I was the youngest of three children and the only boy. My father traveled in his business, so most of my young memories are of being around my sisters, my mother and my maternal grandmother who lived with us. As a result my young frame of reference was from a female perspective. Add to that, my mother was a traditional Norwegian Lutheran. She taught me to always be polite, especially to girls and women. I was trained to hold doors open for women and to always treat them with the utmost respect.
Once I got married at the age of twenty I was well programmed in the etiquette of how a man is supposed to act around a woman. Most of that training is still with me today even after living through the sexual revolution of the 60’s and women’s independence of the 70’s. We ended up having two daughters when we were still almost babies ourselves. Raising girls seemed very natural to me after growing up in a mostly female household.
Being basically conservative like my mother, when our girls began reaching puberty I made sure they wore clothes that did not accentuate their bodies. My personal favorites were baggy sweatshirts. Often they were sent back to their rooms to change into something “Dad” was more comfortable with before going out. I discovered much later in life that I had a wheel barrel full of issues other than just being trained and raised by Edythe, but that is a whole different story.
We bought a ski boat when the girls were in their early teens. We all had fun boating in mountain lakes on vacations. During the week we had the privilege of using it on the Willamette River in Portland. When we were boating and water skiing I never gave much thought to the fact that we all wore bathing suits. It’s what you wear in a boat, right?
I remember when my youngest daughter started complaining while boating about men in other boats. I would hear her say things like “men are such pigs.” She was probably 13 or so at the time and I thought, oh honey they’re harmless, they’re just looking. They can’t tell from a distance how young you are. I hope you can tell here what a liberated man I was and how deeply I understood what it was like to be a female in our culture. NOT!!!
I had reached a point in life that I no longer shared “dirty” jokes with other men. In fact I frequently commented on their inappropriateness or walk out on them. Over time men stopped talking “inappropriately” around me or made a joke of it. “Oh, Randy’s here, I’ll tell you that one later.”
I supported the women in my life and continued to treat them the way I was taught. I was a strong supporter of women’s rights as well. I believed their bodies were indeed their own to choose what they did and did not do with them. I knew some men were actually “pigs” as my daughter had observed, but most were “just guys” like me. We saw women as people and were able to appreciate inner and outer female beauty without being obtuse about it.
As I have gotten older and gotten more in touch with my own feelings and powers of observation I began to notice what to me was an alarming trend. I was surprised by the number of women and girls that would not make eye contact as I walked around town or in a store. Even if I smiled and said hello, nothing, eyes down. I began to wonder if they were men haters or there was something about me that offended them. That was as far as I could get to understanding at that point in my life.
A few years ago I addressed the sexual abuse I experienced as a teenager at the hand of my minister. It opened up a huge panacea of issues for me and I spent extensive time in therapy examining my own sexuality and sexuality in general. I have since become a victim advocate, speaker and writer on the subject of child sexual abuse. It has brought me in contact with women dealing with the issues of rape and domestic violence. I am learning the similarity of child sex abuse and adult sexual violence; two sides of the same coin, both based on control, power differential, and violence.
Power = Corruption
Men have Power
Men assume Power
Men abuse Power
Arrogant men abuse assumed Power
Men assume entitlement to Power
Men use assumed Power,
With no regard to those it impacts
Some men use Power to abuse
They think it demonstrates their Superiority
I ended up having the story of my recovery published in a book, which contains the poem above. I purposely wrote my story very raw to share the gut feeling of what it was like to live with the distortions of abuse and never telling. A few months after the book came out I got an email from one of my daughters titled ,“Stuff I Cannot Say”. She told me she was having trouble reading some parts of my book and some of the blogs I was writing. Huh? I did not understand what she was talking about. She shared two stories about her life that literally brought me to my knees and still does when I think about it.
She shared visiting a high school girlfriend for a weekend at a nearby college. They went to a party at a frat house and as you might expect they were drinking quite a bit. She said she was talking to some guy and there was a door right behind her. Next thing she knew he had opened the door and pushed her in. It was dark and she didn’t even know what was in there. He raped her and walked out. Time elapsed five minutes. Nightmares, a lifetime. She never told a soul.
She told me that about a year later when she had her own apartment, a friend set her up on a blind date. He picked her up and they went to dinner at a restaurant where he was a chef. She said she only had one glass of wine, yet she has no memory of anything from after dinner until the next morning when she woke up naked in her bed. Her landlord called her that morning and asked if she was okay. He had heard screaming coming from her apartment the night before and just wanted to check on her. She assumed she had been given a rape drug. More pain and shame, and again she told no one.
After a lifetime of assuming I was pro-woman, and supportive of women’s rights, it was not until I read the email from my daughter, “Stuff I Can’t Say”, that I finally began to understand the plight of women in our culture. Are you serious? This is what women are subjected to and they are just supposed to take it and keep their mouths shut. It makes me so damn mad I want to shout it to the hills, “You can’t treat another human that way and get away with it.” But in fact they are, aren’t they?
I am beginning to think my thirteen-year-old daughter was right, Men Are Pigs! Now I get why so many girls and women will not look a man in the eye or, perish the thought, actually smile or speak to them. Our male dominant culture has objectified girls and women in the media to the point of being nothing more than a living breathing sex toy, put on earth by God for men’s personal pleasure. I am afraid to speculate how many men view women as chattel, and not even human with comments like “you want some of that? I’d sure like to f— that”. Harsh? You bet! True? I’m afraid so.
Click Here for Part 2.