Let me first start by saying that I am unsure if what I am going to say even belongs here. It seems so small in comparison to the suffering you have all gone through. I am sorry if my story offends anyone, but I feel there is a lesson to be learned from my experience.
Sexual harassment is not a joke. It can come from anywhere, from anyone. The person who harassed me was one of the most vocal advocates of feminism, and taught me much of what I know about the cause today, and why it is so important. But she still harassed me. After it happened, I told a few friends, out of the few I have, but they dismissed it. “A guy can’t get sexually harassed”.
I had been bullied for years going to school. Kids picked on me because I had no friends, because I couldn’t play sports, because I couldn’t sit still during class. I put up with it then, but sitting here writing this the memories come flooding back. It never really let up. Even in my final years of school there were stinging comments, condescending remarks, whispers behind my back. I was glad to be done with it, and most of all relieved to come to Brandeis.
She was the roommate of one of my very first friends. We liked the same music and had similar majors. She is very smart, very committed, and fights for what she believes in. Women’s rights. Due process. Right to choose. Sustainability. She seemed to be a great friend. But then the bullying started. It was the little things first, snide remarks on what I was wearing, backbiting comments about my friends, insults against my family and my religion. Things I was used to.
But then it got worse. She started to show me pictures of naked people on the internet. She insisted it was not porn, it was art. I didn’t care, I didn’t want to see it. She didn’t care, she wanted me to see it. One time, when her roommates were in the room with us, she gave me a book full of pictures of naked women and told me to find my favorite. I looked to her roommates for help, but they were just laughing at me. Then she started messaging me pictures of condoms and more naked people. She would interrupt conversations with my friends to ask about my sex life, what I would want my mistresses to look like, and which celebrities I wanted to have sex with. She played a song about sex, even though I told her to stop several times. Even now when I hear that song in my head it is triggering, and makes me frustrated, mostly at myself. I tried to distance myself from her, but in doing so I distanced myself from many of my closest friends.
I went to see my psychologist. I didn’t want to tell him what happened, but I told him how I was feeling, and about the triggers and the flashbacks. He told me I likely had ptsd, and he gave me some medicine to help With the medicine, I am grumpy and irritable. Without it, I can still hear her taunts in the back of my head.
All summer I was looking forward to a class. I pored over the textbook, watched lectures online and read up on the subject. When I got there on the first day, she was there, sitting across the room from me. I still get triggered every class, making it hard to pay attention. I’m still in the class. I’m crossing my fingers she drops out first.
I’ve had my own “negative experiences” (and that’s all I want to call them) with sex, unwanted contact, and in general bullies. Her bullying triggered waves of depression and anxiety as I relived every past time I had been bullied. There were times I contemplated suicide, just to get the endless echo of taunts from her and from everyone else out of my head. I had come to Brandeis to escape all that. Now it was following me here.
People are bullied all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy and I feel bad saying “I was sexually harassed” when I know so many women have a much harder time of than I do. I know as a straight white cisgender male I have more privilege than anyone else in the room, and by posting here I feel as if I’m trespassing where I shouldn’t be. Maybe I feel I’m wrong- how could such a strong feminist sexually harass anyone? Was what she did really sexual harassment? Since when can guys get sexually harassed?
But I think that’s the biggest reason I wanted to post here. Brandeisians do not take sexual harassment seriously. The fact that one of the most committed feminists on campus would do this with no compunction is almost beyond belief.