Asking for it
Maybe it was the low-cut baby blue wrap blouse, the one that criss-crossed my cleavage and clung to my curves, that inspired two different men to grab me uninvited when I was 23.
Maybe they just couldn't help themselves because it was just too tempting. Maybe by wearing that blouse, I was ''asking for it.''
Or maybe they were just perverts with a sense of entitlement, certain in the knowledge that they'd get away with it because, back then, women suppressed their anger and felt nothing but shame.
Well, no more. At least not for the many women who wrote to me today in response to my column on men groping women on public transit.
Back then we didn't call this sexual assault. It didn't have a name. It's just what women put up with.
We also had no "date rape," no "grey rape," nothing but you'd-better-have-the-scars-to-prove-it-lady penetration rape.
And God forbid you looked sexy. Because that meant you were asking for it.
Consider last Sunday's Star story about how, in Toronto high schools, girls are subjected to harassment, groping and other assaults.
As reporter Louise Brown wrote, it's girls – the victims – who must learn how to behave, how to stand up for themselves, how to fight back.
The boys? Well, poor dears, maybe it's all that rap music.
Which is why I was dumbstruck by another story last week – "Women-only bus service makes first stop in Mexico." There, jam-packed buses move millions every day – while men take advantage of the situation to get up close and much too personal. And so, like Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Cairo and elsewhere, Mexico City now offers segregated transit.
It goes beyond buses. In Italy there is a female-only beach. In the U.S., at least one hotel is designating women-only floors. Here in Toronto, we have women-only gyms.
But, while they all certainly give woman varying levels of comfort, they are all wrong.
That's because they put the onus on the women rather than the perpetrators of the crimes.
All this raises the idea of burqas and the Taliban and that incident last year in Montreal when an Orthodox Jewish community paid a YMCA to frost its windows so male students at the neighbouring synagogue would not be distracted by the spandexed aerobicizers.
If men can't stop from looking, grabbing and groping, then cover the women! If men are weak, then women must be strong! Put them in purdah! Make them stumble around under a long black veil.
Where is Golda Meir when we need her? The former Israeli prime minister, when confronted with a growing problem of rape in Tel Aviv, rejected the police force's decision to impose curfews on ... the women.
“But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”
One thing that can and should be done. Start educating boys, now. One teacher wrote to say that she would like to make my column a topic of discussion next week. YAY!
Meanwhile, a man wrote to say the problem was that too many girls were dressing ''like Madonna'' and so ... well, you know. They're ''asking for it.''
I wonder how that would play out if the guy committing the assault on the bare-midriffed (or whatever) teen were 50, and not 15.
Incidentally, just as my column was going to press yesterday, this came over the wires.
ST. JOHN'S -- An Iranian man studying in Newfoundland has been sentenced to two months in jail for kissing a woman on her breast while the two were sharing an elevator.
Farhood Azarsina, 25, pleaded guilty last week to sexual assault.
Mr. Azarsina, a PhD student in engineering at Memorial University, admitted kissing the top of the woman's breast while the two were on a school elevator on Sept. 27. He apologized in court last week, saying he acted on impulse.
Judge David Orr said during sentencing yesterday that Mr. Azarsina "has a superficial understanding of the effect of his actions."
Mr. Azarsina said he didn't realize the seriousness of the offence in this country.
"You can't expect all males to control themselves when the breasts are out," he said.
Right. She was ''asking for it.''