The Coming-of-Age That is Male on Female Violence

By Kayla MacKenzie

As I don’t know a single female-identifying person that hasn’t had an experience with male violence, I wonder if it’s a rite of passage of what is to be a girl, a woman. I wonder, too, if the marking of time could be that the assaults often become more frequent and more violent going forward.

The first time you are followed by a persistent man for several city blocks, is it like a bat mitzvah you never asked for?

In my freshman year of high school I sat with some boys in the back of the room during history class. An older kid—my lifelong neighbor—and another male classmate who I had known my entire school career—were my companions for this class. I grew up with both of these boys. I fondly remembered flooding my neighbor’s sandbox as young children one summer and splashing around in the mud.

They constantly joked about grabbing my tits. One day, my grade-mate grabbed my breasts (called it “honking my tits”) and my neighbor laughed and paid him two dollars as per their bet. The tit-grabber gave me one of the dollars to treat myself to a pop out of a vending machine in the cafeteria. I shrugged the whole thing off.

After all, half of the work was done by me. At least I made as much as my male counterpart, right?

When I was in my early twenties I felt wiser when it came to men and the violence that can lurk below the surface, but I was still learning. I’d never been one to back down from a fight, and I proved this on a Dixie Highway one evening. My ex was giving me a ride back to my own car after an evening spent partying. We were friends long before we dated, and I had no doubt we would remain so long after our romance ended.

“So,” he began, music a little lower on the radio suddenly. “When we broke up you said that we’d probably have break-up sex. And…” He stopped expectantly, waiting for my explanation? An apology? For a joke that I’d made during our mutual breakup?

My body tensed. There was something in his tone, something slow and quiet that was unlike Sam. He’d been drinking.  

“That’s not going to happen,” I said, but he pushed for it. We began quarreling, and his insistence made me increasingly uncomfortable. I asked if I could get out of the car and walk the rest of the way. I kept my voice as calm as possible.  

“No,” he snapped, “We should talk.”  He slowed the vehicle down, indicating that he was going to turn onto a side road, away from the direction of my own car. At the slowest point in the turn, I grasped the door handle and flung open the Blazer’s door, sliding out into the night and onto the road.  Sam slammed on his brakes, stopping in the center of the road and got out to follow me.

“Hey! What the fuck are you doing?” he snarled.

“Please leave me alone,” I murmured, hoping that playing demure would chill him out. I slid my phone out of my pocket.

Suddenly he grabbed me and spun me around, yelling in my face, and I panicked, striking out at him once.  I turned and begin running back toward the highway, but he chased me, yelling, “I’m gonna fuck up your world!” He tackled me to the pavement and pried my cell phone out of my hand, throwing it into the ditch before I could call anyone. He sat on top of me, trying to pin my arms, but he wasn’t much bigger than me. We scuffled and I managed to get away. I ran across deserted Dixie Highway, shaking with disgust, and called another friend for a ride to my car. I didn’t  tell them what happened with Sam, knowing that if I did, everyone in our small town would find out within days.

The following day, I got I won’t let love/disrupt, corrupt/or interrupt me tattooed on my forearm and pseudo-forgave Sam. Our friendship sputtered to a halt shortly thereafter, unable to recover from the damage.  

He recently had a baby girl with his new wife, and I know that there’s a part of him that fears his daughter could have an experience like that with a guy like him.  

I hope she doesn’t. I hope her ascension into womanhood isn’t peppered with instances like these, full of shame, self-doubt, and self-blame.

I hope she never has a guy forcefully shove her head down to give him a blow job, hope she never leaves his house upset, yet still comes back the next time he texts her at 3 am.

I hope she never allows her best friend to feel guilty about accepting a male friend’s offer to share a bed, then not fuck him and have to deal with his aggressive pestering and advances, of, “Are we gonna do this or not?”

I hope she never deals with a bitter white guy who she’s attracted to saying that women have been unequal for so long of their own doing—“There’s as many women as men. Why are they only just now fighting for equality? They let themselves be oppressed.”