The first time it happened, I was nineteen.
I was at a fraternity party with my roommate during my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t the first frat party I had ever attended, but I had only been to a handful at that point in time.
The two of us drank Keystones and attempted to mingle with strangers. Around twenty minutes in, my roommate volunteered us to play a round of beer pong, at which point some of the frat bros had gathered around us and were being very friendly to say the least. One guy was so friendly in fact, he didn’t seem to have any concept of personal space. He began to casually touch my arm, my back, and even went so far as to kiss my hand at one point, which I thought was insanely off-putting.
At first, I didn’t know what to do, and chalked it up to him being a friendly drunk. But, then he grabbed my ass, and there was no more room left for interpretation. I should have scolded him and set him straight, but I just froze and finally managed to wander away from him. Right after that, I made my way over to my roommate and discretely whispered, “We have to go.”
When we finally got to the car, I told her what had really happened — that that douchebag thought he was entitled to unsolicitedly put his hands all over me and grab by ass like it was a fucking stress toy and not attached to an actual human being. I honestly don’t know what was going through his mind. Maybe he thought he had a right to grab my body, maybe it was just a collection of absentminded touches.
Maybe he thought that by showing to up to the party, I had given every frat bro license to do whatever he pleased with me. I had previously had experiences with handsy men before, but this was a whole new crapshoot of horror for me.
As sad as it might sound, I haven’t felt completely safe at cubs, bars, or parties since then. Not just because of the particular instance. But also because of the series of catcalling and groping that would later follow me all throughout college. Not one night was I able to go out to a bar and enjoy myself without some slimy, sweaty dude ruining the entire evening for me by saying something vile or putting his hands all over me without my consent.
I remember one night during my senior, I was going to a bar with some female friends. As we were walking across campus some asshole in his dorm room shouted, “SLUTS!” at us from his window as we passed by. After promptly telling him to fuck off, I started thinking about all of these various shitty scenarios that just kept escalating and accumulating. What made these boys think they had the right to degrade us and treats us as subhumans when we were simply just trying to go out and live our lives?
While the catcalling was always annoying and even sometimes infuriating, what really pissed me off was the groping. After a rigorous week of writing essays and taking tests that same year, my roommate and I went to a club to blow off some steam. I was looking forward to dancing and enjoying the atmosphere.
We hadn’t been at the club for very long before a group of random men began to surround us. I tried to my best to block everything out and enjoy myself and the overall experience, but before I knew it some entitled man had come up behind me and suctioned his hands to my waist. I was taken aback to say the least. He hadn’t even bothered to say hello or introduce himself. Hell, I hadn’t even seen his face before he grabbed my hips and pulled me against him. After the initial shock wore off, I took his hands and yanked them away from my person.
I was angry and sad and feeling a swirl of emotions. I wanted to leave so I could change into some sweatpants and not have to be around these assholes any longer, but my roommate wanted to stay. It was as if she had just accepted that being assaulted and harassed was just common place behavior that came with territory of being a woman. And sure, it is all too common and pervasive, but that certainly does not make it acceptable or okay.