Yesterday I read a post about the relationships between men and women in today’s society. The post was written by Meizac, blogger whom I had never read before and it talks very candidly about rape, assault, victim blaming, and more. It was powerful, and for me it touched something deep down. When it comes down to it, and I mean really down to it, I am scared of men.
It doesn’t make sense on the outside: I am a strong woman, I am married to a respecting and loving man, I am a student in a professional college, pursuing a career that demands respect. Why should I be afraid of men?
Today I went for a massage. I had a male masseuse. I knew I had booked a massage with a man because I bought a groupon for the massage and it clearly specified that the massage was only good with one therapist. I almost didn’t buy the groupon for that reason. But then I told myself, “that’s stupid, it’s his job to massage people.” I didn’t think about it again until today, when I walked into the room for my massage.
It was a small room in a quiet hallway – him and his partner rent the room from a dance studio. It was the middle of the day so it was pretty quiet… not many people around. Instantly I was nervous. He introduced himself to me; he made eye contact; he was friendly. Any other female masseuse and I would have been fine and comfortable. I filled out the necessary paperwork, he asked me what areas I wanted him to work on and then he told me to make myself comfortable on the bed. Take your clothes off, lay face down on that bed, be comfortable.
I second guessed my decision to take off my underwear for the massage. I have been for many, many massages before and I always take off my underwear because I like having my gluteals massaged. Again, I told myself: “Don’t be stupid… This is his job…”
I got on the bed, covered myself with the sheet and waited. It seemed like a long time before he came back and the whole time my mind was wandering. Here I am, naked under this sheet, face down, some guy that I’ve never met before is going to come into the room and start touching me. We are alone in a room at the end of a quiet hallway. Fuck. Why am I here? What was I thinking?
He came into the room and I could hear him fumbling around. He was wearing a zip-up sweater over his uniform and I heard him start to unzip it. Now he’s taking his clothes off too. I faked to scratch my face just to look up. Sure enough, he was taking off his sweater and hanging it on the door. His back was to me so he couldn’t see that I was watching him. He strapped on his massage oil holster and then rubbed some oil in his hands. I settled myself down. He started the massage. He asked me about the weather. We talked a little about life. An hour passed and nothing happened… Just a massage.
My initial instinct was to think that this man was going to assault me, or rape me, or hurt me in some other way. Why?
Maybe it’s for the same reason that I’ve never had a male doctor… at least since I was a kid. Or maybe it’s the reason why we are taught in medical school to offer women the option of a chaperone for sensitive examinations (and men, you better be thinking ahead and just have a female nurse ready to accompany you into the room if you’re planning on examining a woman)… There is even a sentence in our obs/gyn clinical notes that says:
Be sure to wear gloves at all times while performing a pelvic exam. Wearing gloves is not only necessary for hygiene, but also because touching with a gloved hand reminds the woman that the touch is not sexual in nature.
I’ve only ever had one pelvic exam done by a man. It was in the emergency room. I was in a lot of pain and they thought I could have appendicitis, but they needed to rule out gynecological causes. The nurse came in and told me that the doctor would be doing a pelvic exam and she assured me that she would be there the whole time. The guy was really nice. He was respectful. He was professional. He told me that the nurse was there to assist him and to ensure my comfort. She was there because he was a man and he was about to put his fingers inside of a woman… and he needed a witness.
Isn’t it interesting, even, to consider that most new obstetrician/gynecologists are women? Is it because women are just more interested in women’s health? Or maybe because more women are going into medicine, in general? Maybe because women want a female rather than a male gynecologist poking around down there? Or is it that men don’t want to put themselves in a vulnerable position? Or, is it too much to think that maybe, female doctors only want female patients?
I know the last reason is kind of preposterous, I mean, there are many female physicians in all fields of medicine. But I want to be an obs/gyn – and I always figured it was because I love what they do. I love pregnancy, I want to deliver babies, I want to help women who want to be helped. But that’s just it: women, and only women. Is there something to this decision of mine? Something deep down that I’ve never even thought of before? It is scary to think that this fear that I have is so fundamentally part of me that I’ve allowed it to influence my career goals, without even realizing it.
But maybe not. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Today’s experience was not an isolated incident for me. Basically any time I am alone with a man who is not my husband, the thought that they might do something to me creeps into my head. With some men it is worse than others. And, sometimes even just walking towards a man on the sidewalk when there is no one else around is enough to get my mind going on the subject. Even if I try not to think about it, even if I try to tell myself that I’m being ridiculous, I still manage to assume that any man is capable of hurting me… sexually.
I don’t have to think very hard to know why I feel this way.
When I was thirteen a boy I liked wanted to touch me. I let him because I didn’t want to be prude… but he went too far.
A high school boyfriend forced himself on me when I wasn’t ready. I was still a virgin and he knew it. We were on a band tour and we were in his hotel room. But then his room-mates came back at just the right time and they threw him off of me (one of them was a guy I dated earlier in high school and we were good friends).
My first time was not really my choice. It was more like a resignation.
Then there was the incident.
Can you really blame me for assuming the worst when it comes to men?
After reading Meizac’s post as well as the stories of a few other bloggers, I can’t help but wonder if there is any woman out there who hasn’t had a negative sexual experience with a man. An experience so horrible that they will never forget it… an experience so life-altering that it has completely changed the person they might have been.