I went to an event a few years ago in Abilene called “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes“.
There were a few dramatic readings, the mayor spoke, (it was a small town) and then several dozen men, some in biker chaps, others in salmon colored polos, strapped on high heels and walked one hundred yards down the main city street.
It is a mens march, to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. “A Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® Event is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.”
It was a silly sight, men with handle bar mustaches wobbling down main street.
At the end, we all gathered in a theater to listen to a speaker talk about rape culture and how we could fight to respect one another as sisters and brothers.
After he spoke, he threw XL t-shirts into the audience which were printed with “Can I kiss you, do you ask?”
I don’t remember the speakers name, but the t-shirt tagline has stuck with me. One of his questions to us was “if we cannot encourage girls to speak up when they want something, how can we expect them to speak up when they don’t?”
Disclaimer: this question was not speaking as a solution to sexual assault or gender violence. But about reshaping how we initially approach the conversation of sexual intimacy, a thought to combat warped ideals about female submission and silence.
It was a new concept for me, I had never thought about asking a boy to kiss me, or asking him to ask me first. It seemed silly, and a little childish. But for myself, I needed the question as a sort of self check. I have not always been known for speaking up, it’s something I have had to learn.
The beauty of the question, “can I kiss you?” is how it offers respect to the recipient. Asking, rather than presuming and taking, offers a choice.
I needed to know I was respected enough to be given a verbal choice.
So just imagine how that conversation has gone for me, staring a man square between the eyes and saying, “hey, if you want to kiss me at some point, I want you to ask first.”
It’s not the method for everyone, but it has worked just fine for me. some may see this as a little crazy, maybe it is.
It takes courage to ask, and if I don’t have the courage to ask for what I want, I won’t have the courage to say what I don’t.
Sexualized violence robs both men and women of healthy intimacy. In a way, this practice of asking men to ask, is my tribute to the women who don’t have a voice, who weren’t given a choice.
It’s my way of joining the biker chapped and polo clad men, in their strappy red heals.
What about you, what are you doing to stop gender violence?