“The people that are part of my life presuppose dignity and respect as foundational in every one of their relationships.I'd never really seen somebody groped or harassed,” he says.For this reason, he was shocked when #Me Too escalated as it did.“It wasn't until I started reading all of the stories that I realized how awful most men are.“It's a problem that goes way deeper than dating, or gender, or power dynamics,” he says.“Fewer and fewer people know how to even ask questions of each other, much less listen, much less give.
“I did an exhaustive list of everybody that I'd ever had romantic or sexual contact with,” he says.But “it’s impossible not to feel the reverberations in one's personal relationship, especially if one is in a personal relationship with a man.”The current cultural spotlight on these issues has also caused Adigweme to “re-contextualize” behavior that she might have brushed off previously, both in and out of her relationship.“I have had varying types of negative experiences with men who’ve decided they deserved access to my body,” she says.“I have numerous friends who have been harassed, sexually assaulted and raped.” Despite increased awareness of sexual assault in the wake of #Me Too, Bussel says she’s become less trusting of men: “I have had some pretty scary experiences with men in college … Chan, a sex educator in Toronto, shares Bussel’s hope, saying: “To move forward we need conversations in which men say, ‘I wonder what I’ve done in my life that may have put someone in danger.’ I want to recruit men to be part of the change.”Bussel believes said change will require men in positions of power (such as “actors, rappers and athletes that younger men look up to”) to start speaking up for high school and college-age men to start truly getting it.and I have been coerced and pressured numerous times.”But with a renewed personal dedication to activism, Bussel is hopeful about the future, provided that men — on-campus and off — start involving themselves more tenaciously in these conversations. Currently dating after his marriage ended three years ago, Daniel Boscaljon says he’s long considered respect to be the crux of his relationships: “Women would look at me strangely because I would be very communicative each step of the way, asking for permission for any kiss or touch: ’Is it OK if I hold your hand? ’”Living in a college town among friends who tend to share his views, Boscaljon, a humanities instructor in the Iowa City area, admits he’s rather insulated.Yet she doesn’t sense a commensurate commitment to women’s welfare from the men she dates.“They don’t seem to understand the importance of consent,” she explains.’”Still, she acknowledges that in casual dating situations, it can be tough to figure out “what you're both comfortable with, and [navigate] the power dynamics that exist in heterosexual relationships.” For example, she recalls one “borderline assault” with a “liberal bro type” who relentlessly pressured her into having sex with him: “It was one of those grey areas; I told him I didn't want to do anything, but I was staying over at his place and he kept pushing me until I just said yes."One of the challenges, as the Me Too movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, noted in a January interview, is that many American women have been conditioned to be people-pleasers.“Socially we’re trained out of knowing our own sexual desires,” said Chan, the sex educator, who says she regularly works with groups of young people who aren’t setting clear boundaries because they “don’t want to hurt someone's feelings.”Part of the problem, Breault said, is what she grew up learning from peers in her rural Connecticut town.“My peers — not my parents — taught me all kinds of bull----, like that if you don't want to have sex with [a guy,] you still have to get him off.” Until early adulthood, “I thought I had to do that to protect myself,” she says. ”Alea Adigweme, of Iowa City, identifies as a “cis queer woman engaged to a man” and says she’s still trying to parse the ways that the revelations around Me Too have affected her relationship with her fiancé.“As somebody who's in graduate school in a media studies program, who thinks a lot about gender, race and sexuality, it's always been a part of [our] conversations,” she acknowledges.There's no feel-good example anywhere of what authentic, loving, caring, dating situations should even be like.”Melanie Breault, who lives in Brooklyn, is currently dating a few men and doesn’t consider herself completely heterosexual.“I’ve always been frustrated with the [male] entitlement piece,” she says.