There have been a lot of books coming out over the last couple years that deal with sexual harassment and rape. On the one hand, I'm very happy that people are speaking out against such a serious issue. On the other hand, it really underscores just how big a problem rape is in our society even despite various advances in how we view gender constructs and sexuality, and that is troubling.
TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT is a series of short stories, all illustrated, from men and women sharing their stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. Their stories are heartbreaking. I could feel my emotions catching in my chest as each narrator shared their story in devastatingly simple and hard-hitting terms.
One man was raped during a blind date. A woman had (unwanted) anal sex forced upon her by a boyfriend. One woman was taking the bus at night and had a man follow her all the way down the street. The stories range from mild to severe, but all of them are equally disturbing, and all of them have done harm.
TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT is an important book because it illustrates the importance of consent and respect in any kind of relationship. People should be able to feel safe when they walk down the street at night, and they should be able to trust that friends, family, and significant others won't take advantage of their trust when things don't go their way. Our bodies are our own, and to take away that ownership of someone, to rob them of agency and autonomy, is sick and depraved. What makes this book even more tragic is how young some of the victims were. One girl was only nine.
As I was reading this, I found myself thinking about some of the unpleasant situations I've found myself in over the years. One stood out among the rest.
When I was in high school, I would walk home from school. I lived in a desert climate. In June, it started to get very hot, often over 100 degrees. I was wearing an ankle-length skirt in my favorite color and a tank top. About halfway, these men started following me in a car at a slow pace. They were Latino, and quite a bit older than I was, and they were all calling horrible things to me in Spanish. I understood every word and it was terrifying, what they were saying. For the first time in my young life, I found myself wondering if I was going to make it home safely.
I ignored them. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Because engaging people is the same as encouraging them? So I ignored the things they were saying, even as my squared shoulders stiffened and I found myself flushing with mortification and terror, and I quickly came up with a plan. If they stopped and came after me, I was going to run up to the first house I saw that had a car parked in a driveway. I was already fingering my cell phone, ready to call 911.
And then...what? What if I didn't make it? What if they were faster than me?
What if they didn't care?
Luckily, I didn't have to find out. The men got tired of me ignoring them and, laughing, drove away. I walked home looking over my shoulder the whole way, feeling scared and sick. When my mom got home, I cried when I told her. I never wore my favorite skirt again.
I was seventeen.
5 out of 5 stars.