What Every Man Needs to Consider in this #MeToo Moment
Hopefully you’ve spent some time reading through--or at least noticing--the vast number of women adding their voice and their stories to the #MeToo movement. And hopefully you’ve been impacted by both the sheer volume of women who have experienced being the recipient of sexual harassment and assault, as well as the specifics of what women actually endure in society, at work, and in the home.
The reason I want to talk to you about sex right now is because I believe we need heightened awareness around how the #MeToo stories might be triggering the women in our life to re-live and re-feel their own experiences of sexual assault and harassment.
To put that more plainly, if your wife/girlfriend/partner has a #MeToo story (and chances are she does), then it’s safe to assume that this week has been particularly hard for her. Liberating and empowering, to be sure! No doubt about that. But anytime a person accesses previous trauma from their memory, there is a tenderness and vulnerability that accompanies it. Then, add to that, the layer of sharing those stories publicly... again, so empowering and liberating, but also incredibly vulnerable.
So the thing I want to challenge you with (and challenge myself with) is to be extra conscious of your wife/girlfriend/partner’s needs right now.
She may not feel like to being touched right now because of the feelings and memories brought up this week. Perhaps your normal rhythm of sexual intimacy needs to be halted or paused. Even gestures that you might normally do, or that might feel innocuous to you, such as approaching her from behind while she’s in the kitchen and wrapping your arms around her, can feel very threatening if a person is in the midst of the sort of space of rawness and vulnerability that a week like #MeToo can create.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that the women in your life are weak and need to be coddled. Good lord, nothing could be further from the truth! They are badass and powerful. This isn’t about protecting them because they are fragile. It is about respecting their space in a more intentional way because of the ways in which trauma heightens our systems. And if we don’t hold that, if we don’t respect that space in a special way right now, and we just continue business as usual, we run major risks of harming our wives/partners and fracturing the space between you.
I’m challenging us ALL to respect that a person who has been thinking about reading about past sexual trauma might very likely not be in the mood for sex, and the worst thing we can do is make them feel bad about it. (Hmmm... “mood” is the wrong word to use there... it minimizes their experience to something they can just “feel differently” about... it isn’t about “mood,” it’s much deeper than that. Their very souls may not be able to engage in sexual intimacy right now, and to do so could add levels of pain that I know you would never want to add.)
Part of how we got in to this mess, where most (all?) women have a #MeToo story, is because us men have historically not respected women who do not want to be touched. Even if we are in a relationship with a woman, it does not give us free reign.
(If those last two sentences bothered you, and made you think, "I'm not the problem, don't blame me just cause I'm a man!" then please get past your self--heck, maybe you really are that amazing--and still acknowledge how the rest of us men have failed in this way).
So for me to ask you to have extra awareness right now, is really to tap in to the thing behind the thing. We've failed in our responsibility to create a world safe for the opposite sex, and it is our responsibility to make a new world. Times like this, when these stories of assault and harassment are on the collective tip of our consciousness, are perfect moments to practice a new (and better) form of respect and responsibility.
So fellas, please be extra respectful right now. Extra kind. Extra loving and compassionate. The women in your life have overcome way more than most of us ever will when it comes to navigating a world that objectifies them and dismisses their right to their own body and space.
Be in awe of the women in your life, and be aware of how the #MeToo campaign has brought to the surface some very real thoughts and feelings and experiences. Chances are high that they are in a vulnerable and raw place right now. So I challenge us all to engage in lots of communication, lots of listening, and lots of understanding.
And ask yourself, what can I do to honor my wife/partner in the midst of this raw and vulnerable week?
Right now you have the chance to make new memories and new experiences when it comes to how your wife/partner feels toward men, which can contribute to both healing and restoration (my therapist calls it, “creating new tapes that will eventually overwrite the old tapes”).
Our world needs men who truly see women, respect them, honor them, and learn from them.
Let’s do this.
p.s. I’m conscious of how heteronormative this post is, sorry about that. If you are in a same sex relationship with a woman, then take care of both of your selves. And yes, there are men who have also had #MeToo experiences, for sure. But I wanted to speak to the largest contributors, which is men assaulting women. And since we broke this, men, it’s on us to shoulder the energy of such brokenness.
p.p.s. There are some women out there who carry around the vulnerability and heaviness of their #MeToo stories all the time. Not just during a week like this when it is heightened. This could be a really good time for you, fellas, to have a conversation with your significant other about how safe she feels in your sex life. Are there things you do--probably unknowingly--that at times trigger her, that maybe you’ve never talked about? I know this was the case for my wife and I, and it was incredibly hard but incredibly necessary to hear.
p.p.p.s. Originally this post was titled something else, but a good friend recommended I re-title it to clarify that it is about #MeToo. We both acknowledged the potential clunkiness in this... about capitalizing on a movement not designed for me... but ultimately I think my friend was right. I believe this post highlights an important aspect of this movement, and if a better title helps spread the word, then I'm for it.