I’m not a hookup or potential date, I’m a person

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by Jessica Renae FW Staff Writer

A few weekends ago, I attended a gallery party in the infamous Gas Works Park in Seattle with a friend. We mingled in the back with a few people sipping wine and laughing. A tall, young-looking man approached the circle we were standing in and asked our names. After his awkward joke about the fussy distinction I made between moving from hippie town Arcata, Calif. (where I attended college) versus gritty Eureka a few miles south, I shied away from him and immersed myself in conversation with the man next to me, as the tall guy continued to chat up my friend. When the party was over, this man, Aaron, walked out of the studio building with us and said we should all grab a drink. He was clearly charming and alive with energy. We went to a Chinese restaurant and drank gin and tonics and mysterious mixed drinks until 1 a.m.

I don’t drink very often and I am rather petite, so with a few drinks in me things get blurry. After the Chinese restaurant, I bought cranberry cocktail at a nearby store so we could have a chaser to polish off the rum at his lavish and impeccably clean apartment, where I would teach Aaron and my friend yoga poses. My friend had to go home, though, for work the next morning so Aaron said he was sober enough to drive us home. He dropped my friend off first. The ride back to my place was tricky.

Aaron and I both knew the other was in a long-term relationship. He asked what was next, his place or to take me home. In my drunken stupor, I said his. I don’t think I really wanted to sleep with him, honestly I think I wanted to drink more and craved adventure. The 30-year-old techie then threw me completely off guard. He asked if my friend would be interested, if she’d be interested in a threesome. My stomach lurched. “I think she’s really committed to her boyfriend…” My eyebrows narrowed, lips pursed, and I stared out the window uncomfortably watching the empty streets and flashing lights. I think if I hadn’t been so drunk, I would’ve comprehended the caution I exerted, the careless fun that was being carefully torn away by a blunt stranger. “We could get her to do it. It could be like a game. Just imagine the sexual tension that would build,” he said smiling so slyly, his eyes beaming. He moved his hand across my thigh into the crook of my crotch. I pushed his hand away. When he dropped me home, he made sure he had my number and I leaned over the seat to double check, my breasts plunging out of my low cut top. He took his finger and grazed the right one, trying to dig his way toward my nipple. I pushed him away again. He had this look of lustful hunger across his face as he stared at my chest. I don’t think I understood the severity of the situation as I walked into my house. I just muttered, “How am I going to tell my boyfriend? He is going to be furious with me.”

Admittedly even now I still blame myself. I was teasing him, wasn’t I? I was asking for it, wasn’t I? I have to keep reminding myself that a mild attraction when cloudy with alcohol doesn’t excuse touching me, condescendingly persuading a threesome, and asking for naked yoga pictures via text. When I told my friend, she was shocked that a potential friend was only interested in us sexually, insulting our intellect and our worth by assumingly branding us as college girls who would, of course, play around with each other.

But this is not unusual, is it? Men approach me on the street, in class, at a party all with the same idea — that they can get my number and then have sex. And when I reject them, they are suddenly in the mythical “friend zone.” Why is that when I hang out with my male roommate, he subtly hits on me? Why is that men and women can’t be friends in a movie without something else happening? Why is sex so inherently tied to women that when a man starts a conversation with me I feel that it’s not because he finds me interesting, but because he’s interested in getting in my pants?

A study released in 2012 discovered the obvious, that yes women are viewed as sexual objects and men as people. But what was intriguing to find was men and women both objectify women. Both sexes view women sexually. In today’s society where images of women on television, magazine covers, and across billboards prize women only for their body parts and where song lyrics talk about a “bitch’s fat ass” or headlines dictate to women, “how to lose weight” or “how to be sexy,” boys not only grow up with the idea that women are objects to be used for their sexual pleasure, but girls conceptualize this idea as well. Men seeing women as objects breeds a culture of violence and domination. Women seeing women as objects leads us to compare our bodies to each other, to pit ourselves physically against each other. We are taught that looks are everything, our looks are meant for someone else’s viewing, and that our greatest achievement is being ultimately desirable. How can others take us seriously? How can we take ourselves seriously? How can we take each other seriously when our worth is simply reduced to beauty and sex appeal?

It is not that I don’t want to be found attractive or to have a guy never flirt with me again. But I don’t want my body to be the definition of who I am and the reason guys will ever talk to me. The problem with Aaron wasn’t just that he was another sleezeball, but he completely dismissed just being friends with two girls and went straight to “let’s all have sex.” And to take it one step further and touch me without permission, twice, he is pushing his perceived authority over me. That I don’t get a say, that my body, that my friend’s body is obviously his to take.

Media spreads the message that women are objects meant for men creating a society that accepts women as lower and should be treated as such. But I want a different world. I am not in advertising and can’t change the images from their source, but I am a writer and can expose my experiences to foster a conscious connection, provide awareness of what being thought of as an object really feels like. I have a mind and I have a heart. My body should not be my sole identifier when I am made up of more than my appearance. Equality starts with thinking of women as equals, not as objects. I am a person, and I want to start being treated as such.

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