Inspired to write while pondering Yom Kippur and forgiveness.
Inspired to publish while pondering the “Me too” campaign and resistance.
I wish I had the guts to say this to your face:
You should have asked before you put your arm around my shoulder, when I said I hadn’t known it was a date. You should have asked before you slid your hands around my waist. You should have asked before you kissed my stiff, unsure, uncomfortable neck. You should have asked before you put your hands in my bra.
You should have known not to put the tips of your fingers on the small of my back, just because I passed you by. And you damn well should have known not to grab my butt as you passed me in the street, laughing.
You shouldn’t have complimented my hair, my forearms, or my butt. You shouldn’t have yelled at me in French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, or English. You shouldn’t have flicked a rubber band at me from a moving car. You shouldn’t have made hissing cat noises or asked me explicitly to have sex with you as I waited to cross the street.
You shouldn’t have said, “you’re too pretty to cry,” when I couldn’t find my travel buddy, was alone in a foreign country, and you were trying to lure me back to your apartment.
You shouldn’t have tried to kiss me after abandoning me in said foreign country, when I eventually returned to the hostel, distraught, and told you what had transpired.
You shouldn’t have said, “I want you to get me off… when you’re ready,” after an agonizingly silent car ride in which you yelled at me that nothing was bothering you… and when you knew I wasn’t nearly ready. You shouldn’t have gotten even more angry when I told you I was trying very hard not to feel pressured.
You shouldn’t have angrily hit my hand, however lightly or symbolically, for bringing up that I worried that our relationship was getting too physical.
You shouldn’t have said, “If you really loved me, you would;” or “we’re not done here,” as I tried to pull your hand away; or, “I think you’re okay with this,” when I said I wasn’t sure; or “if it feels good, just let it happen.”
It didn’t matter if I was wearing pants, a maxi skirt, or a mini skirt. It didn’t matter if I was in a club, bar, the streets, or my own home.
It’s been exactly two years since I stopped “being shomer negiah.” This is part of what I have to show for it. I still feel the need to tell men that it was a recent change, in the hopes that they’ll be more considerate. I still question the decision constantly, because of other people’s actions. But I shouldn’t have to stave off touching men in order to receive physical respect. I shouldn’t have to be shomer negiah to get respect and I shouldn’t have to not be shomer negiah to get respect either. Besides, some of these things happened – and continue to happen – whether I was shomer or not.
I shouldn’t have had to experience these things. And I shouldn’t have to grapple between my own emotional self-preservation and the guilt of not calling you out for the sake of the feminist cause. I shouldn’t have to call you out and I shouldn’t have to tell you what you did was wrong.
These are just some specific examples from various men I’ve encountered in my own life, but I know that many women, men, and non-binary people have experienced similar or much worse. We shouldn’t have to endure this and we shouldn’t have to tell you that.
You just shouldn’t have done it.
You should know better.
Rivka Cohen is a recent addition to the JOFA staff, in her role as Program Manager. She graduated from Brandeis University ’17, where she studied Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies and Near Eastern & Judaic Studies and minored in Politics. At Brandeis, she was Executive Coordinator of bVIEW – Brandeis Visions for Israel in an Evolving World and co-founded JFAB – Jewish Feminist Association at Brandeis.
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