Tonight at work a man called me while he jacked off. You read that correctly. To reiterate, in case you don’t understand, a man called me while he was masturbating, yanking it, jerkin’ the gerkin,’ acting out the grapes of wrath, or whatever other euphemism you can think of. At first I didn’t know what was happening. I work at a hotel and he muttered, almost at a whisper, “hi.. haaah, um I’d like to find out about a reservation, uh just a second….”Now this was a bit strange, but I work in customer service and deal with people all day and a lot of people are strange. I have had many bizarre phone conversations with people who had scraped together so few social skills in their life time I’m surprised they were able to dial a phone. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I thought when he paused that he was looking for his credit card to make a reservation, or some such other common thing people I talk to while at work typically do. By the end of the minute and a half or so I was on the line with him it became very clear what was happening. When I heard him say “uuhhh…. mm fuuuuuuuck yeah” I hung up the phone. At first I was shocked. And then yeah, it was a bit funny for about a millisecond, because it was so shocking. And then I got angry. And then I got so angry I almost cried (rage-crying is that infuriating quality, when you want to strangle someone but instead your body betrays you and makes you look sad instead of powerful and angry). I was pretty surprised at myself for wanting to cry because this wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, I usually find masturbation funny, and goddamn it my body was betraying me and making me seem sad instead of fucking livid. But then the crying feeling went away and I was just left with livid, the stage I am currently on and have been on ever since about 2 minutes after that phone call.
I could barely finish up my tasks at work. I couldn’t focus. I rarely feel hate. I don’t even like saying I “hate” something or someone. But I felt pure hate for this person on the other end of the phone. I wanted to call him back, but the number wasn’t available. I wanted to report him to the police, but that made me feel silly, like I’d be wasting their time. I really wanted to find him and give him a good throat punch (no “but” to that, I still really want to do that). When I told my male co-worker what happened he told me to “just think of it like he found your voice attractive.” Well, I was already in my livid stage so I responded with “NO. Fuck no. That’s not how that works. NO.” He seemed a little nervous and desperate to not be talking to me anymore. Women don’t feel flattered because someone sexually harassed them, and it’s not their job to try to feel flattered. Another male co-worker looked at me in disbelief and said slowly, “I’m.. sooo sorrry you had to deal with that.” Correct response, thank you kind sir. I told a female coworker and she said “oh yeah, he’s called here before. He did it for months, for several hours each night he’d call over and over.” Then my female co-worker discerned that it was probably not the same man, because the one who called me didn’t call back multiple times and the one who harassed her called from a toll-free number (a coward sexual harasser and cheap, how nice). “Yeah, it doesn’t sound like him because he would call up to 50 times in one night. He terrorized us for months,” she said. “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS SOMETHING WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH,” I thought. So, at least one, possibly two different men call our front desk and if they get a woman on the line, they masturbate to the sound of her confusion and disgust before she realizes what is happening and hangs up on him. Cool.
For the record, if you’re reading this, swamp-monster-garbage-humans of the world, there are consensual ways of having phone sex that don’t make you a sexual harassment dickhead.
Some people reading this might be thinking, “so what? This isn’t that big of a deal. It’s kind of funny.” Okay, it can be funny. If you think pervy sacks of shit in their basement taking a break from trolling the internet to harass women at work because they’re too shitty of a human being to leave their house and find a willing person to have sex with are funny. But it also can add to the general feeling that I am not safe as a woman and as a person. If you are a woman and you don’t feel that way then I’m happy for you that you feel safe! That’s wonderful (probably a false sense of security, imo, but all the power to you). If you are a man and you don’t understand this then let me explain it. You’re at work, you get a phone call from a man who is masturbating. He likes the fact that it shocks you and that you don’t know how to respond. Just a little thing right? Okay, so now work is done. How do you get home? Well you could go to the bus stop, but there have been two sexual assaults at the bus stop on Douglas in the past week (your sister’s work sent out an email with tips on how to avoid assault after these two incidents. “Look confident” was one piece of advice. Look confident- or maybe people could just stop sexually assaulting other people? That’s a good way to avoid assault). One of these assaults happened around 8am and the other around 7pm (on one of the busiest downtown streets in your city). Okay, so you could walk but it’s 11 pm and if women are being assaulted on busy streets how safe are you going to be on the smaller streets by your home? Okay, so you’ll cab then. It costs money that you barely have but at least you’ll feel safer. Oh right, a woman was raped in a Yellow Cab on her birthday a couple years ago and that cab diver was still allowed to drive cabs, just only during the day time, so as not to cause him financial stress (because everyone knows people are only assaulted at night, duh). This is something I think about every time I go to and from work. Let’s not mention the two separate times men reached out an grabbed my breast on the city bus when I was 19 and 20. Or the time at a club when I was dancing with my girlfriend and a man quickly slipped his hand up my skirt and under my underwear to touch my vagina.
If you are a man, or if you don’t identify with a gender, and you are reading this and you have been assaulted too then I’m truly so sorry. If you’re a man reading this who is thinking “I’m not like that,” or “Hey, not all men!” you’re right. Not all men. You might not assault women or call them bitches and whores when they reject you at the club. But you seem to be incapable of empathy because I’m here telling you that not a day goes by that I don’t feel unsafe and your first instinct is to think about yourself, and how my discomfort and my fear of very real and common things that happen to women everyday isn’t your fault. Instead, please just listen, empathize and think about that when you interact with women in your life. Because it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted by having to look over my shoulder. I’m exhausted by the news stories. I’m exhausted by the justice system’s handling of sexual assault. I’m exhausted by the fact that the President of the United States brags about assaulting women and settled a rape case out of court before his inauguration. I’m exhausted that I can’t even wear both my headphones after 7 pm for fuck sakes because I have to be vigilant. I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to have to waste any more energy consoling you that “not all men” are shitbags. If you’re not assaulting women (or people in general) you don’t need a pat on the back, you need to get on our side. No need to defend yourself if you haven’t done anything wrong, so why bother being defensive?
I’m exhausted and I’m livid, and sometimes I rage- cry. My sister summed it up well when she said “It sucks, and there is basically nothing you can do with that anger.” We can write blog posts though. And we can become lawyers and justices. And we can work at sexual assault centres. And we can teach children (ours and other’s) about respect, consent and compassion. And we can MARCH.