He drew nearer to me while I was walking in the opposite direction and whispered, “I love you.”
I didn’t know him.
He didn’t know me.
I was walking back from a shop after purchasing colours that I needed to paint with, because I didn’t have anything to do for the evening and I had seen dragonflies buzzing around the wilderness behind my house which had inspired me. So I went out to buy paints. Seeing as it was a Wednesday, my go-to shop was shut; that part of the town shut its stores on Wednesdays. Now, I really wanted the paints because fate was being stupid and wouldn’t hand it to me. So I walked onwards to the other, more questionable part of the town. I bought the paints and was making my way back home. And he comes along and whispers “I love you.”
It isn’t like I haven’t faced sexual advances or perversions or harassment by men before. Once, I was sitting on the aisle side of a very crowded bus headed to Howrah. As it is wont to happen in crowded buses, I felt part of a man’s crotch brushing against my arms. For 45 or more minutes I felt his crotch brushing against me. I squirmed; I placed my bag strategically so that his crotch wouldn’t brush against my arm. His crotch brushed against my arm again. It’s just the crowd, I thought, I will be a troublemaker if I make a scene. It’s won’t to happen, it’s a crowded bus headed to Howrah. It’s not on purpose. Then I saw his face when he got off the bus. He looked at me and he smiled. A perverse smile. Anger washed over me. I should’ve done something. But was the smile perverse? Maybe it was my imagination. It probably was my imagination, I don’t have the best of vision since I refuse to wear my glasses. That was it. Denial.
Another incident is stuck in my mind. I was in my final year of college. I had dressed up in my Promod coral tank top and my Zara military green jeans. I loved those colours together, they played to an opposing effect- while the coral is feminine but not too much, the military green is masculine but not too much, you see. And the fabrics were very soft. Oh, also my cleavage was showing. Not too much, but had I been raped I surely would have been victim blamed for wearing such a “revealing” top. So back to my story, I was walking and it was afternoon and Salt Lake with all its pretty houses is generally always deserted. And I am walking and I look ahead and a man is walking towards me with his penis out. He didn’t seem to be deranged. Because that has happened once, a deranged man had his cock out and said something obscene to me. But you see, he was deranged. But this man wasn’t. He seemed to be a construction worker. And I seemed to have lost all my wits. It was broad daylight. It was a respectable neighbourhood. It was all my fault. I was wearing a tank top that revealed my cleavage. I victim blamed myself.
I will sometimes lay awake at night, mostly because I slept too much during the day. And think about stuff and make mental movies. Generally it has scenarios involving past guys I liked and sudden fame I happen to find. But sometimes it has scenarios where I am raped and I list down the various ways I will be victim blamed and shamed.
I studied fashion. Girls who study fashion are dumb and desperate and loose.
I wear clothes that show my legs and arms and sometimes midriff because croptops are trending. I am desperate and loose.
I am liberal in my opinion about sex. I am desperate and loose.
Not that I am a party person, but I have stayed out sometimes and gone dancing. Desperate. Loose. Asking for it.
I have had sexual liaisons with guys I wouldn’t call my boyfriend. I am desperate and loose and if I could have sex with one guy, surely I wouldn’t mind rape.
I have had alcohol. I prefer weed. I shouldn’t even bother getting a lawyer at this point. The judgement was made the day I forgot my life in this community isn’t really an American sitcom. I don’t have the same privileges.
At this point in this essay, I would like to say- let’s not be so hard on the society. Society is just a bunch of people. And that bunch of people views things based on their experiences. It may seem archaic to you and me and to some people of my generation, because in our community, our views and thought process has advanced light-years ahead of our parents and grandparents. Because of the internet and the web and the social media, we just are more informed and more empathetic towards others stories because for once, here is a medium were we all truly are equal and can voice our stories.
So I believe when the time comes where we are the decision makers of our community, we will fare a bit better. So my point is, I don’t blame the society. But something in my response to both of these situations scares me. I denied the very experience of someone dry humping my arm and I blamed myself for someone else’s choice to fling out their penis and stroke it in broad daylight. This tells something and what it tells is alarming. Have I been conditioned to deny that a situation may arise where I can be assaulted sexually and when it does, I will be blaming myself for someone else’s action or worse denying that it happened?
The numbers are out there. Every 1 in 3 women have or will face sexual assault in their lifetime. Should I be so lucky to not be that one in 3 women? And I would like to point out here, if not to anyone else, just to myself that it is 1 in every 3 women. Not just rural or urban or women from a lower economic class or higher economic class or conservative women or liberal women or women who wear clothes that have a shorter hemline but are probably something they think is very cute or women who are completely covered head to toe and probably are wearing something they think is cute. It isn’t a section of women. It is EVERY woman. All of them. In danger of being sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. For no fault of their own. Say that again to yourself.
Anyway, back to that guy who whispered “I love you” because I am sure the movies and the songs he watches and listens to, tell him that it is a very impressive thing to do. He probably wasn’t told any better.
I was angry. As I am wont to be.
I dived down. I saw a stone bigger than my palm. I picked up a smaller one. I am considerate like that.
And flung it toward him.
The coward knew he did something wrong and made a run for it.
It didn’t hit him.