To The Woman Who Groped Me at FandomFest

I suppose it was my own fault.

I considered it a kindness to ignore you as you whined about how drunk you were and preemptively apologized to anyone you might puke on. As you leaned on your friend and began to swear at people for having the audacity to stop you from reaching your floor, as if they somehow believed they had a right to use the elevator too.

It was my fault for tuning you out as your verbal diarrhea grew even nastier. For not realizing when your mumbled “fuck it!” devolved into “faggot,” a slur you apparently directed at anyone getting off of the elevator. Including me.

It’s my fault for not catching what you were spewing until I was squeezing toward the doors, at which point you apparently took my annoyance as reason to announce my gayness to the world and grab my ass.

My fault for those few seconds of what-the-hell-just-happened shock, during which time the elevator doors closed, robbing me of any chance to respond.

There are many things I could have said and done, had I reacted faster. I could have shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you?” I could have called you out on your bigotry. I could have responded physically, taking your wrist and refusing to give it back until you apologized. I could have snapped a picture or jotted down your badge name and reported you to security.

I didn’t do any of those things. I don’t know your name. I couldn’t tell security what you looked like. Given how wasted you were, I don’t know if you even remember what you did.

Of course, the thing is, it’s not my fault. I’m not the one who decided to grope a stranger in an elevator as some sort of petty, drunken game. I’m not the friend who stood by and did nothing while it happened.

To be fair, I don’t know what happened after those elevator doors closed. It’s possible your friend told you exactly how much of an asshole you were being, but nothing I observed up to that point makes me think anything happened, aside from maybe a little nervous laughter.

In the silver lining department, it was … educational. I have a better understanding of the self-blame; of the way people replay the situation again and again, imagining what you could have done differently; of some of the ways others respond when you talk about it, the jokes and the advice about what you should have done, all offered with love and the best of intentions.

One person commented, “Welcome to the world of women.” While it’s not just women who get treated this way – I was talking to another author this weekend about his experience with a woman who refused to respect the word “no” – it’s certainly far more common for men to target and harass women.

And you know what? It’s bullshit. It’s harassment, and it’s assault.

We focus on what the victims should do. How they should fight back and report it and take responsibility for making sure the other person doesn’t do this to anyone else.

I don’t need to be told what I should have done. Believe me, I played that scenario out again and again in my head, and I guarantee I’ve already come up with pretty much every possibility you’re going to suggest.

None of which helps.

A part of me wants to insist it wasn’t a big deal. I was never in physical danger. It was only a second or two of physical/sexual contact. But it was unwanted sexual contact. It was, however brief, a deliberate violation. And it is a big deal.

I had to keep reminding myself, even though I knew it, that it’s not my fault. That the responsibility belongs with the bigoted asshole who did this. I don’t care that she was drunk. If you’re the kind of person who does this shit when you get drunk, then you’ve forfeited the right to get drunk around people. Because alcohol doesn’t excuse it or make it okay, and if you can’t control yourself when you’re drunk, then you damn well need to stay sober.

And if you’ve watched a friend pull this kind of shit and said nothing – if you stood there and let it happen, and didn’t confront them afterward – then you’re also part of the problem. Because silence speaks too, and your silence tells your friend that his or her behavior is okay. That you’re cool with them harassing people.

Overall, I had a great time at FandomFest, but this pissed me off. It pissed me off that it happens, and it pisses me off that it keeps happening.