I went swimming today.
It was sunny. The Archangel and I had been waiting for a sunny day.
So we went to the pool – I won’t tell you where – and changed into our swimming costumes – we had already changed in the house, so it was a simple matter of removing layers.
I swam two laps.
We’re supposed to be trying to be fit – but I’ve been unfit for too long to start all gung-ho with 50 laps. But 30 beckons, and my muffin top has to go (or so it was described the other day, much to my secret mortification).
I looked at all the men at the swimming pool. When we walked in, there were more men than ladies.
I looked at the cute one who looked like he’d just walked in from work, left his laptop bag in the car and carried this version of a gym one.
I looked at the happy, chubby one who struck up a conversation – maybe for motivation and company, you know those people who talk to everyone everywhere – with the Archangel after she did a beautiful lap of butterfly. Would it be him?
I tried to be as aloof yet not rude as possible to the lifeguard who asked me if I’s already swum. Aloof because don’t encourage them…not rude because you might need them soon. Like touts. Or not.
The thin one who came late and I thought I could take on easy if anything went down – he was thinner than my unfit thigh – and his friend who looked like he would be the one pulling him off from ripping at my clothes.
The anxious one who seemed to be being brow beaten into this pursuit of a six pack. Would the beaten become the beater?
The fully dressed man sitting next to the lifeguard who addressed me, talking in vernacular. I wondered what he was saying. Was he talking about me? Or what he wanted to do to me? Then I thought, maybe segregated swimming wasn’t such a bad idea. The Romans? May have gotten it right.
I looked at them all and weighed them. Watched if they came too close to me or her. Don’t underestimate. And run. Carve out a path of their blood and yours if you must – get away.
Because I am not safe. And you, you with the vagina over there? You’re not safe either.
Public places aren’t safe. Private places aren’t safe. Your private places are not safe. Not private.
I am always weighing.
I thought about what to do if they attacked me. To run? To scream? To wait to be overpowered and hope that your cooperation will make it go faster? (as if in a robbery. And they are taking something that is not theirs, true.)
Would I fight back? Could I? Would I be scared to? Because aggravating the situation would leave me dead instead of ‘just’ molested, and that’s better, in foresight/hindsight?
Am I to lay low every day? When I am walking in town, should I stare at my feet walking – and only my feet – scared to face this world that loves anything with a slit between its legs – loves far too much? Crosses the line to hate? To ugliness?
Should I carry a blunt knife in my bag ready to castrate someone knowing that there is a risk that they may castrate me instead? Follow me home to do so when I am coming from a pool I do not list on my blog because of fear? Will what he castrates bleed onto an Embassava stage sidewalk and the people filming and the Matatu Owners Association will do nothing?
Am I to carry pepper spray, maybe, which is illegal – but anyone would rather be at a police station facing charges for possession of illegal substances (because pepper spray is illegal, and women have no choices anymore) than reporting an assault. My sexual assault.
Sexual assault – our culture. When you’re in primary school and boys can touch you and when you tell the teacher, he touches you too and laughs.
Sexual assault – when your ex can come to your house, barge in and refuse to leave even after you ask him to; because he knows that you cannot physically throw him out. Someone else – someone male – has to do it. Because a woman saying no is nothing.
Sexual assault – when your neighbour asks to come into your house to wait for a ride, then asks for a ride in your bed, and when you say no, he asks why not – as if YOU owe HIM an explanation about why YOU do not want to share YOUR body.
Sexual assault – when you are in a matatu and a drunk man is sleeping on your shoulder. When you move in protest and he wakes up, eyeballing and eyebanging you, threatening you because you moved, telling you he would have taught you a lesson, if not for the fact that you are properly dressed.
Are you nodding? Are you nodding? Are you screaming inside?
Sexual assault – when the church who is supposed to be on the side of right – when the politicians who you elected, 47 or so of whom are women – when the men who it would appear are the only form of protection we have because women do not own their bodies or a voice and some men will only listen to another man, continue to allow the attacks online and in the streets, watching, filming, pointing, laughing, cheering, quiet, and thus perpetuate our culture of stripping and rape and molestation and dehumanization of an ENTIRE SPECIES – keep silent.