The problem with sexual harassment is that it has been something we watch but don’t see, something we see but don’t report, and something we experience but shrug off as if a fly on our shoulder.
As the recent horrifying discovery of Weinstein’s crime has been publicised, our reality has become much more vivid: that it is happening before our very eyes, under our very noses, and only recently has become intolerable. Although the controversial TV series "13 Reasons Why" was supposed to deal with mainly mental health issues, I think it touched on the issue at hand superbly. The rapist of the series, Bryce, completely epitomises the root of the problem.
‘I know that's hard for you to hear, that your crush wasn't pure and clean, but she fucking wanted it. (…)
She wanted me. Me. She was practically begging me to fuck her. If that's rape, then every girl at this school wants to be raped.’
For me, this is where the problem lies. People like this genuinely in their hearts believe what they’re doing is ok. That what they’re doing is consensual. That what they’re doing is legal. This fact is more terrifying than any of the other sexual harassment statistics, like the numbers of people who have experienced it and the probability that most of them are women, because this means the assaulters do not know they are in the wrong. They do not know what they are or the pain they’ve caused. If they do not know what they’re doing, how do we attempt to stop it?
This is why we need to encourage those who have been affected to speak out, there and then, so as we go on, the more the boundaries will be realised, remembered and renowned by our society. The line defining what is allowed and what is not is changing and thickening. This line will no longer be blurred. It is arguable that as we attempt to eradicate the ambiguity of flirting and promote the use of obvious, verbal consent, that the romanticism of flirtation disappears with it, that boys feel they can’t even walk up to a girl without being accused of sexual assault. But as we encourage people to speak out louder, we hope to make the boundaries clearer, and so all genders are always very aware of where they stand, and where not to touch.
The Women’s Network Committee are holding the Reclaim March in Bristol, and an evening of performances celebrating and promoting women’s rights. Together, we till tackle the extensive, allusive problem of sexual violence at our university, and together we will draw the line of what is ok what and what is not.
An article written in the spirit of Reclaim, the Women’s Right’s Movement which will be epitomised by a march from Queens Square to the Bristol SU on the 25th November. Facebook event: click here.
Bea O’Kelly, Events Manager of the Women’s Network Bristol