To anyone bearing witness, #Me Too is writing an alternate history of the workplace, the classroom, the corner store, the dance club, the sidewalk, the friend’s party, and the intimate confines of the romantic relationship.
To people who’ve experienced harassment and abuse, it’s also an alternate history of our own lives.
To these survey respondents,sexual violations in the context of romantic relationships have been some of the hardest examples to recognize as assault in the moment, but they’ve also done some of the deepest and most lasting damage to both survivor and perpetrator.
The variety of behaviors people corralled into the two gray areas identified here—“borderline but ultimately OK” and “borderline but ultimately not OK”—is telling, too.
Both the #Me Too hashtag and the “Shitty Media Men” spreadsheet place accounts of one-off verbal come-ons next to dire accusations of sustained sexual abuse, which made some feminist critics (including, when the spreadsheet first circulated, me) queasy.
As Rebecca Traister wrote in magazine last week, “the rage that many of us are feeling doesn’t necessarily correspond with the severity of the trespass: Lots of us are on some level as incensed about the guy who looked down our shirt at a company retreat as we are about Weinstein. Part of it is the decades we’ve spent being pressured to underreact.” The specter of sexual harassment has been weighing heavily on many of the men in my life.
People who felt flattered as teenagers or young adults by sexual advances from older authority figures grew to see such pursuits as “gross” or an abuse of power as they aged.