We’ve all been there haven’t we? He touches your body but he doesn’t touch you. You say “I love you” but turn the lights off during sex. You cry your tears silently in the bathroom, let the small, terrible jealousies pile up inside you, try to erase yourself to avoid conflict. Why is it that even the strongest women let these unspoken insecurities get the best of us; let colourless men scratch away at us bit by bit until we are all but gone?
When I was fourteen, I discovered feminism. The idea started creeping onto the tumblr pages I followed and into the magazines I read. I thought to myself “am I a feminist?” and the answer was a resounding yes, because of course I thought I deserved equal rights, right? And so I’d parade myself around, proudly proclaiming that I, indeed, was an advocate of woman’s rights.
When I was sixteen, I met my first serious boyfriend. We fell in love hard and fast and a week after we were official he decided we were ready for sex. So we were ready for sex. In the dark, I climbed on top of him and tried my best to navigate around the unfamiliar landscape of his body. Eight uncomfortable minutes and one position change later, I was no longer a virgin. After he’d gone home, I washed the red out of my sheets. They spun in the dryer while I sat on the tiles and cried. In almost a year together, he ate me out three times. I’d suck his mediocre penis nightly and say “Thank you.” We’d have sex five times in a row and afterwards, rubbed raw, my pee would be stained rosy. I was unsatisfied. I was hurt.
When we met, he’d said I was his dream house. He’d tell me about the girl he had broken up with to be with me. He’d tell me I was perfect no matter what. I’d say “I want to cut my hair,” but he’d say “I like it long.” We went on a picnic and he told me he’d brought her to the same place once, that they’d kissed in the rain. I’d say “I want to cut my hair,” but he’d say “That wouldn’t suit you.” He liked her Facebook profile picture even after I told him she ripped me open. I’d say “I want to cut my hair,” but he’d look me dead in the eye and say “Renae has long hair,” and then go back to texting her. Later, I went to the store and bought a box of hair dye. I stained all my blonde dark brown to match hers. He said I was his dream house but he renovated every room. He made me believe he was some kind of saint for putting up with me.
When he broke up with me, I begged him to stay.
Even now, three years on, it still affects my relationships. I freak out and leave whenever things get start getting serious with someone because I am so afraid of losing myself again. If I catch my emotions being affected by someone else’s behaviour, I cut them out. It’s hard for me to say this stuff because I’ve barely admitted it to myself, but I’m afraid.
So how is it that an independent young woman can let her life change so completely to revolve around a boy? How did I forget that, hey, I survived the 16 years before we met on my own and I was perfectly fine. The year we were together was the loneliest I’d ever felt, the saddest I’d ever been. I was crazy, insecure, cried myself to sleep at night. So why was I so scared that he would leave? Why did I think that without him, I would crumble apart and dissolve? This is what men do. They tear us down piece by piece until we are but a sliver of the person we were before. Fearing being too loud, too hysterical, too clingy, we learn to change the core of ourselves, quietly hand over our bodies, make little compromises that were really just us giving up.
It took me over eighteen years and five sexual partners to work up the courage to tell a boy no. But two months shy of nineteen, staring at the ceiling as fingers pulled at the elastic of my undies, I thought back to my fourteen year old self, feminist and proud, and I whispered “Stop.” The weight on top of me shifted, but only so he could get the right angle to suck at the skin on my neck. “Sorry, please stop.” I whispered. And he looked at me funny and I said “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’m just not in the mood,” and he flopped down onto the other side of the bed and I said “I’m really sorry.” It took me nineteen years to do that. Nineteen years to build up the courage to apologise profusely for not wanting sex. Baby steps, right?
The sad truth is, none of these things are uncommon occurrences. Every second girl I know has lost herself in heartbreak and hurt. Every second girl I know has been conditioned to believe their existence revolves around pleasing men.
A few weeks ago, Emma Curry of The Messy Heads posted this candid conversation about sex and consent. Of her and her two friends, every single one of them has suffered some kind of sexual, physical and/or mental abuse at the hands of a man. The thing that’s scary about that is that it’s an accurate representation of women in today’s society. So this post is me reminding you to empower yourself, to remain the person you are and never let a man make you fragile. Go check out Emma’s post and take the pledge.
I pledge to love and respect my body enough to speak up when I am not being respected in a way that makes me feel comfortable.