Please Keep It in Your Pants by Carol P. Christ


Trigger warning: this post describes sexual abuse

Last week while responding to a comment on my blog, I suddenly remembered a series of incidents in which men I did not know exposed themselves to me in public places. The first time occurred at a park around dusk during an outing with a group of girls. I was about 11, I may have wandered away from the group, or I may have been with others. What I remember is seeing a man with his pants down sitting on a park bench, possibly the first time I ever saw an adult man’s penis. I told or we told, but the man was not reported by the adults. Fast forward to the beautiful gardens of the Palace Schoenbrunn in Vienna where I was confronted by a penis while lost in thought when I was 19. I ran, but said nothing. In my 20s at the early showing of movies in New York City men would sit next to me and jerk off into paper bags. I learned to move whenever a man was near me in the theater, but I never told the ticket seller. A few years later, I crossed paths with a man who had his penis out on my favorite walk in the hills of Alum Rock Park in San Jose. I never walked carefree in that park again. When I was looking for the cave of the Furies on the Acropolis Hill in Athens, a man followed me waving his penis. I told the guard, but when the police came, he was gone. I arrived home in distress. My boyfriend said I was over-reacting. I learned to stay clear of men in cars on the streets of Athens at night after seeing things I did not want to see more than once in their hands. I coded this behavior as part of the background of my life. There was a man who from the basement apartment a few doors up from the Cycladic Museum pressed his erect penis against the window. I told the guard at the museum who said, “We have called the police more than once, but he always cries, and they let him go.” On a trail I had walked many times with my dogs near Lafionas in Lesbos, coming around a bend, I encountered a young farmer, who as soon as he saw me, pulled out his penis and urinated against a fence. That was the last time I walked the trail. We are supposed to learn to consider this behavior as well, if not normal, anyway, not such a big deal. After all, I wasn’t hurt, or was I?

When I started to think about whether or not I was a #MeToo, I did not even remember these incidents. It took another woman speaking about her experience at the opera to jog my memory.

Recently a friend of mine told me that she had come to a deeper understanding of the impact of early childhood sexual abuse in her life. This woman is one of several friends who suffers from chronic insomnia. As someone who usually falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow, I have often wondered what it must be like not to be able to sleep and to go through your days in a fog induced by not getting enough sleep. My friend told me that she had realized that a single incident of childhood sexual abuse was the source of her lifelong inability to sleep. A SINGLE INCIDENT OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE WAS THE SOURCE OF HER LIFELONG INABILITY TO SLEEP!

But most of us get over these things, don’t we? I suspect that in most cases we do not, even if we think we have. They remain engraved in our bodies, telling us: you cannot walk freely in the world. Oh yes, I sleep at night. But I never looked for the cave of the Furies on the Acropolis hill again. And I stopped walking in nature with my dogs. If I think about it rationally, being forced to watch a man take out his penis in order to pee in front of me does not seem like sufficient reason to stop walking alone with my dogs.

But it was.

And I doubt that I even know how other instances of being confronted with penises I did not want to see has affected my being, the way I am in my body, my life.

* * *

a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverGoddess and God in the World final cover designCarol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is  Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

FAR Press recently released A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess.

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Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger

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Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Gender and Power

Tags: , , , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. Guys who behave like that are nothing more than pathetic, cowardly, disgusting perverts. My preferred punishment for that crime would be a little too rhadamanthine for modern sensibilities. Castration is kind of final. Thank you for sharing. <3 :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem with these flashers and wankers, is that they will not go away. They are there in the background or foreground, and they will continue to determine how safe we feel walking alone in a park… no matter how many of us post #MeToo ! It is like knowing when to avoid a riptide at the shore… you don’t swim there… and we have sadly learned not to walk in the park alone or sketch in the woods by ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When I was a child in Queens, New York, I would walk to and from school, a mile or so each day, with a few girlfriends, ages 6, 7 and 8. Passing under a railroad overpass, men would sit in cars and beckon to us with their penises displayed. Walking, we were sometimes followed. One man would stand on the bridge above the Long Island Expressway and open his coat to display his penis to us as we crossed the bridge. What I remember most is, at our very young age, how vividly I felt the evil, the violence in these acts, though I had no idea what a penis was. The intention of harm, to my young and open sensibility, was crystal clear. I will never accept these behaviors as a normal part of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “But most of us get over these things, don’t we? I suspect that in most cases we do not, even if we think we have. They remain engraved in our bodies, telling us: you cannot walk freely in the world.”

    Carol, you have targeted the core of the problem. These experiences are stored in our bodies and like it or not we carry them for the rest of our lives along with shame that attaches itself to us like glue – consciously or unconsciously. And we carry the fear…

    I do not believe it is possible to be female and not be impacted by sexual abuse, whether we are able to name it or not.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for this post,it really tells it like it is.The feeling of not being able to move through the world freely is a common one for most women I think.I understand you not wanting to walk in that park again.I would be thinking what will he do next!

    Like

  6. I LOVE the video you shared! I had the exact experiences you describe in the same frequency, just in different locations. I am surprised, when I remember, that I ever wanted to have anything to do with men and their appendages (as Maeve calls them) at all, ever in my life. Men exposing themselves is an assault. And yes, ugly in every sense. Have I gotten over it? The memory, revisited, makes me want to gag. Watching the video, I laughed out loud instead.

    Like

  7. Thanks so much for this post, Carol. I could tell tales as well . . . riding the subway as a girl in NY, walking in Central Park, waiting for the bus on my way to high school in Brooklyn, and on an on and on. I too love the video . . . perhaps by speaking up we can release all this accumulated insult and injury.

    Like

  8. Thanks, Carol. I never thought I see a blog like this one on FAR. Good for you!

    When I was a college freshman in Cape Girardeau, MO, I was walking down the hill after a College Theatre rehearsal one night and I saw a man waving his penis. I ran the rest of the way to wherever I was going. A theater here in Long Beach has a main stage and an upstairs studio stage. They do “edgy” plays upstairs that often involve full frontal nudity. I seen some beautifully acted plays at that theater, but I got really tired of the edgy plays. I got really, really bored by what someone I once met describes as “public pubic nakedidity.” Especially when it adds nothing to the play. Yes, indeed, guys–keep it in your pants and keep it zipped up.

    Like

  9. I don’t understand why so many men worship this little “appendage” and transfer their brains to it. And age doesn’t seem to bring wisdom, or reality. What have boys been taught? Where is self-worth situated? Maybe if some men got over their fascination with their penis, they would stop building bombs and raping the earth.
    I use the words “so many” and “some” because I have male friends who don’t act like this. So it’s possible to be fully human and not just a “dick-head”.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barbara,
      So true. There certainly are some wonderful men in the world and we can probably thank their mothers for raising them to respect women.

      What have boys been taught is really the question that needs to be answered. I do not believe that little baby boys are born into this world with an inherent desire to rape and pillage. It is learned and reinforced by everything around us.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes a woman has to wonder what this fascination is. And why some (you are right not all) lead with their dicks and terrorize with them.

      Like

  10. Your post made me remember the time we went to Pamulkale in Turkey. Remember sitting in the beautiful rock formations formed by the flowing water of hot springs only to have our wonderful experience destroyed by a man sitting next to us and jerking-off. There are no borders to protect us from sexual predators and perverts. I reckon just about every woman on the face of Earth has had some kind of weird to violent experience with a penis. It is a wonder that any of us women are heterosexual. Love the video – laughing through the nightmare of these times really helps.

    Like

  11. Thank you for this honest and thoughtful post. It made me think of when I was a teenager and was at my first Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I went walking in the woods at night and realized that for the first time in many years I wasn’t afraid. That was a transformational moment. Sometimes when I try to visualize the world we, as feminists collectively, are working towards, I remember that moment and think “we’re working towards a world when every teenaged girl (and woman) feels that safe all the time.”

    Like

  12. I am so sorry this happened to me, to you, and probably to almost all women living (and dead) in patriarchy.

    Like

  13. Susan Brownmiller’s in “Against Our Will”:
    “Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”
    That statement was a revelation to me back then. And I think the public exposure experiences – while not violent like rape – are still about waving their “power” in our faces.

    Like

  14. Carol, I highly recommend this article. It goes into why men do this. *tw rape, child abuse in my comments* I was woken when I was six by a male babysitter (a cousin) molesting me. I had insomnia after that. Then when I was 18, I dated an abusive man for four years. He raped me in my sleep repeatedly. So I know well the sleep issues that can come from sexual violence. I found EMDR therapy invaluable in helping me heal, and I mostly no longer have insomnia. So I try to recommend it to others who suffer.
    I think you ask some very important questions in your article here. It seems pretty clear to me that men who do this feel impotent, and they are trying to feel powerful by forcing their sexuality where it is not wanted, onto people who are classed as below them by patriarchy. Their core need to believe they are worthy of respect has been broken by gender roles and patriarchal poison, and so they are reclaiming their self-respect through the patriarchally accepted method of misogynist violence. What a world.

    Like

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