Can’t Touch This.

It’s not every day that I feel as though I have something in common with Taylor Swift.

Let’s face it: the girl is basically my foil. She’s tall AF, blonde and rail thin (don’t worry, I’m proud of my peach). She can walk in any iteration of the high heel and she also dated two of my imaginary Hollywood boyfriends, John Mayer and Harry Styles.

In other words, we have nothing in common.

But recently Taylor has made headlines because she’s fighting back against a DJ who allegedly sexually assaulted her during a photo op after one of her concerts.

“He took his hand and…grabbed onto my ass cheek,” she said in her 2013 deposition.

I’ve cut out a few of the details included in her statement, but the gist of the situation is just this: a guy touched her without her consent, she didn’t like it and now she’s fighting back.

Clearly, I’m no celeb, and the following story is just another one on a WordPress page, floating into the Internet abyss. But I think it’s important to point out how this kind of thing happens every. single. day.

And weekend night. In Camden. On your friend’s birthday when you’re wearing tights, a skirt and a turtleneck, minding your own business walking back from the toilet, not “asking for” any creepy, self-entitled man in a cable-knit sweater to reach out and grab your ass without any shred of consent on your end.  

You can probably guess what happened to me this weekend.

I turned around as soon as I felt his hand on me and looked him right in the face, but I couldn’t muster up the strength or courage to say anything. I walked back to the table where my friends were sat but didn’t sit down.

“Some guy just grabbed my ass?”

I know my friends fed me with support in that moment, but I don’t remember it because I just felt so violated and fuzzy and defeated by the fact that I let it pass without causing a SCENE.  

I had to do something

…But, because I’m only 5’2 and have a face youthful enough to make a cherub look like he smokes a pack a day, I decided to ask the people working behind the bar for a bit of back-up.

The first bartender I approached reacted just as angrily as I could have hoped.

“Those guys are fucking assholes,” he said. (I might’ve Americanised that sentence, but you get the point.)

“I’ll tell my manager.”

God bless the female manager who had no qualms with immediately throwing out this insane clown and his posse. Unfortunately, the two of us power feminists couldn’t do it alone, so we grabbed a bouncer, who also seemed genuinely disgusted that anyone would attempt such a thing.

I gotta tell you, it felt pretty refreshing to have an entire group of people supporting me in my quest for justice post-sexual assault, because that doesn’t happen often enough — let’s fix this plz, thx. Oh, and the vindication felt when you get rid of the guy who did something to you without permission is basically the best form of relief I’ve ever felt, and I have smoked weed at least a dozen times in my life.

I went on to enjoy the rest of my night knowing that I had stood up for myself for the first time in this type of situation. Obviously, the unwanted ass-grabbing has bonded me with tall, towhead TayTay, too, but what really struck me was her description of how she felt afterward.

Here’s how Taylor recounted her own experience: “I remember being frantic, distressed, feeling violated in a way I had never experienced before… I was completely stunned. I was really upset.”

It so resonates with me.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that even something that seems minor, like a hand on the bum, can make you feel so worthless in an instant. I didn’t ever expect to feel as badly as I did afterward. It makes you feel inhuman to have someone put his hands on you like that because he’s not treating you like a person with thoughts or feelings or limits or opinions as to whether or not you’d like the hand there in the first place.

Later, I tried to imagine what it would be like for other women who experienced sexual assaults much worse than mine, and I can’t fathom what it’s like to rebuild after that. I guess that the first step in recovery is standing up and saying that what happened wasn’t okay. I am not sure, though: every person’s journey to regain balance after a traumatic experience is different and sacred.

So, clearly, here’s what’s Asleep this week: ignoring a woman’s right to consent, even if it’s “just” a squeeze or an uncomfortably long stare or an overly sexual statement. Just… stop it. Take a second to learn what it feels like from the other end and realize what you’re doing can have a lasting effect on someone’s psyche; then, keep your damn hands to yourself.

Taylor and I thank you in advance.  

Andrea Marchiano

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