My #metoo story is almost nothing, which is why I’ve never talked about it. I know women who have dealt with significant trauma from unwanted sexual advances, and I’m not traumatized at all. (For real. There are plenty of traumas in my life, but the following story is not one of those.) But I feel like the story still has some merit, for the lessons it taught me.
I performed in all of my high school musicals. One year we staged Grease and I was cast as Rizzo. It was super fun. She’s an awesome character and even though I was The Worst Dancer (OMG, so bad), I had a blast doing it. Of course, if you’re familiar with the show, Rizzo is pretty “easy”, so there was some stage kissing with the guy playing Kenickie. I knew that when I got the role, and that was fine. For all of the rehearsals and most of the shows, it was just stage kissing. We were supposed to be giving each other hickies, so we just buried our faces in each others’ necks and that was it. Perhaps not the most convincing acting, but it did the job and for an easily embarrassed high schooler who did not get around much, it was plenty.
However, the final night of a show was always the “prank night.” I don’t know when that became a thing – long before I was there, I’m sure. So I also knew that on the last night all of that fake kissing would be “real.” I hoped that it might not be, but was definitely prepared for that.
And as per expectations, kissing happened. I didn’t fight it because it was just tradition on the last night of a show, and nobody wants to the the person who pushes back against tradition.
Please know, I don’t hate the guy who played opposite me. He didn’t grope me, he didn’t use this as an excuse to try anything beyond the show, he didn’t hurt me. I don’t feel traumatized by this event. It didn’t make me distrust men, it didn’t make me feel weird about kissing later, it didn’t make me hate sex. There were no lasting repercussions as a result of this event. It was just two people kissing because it was closing night and that’s what happened on closing night.
Ultimately, I think it felt almost mutual because it was expected. We both had our roles to play, and that’s just what we did.
But why did adults think that was acceptable?Why did they treat something intimate as a joke? Why didn’t someone say, hey, you shouldn’t force your tongue into someone else’s mouth? And you don’t have to let someone kiss you if you don’t want to?
I have been following the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh closely over the weekend. I think Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is tremendously brave for risking so much to be honest about her experience. And I am so sorry that her honesty is being questioned by the same people who so often claim to want to protect women through nonsense bathroom laws that hurt transgender individuals. It sickens me to read tweets that take an attempted rape and reduce it to teenaged folly. To see mostly men suggesting that it’s just the way men act when they’re 17 and women should just move on. To question why a woman would bring something up decades after it happened.
I’m sickened, but I’m not surprised.
I’m not surprised because when someone kissed me without my consent, adults just laughed about it. Their inaction told me that traditions and expectations had more value than my body. That saying no would make me less fun, less a part of the group.
Both of us had roles to play. He was supposed to be the aggressor. I was supposed to submit to that aggression. It was, for the most part in this case, pretty harmless. But the lessons were not. Men don’t have to be aggressors. Women don’t have to passively allow men to touch them in ways they don’t want to be touched. Tradition does not outweigh agency.
Adults SHOULD NOT create a space for this, or excuse it when it happens. And they shouldn’t excuse it 35 years later.