It seems I cannot turn on the TV without seeing another brave soul come forward with her sexual assault or harassment story. It’s disheartening, depressing and unfortunate that females are STILL put in a position of not being believed by others. It seems impossible for men these days to wrap their heads around the issue. However, I am happy to say I’ve had several of my male friends come up to me asking how they can better themselves and the situation.
Even though I’m not brave enough to come forward with my specific memories (+ details), I would like to relay a story of my ex and I so other males can understand the toxicity of certain situations and why we do not feel safe coming forward to report you.
I hate being tickled.
I have relayed this to every boyfriend that I’ve ever had, but for some reason, my Ex didn’t listen or care. I kept laughing whenever I was being tickled, that was his indication that I was enjoying it. Even though, through my rasped breaths, I would vocalize “Stop!” “No!”
I would reiterate, after each time, that I do not like it and wish he would stop.
The tickling continued as did our relationship, and my aggression started to come out more. My body went into full fight mode at each attempt, and the kicking started.
The first time I kicked him, it was his face. I got him square in the jaw, and my body immediately froze. He stopped what he was doing, almost in shock that I would kick him. I profusely apologized for kicking him, but his response was to punch me in the thigh instead. He walked out of the room as if he were disgusted with me, leaving me with feelings of guilt, embarrassment and my thoughts:
But you DO Enjoy it if you laugh, right?
He had every reason to punch me since I kicked him, so we’re even?
What can I do to make the situation better for him?
I never came forward about that punch because he taught me that this was all my fault. Why would I open up to someone about my stupidity at this situation? Especially if I DID enjoy it. It’s MY fault, and no one would believe me otherwise. I endured tickling for several years, even though I knew deep down how much I despised it. I would cry, at times, not at the excessive laughing, but at the fact that I felt powerless in this situation.
Laughter is a response to tickling, but if the stimulus is unwanted, then it completely changes the context.
He never could stop, he never would WANT to, either. It was all about him, and how he felt and if I did not play to his rules then he would make me feel like shit. He was an expert at twisting things around and making me feel guilty – I’m SO incredibly thankful that I’m no longer in that situation but imagine how other women feel in worse cases than mine.
I made a pact with myself never to let that happen again. I knew that I had to communicate boundaries and consent with my partner – I told my husband immediately never to tickle me, and after seven years of being together, I can honestly count on one hand how many “tickle fights” we had (because we’ve set boundaries). There are days when I joke around with my husband, and I’ll tickle him to get his attention – but when he tells me to stop, I do. I do not make him feel guilty or tell him how he feels.
My one piece of advice that I can offer is listening & understanding what your partner/friend is telling you. Repeat it back if you don’t understand so that they can give more clarity. The male mind needs a radical switch, and it’s time to make the change.