We Care Since the NFL Doesn’t

By now, unless you have carefully cultivated your social media feed(s) to only reflect the opinions of people Richard Spencer believes should have the right to vote, you have seen a slew of “Me, too” and/or #metoo posts on facebook, twitter, etc. In the wake of the latest public outing of a disgusting sexual predator who had gotten away with his behavior for decades, a number of women have been making public declarations to shine a light on how pervasive this problem is. To quote the often accompanying text: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Some of the posts have been limited to the hashtag or those two words.  Some have painfully relived their own experiences, maybe even sharing for the first time something that has been bottled up and brings fresh trauma every time it crosses their minds and/or lips. Some have noted–wryly or painfully–that they are completely unsurprised about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior because they don’t have a single female friend or acquaintance that hasn’t experienced some level of harassment, assault, diminution, or anything else other than the full unassailable rights to be, you know, human beings, that should come to any and all of us on this blue marble. And it’s fucking terrible that a lot of those women continued to get called liars or sluts or fameseekers or anything other than people sharing a truth that may make you and them and me uncomfortable.

I am not the Lorax for women.  I do not get to speak for a segment of the population that has experienced something that I haven’t, often on a daily basis.  I don’t even purport to have the right answer for how to react to all of this. But I can share my feelings in the wake of this fresh round of coverage of a perpetual issue that about half of us don’t have to think about if it’s not being talked about on TV and on social media.

I felt outrage. I felt sadness.  I felt shame. I felt helpless. And I felt pessimistic that enough will change.

I was already aware that this problem is ubiquitous.  My senior year of high school, I dated a young woman with some complicated attitudes toward sex. She wanted to save her (traditional) virginity until marriage, but she was not only open toward other sexual exploration, she thought something was wrong with her or me or both if I wasn’t aggressively pursuing those other activities virtually non-stop. When I went down on her for the first time, she started sobbing uncontrollably, at which point I stopped immediately and asked her what was wrong. She didn’t understand why I stopped. It took a long time for her to really open up to me, but it turns out when she was younger (I think around 15 or so), a group of boys had held her down, put a pillow over her face, and taken turns fingering her.  The trauma was with her during every moment of intimacy, and she thought she had deserved it and was broken and all of the other horrible things you’re seeing in those #metoo posts. The trauma was also with her when she was repeatedly sexually harassed in her side work as a waitress, both by bosses and customers. Every time it happened, she either blocked the feelings and didn’t talk about it, or she was crying in my arms, feeling assaulted all over again. I don’t share this story to make myself look good (and I hesitated to share it at all since it’s not my story). I tried to be supportive for her and not put any pressure on her sexually, but I’m sure I did. I was a teenager and not nearly as attuned to others as I am as an adult. She deserved better, not just from the teenagers who decided she didn’t get full agency over her body, but from me to constantly recognize that any pressure, explicit or implicit was uncomfortable. I’m sure that you, like me, have seen a lot of #notallmen type responses to #metoo. But it’s not really true. I’m sure I’ve had moments where a friend or a girlfriend felt like I was expecting something from them. I know I’ve unintentionally made women I don’t know uncomfortable with a blue joke or a stare that lasted a little too long or something that I want even aware of that triggered a memory of a lecherous boss or a gropey uncle or something else that they’ve had to deal with their whole lives that most of us are blissfully unaware of.

Obviously you don’t need to date a victim of sexual assault to understand how nasty and pervasive this problem is. My sisters’ friends were followed around by strange men in cars calling out obscene “compliments” and trying to get them to take a ride with them even when they weren’t old enough to drive themselves. My college friends who knew which frats to avoid and which where you still needed to keep an eye on (and often a hand over) your drink. The Congressional offices where again, people knew but didn’t really know if you know what I mean but still she shouldn’t have taken that job if she didn’t want to deal with the grabbing, right? The virgin/slut dynamic that turns on a dime “in jest” (what’s the difference between a slut and a bitch? a slut sleeps with everyone and a bitch sleeps with everyone except you.) and in life (see: Reddit and 4chan). The casting couch nature not just of Hollywood but of a lot of places where sometimes it isn’t about physical force as much as it is the power of someone to ruin your career if you don’t “just play along” and give in.

Many men (and some women) focus exclusively on rape and consent in this conversation. It’s the most horrifying part, but it’s not the only part. Even those women who haven’t been sexually assaulted (and those numbers alone are nauseating) have to live with leering, catcalling, and other disquieting moments that can feel relentless. A woman may be told she needs to “deal with it” at the workplace whether the “it” is an onslaught of comments about her appearance or being passed over for promotions or hearing men called “men” and women called “girls” or jokes about getting ahead by doing some sexual favors often may say nothing because she’s already been conditioned to stay quiet or she has no faith blowing the whistle will help or she’s flat been told she’ll pay the price for doing so. And if you’re one of the (again, shockingly high number) women who HAS been raped or groped or exposed to a stranger masturbating in front of you, those “innocent jokes” are a finger in a psychological wound. They hurt. And they reinforce that your pain isn’t important compared to the comfort of someone who thinks his freedom to make dirty jokes is a core part of the bill of rights.

Again, I’m not the “good guy spokesman” for this issue. I am not without fault and need to do better myself. But as I have scrolled  through Facebook  and seen so many of my friends–strong professional women, young cousins, midcareer women vulnerable to the power dynamics at play in the Weinstein scumbaggery, those that had previously come to me for help with uncomfortable situations and those I was completely unaware had been raped until they decided to share it on facebook–I had to reflect. To me, the point of the #metoo thing is to remind us that a massive amount of people are constantly feeling under attack, psychologically, metaphorically, and too often literally. We have to recognize that and fucking do something about it, starting with the man (or woman) in the mirror, and including calling out our friends, coworkers, and strangers when they’re falling short morally.

And yet there were a lot of “what is this going to change” and “I don’t need to hear about this” and “there’s no way all these women have had this happen to them” or “that assault doesn’t count” reactions on the interwebz. To those people I say what in the actual fuck is wrong with you? If you don’t believe that someone has been assaulted, it’s not because they’re lying, it’s because it is a shockingly high number of people that have been assaulted and are intimidated into silence or traumatically moored on keeping the shame within. So instead of being a dick, be an ally.

So what does this have to do with the NFL? Well, I guess we could superficially point to Al Michaels being a complete dumbass during the Sunday Night game and blithely comparing the Giants’ week to Harvey Weinstein’s, definitively losing track of who to feel bad for at any given time (To be clear, it’s neither Weinstein nor the Giants). There’s the obvious fact of NFL teams being VERY ready to give second (and third and fourth) chances to players who victimize women. There’s even the fairly recent history of the #HAWTTAEKS in response to women like Sarah Thomas, Kathryn Smith, and Katie Sowers getting opportunities that far too many fans publicly asserted were rightly and exclusively the domain of men (oh and btw, the comment sections of most of those articles will make you cringe; or at least they should).

In addition to all that, there’s also how we as fans and individuals react to these stories and the often untold ones in our own lives. Horatio this morning represents the outlier of fans who found their “enough is enough” line and is done with the NFL. I’m not done yet but I have significantly scaled back my willingness to spend capital on the product. And I need to do more about making my displeasure known when my team or any team days character matters and then signs a rapist or a player who believes women are less than men. And I need to figure out what my line in the sand is with the NFL and friends and people in power when they continue to do things I find morally reprehensible. Because sadly, the NFL is just one small part of a larger universe of people seemingly incapable of listening when the question “who could this have happened to” means millions of women respond with “me, too.”

BrettFavresColonoscopy

BrettFavresColonoscopy

BFC is a Chicago native transplanted to our nation’s capital and transplanted again to the mountain West. He enjoys football, whisky, and the oxford comma.
BrettFavresColonoscopy
BrettFavresColonoscopy
BrettFavresColonoscopy
BFC is a Chicago native transplanted to our nation's capital and transplanted again to the mountain West. He enjoys football, whisky, and the oxford comma.

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Moose -The End Is Well NighGame Time DecisionDoktor ZymmWakezillaPetronel Recent comment authors
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Game Time Decision
Game Time Decision

wow, this is a great article. This is just one of many reasons i love this site\ group, the expectation is a football joke site and then you get well thought out articles.

As a father of 2 girls, this stuff scares the shit out of me.

Wakezilla

The scary thing folks, is that not only are women abused in alarmingly high numbers, it’s the fact it’s around 95% of all victims knew the attacker. Pretty sure I remember reading that over 50% was a family member.

Meaning, for those of you dreading for that evil stranger to arrive, may never come. It’s someone you already possibly know, and depending on your culture, it may have already happened. Terrifying.

I’ve long been an advocate of changing rape culture. Now that I have a daughter, it’s terrifying realization that there’s not a whole lot you can do.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

When I was a young man I dated a woman who was raped by her father. I could not comprehend that level of betrayal…. well, still can’t. I was too young and stupid to even begin to help her, I just wanted to murder the asshole rapist.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Well done. Having more than half the women I’ve dated experience really terrible things like some of what has been mentioned, being somewhat empathetic, I still have a great deal of trouble relating to the force and ghosts that bodily invasion has to leave in people’s lives. When walking on the street involves a high threat level is just something I do not encounter.

Petronel
Petronel

What Andromaca said. I couldn’t say it any better, except to add my “me too” to the mountain of them from those of us who remained silent because we knew we had to. And seeing so many of you trying to understand and do what you can to make things better means more than I can say.
To anyone who thinks you don’t know anyone this has happened to: You do. You just don’t know it yet, and you may never know it, but you do. Well, if you’ve been reading the comments, now you certainly do.
For what it’s worth, it’s not only the physical assaults and groping that can damage us badly. I’ve been groped on public transit when I was barely a teenager, been leered at and pinched on the cheek in front of multiple people by someone in a position to get me fired from my job, and been in a headspace where I thought I owed it to a college boy friend because it was easier to give in than to deal with his unrelenting whining and pressure. I’m fortunate in that worse hasn’t happened to me, as it has to so many others. But what stays with me more than that is knowing that I lost a career – not just a job opportunity, but the ability to move up in my chosen academic discipline at all – to a grad school advisor who thought that women had no place in that discipline. The field is a small one, and, once he made it very clear to me that, even though I was damn good at it, I wasn’t going to progress any further, that was it. I have gone on to a good job and am happy where I am, but I lost that dream, and the “what if” stays with me.

Doktor Zymm

That’s awful. I’ve been fairly lucky, despite spending my life in male dominated fields, I haven’t run into too much overt discrimination. No female professors in my entire grad school career though, and only a handful of other female students.
Maybe when you retire you can go back to school and write a paper entirely discrediting that ass’s life’s work!

Andromaca
Andromaca

I’m really touched and overwhelmed. Thank you for bringing an issue that always has been under the rug. When I was a victim, I didn’t seek help, or even say something to anyone because I was afraid of revictimization. We suffer harassment at least every day. It’s time to put a stop to that. The first
thing is not objectification of women. That can be possible through gender equality education. The problem is too many fundamentalists.

LemonJello
LemonJello

Well said.

As a father of two daughters, one that just started college, my greatest fear is that they will be assaulted at some point in their lives.

Having a familiarity with firearms, and years of conditioning to focus any emotion into rage, I expect to use my limited internet time in prison to check in with you all if anything should ever happen to my daughters.

Gratliff

Just the sheer number I know is terrifying. Anyone who doesn’t know numerous women who’ve been through it are either in denial or not trusted enough to be told.

ballsofsteelandfury

Can I make a joke about the “holy shit this got long really fast” tag?

Too soon? Ok.

Nice post.

Shogun Marcus

The things I have witnessed, dealt with, and cleaned up after in my career fill books. The average career lifespan is 18-24 months. I made it 15 years. Me and a select handful I know could give entire lecture series. Glad others are finally starting to get it.

SonOfSpam

That’s great, but he’s not talking about being a janitor in a gay porn theater.

Shogun Marcus

You’re wrong, but go fuck yourself.

SonOfSpam

Also, the whole reason we have the fat abortion in the White House is that his opponent had a vagina. Ok, maybe not the whole reason, but there are a lot (A LOT) of men (and, sadly, even women) who couldn’t imagine a woman in the highest office in the land. You can draw a straight line from disrespecting the girls on your college campus to voting for the least qualified asshole ever.

Good work BFC.

King Hippo

I have picked up someone at the hospital who went through a series of abusive relationships (this one ended with her beaten to within an inch of her life, she had to get clothes out of the lost and found, too much blood on what she came in with). Sexual abuse (as a very young teen) left her with no self-esteem and chronic alcoholism, despite being both the most intelligent and most physically attractive person I have ever known.

laserguru

I was a little taken aback when my youngest daughter posted a “me too” but it appears as if 99% of my female friends did too.
It’s eye opening.

Don T

I agree. Physical overpowering is but one form of coercion. This is the kind of denunciation such a pervasive and demeaning practice deserves.
And, dammit: if you agree with the post, share it.

SonOfSpam

This is an impressive response considering you had to etch it on a palm frond and hope it floated to the mainland.

Don T

😂😂😂
That was my petition for independence and testament.

Buddy Cole's Off-Season Habit!
Buddy Cole's Off-Season Habit!

That Broadly link is fucking garbage. Fine, there are some convicted people on that ‘rapey’ list, but to include people who were merely accused and in some cases exonerated is really fucking shitty. Chris Cook is on that list, despite the fact that his girlfriend testified under oath that he didn’t choke her, and she lied about some of the events because she was mad at him getting texts from a stripper. Everyone loves defense attorneys, unless it’s a sex crime then people just want the accused to burn at the stake simply based upon an accusation.

I also was once accused of making someone “uncomfortable” because if my mental illness gets bad, I get what looks like a thousand yard stare in public, but it’s how I calm myself down. That made me never talk to the person again, and if this person was at any event (she was the friend of a friend) I refused to go. I avoid most people now regardless of gender for this very reason and I can come off like an asshole for doing so, but it’s better than getting burned again.

blaxabbath

“Not your funniest comment ever. We’re gonna have to let you go.” -John Lynch

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

Another shame is the shear number of smug assholes getting away with it. I am sorry this happened to you; you are in an extremely tough situation.

Unsurprised
Unsurprised

Burn it all to the fucking ground.

SonOfSpam

“Way ahead of you.”

– California

Redshirt

Agreed. Even the smallest type of assault can last for a person’s life.

I speak from personal experience.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

I felt shame.

This has been my primary reaction. While nobody has called me out directly, I know damn well that there are far too many women who would not be wrong to do so. I’d like to think that I’m a better person now, but God only knows if it’s simply a product of waning testosterone as I’ve gotten older. I really feel like shit when I think about some of the ways I behaved when I was younger.

King Hippo

Men are garbage. Men who don’t admit they’re garbage really ought to just have some quality head in oven time.

/no excuse not to work on becoming lesser garbage

Buddy Cole's Off-Season Habit!
Buddy Cole's Off-Season Habit!

“Head in Oven” sounds like a Auschwitz-themed Andres Serrano sculpture.

Horatio Cornblower

Jesus Christ, Buddy.

Old School Zero

Yes, this. I’ve been struggling a lot with that. I’ve come a long way but that doesn’t change the past. And that sticks with me. I’ve had a real urge lately to get back to counseling work, even as a volunteer, to specifically help young men, on this and other issues, because it’s really clear we have another young generation of lonely isolated dudes getting burned by the toxic culture indoctrinating them, leading to a resurgence of a lot of awful shit.

Shogun Marcus

Bravo. I’d post a Standing Ovation, but fuck that, you know you’ve done good.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

Standing during ovations is disrespectful to the troops. For some reason it’s the exact opposite of the national anthem. I know, I know, it’s weird.

blaxabbath

#GoNoles

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Shogun Marcus

You ever look at him and can tell his wiring is just wrong somehow? Like behind the eyes you can see something isn’t soldered right. He will NAWT have a good post fitbaw career.

King Hippo

Yes indeed. It’s more than a bit scary.