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One Step At A Time

June 25, 2009

Don’t you love it when you or someone you care for finally understands something? My sister’s husband, the very man she just had to marry when she was seventeen years old, and has stay legally married to him all these years, all because my mother blundered and prattled off the words, “it will never last” as she was signing the consent form for her minor daughter to marry. Each time my brother-in-law acted up and I assumed my sister would leave, she would tell me, “And give her (our mother) the satisfaction of being right, no way.” The years trudged on and my sister never left him. I may add, her cutting her nose off to spite her face did not prepare her  for suffering in silence, —not that I would want her or any woman to.

Nevertheless, how it stands now is they are still married to each other and have no intentions to divorce. She has a shabby apartment in a country town (secretly shared by someone who shares her interest in recklessness, yet, a secret to no one but her husband, and, by all accounts not really a secret to him, but, it is understood that no one is to acknowledge that they know or that he knows) and in the same county he has a shell of a homemade house on rural land. All of their adult children still live with him, along with those children’s partners and children. Everyone is in a contest to out paralyze the other.

In the early years of their marriage, he put on airs. He made threats, one in particular promised to take her back to the gutter he found her in if she did not act right. Yet, there was never any evidence that proved him unfamiliar to gutters. His threats did supply him with short-term recompense for the first ten years or so. She would straighten up and try harder. Clean and cook. Then when the first baby came, she could be relied on to hurried out of bed to “shut that squalling brat up” because he had work in the morning.

At social settings, he always demands a hug. When he greets females, that is. No one can accuse his hugs of overt fondling though. He has never accidentally touched one’s breasts, butt, or mons pubis. However, there is something sexually perverted in his hugs and in his demands to be hugged. It is as if he managed to find the groove right between being offensive without committing an actual offense. One tends to walk away from his hugs feeling violated but without collaborating evidence. This is how it has been for years. Everyone knows about it, and to cope, privately laughs about it. Actually, it has become somewhat of a game to see how long one can attend an event that he is attending without submitting to his obligatory hug. He is a persistent thing too. He can socialize with others and track all oversights at the same time.

My daughter, who up until the last few years has been allergic to all words and ideas that start with feminist has been coming around lately and seeing sexist interactions for what they are. She has always been the type of person who has to experience things for herself.   Therefore, I was delighted and pleased when she told me about this past weekend.

One of the thousand nieces or nephews or grand nieces or grand nephews or one of their partners’ first children or somebody was having a birthday party. To think I used to click my tongue at people who did not know everyone who was related to them. Let us just say it was a party that was heavily concentrated with our DNA. My daughter was sitting on the porch watching the little ones run and jump into the swimming pool when she first heard him. He does not make his way over to his victims. No. Never. Instead, he arrives. Finds a spot. Plants himself. He does not move. His roots start to grow.  Some other male brings him a drink. Another male comes. They congregate.  That is the cue for everyone to greet him one by one.

First, he starts with whatever female makes eye contact and moves on to any in hearing distance. My daughter knew he had arrived and observed that all victims were exhausted. It was she alone left. Time went by and she started hearing a “Hey!” “Hey!” ……… “Hey!”

She ignored him. She acted as if she did not hear him. Then, one by one, relatives informed her that he was calling for her to come over. She pretended not to hear them. My brother, who had been standing with him came over to her and said, “You know he is calling you.” She persisted with her act of ignorance. This went on for the next hour. Finally, he gave in and went over to her, embracing her before she could escape. She told me it was not much of a victory, but in no way was she going to go voluntarily over to him to be sexually harassed.

5 Comments
  1. June 25, 2009 8:15 am

    However, there is something sexually perverted in his hugs and in his demands to be hugged.

    I know exactly what you mean. A female gets “the hug” whether she wants it or not. It is a form of “social rape” for want of a better term, that a female should submit to male touch.

    I shudder at all those unwanted hugs at social events. It is disregard for one’s personal boundaries and autonomy. So very much like rape without the sexual penetration.

    Could it also be that this dude is expressing his (perceived) alpha-male status to other males? Look see, I hugged/touched YOUR property.

  2. June 25, 2009 11:37 am

    I hope she inspired some of the other harassed and violated women who were at the party.

    Of course, what most likely happened is that the rest of the women puffed up their chests at being a “better” woman than she was. But maybe one or two of them will realize they don’t have to let that man touch their bodies if they don’t want to.

    Speaking of which, it definitely doesn’t have to be the breasts, butt, or pubic mound to be sexual harassment. I started to list the parts of my body that men have touched to assert dominance over me, but, really, I can’t think of a single body part a man could touch that wouldn’t cue my sexual harassment alarms. I think the only contact a man could make with a woman that might not be a sexual power play would have to be an accidental one, like bumping into a woman with his back as he stepped away from a counter or something. Because I can’t think of a single time when I’ve seen a man touch a woman with his hands and it was accidental.

  3. atheistwoman permalink
    June 25, 2009 2:49 pm

    Good for your daughter, and I am so glad that you have written this post.

    It is entirely offensive to me, and always has been, that I am required to hug men, even those who have already made designs on my body, in the name of “social graces.” Men are so ffing sleazy the way they demand to be hugged by those who have no desire to hug them. And of course if you refuse you are the cold puffed up bitch who needs therapy.

    And I know exactly what you mean about your BIL’s “style” of hugging. I know it well. Shudder.

    “To think I used to click my tongue at people who did not know everyone who was related to them.” HA! I am lucky, my hundreds are well scattered. I am also lucky for my hundreds to be horizontal or older than me. No one in my generation has had children yet to keep track of.

    “. Because I can’t think of a single time when I’ve seen a man touch a woman with his hands and it was accidental.”
    Yep.

    “I shudder at all those unwanted hugs at social events. It is disregard for one’s personal boundaries and autonomy. ”
    Definitely. Especially when you are a child.

  4. June 25, 2009 4:28 pm

    Yeah, grabbing and/or holding the forearm is another one of them. I limited it to those three areas because I was trying to use patriarchal-speak. As in, could you imagine going in front of a judge and claiming that a man grabbing your forearm was sexual harassment? I mean, little boys in elementary school grabbing and twisting little girl’s breast hardly get a sexual harassment acknowledgment.

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