There is little that piques me. I like dark, even inappropriate, humor. So I guess it attains sense that I stood there giggling after I was sexually persecuted for 80 hours during a massage I established during my one-night-a-week job as a massage therapist.
I learned the hard way that one of the funny events about sexual harassment is that you might not know it’s happened even after it’s happened. You might stand there laughing and thinking, I can’t wait to tell my husband about this slink, as if you had assure a new Netflix show that you weren’t the starring of.
You may not know that there is a lag time between the lizard intelligence — the oldest part of the brain which is responsible for primitive survival inclinations such as fear — and real experience, and it can be one of the reasons you don’t flee an abusive situation like you thought you would. Or even realize the extent of what happened until days later.
This 6’4” soldier, who was so big his arms didn’t fit on the massage table, knew what he was doing. And in hindsight, after my lizard skin molted, I could see it very, strategically mapped out.
It started with friendly conversation about where we grew up, and a big career win he’d had earlier that day that I praised him on.
How open is this one? he was surely thinking, estimating his entering extent. I often prefer no talking when working on a purchaser, as affording massages constitutes a form of meditation for me — a sacred, placid seat where youths aren’t, where no one is asking me for snacks, and my thought and figure simultaneously get to focus on simply one chore. But if the customer is is newsy, I go with it. I’m in the service industry, after all.
The man enticement me with a question.
“Do you have any life daydreams that you want to pursue? ” This was after we had talked about his armed background, his wife and kids, his knee surgeries, and his over-seven-figure salary.
I asked something tap like, “Other than going to Hawaii more often, I’m be doing what I want to be doing.” And then like a good conversationalist, I asked him the same question back. I now know that this was exactly what he wanted.
“How honest can I be? ” he said.
“It’s up to you.”
When I said this, it didn’t cross my sentiment that he would use the most rude oaths, with such colorful detail and length comparison to Coke cans and forearms — and with such specific accent and emphasis — to tell me all about his sexual desires.
“I genuinely wanted to my cock sucked by a serviceman again.” He delivered all the details of his past aloud in the minuscule, cozy office we both inhabited, spa music playing softly in the background, his naked torso on the squishy counter, covered under a expanse and my hands.
Once I reattached my jaw and subsequently determined my articulation, I told him he should stop telling me these storeys. But he didn’t ever stop.
“You have to tell me yours because I told you mine, ” he said playfully, like I was a horny high schooler in a closet , not a mom at her place of work.
What’s funny about sexual harassment is I can consider myself a strong feminist who rallyings around other victimized women and strives to be a solid role model for my daughter and son, teach them all about approval and form freedom, and I can still lose my voice and enterprise when I’m the one in disturbance while being victimized.
“There are only five other beings in the world that know this about me, ” he uncovered, purposefully mounting me up to wonder if he was being susceptible instead of violating, hoping I would think that maybe he was just pouring out his feeling. Then he accepted the eye pillow I offered him, “I want to be able to see you a little bit.” He asked me if I was going to tell my husband all the things he had said and then advocated, “How about you tell him right when you’re fucking him.”
The words shot out of his speak like missiles from a handgun. And I was his target.
What’s funny about sexual harassment is I can consider myself a strong feminist who revivals around other victimized women and strives to be a solid role model for my daughter and son, belief them all about consent and mas autonomy, and I can still lose my voice and authority when I’m the one in appall while being victimized. Just like in birth and parenting, what you thought you’d do in those intense, prepared-for minutes and what you actually do is also available two very different things.
I thought of myself as more of a dick-puncher/ “Get the fuck out of here” type, but little did I know that when these sleazebags are good at what they do, I may not really know what’s happening until it’s increased far past what I’m comfortable with. My own personality, situation, and dread of fomenting person three times my length might surpass the superhero name that I reputed would show up.
I too didn’t realize that every single person to hear my storey would have been able to the comfort of all the details laid out delicately in front of them, scatters already connected, learned from the get-go that this dude was in fact a creeper, and that I survived.
Right now, you as the reader know this man is human garbage because I did the legwork on that for you. But I didn’t is currently working of that while it was happening to me. I was chugging along, doing my job, trying to be professional, while a perpetrator lounged underneath my nurturing handwritings, purposefully orchestrating a sluggish, tactical erect that capture me by surprise.
After sharing my tale, some people have had the gall to say situations like, “I would’ve told him to fuck off, ” or “Why didn’t you leave? ” What their tone-deaf responses fail to recognize is that they are problem-solving from the safety and comfort of having all the facts and without feeling the consequences of the cortisol and lizard brain concoction. I now fully understand why some brides don’t tell their narratives. Sometimes the unconcerned reactions can be as traumatizing as the happen itself.
And yes, leaving the room was an option, but it wasn’t what I pick. In those instants, I couldn’t have told you why I wasn’t absconding. This analyzation is a gift of hindsight. While it was happening, I was operating off of my personal autopilot that was construct from daytimes as a latchkey child who treated circumstances herself. And I are of the view that tough chick would cut and run. But I found out that navigating a threatening situation is so complicated that simply the person in the crosshairs are aware of the internal flow diagram happening inside them:
This guy could snap me in half if I unnerve him, and we’re behind closed- door at the end of a deserted long hallway. I don’t know what he’s capable of, but it isn’t looking good. Better keep the rapport up. If I stop the massage and report him, how many unpleasant powwows will I find myself in saying the word “cock” to Ron the embarrassing HR guy, and the rest of the management? Will they believe me? Will I wrongfully lose my job over this? Will this being lie about me? If I make this a thing, will he target me afterwards? My minors? Better time get through this and be done with him forever.
I never relatively realized how persisting around for sexual harassment could feel like the safer alternative. Had he gotten physical with me, I’d like to think that I would’ve pushed or bolted. I’ve taken safety categorizes where I crotch-throttled a human in rioting gear, so I know I have it in me. But I can’t know what I would do in a brutal place because everything I foresaw I are informed about how I would handle this was wrong.
I now viscerally get why many ladies don’t flee — especially at work. It “ve been given” a newfound respect for every person who has been victimized by paroles, mitts or worse. I now understand the subtleties to why they feed, why they don’t, why they tell, why they won’t. And how sometimes not exploding developments in the situation is the safer choice.
I know we’re all supposed to be supporting women observing their expressions and the #MeToo movement, but we can’t be expected to smash the patriarchy when we’re in the middle of being harassed ourselves by that patriarchy. It’s a fight-or-flight deal that none of us deserve to be in. And I didn’t know that sometimes engaging can look like allowing.
For the past decade, I labor as a birth doula and childbirth instructor who likewise mentored women after harrowing births. And in the later part of those 80 instants that night, as I questioned myself about how I would be affected by what was transpiring, I remembered something from my pain improve. I remembered that part of trauma comes from the feeling of being paralyzed or frozen in the moment, and not is in operation — last-minute wishing you had done something or said anything. So, in a moment of fleeting lucidity, I requested myself, What do you need to do in this moment to come out of this less scathed, Brandy? I was rehearsing actual self-care , not that bubble tub bullshit. I knew what I needed to do, and it wasn’t to run. The communicator in me needed to speak up in some manner , no matter if it changed his behavior or not.
At the end of my massages, I sit at the client’s head, chafing their churches, then ears, imagining healing foresees for them and envisaging my shaft pleases integrating into their body which I have just tenderized. But this time, as I rubbed this man’s temples with a heavier handwriting than customary, I spoke up.
“You are lucky you got me tonight and not someone else. You could’ve gotten a woman who had been deeply persecuted before, and your words might have prompted or paralyzed her, ” I told him. “And I’m sure you don’t want to go through your life traumatizing women.” I made this news palatable to him so he wouldn’t choke me out.
“But I asked you? ” he replied.
He was referring to his earlier question about how honest he should be. Like a professional predator, he had turned it on me. Never sentiment that I had told him to stop and he didn’t.I was practicing actual self-care , not that bubble tub bullshit. I knew what I needed to do, and it wasn’t to run. The communicator in me needed to speak up in some manner , no matter if it changed his behavior or not.
On my practice home from work that night, I shared the whole story with a close friend. A awake, feminist friend.
“He prevailed, ” she chided. “He postulated his dominance and dominance in the situation. And it sounds like you actually consented and then consoled him.”
Her texts likewise felt like bullets. Imagine being persecuted and then hearing how you did it erroneous, how your primal actions had done a life-and-death disservice to all women. My sidekick was too focused on “the worlds largest” #MeToo movement to see that I didn’t make it comfortable for his sake. I teetered that punishment position between please don’t rape me and let me speak this truth for my own future well-being, and that was for my own damn existence. I can admire the internal savagery that all women feel when watching other women apparently become self-complacent, but I am a live, breathing person — I’m someone’s mother — not a gesture with a hashtag. After some words, tendernes rose for my well-intentioned-but-grossly-missed-the-mark friend. I knew how it felt to act differently than you thought you would. I professed her apology.
After the man came garmented, he filled me outside the area. I was grateful he hadn’t masturbated and left it for me to clean up. I entrust him a glass of freshening citrus spa liquid. It was the first time in 80 instants that my hands weren’t touching his body.
“I’m gonna give you a big tip, ” he said, smiling, and then deemed out $100 cash. Taking it would feel outraging, like I was endorsing his abuse. But likewise, he owed me something for blatantly exploiting the dominance dynamic between patron and service provider, between his length and mine, and then blurring the lines between my job description and his intentions. And so I made the money. I would deal with the shame later, likely at Nordstrom.
“Thank you for the care, ” he has just said he walked away. I struggled to reach look contact with him, feeling like an accomplice to my own assault. Halfway down the long corridor, he stopped and turned around, put his finger to his speak and said, “Shhhhh, ” as I stood there nursing my tip.
Brandy Ferner is an author, podcaster, blogger, mother, and lover of night feeling. In addition to HuffPost, she has bylines in Romper, TodayParents and CafeMom. For LOLs and real talk about motherhood, check out her “Adult Conversation” podcast, Faceboo k sheet, blog and forthcoming novel of the same name( May 2020, She Writes Press ).
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.