When I was about 19, I had to break up with this guy. When I say “break up” I mean “explain that drunkenly snogging at 2am on two consecutive Mondays is not the same as a relationship”. It was early afternoon and we were in our Students’ Union. He started crying, and I was embarrassed, and also a bit guilty and confused – I really didn’t think it was that big a deal, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He told me that it had felt like his life was finally falling into place, he thought that he’d got the girl and everything was going to be okay. I crossly told him that I wasn’t a thing to win, to be “got”, and I turned to walk away. He threw a bottle at the wall. It smashed not far from my head.
For a long time, when I told that story, I tried to make it funny. I painted the guys actions as merely silly, my own as slightly ridiculous. I’d big up how I “went off on a big feminist rant” and “stalked out of the room” like “such a cliche”. I didn’t think it was remarkable – just a funny story.
I didn’t want to make a fuss. The bottle didn’t actually hit me, did it? And I had kissed him. Maybe I led him on, maybe it was my fault. I didn’t think about what might have happened if we’d been in private. I didn’t think about it very much at all.
I never told the story of the guy who thought he had a right to me, and when I questioned that, turned immediately to violence. I bet I’m not the only one who’s never told that story.