My Life of #MeToo Moments: An Incomplete Timeline

By now, many people are tired of hearing #metoo stories. I’ve been seeing more Facebook posts calling to “give it a rest,” and accusations that women want their “15 minutes” or that the accusers should have just left if they were uncomfortable. There have also been recent cries from other feminists that women are diminishing the movement by telling stories that “don’t count” or shouldn’t be included because the accusation was not illegal.

I have mostly stayed silent because I have never been raped – I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to say that. However, the ongoing conversation about sex, assault, improprieties, consent, etc. has repeatedly brought up memories that have been long tucked away, given little attention from my psyche because the experiences have been so consistent throughout my life they became normal.

While I had not planned on sharing my personal and even embarrassing or shameful experiences, I have reached a point where I feel like I can no longer stay silent and let this conversation happen around me without being a part of it.

The following is a timeline of some examples that have surfaced and been swirling around my head after months of the #metoo conversation that has been uncovering memories one by one. Memories that I had never paused to think how NOT OKAY it has all been, until now.

*Three years old – first kiss with my neighbor. I don’t remember it, but as the story goes, we were caught kissing in the laundry room by our parents. My mom was shocked and horrified, and his dad was proud and gave him a high-five. Obviously completely innocent, but the beginning of a lopsided and dangerous dynamic.

(* ages are the best guess estimate based on my recollection of who was involved and where it happened.)

Five years old – I saw first my penis when I accidentally walked in on a man (someone I knew well) peeing. I froze in shock not knowing how to respond, so I stared while talking normally like nothing was wrong even though I felt panicked and scared inside. He allowed me to stand in front of him and look, making no effort to cover up.

Seven years old – My first-grade “boyfriend” and I were hiding from everyone else under the bleachers during recess sitting cross-legged and facing each other. He said something along the lines of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” So, I did. His response was, “what’s that weird bump?” (answer: my pubic bone *eye roll*). At the time, I felt so embarrassed and rejected. Later that evening I went to aftercare at the park where I went every day until my mom got off work. He had beaten me there and told everyone about what had happened. I was mortified and quickly left to walk home while I was followed by a mob of kids telling me that I was a slut among other things.

Nine years old – A neighbor who I often hung out with after school brought me into his room to play. A little while later he heard his mom come home and said something like, “hurry, let's hide!” running into his closet… I followed, not knowing exactly what we were hiding from but it felt kind of exciting.

Not long after laying in a dark closet on a pile of toys and dirty clothes he pulled down his pants and asked me to suck his dick. I didn’t want to, but he convinced me. I pretended to by squeezing his penis a bit with my hand while holding my breath because it was disgusting. The exchange went something like this. “All done, let’s go now before your mom finds us.” Reaching down to feel himself he said, “Why isn’t it wet? Do it again.” I did it again, but this time spit on it first. “Ok, let’s go!” and left the closet.

I wish I could say the story ended there, but that opened the door for continuous requests for sexual acts. From playing spin-the-bottle to strip poker (putting cards down randomly and insisting I take off clothes), to having me “model” on the couch naked while he pretended to take pictures, to having me lie down on my stomach while he crawled on top of me, put is little penis between my butt cheeks and bounced around in an attempt to have sex.

Each night I laid in bed feeling sick, guilty, afraid, ashamed -- even fearing that I was pregnant and fantasizing about how I could hide it and what I would do with the baby so no one would know... wanting to know more about how babies were made, but afraid to ask.

I never told anyone. He was my friend. I did not know about “consent.” I thought it was something "we" were doing wrong, and never blamed him. He was also the same boy who showed me his parent’s loaded handgun and violently smashed his little brother’s action figures in front of me with a hammer. In hindsight, I understand that these acts were not consensual and why I was afraid of him. I was afraid to say no.

11 years old – I was a little skater chick with a skater boyfriend who I’d hang out with at the park practicing tricks and watching him show off with his friends. After a while our parents let us hang out together at our homes as long as there was a parent around. One day toward the end of 6th grade, sitting on his bottom bunk bed he put his hand up my shirt to feel my chest. Not much happened after that; it seemed pretty innocent. He broke up with me before the summer, and we didn’t see each other much. When I got to my new middle school I found out that word had spread that I was flat-chested (duh!) and it evolved into a narrative about me being butch and gay and anorexic… etc. etc. To the point where I hated going, and switched schools my 8th-grade year.

Insert a few year break from having anything to do with boys during awkward puberty phase

15 years old - A boy in my high school weightlifting class found out that I had a crush on him. One day, as we were walking into class, he pressed me up against the wall in the hallway as he grinded his penis firmly against my hips and told me that he knew I wanted him. I felt violated and disappointed. And, I never told anyone why he was no longer my crush.

16 years old – I got my first real job as a hostess at the Scottsdale resort where my mother worked. I struck up a fun, flirtatious relationship with a co-worker in his early/mid-20s. We laughed and chased and grabbed each other playfully while we worked. One day when we were riding in the service elevator, I hit the “stop” button and kissed him. It was exciting! I wanted him to be my boyfriend and meet my friends -- he insisted that we couldn’t tell anyone (obviously I now understand why). He would occasionally give me a ride home from work, and we would sometimes kiss in the car. One night things got a little heavy, and he pulled over so I could suck his dick. This was consensual, yes. Appropriate? No! By this time in my life, I was starting to get attention from older men and had not yet learned healthy boundaries. In fact, I had learned the opposite. I didn't know what was appropriate and what wasn't. All I knew was that he was nice to me and I enjoyed his attention.

16 years old – Working as a hostess I was captive by the front door when people walked in. One middle-aged, “normal” looking regular customer would make suggestive comments and linger around the hostess stand or the bathrooms that were nearby. I told people he was a creep, but he hadn’t technically done anything, so he was allowed to continue coming in while I remained captive at the hostess stand.

Trying to avoid him, I began rushing away for a bathroom break when I saw him coming. One night he was waiting as I walked out of the bathroom, alone in a dim hallway. We made eye contact, and he acted like he was moving toward me – almost like a stutter-step when you’re trying to psyche someone out. Startled, I took a step back feeling trapped with my back against the wall, he turned to enter the men’s restroom. It was incredibly rattling.

17 years old – I went to a sporting event with a married family friend, decades older than me, who I had known for years. On the way home after a fun, friendly night of sports, he pulled off the road, leaned over and kissed me. I told him he was married and we should get home. We never mentioned anything about it again.

18 years old – First time living away from home for basic training. The ways of the world had never been so glaring! I remained focused and guarded, as I did much of my military career. The earliest example of abuse of power was the senior Drill Sgt who called girls to his office at night… everyone knew why. I was disgusted and as cold as ice to him, but did not say anything. When I was called to his office, during what was supposed to be personal time before bed, it was to do hours of consecutive pushups outside of his door for everyone to see – resulting in a level of soreness that lasted for more than a week. I considered myself lucky.

18 years old - I briefly worked at the café of a Scottsdale golf course so I could get free access to the range. During that time there was a constant flow of older, wealthy men acting in inappropriate ways.

19 years old – My first boss at a gym was a fun guy. He took me under his wing and mentored me. I was so impressed by him and appreciative -- we began to hang out outside of work. One night we went out to a sports bar where we played darts and pool, he bought me a beer, then back to his place. Sitting on his couch, I confided that I had recently found out my mom sick and was scared. He empathized because he had lost his mom. By then we were cuddled up, and I was crying on his shoulder.

Sensing vulnerability, and apparently turned on by it, he picked me up and took me to his bedroom.  He was over 6 feet tall and a muscular 200+ lbs. I frantically told him that I did not want to have sex. To be polite, I assured him that it wasn’t about him, but I was saving sex for a committed relationship. He assured me that he wouldn't do anything I didn't want to do as he took off my clothes and I laid frozen, repeating myself – I do not want to have sex. After mocking my unkempt appearance, saying that women should be clean-shaven and I should've known that since I see naked women in the locker-room, he laid his giant body over me. He rubbed the tip of his penis against my vagina masturbating until he abruptly came onto my sternum and walked away.

Seconds later he returned with a t-shirt to wipe off my body and lay down on the bed. I laid there confused and dazed by what had just occurred. After that I kept my distance, he stopped being my mentor and started treating me poorly at work. I never told anyone, and quit what had previously been my dream job just a few months later.

Late-teens/early-20’s – My friends and I experienced harassment nearly every time we went out – ranging from unwanted touching on the dancefloor to being groped or having a penis rubbed against my butt as I waited at the bar or verbally assaulted for politely turning down a drink. (please note this was typically in Scottsdale, AZ. Middle/upper-class neighborhoods and often all-age sports bars and country music dance halls -- not seedy clubs in a "bad" part of town)

20 years old — The first Christmas after my mom died, I just wanted to crawl in a hole until it went away. I decided to visit a Jewish friend who had recently moved away because I knew he and his family would not be celebrating Christmas. It would be nice to get away and see a friend.

After a great day of sightseeing and meeting his friends, we settled in to watch TV. There was at least an arm’s length between us on the couch, and I had not (knowingly) given any indication that I was interested -- I was grieving and looking for distraction until Christmas was over. Seemingly out of nowhere he pounced on top of me with zero warning and tried to kiss me, I pushed him off in bewilderment. Sitting next to me, also confused, he said, “Then why are you here?” It was clear that the expectation of the visit was sex. I felt bad for leading him on and hurting his feelings.

20 years old – I finally felt like I was in a safe, committed relationship and chose to have consensual sex… following the first awkward occasion, we tried again. After struggling to climax, he jumped up, threw his condom across the room out of frustration and yelled a handful of obscenities. I cried, lying naked and vulnerable and shocked.

21 years old – After realizing that the first guy wasn’t a good choice, my next experience was with someone I had known and trusted for awhile so I thought it would be better. After a kind and loving start, he quickly realized that I didn’t know what I was doing. He became annoyed that I didn’t know how to do what he requested. Feeling embarrassed, I told him that I was inexperienced. He responded that I "should watch porn" to learn what to do.

23 years old – I had become good friends with a soldier who was in my drill sergeant school. I knew he was engaged and a good guy, so he was “safe” for a platonic relationship. After a hard day, we went out for drinks to destress and had a great time. Laughing, talking, confiding, drinking way too much… I woke up the next morning trying to piece together what happened. I was sad, ashamed and disappointed. He woke up saying, “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.” I felt heartbroken and guilty. That was the end of our friendship. He married his girlfriend, and we never told anyone.

Fast forward through the mid-twenties, awkward dating experiences, catcalling, unsolicited advances, and offensive late night requests to “hang out” that don’t even seem worth mentioning. 

27 years old – During an evening of intimacy in a committed relationship, he got a bit drunk and sloppy. I began to feel like my presence wasn't necessary or important, and I asked him to stop for a second because he was hurting me. Without saying anything he angrily rolled over and gave me the cold shoulder. I assured him that I wasn’t mad, I just needed a second. His response was something along the lines of it not being sexy to hear that it hurt, and it was too late because he was no longer aroused. We went to bed, and the next day he refused to talk about it. So we didn't.

30 years old – A friend stayed at my house and incessantly pressured me for sex. I locked my bedroom door when I went to sleep because I did not feel safe.

Early 30's – Around this time the harassment and other forms of inappropriate sexual behavior began to subside. Partly because I had enough. I began to find my voice, assert myself and set firm boundaries. I learned to be blunt about my disinterest, after years of "politeness" had not served me well. I began giving off a "fuck you vibe," as was pointed out by a stranger at a social event. But, it also subsided because our culture sexualizes young girls, and into my late 20's I was a commodity to be obtained. By my 30's my value in society as a sexual object was beginning to fade.

This timeline is not trying to make the case that all men are bad or to publicly lay out a naïve history of uncomfortable situations or poor decisions. I want to make clear that for the most part, I do not blame the men. In fact, there are several of them that I know are moral people without evil intentions. They would probably be saddened to learn how differently I perceived our time together. I also no longer blame myself for not leaving or slapping or saying "no" more often/louder/better/clearer... that is one thing the #metoo movement has helped me see more clearly.

I blame the environment, the culture, the lack of guidance -- the lack of conversation.

When sex is something that only happens behind closed doors or online, boys and girls and men and women are left to figure out what is ok, normal, safe, consensual and acceptable.

If we demonize each man who ends up in the news or shame women for the situation they find themselves in, we ignore the cultural conditioning that makes this type of behavior not just possible, but pervasive.

Many assume that being tough or having a voice means it wouldn't happen to them. They would stop unwanted sexual contact by saying "no" or leaving, but that is typically not the case.

I was raised by a strong woman and have been loudly outspoken since I learned to speak. But, sexual encounters are very different. They often happen with people we like and trust which makes us too embarrassed to speak up. We don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. We may not even be opposed to taking things further, but the way it happened was not consensual or loving or kind and leaves us feeling used. The shame makes us stuff the experience down and prevents us from speaking out. I'm using "us" and "we" here because I know that I am not alone. I am simply another woman who navigated dating and friendships and male-dominated work environments with little guidance or conversation about how to do so safely.

It is not about bashing men or teaching women to be more careful; it is an issue of respect, empathy, consent, parenting, media, entertainment, porn…. American culture.

If we dismiss the women’s stories of the #metoo movement as isolated incidences or the men involved as “creeps,” then we miss the opportunity to look at the bigger picture. We allow ourselves to be off the hook for our part in it, and nothing will change. Our kids and their kids will still be saying, "me too."

Sexual assault, harassment, and improprieties run across cultural, ethnic, socio-economic lines -- clearly illustrated by the renowned Olympic doctor who consistently molested young girls over decades and no one did/said anything to stop it! He often did it in plain sight, directly in front of the parents or nurses who were in the room. The girls froze and stayed quiet, scared and believing that they must be imagining what was happening – programmed not to trust their intuition or speak up. The doctor is a sick human being, but our culture enabled him to abuse those girls.

Our culture enables women and young girls to be abused.

I am sick of hearing these stories. I am sick of living these stories. I am sick of writing these stories. I have other things I would like to be doing right now. But, I cannot stay silent while this continues to happen and women continue to be judged for "letting" it happen. Let’s raise our boys and girls differently. Let’s hold men and women to higher standards. Let’s not be afraid or embarrassed to talk about sex and all of the issues surrounding it. Let's stop shaming those who do. When we say "times up," let’s really mean it.