I have been sexually assaulted. One man sought to use his power to gain sexual favours from me. Another I despised treated me as sexually available, simply because I am trans.
I am glad to be able to say, Me too. I am an asylum seeker, not a colonist. I accept difficulties of being a woman. I do not have it as hard as women do; one experience of a man’s power, and he did no more than hold my hand, though I felt-
I do not know what I felt, but I did not want to see him again. It is hard to put it into words. Something inside me is screaming in revulsion. Something is saying, oh don’t make a fuss, it was not that big a deal. He just held my hand, and later told me I did not snatch it away, so he felt encouraged. He was concerned that any contact be consensual, or appear so, but he inveigled me into his house with the possibility of a job I would value. He used his power to place me in a position where
I got off lightly.
I am aware of terms like “the casting couch” and “sleeping her way to the top” as if it were the women exploiting the men. In the acting profession, physical attractiveness is one of the main reasons to employ someone. This is part of the patriarchy, and when women are angry I get nervous. I got off lightly, I have not had the experiences I read of, I have been devalued and feel besmirched, but not raped.
I was sexually humiliated when presenting male, around the age of thirty. I went into Manchester for a formal dinner, and was walking across Piccadilly Gardens in my kilt, black jacket and bow tie when a group of men started asking if I was wearing anything underneath it. One, larger than me, came up to me, took hold of me, put his head next to mine-
whispered soft, calming words that unmanned any resistance
and put his hand up my kilt to find that I was indeed wearing underpants. “Yes, he is,” he shouted to his laughing friends. I did not resist. He assaulted me, and I feel shame. Well, now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.
And anger. I never wore pants below a kilt again.
I have the Ars Amatoria by Ovid, one of those books which was forbidden in English translation as obscene but permitted in Latin, for the upper classes. I remember a bit of it which I paraphrased as, you must take care when seeking a wife, or even a mistress, but for a quick shag anything in a skirt will do. I opened it at random, and by one of the paintings by Graham Baker, of a man pulling a woman’s garment from her though she was holding hands with another man, I read
women are often pleased
By force, and like what they’re giving to be seized.
The girl whose citadel is stormed
By sheer audacity feels warmed,
and would be “sad” to have escaped intact. Other pictures show a woman kneeling to fellate a man, and a genuflecting man lifting a woman’s skirt. How should a woman laugh? No “grotesque guffaw” or “raucous, unpleasing sound” is permissible, only a sort of light trill, as is befitting to their sex.
The paintings are pastiches of Greek pottery.
The problem is imbalance of power, and the powerful exploiting their power. I have no power. I am old enough not to be continually bothered, and more likely to be assaulted as a trans person than assaulted sexually. I am big enough to fight someone off, perhaps, though I have always run away, or submitted.
It has not been as bad for me, as it is for other women.