These sexual assault scandals are horrific. But they’ve made me feel safer

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SpaceyWestwickHoffmanSeagalBlaineCK. Weinstein (Harvey and Bob). Affleck (Casey and Ben). The list goes on. In the past few months, seemingly half of Hollywood and half of government have stood accused. Since the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour, the floodgates have opened as more and more women have felt that finally here was the chance they needed: to make accusations about the wolf without being told they were just crying.

In all the conversations that I’ve had with men about what I’m terming “man-fear”, I’ve heard the same comment time and again: “It can’t be that bad”. Womencan’t be scared all the time, can’t be constantly looking over their shoulders, looking out for the next could-be predator about to graze their behind and “accidentally” squeeze while reaching for his drink. Because not all men are like that you see. Well, thanks to this ongoing pile-up of scandals, all’s gone a bit quiet on the “it’s not all men” front.

Now, instead of expecting to see news of a terrorist attack when the ding-of-doom comes from our phones, we all expect it to be the dethroning of yet another man we once admired, a childhood crush, a filmic father figure. With most women, my friends included, the very reasonable response to this has been to become more afraid of men. This is what our mothers warned us of: men are predators, and we need to be on our guard.

I grew up with a mother whose customary warning was a happy “watch out for mad axe murderers!” – she felt darkly validated when an actual axe attack happened in our county last year, and, half-joking paranoia satisfied, she’s barely mentioned them since. As a child, I spent a lot of time looking around rooms trying to establish what in there could fall, collapse, and subsequently kill me. Cheery. With such a light-hearted, jovial temperament, a mother worried about axe murderers and an overactive imagination, I’ve been paranoid all my life. Nowhere has this been more palpable than with my fear of men.

To clarify, I’m not some weirdo who can’t have a conversation with a man. I’m good with men, can spot a creep, take a joke, and have a wonderful long-term boyfriend. I am very aware that not all men are despicable. But when I’m walking alone at night I, like almost every woman I know, will have wolverine claws of keys in my hand; will have established how to incapacitate with a heel and then leg it. Every strange man on the street is a potential attacker, and must be watched. It might sound insane to some, some men, but this is life for a lot of women.

Since all these allegations have surfaced however, I feel like my mum with her mad axe murderers. Now that the horror story turns out in some cases to be true, it’s like that movie moment when the monster from the shadows becomes real, and he’s just not as scary any more. If anything, he’s a little pathetic. Women have always known that we should be wary of men, particularly men in power. It’s just that now everyone else does too. Men will finally back a woman’s allegations, cross the street and smile to let a woman know she’s not being followed. Major artists such as Drake and Architects’ frontman Sam Carter will stop their gigs to call out perverts, because they know to look for this behaviour.

It feels as though not only will anything which does happen be taken far more seriously, but that with so many eyes trained to look out for the monsters lurking in the shadows, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to reach us. We’ve cried wolf, and finally the pitchforks are out and on our side. If that’s not at least a little reassuring, then I don’t know what is.

 Sarah Gosling is a freelance journalist

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Big Mouth — The cartoon making a joke out of puberty

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Aside from the lilo-shaped-like-a-sanitary-towel product pitch, I can’t think of any meeting I’d rather spy on than the commissioning of Nick Kroll’s new animated series, Big Mouth, to Netflix.

My guess is, it went something like this: “So, you’ll know me as ‘the Douche’ from Parks and Recreation and I want to make a show about a bunch of super horny 12-year-olds who drink, make out and hallucinate giant hairy hormone monsters that make them watch pornography and masturbate all the time. It will feature all the gross stuff that happened to you and your friends as teenagers but are too embarrassed to talk about. And we’re showing everything.

A brief silence follows. “Sorry, Nick, just to confirm, you want us to run a NetflixOriginal showing explicit underage drinking and sex?”

“Oh, right. D’oh!” (At this point Kroll mock face-palms). “It’s animated.”

And just like that, Netflix gained one more great original.

Arriving late to the cartoon craze, Big Mouth has learned its craft from the best. Taking the Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman “sad-com” structure of crass-yet-clever humour and emotional vulnerability, Kroll, Goldberg, Flackett and Levin take on those most untouchable of topics: periods, penises and pubescent lust.

We all remember puberty being awful: developing too quickly, too slowly, too openly, too shyly; no one wins. All, it seems, anyone can hope for is to maintain a shred of dignity at the end of it, or to move far away soon after. That doesn’t mean that we remember how it feels, though. That’s where Big Mouth transcends. It puts the stories of teens on an emotional par with those of their parents who, between marijuana addictions, sexual awakenings and physical changes, seem to be experiencing a second adolescence of their own. It respects teenagers while at the same time humiliating them.

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 Big Mouth: respecting teenagers while at the same time humiliating them. Illustration: Courtesy of Netflix

Since watching Big Mouth, I have found that teen memories have flooded back with such nauseating violence that I feel the need to sob and listen to loud Paramore. It’s all so horribly relatable: the boys’ heads exploding at the news that “girls get horny, too”; the girls sneaking a mirror “down there” to see what the deal is; the boys realising that they can get heartbroken, too. We have all been there (although admittedly, we’ve never had those experiences voiced by Kristen Wiig. All women everywhere are jealous).

But it’s not just about cringey nostalgia. What sets Big Mouth apart is the way it positions itself firmly within today’s generation of teens – a world of mean hashtags and internet pornography addiction. At one point, the female lead, Jessi, goes through the trauma of having her first period in the Statue of Liberty while wearing white shorts. Then her dorky best friend, Andrew, vomits at the mention of “the P-word”. As Bodyform announces its intention to use red blood in its adverts, REM the tampon (don’t ask) sings “everybody bleeds”, and Jessi punches a guy in the throat for mocking her period.

It all feels wonderfully relevant. Another particularly horrible encounter sees Andrew declaring: “Look at all these houses. You never know how many people might be eating jizz inside them.”

It might be simple gross-out comedy, but it also feels like we should be talking about this stuff more openly and more often. It’s either that or people will still think an Ookie Cookie is a good idea and that women bleed blue. Your call.

Originally published at www.theguardian.com on October 23, 2017.