The Lives of Women

[Content Note: Threat of sexual violence; abuse; misogyny.]

This morning, I read this Twitter moment in which a woman recounts her experience of being tricked and creeped-on and intimidated by a man who came to her house ostensibly to purchase an appliance.

It reminded me of the time a plumber came to my house and was thoroughly menacing, which I recounted in a thread:
This thread reminded me of the time a plumber kept trying to corner me in my bathroom, while I was showing him where the problem sink was. The flash of frustrated anger in his eyes when he realized there was a back door that I could slip through (and did).

Men often accuse women of jumping to the worst conclusions, but I kept trying to convince myself he was just "awkward" not creepy, even as he escalated. He complimented my tattoos, while leering at me. He kept talking about my hair. And then he started trying to corner me.

I honestly don't know what would have happened if there hadn't been another door in that bathroom, around a corner, which he hadn't yet seen. I could only get to it by allowing him to think he was cornering me, and it was terrifying.

After he was done with his work, he lingered in my kitchen, leaning on my counter, "doing paperwork." He kept looking around and finding things on which to comment, like the Hillary flyer on my fridge. (This was during the election.)

He talked shit about her. He liked Trump. He licked his lips. I tried to remain as jolly as fucking possible. By this point, my dog was at my side, just looking at him. He kept glancing at her. When I knew he was intimidated by her, I told him to wrap it up. "It's time to leave."

And when he finally left, I slumped in a heap, while the adrenaline drained from my body. I just sat on the floor in the entryway, with my dog lying across my lap, for a long time.

This, friends, was not the only bad/scary experience I've had with men coming to the house in a professional capacity while I'm home alone. It was just the most recent one.

This is something about which I would love to not have anxiety. But some number of men being inappropriate while in my home on a repair/delivery/maintenance job has made that impossible. Having dogs helps.
I knew I'd mentioned this story at Shakesville soon after it had happened, but that I had concealed the extent of it. I went back to find it: "He also stared at my boobs a lot, and commented on my tattoos. I smiled and I said thank you, and he used the excuse of trying to guess how old they were to stare at them a little longer. I made polite conversation, with my back to a closed door. Holding his gaze, like two people just happily chatting, I reached for the doorknob behind my back and held onto it, just in case."

The "just in case" actually happened, but I ended the story there. Like Hannah Gadsby in Nanette, confessing she had minimized a story of an anti-gay assault to make it a palatable joke.

Perhaps part of me was trying to make the story more palatable, but mostly I was trying to avoid precisely the response I got on Twitter today: "I hope that you reported him."

Because I didn't.

And I felt ashamed about that.

So I made it sound like something less bad had happened to me, so no one would blame me for not reporting him.

But I know that I shouldn't feel bad about that. I've tried reporting abusive men before. It has never gone well.

I reported rape to the police and to school authorities and to adults who were meant to protect me, and nothing happened, except that it made my rapist vengeful. I reported sexual harassment to an employer, only to have the only female veep side with the women and get forced out of the firm. I reported abusive repairmen to their boss, only to have him tell me that I was being a real bitch. I reported online threats to my life to federal authorities and was told to go to local police who told me to go to federal authorities. I report (only extreme) abuse on social media and get told more times than not that it doesn't violate the terms of service.

Et cetera ad infinitum.

Today, I replied: "I did not. Because: 1. He kept talking about coming back to my house, which felt menacing. 2. I have learned from experience that reporting a man for being creepy/inappropriate doesn't result in any real consequences for him. It just pisses off a man who knows where you live. I know some people will get angry at me, reading that. I will advise you to redirect your ire where it actually belongs: The institutions that repeatedly protect men when women do try to report them and expose those women to retributive harm. See: The latest SCOTUS battle."

The truth is, I did have to turn that handle and walk through that door to get away from a plumber who was scaring me. And the truth is, I did not report him, because I was scared he would come back if I did, since I have learned that reporting puts me at more risk and does not diminish the risk for other women.

What I did was tell everyone I know locally not to use that plumbing service, and tell them to pass it on. The whisper network. Because official channels don't save us. So we have to save each other.

Anyway. Here is a thread to talk about the things that have happened to you, and the stories you haven't told, or minimized when you did tell them, because you were afraid. Afraid of being hurt, and then afraid of being shamed.

If you need to.

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