It’s weird really. I mean, in some ways I should always have been aware of this stuff - our school fairly regularly warned everyone about flashers known to be nearby, there was a fairly big sexual assault case at uni while I was there (in one of the safest towns in the country) and certain incredibly harmful ways of speaking are incredibly normalised and yet it probably wasn’t until the last 10 years or so that the scales started to fall from my eyes and I started to realise quite how ingrained in our culture degrading and harmful language, actions and hierarchies are. I guess beforehand while i was aware of things, I tended to mentally explain themselves away to myself as isolated individuals rather than a product of a culture that doesn’t just tolerate, but basically encourages this behaviour en masse. I even experienced low grade sexism (as if there’s a grading system for that kind of thing) when someone mistook me as a woman at distance while I was out running yet… but because I’ve only had it once I didn’t really make anything of that behaviour.
Indeed I contributed to some of the insidious culture myself when I was younger, not only by things like staying silent and not stepping in to tell my uni football team how fucking disgusting they were at times (it wasn’t just the casual stuff I wouldn’t have noticed back then, but proper grim language), but I suspect also by occasionally being that guy on the night out who makes someone else feel uncomfortable by looking at them too often/for too long or dancing a bit too close. No touching or anything like that, but still not behaviour that was or is in any way acceptable - I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about whether it was as bad as I remember, whether the self loathing part of me is making it worse, or if actually my memory has minimised the impact of my actions. And yet I know much as my mind is in turmoil at times about whatever small or great actions I may or may not have taken, it’s far worse for anyone who felt affected by anything I did on those evenings and anyone else impacted over the years by the culture I helped perpetuate in my own way. *
I also had a housemate who did something totally off with another and again I quite shamefully didn’t say anything or even realise quite how serious it was (nothing overtly sexual and just a one off as far as I ever knew, but still quite disturbing behaviour). And yet again I always just saw it as someone learning through experience rather than something I should have stepped in and said something about, even after the event. I’m even guilty of tone policing people on here in the past early on in learning about this stuff - I wish I had known better, but I didn’t (apologies @DarwinBabe and any others I did this to).
As I say, I’ve learnt an awful lot over the last decade or so (much thanks to the people I’ve met on here) and I’m certainly far closer to understanding much of what’s been discussed in this thread and elsewhere than I used to be, yet as I think i said further up, even though I’m aware of much more that goes on these days, it never makes an individual account leas affecting and often it doesn’t stop me from being surprised at some of the most egregious behaviour that gets discussed - the idea of a rock star taking advantage of young and vulnerable fans is obviously an age old story, as is the idea of an MP taking liberties with their staff. But giving head to an unconscious person you only just met and some of the other stories I won’t tell because they belong to the people who told me them in confidence? As @sheeldz and others said, I’m hugely naive, I’m privileged and I’ve in my own way taken advantage of that, yet my brain still really struggles to understand how that kind of thing is as widespread as it is as I simply can’t fathom how anyone would possibly go that far, and my mind always wants to rationalize everything. Even though the evidence before my eyes tells me it happens and that should really be enough, the fact I can’t comprehend the how and why stops me from processing how far the problem goes and how big it is.
Long post typed on mobile and I’m a bit aware It’s self indulgent stream of consciousness stuff with mass digressions that slightly crosses over with discussions that should be on the masculinity thread too, but (leaving aside the cases where people are acting with disappointment over being let down by a hero of sorts) hopefully it explains a little better why some of us still react with surprise when we really shouldn’t.
(Advance apologies for anything I’ve got wrong in all of the above - I’m still learning so please do tell me where I’ve got something wrong)
* - in a further irrelevant digression (I’ve put this at the end as I don’t want to detract from my own behaviour with something that casts me as a victim and it is getting a long way from your original point, but does somehow feel vaguely relevant to my wider post), I was subject to unwanted attention by a much older woman in a pub in my late 20s when away from home. Her daughter had come to a table with me and a couple of friends and was talking us before a little later I felt someone drape themselves over my shoulder (the aforementioned woman) and start kissing the back of my neck - while her daughter kept on as if everything was normal. We left the pub not long after that and I’d forgotten about it until last weekend, but the reminder of how I froze in context of what I wrote above makes me (selfishly) glad I never escalated my behaviour further to that kind of level. If I found it difficult to deal as an adult without the inherent power imbalance, it’s difficult to comprehend what others go through on a regular basis.