What men call the “Friend Zone” is very often the Danger Zone for women

I was asked by the Imago gals to respond to the Elliot Roger shooting that occurred in Santa Barbara in May. Not long ago an attempted “copycat” massacre was prevented at the University of Washington.  A young man emulating Roger said he would “do the right thing this time” and “only kill women.”

As I read about Roger’s manifesto, with a naive sense of utter disbelief, I found myself recalling certain memories. These memories were of all the times I had been threatened with violence for refusing to engage in sexual activity with a man (or boy as the case may be). I never shared these incidents with anyone and I think there are a lot of complex reasons for that. I think one of the main reasons, however, is that because I survived these incidents generally unscathed that I had no right to “complain.” This makes me stop and think, “Wow. How did society get me to qualify myself as a complainer for disliking threats on my life?”

  • First incident. Grade 9. Two boys from class followed my friend and I as we walked home from school. The boys wanted to come in to my friend’s house. Both of our mothers had expressly forbidden this so I said no. One of the boys then suggested I go to the park with him and give him a blowjob. When I said no, he said, “Then why the fuck did I walk all the way here?” and pushed me into the street, into oncoming traffic. I was startled by his aggression. A car honked and skinned me. The driver was probably judging me as a stupid girl flouncing about in the street.  My friend yelled at the boys as I stood there in shock. The next day in gym class I overheard the boy who had pushed me say, “I can’t believe I almost dated her.”
  • Second incident. Grade 11. A house party commemorating senior graduation. I had to beg and plead with my parents to be allowed to attend. They were so upset and I didn’t get it at all. What did they think would happen? I spent most of the night sitting on a couch with one of my best guy friends. He drank quite a bit. I didn’t drink at all. He started to get closer and closer to me. At one point he started to whisper in my ear.

“Aren’t you tired of being friends?”
“We’ve done this long enough”
“I know you want it.”
“I’ve seen the way you are with other guys.”
“Come on.  I’ve always respected you.”

I can’t explain my reaction. Why I was just frozen there. I felt as though this couldn’t be the mild-mannered friend I had known all year. I wondered if it was the alcohol. I had never been drunk. Maybe this is what happens?

His hand travelled up my skirt and his drink spilled on my lap. I jumped up and went to the bathroom with a girlfriend.  I don’t think she realized what was going on, because she let him into the bathroom as she scrubbed my skirt. He pushed me hard onto the bathtub and said he’d been trying to be nice but if that wasn’t going to work he could be mean. I started to yell at him, but most of all I was crying because I really thought this person was my friend. My girlfriend’s dad had to come pick us up because I was so terrified of facing my own parents. Terrified even though I had done nothing wrong. Prom was a week later and I heard he took a classmate’s virginity in their limousine. I remember thinking, “Oh good. At least he got what he wanted.” I think back to that thought process and shudder. Why was that my first thought? Why did I feel guilty about not satisfying him? Why didn’t I wonder if that girl had been coerced or hurt? Back then I assumed that I was the prude, that there was something wrong with me.

  • Third incident. College. I went on one date with this really funny guy. When I rejected his physical advances, he started to cry and said I was just like every girl in his high school who had sex with everyone except him. I told him I was a virgin and that I wasn’t having sex with anyone. He called me a “lying c*nt* and said I’d learn my lesson. These were the days of MSN chat and for weeks afterwards a random user was sending me threats for being a “c*ck tease.” I was sure it was him but I didn’t think I should, or could, complain to anyone about it.

I know this was a very long-winded and perhaps overly-personal response to a terrible tragedy. I wish it was an extensive list of the times men have been aggressive toward me, but it isn’t. What I realized in recalling these incidents, and why I think they came to mind in relation to the Elliot Roger case, is how normal I believed threats of violence to be if I didn’t acquiesce to what men wanted. I had a very complicated relationship to my virginity as a young woman. I thought I needed to hold on to it because I’d be worthless without it. However, I also believed I was torturing men by being a virgin and I understood and apologized when they became frustrated with me. I made excuses for the males in these situations over and over again. I should have made it clear I wasn’t offering sexual favors in exchange for the walk home. He was really drunk. I should have declared my Virgin Status on the first date.

No more apologies. No more excuses. #YesAllWomen