Woman wanted for sexual abuse after twerking on man in gas station.
By now, I'm sure you've seen that headline splattered across your timelines and news feeds with jokes to accompany the story. While many filled comment sections with LOL's, I, unfortunately, didn't find the incident funny at all.
Two women were caught on camera randomly twerking on a man they did not know at a gas station on October 7th. In the video, one of the women throws herself against Washington Tharpe, a middle school teacher as he attempts to pay for something at the register. As she gyrates on him, footage shows him slowly backing away, with the second woman aggressively approaching and proceeding to grope Tharpe, even after he uncomfortably moves away. Tharpe said he told the woman to stop after she began to inappropriately touch him. “It looks like I just had some girls twerking on me and I just called the police. That is not what happened at all.”
“I was going around in circles trying to maneuver myself away from them and they just keep continuing, continuing, continuing,” for a full 10 minutes, the man known as the “DC twerk victim” shares. The women follow him outside where they refuse to let him in his car and he believes he was being set up after seeing two men witnessing the event. It gets even creepier when he finally does get into his car and the women follow him into the car wash. It was then that Tharpe decided to call police.
I’ve read comments since the story found its way to the web and seen a lot of people take the situation as joke. There’s been a lot of questioning his masculinity and referring to him as a woman’s genitalia, just for calling the police and feeling uncomfortable. Of course, valid points have been made when he said that had he touched those women, he would’ve been apprehended and charged with sexual assault. It reminded me of an incident that happened at a party with one of my sons earlier this year.
During a party, the children in attendance were asked to participate in a dance contest. As one of these new school hype songs played, one girl, no older than seven, innocently decided to dance with my youngest. But things took a turn left when she decided to back up on my son, thus making the adults hype up the moment with “Ayeee” and “Go, go, go!” disregarding the discomfort on my son’s face. I immediately interjected and pulled my son away, asking him how he felt. He wasn’t having it. In removing my child from something that he didn’t take a liking to, I was faced with remarks from other parents who told me to leave him and reminded me that it “was all in fun,” and to “let him be a kid.” No one thought about the fact that my five-year-old didn’t want his space invaded because his uneasiness was someone else’s entertainment.
Of course, I was advised that not interacting with girls would result in him “turning gay” when he gets older. Preventing him from engaging with the girl through dance would mean that he would be Washington Tharpe in the future–a man who actually turns down the opportunity to have sex. The same people who thought it best to forewarn me weren’t the same ones telling him about sexual harassment being very real for boys and men either. While the statistics of sexual harassment against women are frightening and overshadow that of men, it doesn’t mean that it’s not real for males in the workplace or on the street.
The adverse reactions to Tharpe’s encounter in October sparked dialogue on the double standards that exist. Had the man touched the woman from the beginning of the recording, this article would’ve been on the continuance of our bodies being viewed as a man’s playground. Had he touched them in return, this wouldn’t have been news, period. But we need to talk about the reality of our young boys and men being sexually assaulted and having their sexuality interrogated. We need to talk about why the backlash on this particular incident is reflective of an over sexualized society that says men should be okay with being touched inappropriately because they're hyper sexual beings to begin with. I've been called an overprotective parent, but I cannot preach the importance of keeping our hands to ourselves to my sons, but allow someone to touch them in the same ways I deem wrong. Life has plenty of two-way street moments.
“It is not about me being afraid or not afraid or embarrassed or not embarrassed. I am speaking the truth. Maybe it will help someone else in the future,” the teacher says. With young boys becoming grown men who find suppressing their emotions as masculine behavior, I don’t believe Tharpe was wrong for calling the police or talking about the incident. He could have resorted to being physically violent against the women or stayed silent–something we suggest women of sexual assault to be vocal about. Since the video has gone viral, one of the two women have been arrested and charged with sexual abuse. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would’ve hoped the male was jailed immediately. The woman was wrong and doesn't get a pass because of who she is in my book. Maybe a small twerk “isn't that deep,” but when someone says stop it’s something that should be respected. We have been speaking out a lot about equality, haven’t we?
That man could be one of my sons, and discussing how to respond after being violated and touched without consent is a conversation that we should have with our girls and boys from young ages. I’m honest enough to say that I still struggle with teaching my child how to draw the line between playing and understanding that his body shouldn’t be touched if he doesn’t give permission. But that moment a few months ago opened a door where he is aware and knows the significance in no–even if society is blind to the reality of sexual abuse towards men.