Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I am taking a stand.
I will continue reading Eric Francis’ horoscopes. His horoscopes have always been the best and actually say something tangible and relevant and not vague. The whole me-too movement has turned into something akin to the Salem witch hunts, and it is fascinating and terrible to watch.
What is the vector between me-too, alcohol, power and personal responsibility? There is much overlap. It’s a cushion mum, there is so much overlap. Meantime, me-too started with people admitting they had been sexually abused and was quickly hijacked and morphed into “a man once touched my ass, too.”
Should we give up the theory of relativity because Einstein was a whore? Throw away Bukowski because he was sometimes violent, out of control, swore a lot? Discard Dickens because he was a philanderer? Cost Garrison Keillor his decades-long legacy because he touched a woman’s back? Not every inappropriate interaction is Woody Allen grooming his all-but-stepdaughter or equivalent to drugging people so you can violate them.
Have we no perspective any more? Newsflash: All people are flawed. Some of them are assholes, some are douches, some are dicks. There are all kinds of people. And we can’t throw them all away because they are all broken.
What Eric Francis is alleged to do sounds creepy. But there is a massive difference between creepy and criminal. A huge difference between rape, pedophilia and getting with an 18-year-old college girl who went into the woods alone with you voluntarily and made choices she wasn’t comfortable with. I’ve been an 18-year-old college girl. I knew you didn’t go alone into the woods with a strange man. I didn’t want to be killed and thrown down a hole — that’s the reason I wouldn’t have gone into the woods with a strange man when I was 18, or ever.
Eric Francis is rife with inappropriate sexuality. His articles are full of it, right there for everyone to see, every month. I mostly skipped the articles and read the horoscope. But I wasn’t surprised when I met him that he went straight to the topic of sexuality. Know what I did, as an adult woman who doesn’t really engage in that kind of conversation? Didn’t engage.
Did he have anything to offer me, career-wise? Nope. But if he had? And if — in order to gain that favor or that leg up career-wise — I had agreed to something that didn’t feel right or that I even knew was wrong? Know whose choice that would have been? Mine.
I am an adult, and I make my own choices. No one has ever gotten me drunk. Know why? Because I drink the drinks. That’s on me. Once, I drank too much without meaning to because the guy I was with kept refilling my drink before I was done. Know what I did after that? Kept better track myself. Because I am responsible for my own body, responsible for what I decide to do with it and what I don’t.
That includes some bad decisions I have made while drunk. Take the party where I fooled around with a boy who was graduating the next day. I stayed holed up in my room for the next three days, and when I found out a month later that he had told people at graduation I cried so hard I keened. Know who made that bad decision when she was drunk? Me. Not him. He was not Svengali. I was learning about sex and how it related to me and what my boundaries were, and I made a bad call. My mistake, not his.
When I was 21 I drank grain alcohol. I don’t know what that even means but they were passing around a bottle and I wanted to be cool and not seem afraid and so I drank it. That was my choice. I got so drunk I had a blackout that lasted a good long while, during which, I am told, I behaved quite shamefully. I cried then, too. Did the man who handed me the bottle get me drunk? No. I did. My body, my decision, my responsibility.
I address this missive to ladies and gentlemen, because it is for men and women both. Gentlemen, you have to have noticed by now that lots of you with the broken X chromosome can be pretty unsavory and aggressive. Don’t be one of them. Let your sons cry. Let them play with dolls. Make sure they know all we should ever do with a drunk girl is help her home. Make sure your sons know their limits and boundaries, too. I am certain the boy I behaved shamefully with was appalled at his behavior, too, because he was drunk, too. And know that we will almost all of us fail, at times, to follow our own moral compasses. And that learning from those circumstances can be painful and sometimes its consequences are irreversible. That doesn’t mean most of us don’t strive to be our best.
Women, let us take responsibility for our own actions. Let’s stop acting like women are little violets without our own sexual urges that sometimes lead us to make regretful choices. The two best pieces of advice I was ever given, and which kept me safe until I was a middle-aged woman and forgot that the rules still applied to me, were always to assume a man who invites you someplace alone is not looking to discuss books, and always to make up your mind ahead of time. The latter because in the moment, while necking, the answer will always be yes.
I held those rules close. I find it stunning that there is such a large contingent of women, women who would call themselves feminists, who seem to think they will find safety in the world when danger stops presenting itself. As Dwight Schrute would say, “False.” Like every animal on the planet, we must do our best to keep ourselves safe.
You do that when you take responsibility for the situations you find yourself in and responsibility for your own choices. If you have ever said someone else got you drunk, you are not taking responsibility. If you could have said no and chose not to because he was a man who could help you, you didn’t take responsibility.
We have our kids wear bike helmets. We wear winter coats to keep warm. We stay hydrated, we take our supplements. We do these things. Why, when it comes to our sexuality, are we suddenly merely acted upon? It’s time to realize that actually we are often the ones taking the action, or the lack of action.
It’s time to stop disempowering our girls by teaching them they can’t stand up to men, or that they need to destroy a man who touched their ass. No. Let’s teach them to assert themselves, to learn from their mistakes, to not go places alone with strange men (Really? This one needs to be said? You would take something as important as your daughter’s safety, and suggest she behave according to a world you wish to be true? “Don’t go places alone with strangers or people you hardly know” will never ever not be the right advice. For any of us. Because bad things happen.).
Let’s stop applying the word “victim” equally to children who are sexually abused and full-grown women who did something they regret. It’s not the same. You’re not a “survivor” of someone making you uncomfortable. If that were so, everyone who ever had the teacher call on them when their hand wasn’t raised would be a “survivor.”
I want our daughters to be safe. And because I want our daughters to be safe, when the opportunity arises I tell young women the same things my sister taught me. It’s a balancing act, to teach girls to be responsible for themselves, to teach boys to respect themselves and girls; to hope our kids learn to drink socially without bad things coming of it.
Use a smidgeon of common sense. If you’re not comfortable, say so. If you have to say it again, say it again. These are part of life’s lessons, and boil down to this: You will be in uncomfortable situations at times. How you manage them is up to you.
Holly Christiana is a freelance writer living in Kingston.