This Happens.

June 16, 2020 / 6 min read

In July of 2018 during Calgary Stampede, Jessica Littlewood — MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville at the time — was sexually harassed going back to her hotel room by two men in an elevator.

Jessica tweeted her harassment experience, the Edmonton Sun included Jessica’s experience in a story, and I witnessed the following conversation on Twitter. Let’s focus on the Twitter conversation.

Screen shot of Twitter conversation: @BreakenridgeYEG Good on @JLittlewoodNDP for speaking out about the harassment she experienced while in #yyc for #stampede. Women should be able to enjoy #safestampede #ableg

Brian is a byproduct of the problem.

Dismissing sexual harassment as something that just happens is appalling, but expected coming from a white male that doesn’t even refer to Jessica, who’s trauma he is negating, by name.

It is telling that Brian isn’t even comfortable repeating the sexual harassment. Instead, Brian replaces oral sex with his own euphemism to ‘party’. Saying oral sex makes Brian uncomfortable, let alone the fact that oral sex is likely an already watered down version of the comments made at 1:30 in the morning in that hotel elevator. Brian is so blinded by his privilege that he doesn’t even see how he undermines his own argument by shying away from repeating oral sex.

Regardless of how you want to say it, asking a stranger for oral sex is vulgar, crude, crass, and fucking sexual harassment. Brian knows it is sexual harassment to ask a stranger for oral sex.

It is sexual harassment to ask a stranger for oral sex.
Full stop.

But Brian still can’t see through his privilege and just can’t help himself from trying to publicly defend two other males — complete strangers in a news story. His male privilege is so fragile, he feels personally threatened by Jessica sharing her harassment publicly, and dismissing the threat.

Jessica knows exactly what is happening in that elevator at 1:30 AM though, she is prey.

Being preyed upon is trauma.

The human body dumps every chemical in it’s arsenal to either fight or flight in these situations. When you are prey, the moment it becomes obvious, it becomes traumatic. Regardless of what happens, it is still a trauma. And trauma adds up.

Trauma doesn’t dissipate completely. It lingers. Festers, the more trauma, the more it never goes away. Trauma re-opens with each additional traumatic event.

Brian is completely discounting Jessica’s experience, further adding to her potential trauma. Do you find yourself discounting Jessica’s experience as something that just happens?

I, a privileged white male, can’t truly relate to Jessica. I can’t relate to the frequency women — BIPOC women even more so — have to face threats to themselves and their sexuality.

I’m part of the problem.

Make no mistake. I don’t engage Brian, as I feel Dave does adequately there. Furthermore, Twitter is a tough forum to have a productive conversation but I believe I could have found a way to help Brian understand the trauma of Jessica’s experience, and the role his tweets play in perpetuating a culture of harassment.

Hear me clearly Brian, this happens is not acceptable.

This isn’t about picking sides, keeping score, or making a naughty & nice list. I am not Santa Claus. I am a white male, and as a white male, it is my job to help Brian understand how his behaviour perpetuates a corrosive cultural for anyone but the white heterosexual male norm.

Just to clarify sexual harassment one more time for those in the back.

I live in a 9 floor/99 unit historic condo building in downtown Edmonton. They are small 600’ish sq ft apartments, concrete terrazzo floors, and marble lined halls — old jewelers vaults on every floor. Its residents are diverse, but like minded in some capacity, drawn to the unique nature of the building.

My point is this, when riding the elevator in my own building full of like minded people, I am awkward on the elevator. I’ve had but a handful of natural conversations on the elevator in over five years in the building. And I’m a confident person in the world, an outgoing introvert, I know how to fake it out there.

But not even on the elevator, in my own building with like minded people, can I have a reasonable conversation. I’m at confidence zero in elevators. Like everyone else is. It’s a socially awkward prison that we all find ourselves locked in for 45 seconds at a time, hopefully not too many times a day.

Very seldom is it ever not socially awkward to even say hello, at any time, anywhere…in an elevator.

And if in an elevator at 1:30 in the morning with a stranger, alone, I sure as fuck would not be asking her for oral sex.

Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?

This is predatory behaviour if there ever was a description. Two males, a lone female, blocking off the only exit of an elevator…propositioning her for oral sex.

At 1:30 in the morning.

Jessica is prey in their eyes.
Jessica is prey in her eyes.
Anyone who has ever been prey reads this the same way.

White men, this is specifically for you.

  • We have no idea what it is like to be a minority
  • We have no idea what it is like to be a female in a patriarchal society
  • We have no idea what it is like to be BIPOC living in a white supremacist society

This is okay. You are allowed to admit it. It feels good in fact…no one ever told us we were allowed to acknowledge the fact that our lived experiences simply don’t allow us to understand something. This might hit hard if it’s sinking in for the first time.

But you have to understand being prey, and understand that Jessica, alone, in a hotel elevator at 1:30 in the morning being cornered and propositioned by two drunk men for oral sex is in fact being harassed.

This is traumatic for Jessica.
This is predatory behaviour.
This shit doesn’t just happen, predatory men in patriarchal society are why it happens.

Just stop. Stop pretending otherwise already.

Jody Bailey is trying to be a better human to he/himself and others. Treaty 6 colonizer — Edmonton, AB.
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