The dominating culture induces us to imagine sexuality as an element founding the identity of man and a potential instrument of power over women and over masculinities considered weak. Male sexuality, thus is, still as a duty, to confirm to oneself and to others – in first place to other men (Kimmel, 2002) – of being suitably male:
Men feel that they have to ask you for it!
On the other hand, female sexuality is represented as an experience to act and to be told with caution, as it is still a potential threat to the female identity and citizenship. Despite the important changes of recent decades and the extraordinary liberty won by western women, there remains an idea of a division between good women and bad women (Maria and Magdalene, one a virgin, the other a prostitute) and, so, insinuations about female sexual behaviour (she’s easy), comments about physical appearance, insistent flirting, until reaching harassment and rape, are all instruments to redefine the game rules and put rebel women back on the (right) tracks.
In the stories from the women that we met, the presence of this form of male power is clear and unequivocal, although it does seem to show itself in different ways in different surroundings. Softer and more contained in the more middle-class contexts, explicit and hard in the environments that are a symbol of a certain type of testosterone-filled masculinity.
The person who did everything possible to brush against you to touch you up. I know that some things also happened in the lift: when going down they made sure they were standing by your side so that when you got in, you were in the middle and so the pat on the bottom arrived.
When you are alone with just two other women in barracks with 600 men, the fact of being considered stupid is the least. Initially you carry on because it’s your dream, then you feel like giving up, when the harassment and attempts at coercion begin. In my opinion it’s a quite common custom. When I gave up my job because I couldn’t stand all the duress, I stayed at home, I didn’t speak to anyone, I went to a psychologist for help and she said, “But in trying to do a job like that, don’t you think you were looking for trouble?” … that was the last nail in my coffin.
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