am not mute, I am not inanimate, I am not here for your amusement or pleasure, I do not give you permission to touch me whenever or wherever you want.
And if you disobey my rules, there will be hell to pay.