From #TheEmptyChair to #MeToo… How Many More Will it Take?

Content Warning: discussion of rape culture, reporting, sexual harassment/assault, and rape.

I will never forget back in 2015 when the NY Times covered the Bill Cosby allegations. Their cover photo for the July 27 – Aug 9, 2015 issue was 35 women and an empty chair. Some people, including Elon James White, took note of that empty chair, and began a Twitter hashtag: #TheEmptyChair

Under it, Elon James White shared hundreds of anonymous stories of sexual assault and rape, with other women coming forward publicly on their own, as well as men, and many more noting their solidarity.

News coverage was widespread as a conversation happened.

And then it died.

Fast forward to more recently.

Harvey Weinstein now has tons of allegations against him. So do Ben and Casey Affleck. As well as Louis CK. And so many other powerful men.

And now… now, we have #MeToo.

I asked, on Twitter, how many more it’s going to take. How many more women, and men, have to come forward about how they were harassed, assaulted, and raped before we realize that there’s a major problem, here? How many times do these hashtags have to trend before people start becoming aware?

And why do people, especially men, have such a hard time recognizing this reality and fighting to fix it?

Sadly, we already know the answer, and Elon gets it just right…

That… that is a very real question. I can indeed say “yes” to this question, but it’s only because I haven’t had any sexual experiences. Not even a little bit.

But what about you? Have you had any sexual experiences?

How many were consensual?

Because this is where we are. This is the reality. And this is why “not all men” is bullshit… because the reality is that sure… it might not be “all men”… but it is, indeed, all women.

All women have been harassed, at the very least.

Thing is, it’s men, too. Men have been harassed. Men have been assaulted. Men have been raped.

You do indeed know people who’ve been harassed, assaulted, and raped. In fact, I’d argue that it’s your entire friends group, your entire family… and if you think about it, it may even be you.

I got groped at a school dance back when I was in high school. To this day I have no idea who did it, and, to be entirely honest, I don’t care. I didn’t even remember it until just now, and it really didn’t effect me (at least consciously).

I bet if I think hard enough, I could think of other “minor” (put in quotes for a reason) things that happened to me that I could say, at least consciously, haven’t affected me, but would still count as harassment or even assault. And I have no doubt, if I think hard enough, I can probably find an incident in my past where I was the problem. was the person making someone else feel unsafe. I was the monster. Hell… I have massive social anxiety and am terrible in social situations, which I’m quite positive has meant that I’ve come across as creepy and made women feel unsafe just because I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not being engaged and end up staring off at nothing.

And, sorry to say, my fellow cis men… but that probably applies to you, too…

It’s why we shouldn’t demand, let alone ask, women to trust us. Why should they? What have we done to show that we can be trusted?

It makes me cry every time. Every single time I want to tweet my voice, to say “I hear you. I believe you. I support you. I will sacrifice to make this world better for you.”

And all of that is true. 100% true.

But how many times can I say it before it becomes empty? How many times can any of us say it before it just becomes words?

This. Has. To. End.

This is a widespread problem. It’s not just power. It’s not just “some people”. It’s everywhere. It’s everyone. This is our society.

This. Is.

Rape Culture

And we have to end it. We have to. Cis and trans women, trans men, people who aren’t straight, people of color, gender non-conforming people… all deserve to feel safe, but we don’t have a society where they can feel safe. And that isn’t fair. It isn’t okay.

It also isn’t nature. We men? We cis-het white men?

We are entirely capable of self control.

When we lash out and grab and grope, when we trap women and force them to watch us masturbate, when we wear a woman down until she “finally” “consents” just to “shut us up”, when we use a passed out body to relieve ourselves…

We aren’t “acting on a biological urge”. We aren’t “just acting to our nature”.

We don’t have to do this. We may be animals, but we’re human beings. We are entirely capable of not doing any of that. We are entirely capable of being friends with women. We are entirely capable of only having sex with partners who give happy, enthusiastic consent while sober. We are entirely capable of respecting “no”, and “stop”, no matter how far into sex with a person we may be. We are entirely capable of using our hands, or a fleshlight, in a private place where no one else has to watch (unless they want to and we are okay with it).

This is why we say that rape is not actually about sex, but about power. We can control ourselves. The fact that we don’t isn’t down to “biology”… it’s down to the fact that we know we’ll get away with it, even if we are accused. It’s down to the fact that we know we’ll be fine, even if it seems like we’ll end up “in disgrace”. We know we’ll come back, better than ever.

We know we have the power to get away with it.

We can help it. We just don’t like to.

Commenting policy: “not all men” and related comments are not welcome here. If you do post that nonsense, your comment will be disemvoweled and you’ll get one chance to apologize… If you do apologize, your comment will be edited with a link to your apology. If you refuse to, your comment will be deleted and you will be banned.


  1. says

    Wow, it’s like just being an atheist and not believing in god doesn’t define a simple bar for being a “good person.” It’s like we need more than just atheism.

    What smokes my ass about these stories is that it’s quite clear that many many people knew about it and many many people facilitated it. Now they’re all shocked. But, seriously, if you’ve got a power and money-hungry person who runs around acting like an abusive asshole, you ought to realize that person is probably an entitled, abusive, asshole in many respects -- not just a jerk to the wait-staff and office help. This isn’t rocket science.

    Basically, we have a lot of people who spent a long time kissing Weinstein’s pimpled butt and now they suddenly discovered it left a bad taste in their mouths. Let’s be honest: a lot of those people didn’t say anything because they wanted Weinstein’s money. It’s buyer’s remorse.

  2. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    Have you had any sexual experiences?

    How many were consensual?


    Ages 8 or 9 to age 12, none. What was done to me, what I did to others. Since then, all have been consensual. With the woman who is still my wife.

    We don’t have to do this. We may be animals, but we’re human beings. We are entirely capable of not doing any of that.

    For me, it was a conscious decision (reached for a very bad (at the time) reason (I did what you taught me to do so I am a man and I don’t ever have to do this again)). And through high school and college I acted as a human being should act. Except that I did not actually stop any of the predatory men. And, given where I am on the spectrum, I usually didn’t notice until long afterwards.


    But, seriously, if you’ve got a power and money-hungry person who runs around acting like an abusive asshole, you ought to realize that person is probably an entitled, abusive, asshole in many respects — not just a jerk to the wait-staff and office help.

    This struck me while reading your comment. Why do we (as a nation, as journalists) continue to ignore Trump’s history while Cosby’s and Weinstein’s victims are (too late) getting a voice?

  3. jazzlet says

    @1 Marcus you are right, but you are limiting the perpetrators too much. My personal experiences of abuse and attempted abuse have not by and large been from such men, they’ve been from far more ‘average’ men. Like, to pick a mild but representative example, the work mate who insisted on a New Year’s kiss despite me clearly saying no and backed me into a corner in a pub so I couldn’t get out of it with out attacking him, which of course I didn’t. Easy to put down as ‘harmless’ or ‘just a bit of fun’ and not in the scheme of things maybe very damaging, but that was some thirty years ago and I still remember the incident, how helpless it made me feel and how I was always after wary of that colleague. And how surprised Mr Jazz (who’d also worked with him) was when I mentioned it to him as ‘I thought he was a sound bloke’. It is those men who perpetuate most of the abuse of women and it is making what they do unacceptable that will lead to real change. I know that there has been change in those thirty years, I don’t think anyone would now dismiss that as ‘just a bit of fun’ in anything like as many workplaces, but there are still workplaces where they would, still men who would dismiss it with just those words and those are the people we need to get to if we are to change the experiences of most women as most of us do not work with or for moghuls.

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