Monique Rockman plays the lead female role in SA thriller Nommer 37. Pictures: Supplied
Marchelle Abrahams chats to Nommer 37 actress Monique Rockman about being groped on screen, and finds out from other women their real-life stories.

It's a scene that jolts you to your core. With her face pushed down against the kitchen counter, he slowly takes his gun out of his pocket and points it towards her. She is helpless. She is vulnerable. She is afraid.

It’s a movie, but all the same, actress Monique Rockman had to take a few minutes to compose herself after a night shoot that lasted almost 12 hours.

“It was a difficult one for all of us,” admits the actress.

The scene is one of a few where her character, Pam, is manhandled and groped in new Hitchcockian South African crime thriller Nommer 37. But it strikes a nerve, and for her it felt very real.

“It was the last shot of the day, but it was very concentrated and focused,” she says.“In Pam’s mind she thought these people were going to rape her.”

She admits at times it was difficult, but she also felt a sense of power.

Pam may seem the epitome of the weaker sex. Her overtly sexy choice in clothing will have some questioning if “she’s asking for it” - it’s a reality for many women, even in the age of feminism and rousing campaigns like Time’s Up and #MeToo.

Like many women, she is objectified because of what she wears.

On the surface Pam is seen as the loyal, gullible girlfriend - but looks are deceiving.

Rockman refuses to be drawn into a debate: “As women, we should be able to dress as we want to. Sometimes I want to feel sexy for myself. Sometimes I like that my husband finds me sexy. If someone has a problem with that, they should look at themselves.”

Many women would agree with her. I asked a few women about their personal experiences.

I can’t help that I have big breasts

“I can’t hide the fact that I have big breasts so no matter what I wear, I can’t really cover them up. But I think that has something to do with that as well. The other thing I hate is that some men knock into you under the pretence that it was a ‘mistake’ - it makes me very uncomfortable.” - Candice Jacobs

I dated someone that made me feel violated

“My ex struck me as the kind that sees women as objects, no matter how they dressed. I often saw the way he looked at other females wearing tight clothes - undressing them with his eyes. The more time I spent with him, I started feeling as if he was doing the same to me. It made me feel violated.” - Sarena Davids

He told me to sit on his lap

“When I started a new job, I asked where I should sit. One of the guys replied: ‘On my lap’.

“I believe that some men believe if women are comfortable in their sexuality, they can be treated in a certain way. But I think that there is an inherent fear in women, especially when a man looks at you in a certain way, we are thinking ‘what is going through his mind?’ Men are still objectifying women because of the way we look, and unfortunately, we are still seen as the weaker sex.” - Latashia Naidoo.

I had to tone down the way I dress

“When I was fresh out of my studies and an intern, I was very fashionable. Photographers started using me as a trophy intern by showing me off to their peers because I made them look good. I hated that and started downplaying myself. I started wearing sneakers and dressing scruffy to work. It was a big hit to my confidence because I liked looking good. It’s only now that I’ve regained my confidence and am comfortable in my skin.” - Viwe Ndongeni