relationships · social philosophy

Thoughts about #ihave

The #ihave hashtag is a response to the #metoo hashtag. The #metoo hashtag shares stories of (primary women) people’s experience being the victims of sexual assault or harassment.

The #ihave hashtag is a response to calls of ‘Where are all the men who have commited these offences?’.

Here’s one such tweet:

This Facebook post here is the one that I saw first – of men using the hashtag to admit their own role.

I’ve long thought that the conversation about sexual assault has lacked the perpertrators side of it, and that ultimately isn’t helpful.

This Ted talk here was produced a few years ago – it’s very moving, and I think the conversation needs to sound more like this. The problem with hearing just the voices of victims is that it doesn’t help us understand why all these assaults are taking place.

There’s a reason perpertrators are reluctant to tell there story of course – there’s a huge social stigma to being labelled a creep or a rapist.

So when I saw this hashtag being a thing – I was faced with a binary decision. Do I jump on board and admit that I’ve done creepy things before, or do I conciously ignore it?

Seeing this as an opportunity to make the change that I want to see – more honest and pragmatic dialog around sexual assault – I jumped on board.

I first posted on Twitter – which is relatively safe. Although it uses my real name and is easily tracable back to me – I don’t really have any followers there. My Facebook on the other hand is a different story – I’m friends with all of my family there, women I have potential romatic possibilities with, and some, but not many, people from work.

I ultimately decided it would be more effective posting there and did it. The message I posted was:

I feel nervous posting this – but I think it’s genuinely, and perhaps a more difficult part of the conversation that needs to be happen if we want to make progress, so here goes: #ihave. I’m hoping this hashtag catches on.

I made it public, so it would show up when other people are exploring the hashtag.

It’s worth acknowledging that the post is fairly coy – making no reference at all to sexual assault or other violations.

I was immediately asked by my brother what it was in reference to, and I had to clarify it was in reference to sexual assault/harrasment.

The response I got was supportive. Supportive messages and heart reacts, from women I respect. No nasty messages or comments.

I observed two men within my immediate Facebook network posted similar posts, and at least two more in the networks beyond that – but I didn’t look especially hard to find them.

I wouldn’t say the experience was relieving, although I am grateful and impressed at the grace demonstrated in the responses. I was constantly checking my Facebook and Twitter feeds for new mentions of #ihave, and getting into arguments with people on Twitter. It’s one of those conversations where speaking up is good, but it’s better to make a couple of bold and sensitive comments, than to create noise with all the rest.

There’s also the knowledge that there are probably plenty of people have probably seen the post, but haven’t said anything. They’ll now be wondering ‘Just what did David do?’ and look at my sideways. The whole thing makes my social situation a bit more complicated. (Note: The details of what infractions I’ve committed I’m not going to get into here. It’s a sensitive topic, and just as your wouldn’t insist a #metoo talks about their experiences publicly with strangers – the same goes for #ihaves. A retrospective edit: it occurs to me that for people who know me – they might find this lack of specificity disconcerting and be unsure about how wary to be of me – so to clarify – nothing violent, no penis in vagina rape, no drugging; there has been unwanted physical advances that they were unappreciated were soon made apparent to me, and other behaviour that has creeped women out).

I would also stress that it’s not like the #metoo campaign brought me to some sudden and recent profound realisation. This is something I’ve been working with for years – it’s just now that the #ihave trend gave an explicit window to say something – the other choice being consciously ignoring it.

I didn’t participate out of an act of self-flagellation – I participated because I want more light to be shone on this very much unspoken about part of the conversation.

Speaking broadly – regarding my emotional and mental wellbeing, my social life, my sense of life satisfation – feelings of guilt around my interactions with women are a significant, but not the only hazard I’ve been dealing with. There’s also addiction, depression, and selfishness/lazyness.

These are all things I’ve been managing, with ups and downs over the last several years. Things that have helped have been exercise, a good diet, not smoking weed, private journalling and vulnerable conversations with people I trust.

Recently things have been going quite well for me – I’ve been motivated, my exercise is going well, and I’ve been having good romantic interactions with women (including one recently where I explained ‘It’s really important for me to use my words to scope out how you feel about a thing. I feel much more comfortable doing it that way.’).

So while I do think I did a good thing by participating – I also I feel like I’ve potentially jepordised my own emotional and social wellbeing, and it did set me in a bit of spin. I didn’t have a particularly productive day. I do feel a bit better now that I’ve written all this – writing is one of my ways of maintaining a healthy emotional state.

In terms of improving our sexual culture for future – for our children – I would say the single biggest thing we need to do is talk more about consent. Give examples of how to seek and how to give or decline consent.

In terms of improving our own wellbeing for traumas of the past – I do think that forgetting things is a healthy mental mechanism for getting over trauma, and that’s where I’m not really interested in reliving or rehashing a lot of this stuff. For my own well being, I want to keep moving forward.

I know that there’s a lot of people who think that’s selfish and irresponsible of me. But I don’t think continuing to live in guilt or shame is going to improve anything for anyone – bar people who get a sadistic sense of satisfaction at seeing people in misery.

My advice for both #ihaves and #metoos is to not keep rolling around in the gutter if you don’t have to. You only get one life – it’s not like at the end they’re going to say ‘you got a shitty roll, here, have another go’. I say the best way to heal is to keep reliving your trauma but go out and have good, healing experiences that set the new normal.

I guess what I really mean when I say I don’t want to keep rehashing this stuff – is that I’m not keen to keep writing on this topic in an open and public manner, at least for now. It’s stressful and generates a lot of social uncertainty. I’d happily engage in some kind of research project relating to my experiences where I’ve good a chance to tell my side of the story. And I guess gauging how things go – I could keep writing about it – but I do have other things I’m doing with my life. That’s at least where things are at two days after participating.

There’s a couple of consent related things I produced a while ago – which I never posted (in large part, because I was very self conscious about it), so I’ll probably post those – but from where I am now – I don’t feel like this is an issue I want to keep engaging with. (Unless it’s talking about tricks for making consent and social rejection fun and less awkward – in which case I’m totally into that – because that’s a fun topic.).

One more thing – in my own experiences with being the victim of workplace bullying I know how powerful an apology is for moving forward. An apology seems like a simple thing – but I think most of us find apologising difficult – probably out of a sense of pride and thinking that they’re not necessary. For anyone who has been on the receiving end of my advances – I genuinely am sorry – and I hope this piece is demonstrative of that; I wish you peace and happiness for your life.

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