Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.
The first time I became aware of what it meant to be female I was eleven and in a swimming pool in Exeter. A group of older boys kept leering at me and making lewd comments and it took me a while to realise it was because of how I looked. That they were viewing me sexually. I remember clearly the utter feeling of fear I felt at that moment. And how I wanted the water to swallow my swimsuit clad, pre-pubescent body up.
And now I have a teenage daughter myself.
We talk, often, about consent. About being objectified and sexualised at such a young age. She naively believes, as many ‘invincible’ teens do, that if someone tried to attack her all she would have to do is kick them in the balls and scream. Even though I have told her again and again about how men are, more often than not, physically stronger, and how if someone wanted to rape her she could fight and fight, but ultimately they’d probably succeed.
The thought terrifies me. She knows to go around in packs. She knows to be home before it’s dark unless she is being picked up and to always, always let me now where she is and who she is with. But none of that matters of someone out there decides her body is theirs for the taking.
And then what? As the Ched Evans case horrifically highlights, even if justice is done, and then undone, her life is ruined forever. Her previous sexual choices may be thrown in her face as evidence. She might receive tweets saying she ‘deserves to be killed and abused’ for daring to speak up and speak out.
We teach girls all the time about how to stay safe. About how their actions may cause reactions. What they wear. What they drink. Where they go. Who they fuck.
But shouldn’t we be focussing on the men more? Yes, you heard that right. Who is leading by example and teaching men to respect women? To not be rapists? That no, or silence, means no?
The response on Twitter to the Ched Evans case highlighted the unbelievably vile opinions men have of women and of a young female who didn’t even shout rape, but merely said she couldn’t remember. Men who may have wives and daughters of their own. Or, God forbid, sons. The tweets were repulsive and frightening and made me feel like that eleven year old girl in the swimming pool all over again.
Yesterday’s ruling and response highlighted that nothing changes. Women are still frightened. And men, although not all, are very much still to be feared.