My body was once mine.
I remember the first time I felt disillusioned with my body was when I was eleven. I looked down in between my legs and sensed something moving through the most intimate part of my body. It was not a part of myself I thought much about, but the roses between my legs would condemn me to a lifetime of looking behind my shoulder, dodging the stares of unknown men, and the introduction to the voice inside my head telling me to trust no man.
I looked down at my light pink underwear to find it stained with fresh, red blood. Confused and afraid, I thought to myself that this might just be what a “period” is. What does this mean for me? Why do I get it? How do I make the blood stop? How much more blood will come? Those were the first string of questions I would ask myself about the inner workings of my body, and my uterus that would make me crumble in pain and fearful of the sheer amount of blood that would move out of my body every month.
So this is what it’s like, womanhood? Cramps, feeling blood clots claw their way out of my body, and my breast became more and more swollen as I entered my teenage years. As I entered my teen years, the disillusionment I felt with my form turned into discomfort. My body began to feel like a target, and my breasts a site of hyper-sexualization and shame. When I began my first job, I could feel the stares of old men travel across my body. First at my eyes when I would greet them, chaining me to their lifeless stares as if I was a doll. No thoughts, no brain, only a medium for male enjoyment. Their beady eyes would travel to my breasts and answer my question of “what do you need help with today” with their eyes firmly planted on the curves that fell above my torso. Days where I would work as a Greeter, I was filled with shame as man after man would walk by me and not even look at my face and stare at my breasts and walk away. My body wasn’t mine anymore. I wanted to burn my red uniform shirt and cut off my breasts so that no one could ever look at them again, desperate to evict the humiliation that polluted my brain.
When I was fifteen, I attended my first highschool party. I felt so cool in my red crop top and brand new sixty dollar pants I bought specifically for the party. I wanted to feel pretty, and look upon pictures from that night fondly. However, now when I look at those pants and that shirt, I feel numb. I think of the way a few twenty-year-olds who graduated years before me infiltrated their way into the party. I think of their hungry gazes, looking with intention. I could feel their stares burn into my eyes, with a strong desire to look away. I could feel my eyebrows push together and my eyes grow wide-eyed, as they always do when I feel any sort of fear or nervousness. I think of one of the older men standing in front of me, towering over my young body. I think of his wandering eyes moving across my form, looking simultaneously predatory and analytical. What is his next move? I felt my body leave my ownership and become a target. He sat beside me and offered me moonshine and vodka, which I turned away. Once I was taught not to accept candy from strangers, and then I remembered to accept drinks from men. My rejections and no’s were wasted breath, as my consent doesn’t mean much. My words became futile and my memory blank, with only the ghostlike feeling of the hands of my attacker touching my body unwillingly.
I hated not being in control, and control was something all the men I had encountered tried to take from me. I hated my body not being mine anymore, and them thinking it was there.
Uncomfortable? You should be. This is not my story. This story and variations of it, is the story of virtually every woman on earth.