Warning: This column may be difficult to read for individuals who have experienced, or know those who have experienced, sexual assault and sexual misconduct. These terms refer to a range of unwanted behaviors including remarks about physical appearance, persistent sexual advances, threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior such as non-consensual or unwanted touching, sexual penetration, oral sex, anal sex, or attempts to engage in these behaviors.
Floating across newsfeeds and tweets, the Me Too campaign has made national headlines through asking those who have been either sexually assaulted or sexually harassed to write “Me Too”, aiming to give more of a sense to the magnitude of the problem and allow expression of individual experiences.
According to Cornell’s 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, “by their senior year, almost one in five (19 percent) of undergraduate women have experienced non-consensual penetration by force, incapacitation, or absence of affirmative consent.”
There are two ways in our lives in which we discover our sexuality: the first is the moment in which we realize we have sexual desires. There is the classic tale of the 10-year-old boy who discovers Playboy magazines stuffed under the basement couches (or in our era, pornhub.com) and quickly begins to understand how good it feels to yank one out into an old crusty sock. The first moment you realize that the butterflies in your stomach when you see that cute boy in your 10th grade history class mean you want to do more than just hold hands with him, and instead have daydreams in class about scenes that would give E.L. James a run for her money.
The second moment in which we come to realize sexuality is the moment when we understand ourselves as something that could be desired sexually by someone else. When the breasts bouncing off of your chest during the beep test in gym class cause the nearby boys’ jaws to physically drop; when you find a note in your locker that says “let’s make out under the bleachers.” Often these moments happen in synchronization – one intuitively follows the other, but I learned that I was sexualized long before I thought about the joy of having my first sexual experiences.
I was 11 years old and walking myself to school with a female friend who lived nearby. A man walking by me in the opposite direction shoved his hand towards my crotch, grabbing my underwear, rubbing his fingers over my vagina and attempting to shove them inside of me. He continued walking as if nothing had happened. I wanted to go to the police but my friend Emma insisted that they would not be able to do anything, and we continued to school. My sixth grade teacher found out and called my parents; I can’t imagine their pain as they learned that their 11-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by a stranger. I never said no, I never said stop. I had been wearing a short skirt. I thought I had led him on, I thought it was my fault.
My sophomore year of high school I lay under my boyfriend as we made out on his bed. He pulled my shirt off, and I insisted that things had gone too far. “No, no; it’s fine” he insisted. I conceded and allowed things to keep going. “I’m not sure I want to,” I requested, as we progressed to the point of no return. His arms pressed down on my shoulders, his naked body hanging down above me, “Honey, you’re going to be okay it’s no big deal.” I lay there unmoving and unspeaking as he entered and then finished inside of me. I never said no, I never said stop. I had initiated our hookup and we were dating. I thought I had led him on, I thought it was my fault.
My freshman year at Cornell, I attended a party at a fraternity annex. I started talking to a man I had met previously; our bodies came close. He leaned in to kiss me and I pulled away, turning to the side. So we both stood, our backs to the wall facing the rest of the room. He wrapped his hand over my shoulder hanging low across my chest. I went to walk away and he grabbed onto my breast, repeatedly squeezing and fondling me as I tried to leave. I never said no, I never said stop. I had been friends with him. I thought I had led him on, I thought it was my fault.
My story isn’t special. It isn’t unique. And, if this column truly illuminates a problem for you on Cornell’s campus that you somehow did not previously believe existed, it’s time to come out from beneath the rock you’ve been living under and take a stand. It’s time to teach victims that sexual assault is never their fault. It’s time to validate the experience of those who have been sexually assaulted. It’s time to hold organizations liable and accountable for the members of their organization who commit these crimes. Whether it’s athletics, religious groups, academic clubs or Greek Life. Any organization that seems to condone something so heinous needs to go. Full stop. To those who wrote “me too” in any context, fuck whoever did this to you and fuck anyone who has failed to believe you. Fuck the systems that have made reporting or actualizing your experience difficult.
And to Cornell, fuck you for creating a culture that has allowed this to fester and persist, fuck you for not doing anything, fuck you for making reporting as hard as taking a three credit class, fuck you for allowing fraternities with members who committed sexual assault to stay on campus because of donors with money, fuck you for letting young women who are victims/survivors believe it is their fault. To those who are victims/survivors who did not post, your voices are no less valuable and your experiences are fucking infuriating as well.
To Cornell: me too and fuck you.
Honey Ryder is a student at Cornell University. Sex on Thursdays appears alternate Thursdays this semester.