Yeah, duh

"Me too" doesn't even begin to describe it

16th October 2017

“Me Too.” #MeToo. It’s all over Facebook this morning, confessional posts of that secret shame, of harassment, assault and rape. I scroll through pictures of brunch and weekend cocktails and selfies with the kids, all peppered with “me too” posts, and I just think: yeah, duh.

It’s a depressing thought, and I don’t want to say it out loud (or to the internet), but I wonder how many people were actually blind to this. Did you really not know? I’m not accusing you. I’m curious. My mum told me that when she was thirteen, a girlfriend of hers menstruated for the first time, and was convinced she was dying. It was the sixties, and her mother’s prim and proper sensibilities had veiled the watershed moments of puberty from her now terrified child. When she told me the story, I had the same thought: did she really not know? It would be funny, if it wasn’t so unfunny.

I won’t count the cat-calls, the groping, the rape threats; there are too many. The most recent was four days ago, when a group of men approached and screamed in my face. It was close to 6pm, on a bright, crowded street, and no one flinched – not even me. I could see it was going to happen – a thirty-second forewarning given off by their approach, that particular swagger that says some kind of intimidation is coming, especially in a group of “lads” that are crowing to each other – I didn’t try to avoid it. I just braced for the inevitable impact of a stranger’s face, inches from mine, in this case shouting “HOLA SENORITA” at full volume. I paused on the phone – “Sorry darling, there’s a group of men shouting in my face, excuse me just a sec –” and then called “Oh, do fuck off” in a blasé tone as they walked past. The conversation returned to everyday mundanity, dinner plans. What else did you expect?

it feels like we’re pointing out that lampposts exist, to a whole group of people who apparently hadn’t noticed the presence of street furniture

The weekend passes. Monday rolls around, and “me too” is everywhere. I don’t want to ruin the moment, but it feels like we’re pointing out that lampposts exist, to a whole group of people who apparently hadn’t noticed the presence of street furniture their entire lives. I don’t feel a flicker of surprise from any of the posters’ names; I don’t flinch. But I also don’t join the wave, because all I want to write is, “Yeah, duh.”

The man who asked for “a cuddle”, pointed to his crotch and then said: “what is this” – which I proudly, adultly named “a penis”, not “a willy” – I was eight. We were on a family holiday in India, and my parents were feet away, unaware. It is one of my earliest memories.    

Yeah, duh.

When I was in high-school, my teenage boyfriend confessed he and his siblings had been molested by a family friend, in the fields behind their house. Within those same short months, I pulled a maths teacher aside at the end of class and asked him not to publicly berate a classmate for her absence.

“She was raped, sir,” I told him.

He promised not to mock her. We never spoke about it again.

Yeah, duh.

His affections danced a fine line between the exciting and the nauseating

When I was fourteen, a seventeen-year-old boy I liked put my hand on his erection and said: “You’ll have to do it.” I froze up. I told him “I don’t know how.” He sighed and put himself away, pulling open the curtains in frustration. I ran to the bathroom, where I retched. His affections danced a fine line between the exciting and the nauseating, playing jump-rope with my sexual maturity and putting me in a head-spin that I didn’t understand until years later – when I dated him, and he non-consensually inserted the neck of a glass bottle into my vagina. I continued to see him for a few months after that, before breaking it off; everything felt wrong after that point, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Yeah, duh.

The high-school friend at fifteen, who admitted she was no longer a virgin, because her cousin raped her years ago.

Yeah, duh.

The primary school friend, who said she woke one night at a sleepover to find a boy on top of her, kissing her face.

Yeah, duh.

The boyfriend whose friends let it slip, one car ride home, that he’d been abused as an adolescent.

“What do you want me to say? An older kid asked me to play a game … What more is there to say?”

He wouldn’t look at me. He was painfully ashamed. We broke up shortly after.

Yeah, duh.

My dad, who made jokes about my fat arse and my big thighs, the same ones he used to make with my mum. My dad, who had my brother bring me a spider with a bulbous abdomen and tell me “Dad says it’s you.” My dad, who when I was seventeen kept a secret CCTV camera “for security”, that I had to pass every time I took a shower. I found out it was there when he stopped my boyfriend coming over.

“Push me, and I’ll tell you what I’ve seen on that camera.”

I moved out a month later.

Yeah, duh.

My life is shaped around sexual violence

The boys who threatened to rape me because I was stood at a bus stop. The thirteen-year-old who stuck his hands down my pants when I was ten, sat at the back of the room watching a movie at a kid’s club in Cyprus. The countless disembodied hands groping me on crowded dancefloors, buses, trains. The men wanking through their trackies in bus stations. The way I’ve learned to walk quickly and keep my keys in my hand, teeth poking through my fingers. The way I never wear headphones after dark. The way I always sit diagonally behind taxi drivers so they can’t reach my legs. My life is shaped around sexual violence, like my world has been poured into a mould. My freedom falls into the gaps, as I live a series of avoidances, dodging encounters that could lead to another hideous anecdote.

Yeah, duh.

Not all of these secrets are mine. They stretch decades, generations. With so many stories, it’s hard to understand how anyone didn’t know. It feels like we’ve ignored something that’s just stirring in our collective peripheral vision; we know, but we didn’t know.

The watershed is happening. We’re all starting to finally know. And now I am morbidly curious what we are going to do with that knowledge.

These admissions are anonymous; I doubt I will ever say them out loud.

Yeah, duh.

16th October 2017