My earliest memory of sexual harassment was as a young teen. It was of my dentist touching me inappropriately. I told no one, having no language to even begin to express my confusion and discomfort. Literally a few weeks ago my 89-year-old aunt mentioned our family dentist and how he had felt her up. It was a known fact amongst the adult women. We all kept silent.
Since then I have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, virtual violence by ex-partners and sexual assault by a stranger.
The advice of friends, family and lawyers has always been to keep it secret. The defence for this argument ranged from: my professional reputation would be damaged, I would lose work, and personally my credibility as an innocent victim would be challenged in a potential "he said/she said " scenario.
I channelled my anger and frustration into becoming a champion for women's rights. I felt alone and frustrated in my inability to offer women more of an ongoing discourse on their rights and encouraged a strong sisterhood and support system in their communities. The legal system betrays, and even harms, women with its promise of justice – women end up dead after their intimate partner explodes with rage, despite the restraining order.
In 2016 a light began to shine for me. When I heard the rumblings about Roger Ailes, the now deceased former chief executive of Fox News, I consumed information about what then felt like a seismic shift in women's rights in the workplace, and in their intimate spaces.
In July 2016, the journalist Gretchen Carlson, one of the most recognised and successful news anchors on the Fox network, sued Roger Ailes, her then boss, alleging that he had fired her from the television network for refusing to have a sexual relationship with him. Ailes denied the allegations. But Carlson's lawsuit was successful, and Ailes was kicked out.
I want to move you out of the boardroom and into your bedroom. I want you to become a Gretchen Carlson in your own bedroom. Let's focus on the intimate side of #MeToo.
And in an unprecedented move, as most women who do report harassment never work in their industries again, Carlson has begun to work in television again. Not only did she overcome her fear of losing her reputation, professional work, and personal scandal, she has created a cultural movement with a following of millions of women. Be sure to read her new book: "Be Fierce – Stop Harassment And Take Your Power Back".
She was the first warrior and has led the way for all of us to follow.
Stay with me - the story evolves
In 2005, Tarana Burke, a U.S. civil rights activist, set up an activist group, called #MeToo. This was aimed at survivors of sexual violence, mainly young women of colour.
To her immense surprise, in October 2017, she noticed on social media #MeToo with the now familiar #. It was the month that Harvey Weinstein had been exposed by the New York Times as the subject of multiple accusations of sexual assault.
Burke didn't know that the actor Alyssa Milano had stumbled on the phrase, unaware of its origins, and urged survivors of sexual aggression to use it. In the coming weeks, #MeToo was to be used more than 12-million times, resulting in an extraordinary outpouring of pain from women globally. High powered men across all industries came tumbling down off their proverbial perches of power. A social movement had begun.
In case you're wondering if you should add the hashtag to your next tweet, consider if you have had unwanted sexual advances from your boss, colleague, best friend's partner, or requests for sexual favours, verbal and physical, from a partner, that felt uncomfortable for you. Then use the hashtag.
I want to move you out of the boardroom and into your bedroom. I want you to become a Gretchen Carlson in your own bedroom. Let's focus on the intimate side of #MeToo. The sexual side of your intimate life.
No longer must women hold silence about sexual harassment, abuse, assault or misconduct.
I invite you to participate in my new campaign – SexAfter#MeToo
Begin by answering some questions:
1. Are you confused about sexual etiquette?
2. Do you question whether or not you are correctly reading sexual and emotional,physical and verbal cues?
3. Was it consent, you wonder?
4. How are you managing dating?
5. Tell me how you are negotiating your sexual desire?
6. Share how you are establishing safety in your intimate spaces?
7. Perhaps as a man, you have been a victim of alleged sexual harassment, abuse, assault of a woman... Share with us.
8. If you think women are taking advantage of #MeToo, share your thoughts right here.
I excitedly await your questions and conundrums for my new column SexAfter#MeToo. Single, married, widowed, divorced, committed, consensually nonmonogamous, non consensually nonmonogamous, whatever; irrespective of your age, sexual orientation or gender, ask me questions right here.
Here are some conundrums for you to wrap your own heads around, perhaps you can relate to some of these scenarios. Or it will trigger your own experiences? I want to give you courage and permission to speak them out. No longer must women keep silent about sexual harassment, abuse, assault or misconduct.
Klaus has been married to Clara for 21 years. Frequently she looks disinterested whilst they are having sexual play – but she never says "no". Should he keep initiating sex? Larissa met Donovan on Tinder - on their first date he moves in to kiss her. She turns her mouth away. Should he try again?
My partner never moves much during sex. Do I have to keep asking her if she is ok and consenting to what I'm doing?
Men are rethinking their own behaviour around sexuality and women are speaking out. Men and women can no longer intimately relate to each other in quite the same way.
In SexAfter#MeToo I will answer your questions about consent, permission, and how to build a safe, pleasurable environment for your healthy sexual expression.
- If I don't want to be sexual, am I still obligated to pleasure him?
- I'm not sure I know the difference between flirting and harassment...
- Do I as a man have to wait for a woman to initiate all sexual contact?
- Do you wonder why he does not kiss you on the first or subsequent dates?
- My partner never moves much during sex. Do I have to keep asking her if she is okay and consenting to what I'm doing?
Email your questions to me: firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can walk this journey with you.