It can happen anywhere… on the bus, in church. It can happen with anybody… a teacher, a boss, an uncle… It can be a wandering hand or a naked stare at our chest…
I had an experience recently and it caught my heart. I belong to a woman’s choir, a kind of “Red Tent” gathering that helps my spirit soar with the beauty of sacred music. This week, the topic of “locker room” behavior was brought up. One woman asked the group: “Please raise your hand if you have ever been touched inappropriately. I have been groped, fondled” she shared vulnerably,” and I worked for very powerful men. I never confronted them, I never confronted “the locker room” behavior. I would have unleashed hell on me.” I looked around the room, my own hand raised, and saw that all hands, but one, were raised. Chills ran through my body. The room, usually buzzing louder than a beehive, was suddenly very quiet. The ubiquitous nature of our experience weighed heavily in our hearts.
Some confuse the issue when they make “locker room behavior” about sex. At the heart of the issue, the disregard for sexual boundaries is never about sex. It is always about power. Rationalized as “men will be men”, that confusion perpetuates the behavior.
Patrick Carnes, author of “Facing the Shadows”, demystifies the lack of sexual boundaries by pointing the anger at the heart of sexual compulsions. In my work, clients and I peel the onion back to the enemy within – worthlessness covered up by sexualized anger. Once the onion is peeled back to a core of vulnerability and honesty, recovery and healing are possible.
Collectively, we have an opportunity to peel back to the onion – women are standing up with courage and men are dropping down into their humanity with a renewed sense of respect for self and others.
That movement gives me hope today.