©2017 C. Henry Martens
Well… as I am writing this another man has been accused of abusing women sexually. I am not writing this to make excuses for men. Far from it, I recognize how male behavior can be reprehensible. The only comment I have in this regard is that people are increasingly looking for black and white perfection, when the world is a very gray place. In this context, the gray areas we seem to easily forget, I write this article.
The recent news stories have brought many thoughts to me. I am a feminist in that I believe in equality of opportunity. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I believe in supporting and fighting for a forum for my wife and daughter and granddaughter to express their concerns, and as long as they are legitimate and well presented… to change my thought processes and actions to accommodate them.
Just as I do for myself and my son and grandson. Equality.
In this most recent process, I am seeing a huge lack of reciprocity, the opportunity for men to participate in any dialogue. I have tried, but women are angry, and my own experience has been to be shut down and even vilified for presenting a male perspective.
But being told that the only “proper response is to shut up” doesn’t stop the thought process.
So I’ve been thinking while I listen. And my thoughts began to naturally wander toward my own experiences. I have a couple of encounters in my past where I wonder if I crossed the line as an adult. I don’t *know*, but I believe I may have stepped beyond propriety. I regret these experiences.
I was also sexually curious as a child, but after research, I found out that 85% of children have sexual experiences within the context of play and that these experiences are considered natural and normal. I might add that even if the roughly 50% that are male were 100% engaged, that would mean 75% of females would be engaged to get to the 85% stated from my source.
But I was still thinking. As the conversations continued, the numbers of men grew, the anger and frustration swelled… I kept thinking, and much of it was about my past experiences.
And then the light bulb came on.
You see, even though I have never seen my experiences as abusive from my male perspective… as in MYSELF being abused, in the context of the way these discussions are framed many of them WERE abusive to ME.
Remembering them, I began to place myself in the memories as the female participant and the woman as the male participant. A thought experiment. And the light bulb BLAZED.
The most obvious one was where a much older woman offered me a place to live during a temporary job in the area she lived. I had rented an apartment in a house, the building sold, and I was scrambling to find a place to live. She worked as a hostess at a local restaurant where I had breakfast every morning, and she offered her cabin at the lake. She said as long as she didn’t charge rent, no one would care. But they did… and soon she was offering an extra bedroom in her home. A home she shared with her husband and a son that was almost as old as me. Soon she was offering to “take me to ecstasy”, and nuzzling my neck in unsolicited embraces. And what was I to do? I was titillated and felt complimented as she was a stunningly beautiful woman. And I needed a place to live. I’m absolutely sure her husband knew what was going on as time went on. There was too much sun lotion being applied, too many unnecessary hugs, too many interrupted whispers.
I managed to avoid coitus, although this woman tried mightily to arrange encounters. She and her husband even showed up at my wedding, driving several hundred miles, she to proposition me the night before the event.
Doesn’t this sound like abuse?
As I continued to think about the past, my growing list of experiences, I came to realize that the women involved were as likely to be abusive of me, perhaps more so.
I have two fingers on my hand where I feel I may have crossed a line. But I have both hands used when counting abuses of myself. Perhaps this discrepancy is natural. We tend to remember the slights in life more than the more subtle support, don’t we?
Some of the abuse was far less obvious than my example. Very similar to the stories I hear women expressing. The difference being that as a man my ego was being fed, and even when I was angry or disgusted, even accepting, I saw the abuse as a compliment.
I suspect that men don’t think of sexual encounters in the context of their own abuse. I know I didn’t. But I’ve learned…