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December 15, 2015

‘Sorry, I Have a Boyfriend’

The season of socialising is upon us and we are once again lured into an intoxicating scene of boozing and nightclub hopping. The essence of an Irish Christmas, after all, is a drunken sing-song in a smoking area. On a serious note however, for young women, the yuletide period can be troublesome and potentially dangerous.

Scarily enough, the question to girls is not ‘Have you ever been groped or sexually assaulted on a night out?’ but rather, ‘How many times has it happened to you?’ It is so commonplace, we barely even notice it. Worse still, we accept that it’s just the way things are.

A guy grabbed my bum one night and my automatic reaction was to slap him in the face. When I noticed the bouncer heading in my direction, I froze in panic, expecting to be reprimanded and ousted from the establishment. When instead, he threw Pervy Perverson out, I was shocked. Because I physically rebuffed his unwanted groping, I assumed that I was in the wrong and would be punished. That’s when I realised how deeply psychological this issue is.

Last weekend, I went to see my friend perform a one-woman show where she portrayed a morally bankrupt female who disregarded self-respect in the pursuit of male attention. The most alarming thing was that many of her statements rang true; one particular line that struck a chord was when she nonchalantly dismissed an older man groping her from behind because he, in fairness, bought her a drink.

Too often, we laugh off the sexism and the inappropriate behaviour because we don’t want to cause a fuss, or seem prudish. We don’t want to be ‘that girl’. We want to be ‘sound’. It seems preposterous to say it aloud, but these thoughts are so ingrained in our psyche, I don’t think we even realise how damaging they can be.

One prevalent example is the way we fob off pestering admirers by saying ‘Sorry, I have a boyfriend’, even if this is not the case. First of all: why are we sorry? Sorry your explicit chat up-line didn’t leave me weak at the knees? Sorry I haven’t mounted you as gratitude for staring down my top? By claiming your allegiance to another male, you make excuses for the fact that his advances have been in vain. You feel like you must offer some sort of explanation because you don’t want to seem like an uptight bitch.

We blame ourselves:  I’m wearing a short skirt. I’m drunk. I should be flattered that he called me sexy. We tell ourselves that anything other than the textbook definition of rape is simply not serious enough to warrant our ‘feminist bullshit’ and so, we keep our mouths shut and smile.

Girls, this needs to stop. Stop accepting this behaviour as normal. Stop apologising to pig stranger man. Stop apologising for respecting your body because if you don’t, he certainly won’t. Steer clear of the Leering Larrys and hang out with decent boys who don’t refer to you as a ‘ride’. Stay safe this Christmas!

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