For the first part, please go here.
For another take on this story, please go to The Grand Narrative.
On the way to work one afternoon, I was walking down a small side street in Chungju. It was raining and I was carrying a heavy bag on one arm while my umbrella tried vainly to keep me dry in the other. A few men were standing in an empty lot nearby presumably talking about this year’s corn crop. I saw a man walking toward me from the opposite direction; he seemed to be walking right into me. He was also completely mesmerized by my chest.
“Oh dear God,” I sighed and took a step to my right hoping the action would break his stare and prevent us from running into each other. Instead he took a step to his left and didn’t even look up.
“Hey,” I said hoping to get his attention and out of each others’ way, as I was now brushing against the cars lining the street.
He looked at me. Something about the way he looked at me scared me. I don’t know–almost like he recognized me for a second or was daring himself to do something.
I moved as far to the right as I could holding my umbrella high and my bag close to my chest. At the same moment, the man shuffled and kicked himself in the foot which sent him tumbling into me. Then before I’d even had time to straighten myself out his hand was down my shirt grabbing my breast.
“Oh my fucking God!” I screamed and pushed him into the street. Then I walked away as quickly as possible.
I heard a shout behind me. I turned around, but the old men were still standing in the field and the groper was standing up.
“Fuck you.” I huffed and went to work.
Having my breast forcibly grabbed in the middle of the day while walking down the street, was a tremendously upsetting experience. I felt like I’d somehow done something to bring this on myself. I thought I was a horrible person for pushing the groper and screaming. All the while, the feminist in me is saying, “Hey, this isn’t your fault. Calm down. The guy totally deserved to get pushed. And you aren’t to blame for someone else’s actions.”
But then when I related this story to a couple friend’s, both Korean and Western, they seemed to indicate that I’m somehow at fault for having breasts and for wearing revealing clothing.
Excuse me? My boobs came out this way because of genetics; there isn’t anything I can do about it. No woman in the world should be in constant danger of groping (or any sexual harassment) just because she has tits. And revealing clothing? I was wearing a tank top that showed my collar bone. What’s with this Korean idea of modesty that it’s okay to wear booty shorts, but not okay to show your collar bone? (Or any ideas of modesty for that matter?) Finally what is going on when we reach for explanations and excuses for a man’s behavior when it upsets a woman?
I’m sorry, but if you for one second thought, “Hey maybe you’re overreacting a bit. Maybe this guy really did fall and maybe he grabbed your breast on accident.” Then you’re excusing an attitude that allows a rape culture to exist. This isn’t a problem exclusive to South Korea. Rape culture is this world we live in. And what are we going to do about it?
Tell women to wear less revealing clothing, to not stand out, to stay quiet, to mind their own business, to carry mace and learn self-defense?
Why don’t we just tell men and women it’s not okay to invade another person’s space, privacy and person without their permission?
Sexual assault is not okay anywhere at anytime against anyone and the perpetrator is the person we should blame not the victim.