It’s Not a Sex Problem, It’s a Society Problem.
At the age of 21, with my college diploma in hand, a plane ticket to Europe, and $10,000 of my hard-earned savings, I set off to travel the world.
A few weeks into my trip, I was in Berlin with a friend from high school who had been studying in Barcelona. I was thoroughly enjoying my trip and my freedom. Yet, this particular night was different.
I was flirting, laughing, telling travel stories, and loving the attention it brought me from the guys. There was one particular guy who seemed to appreciate me more than others, and at some point I ended up sitting on his lap. It was all in good fun, and as the fun dwindled we said our good-nights and made our way to our respective beds in the shared room of the youth hostel.
At some point in the night, I awakened to see that same guy now sitting on the edge of my bed staring at me. The bed was shaking. I knew what was happening, yet I pretended I didn’t and rolled over.
The next morning I woke up covered in his dried semen.
He was gone.
As I washed away the filth and disgust, I kept saying to myself, “At least it’s only on me, and not in me.” I kept wondering if it was my fault. Had I flirted too much? Had I led him on? Had I done something wrong?
Over time the memory faded and I decided it was no big deal.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, I realize that it is a big deal. A much bigger deal than I could have imagined at the age of 21.
I truly believe that there is a gift wrapped in even the roughest sandpaper, and this sandpaper is indeed rough. Voice after voice after voice of women, men, girls, and boys have come to the forefront showing how big of a deal it really is. That, to me, is a gift.
Because this isn’t simply a sex problem.
Nor is it a political problem.
Nor is it an economic problem.
Nor is it a race problem.
Nor is it a religious problem.
It’s a society problem — a collective one.
One that goes back centuries. One in which people fail to treat other people as people, and instead use or abuse them for their own pleasure or gain, whether it be sexual, economic, or otherwise. We can see it throughout history, and we continue to see it today, around the world, and behind closed doors.
My fear, though, is that the continued finger-pointing, blaming, and shaming will only prolong the problem, because the more divided we become, the more difficult it will be to create a different future.
As far as I am concerned, we are all responsible and we all have a responsibility.
This isn’t an us/them situation. This is a we situation, and the sooner we can see each other as one, rather than divergent individuals with divergent interests, the sooner we can put an end to this disgusting habit of treating people like they don’t matter.
If you have no idea how you could possibly be responsible, when you didn’t do anything, here are some ideas:
- You are responsible for your words, including the ones you may never speak.
- You are responsible for your intention and the why behind your actions.
- You are responsible for your integrity and the values you choose to live by and teach others.
- You are responsible for your judgments and the disconnections they create.
- You are responsible for your listening and whether you seek to truly understand.
- You are responsible for your heart and any love or hate that spurns from it.
- You are responsible for your courage and whether you choose comfort instead.
20 years ago, I didn’t do anything. I lay in a hostel bed, wide awake and silent, while some crude young man masturbated all over me. I have no idea if he went on to do it again to other women in other youth hostels, or whether he chose to take it a step further. I may never know.
What I do know is that I am ready to take responsibility for my part in this collective mess.
Will you join me?
Theresa Destrebecq is one of those badass women with a whole lot of heart. She makes herself cry, and she’s not ashamed of it. Okay, maybe a little. She’s a champion for women, and loves supporting them to reconnect with their passionate, confident, empowered self, especially in the face of a loss — a lost job, a lost relationship, lost finances, or a more general lost sense of self. She has lost them all too. You can connect with her on her website, through her global book circle, or on Facebook or Instagram.