From Sable Aradia
If you were on Twitter or Facebook in the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen it; the #MeToo hashtag. For anyone, especially women, who have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment.
I had two stories to tell. There is at least as much story in the response as there is in the story.
The first one I posted was this:
Every boy in my class snapped my bra strap until I hit some w/my lunch kit. I went home w/welts. I got in trouble, not them. #MeToo
And the first response I got, which was deleted before I responded to it, was:
Every single boy?
Some of you are reading this and the iron tang of rage just rose into your throat, as it did in mine when I saw this. I’m not going to out the person who said it because he (of course, he) did delete it right away, and I must assume that this was because he rethought the wisdom of his post. But I am going to respond. And this is my response.
The truth is, I don’t remember specifically which boys did and did not take part in this “amusing little prank.” I was nine. I don’t remember some of their names, after all this time.
What I remember is the experience. Being afraid to walk by myself in the hallway. Being afraid to turn my back on anyone with a penis. The snickering. The catcalls. Wolf-whistles. I was nine. Why was I getting wolf-whistles?
I was a tomboy. I liked to climb trees and play fighter pilots. From the age of three to the age of twelve my knees were perpetually scabbed from all the rough play I did. I had more boy friends than girl friends because of that.
Then I developed early. I was a C cup by the age of ten. And all of a sudden, the way that absolutely everyone treated me changed.
My dad wouldn’t play rough with me anymore. “It’s not appropriate,” he said. But he would play rough with my brother.
I was a fierce little girl. I jumped from trees, slogged through mud, and fought with sticks. I had no fear. But now I had boobies, so my mom emphasized how important it was that I act “ladylike.” To this day that word fills me with a seething rage that makes me want to punch the person who said it in the teeth.
But more than that, all of a sudden when I stood up to debate an issue in class, like we did on Fridays, I was mocked. It was magic; just like that. Prior to boobies, I was recognized as one of the “smart kids.” When I stood up to debate, people listened. After boobies, I was insulted and humiliated, if not in class, than certainly after.
To this day, I hate my breasts. I don’t like them played with during sex. I don’t want people looking at them.
Often, I could never be entirely certain which of the three boys standing behind me had reached over to snap my bra strap. I complained about what the boys were doing to me. “Which boys?” I was asked. I couldn’t name a specific name.
What I do know is that whichever one it was, his friends never stopped him.
When the more sexually astute girls realized what was going on, things got worse. Because, I guess, the gods hate me, I was in a split class where the other half was older than I was. They were a year ahead in development, and I now know, they were jealous of the male attention I was receiving.
But I didn’t know that then. I was nine. I understood nothing about sex; I’d never kissed a boy or a girl, my mother never told me a thing, and I had yet to discover Judy Blume.
So when they started mocking me in the change room, I was mortified. “You’re getting fat,” one would say, poking my rounding hip. “You don’t need a bra; you’re too young for a bra,” another would say. That might be, but my boobies, which I was already learning to hate, bounced when I ran, and it made it difficult to run because they hurt.
I started locking myself in the showers to change.
The damage was a wound that I never truly recovered from. As far as I knew, I was fat; certainly I had these bulbs of flesh that were constantly in my way, and now my hips were rounding and I was constantly bumping into things. I developed serious enough dysphoria and body-hatred that by the time I was fifteen I was a full-blown anorexic-bulimic. I weighed 86 pounds and my hair was starting to fall out.
I think that after a while, it became a bit of a game for the boys in my class. I have always been a fiery-tempered sort. Perhaps it was a bit like trying to leap from the highest tree; they wanted to find out which one of them I was going to murder first.
When I entered a new grade and it didn’t stop, I started striking back. When I felt a tug on my bra strap, I would turn around and hit whoever was in my path with my plastic lunch kit.
It was I who was called into the office. “Why are you hitting other students with your lunch kit?”
I told them.
“Is that an appropriate response for such a little thing?” I was asked by my male teacher.
“I go home with blisters,” I sniffled.
“Boys will be boys,” said my male school principal. “They do it because they like you.”
“So?” I said. What I meant was, Why does that make it okay?
The implication was that they had a right to my body because they were interested.
So they made me stop taking a lunch kit to school. After that, I started hitting them with rulers. I got detention after detention, but I insisted on defending myself. After the third time I struck someone, it finally stopped.
Learning to Fight
When I was recovering from my eating disorder, my father got me a membership at a gym. Because I was driven, I channeled my addiction into working out. Ultimately it was a bit like weaning myself off of heroin by taking methadone. It worked, once I’d fought the working-out addiction.
But during that time I put on weight again, even as my body toned and became muscled. And when a bully confronted me outside of the school grounds, she got one punch only before I turned around and pommeled her. It was a real-life Charles Atlas story.
But that didn’t change the fact that I had been bullied.
Fast forward to my staggette party. By this time, I’d been studying a smattering of martial arts; some basic judo, some ninpo taijutsu, a little bit of medieval armoured fighting through the Society for Creative Anachronism. And while I was waiting outside the bar for a cab, someone grabbed my ass.
Before I realized it, I had him in an arm bar. He was looking up at me with fear in his eyes.
“I guess that was a bad idea,” he said.
“I guess so,” I agreed.
“I’m sorry. I guess I’ll go now.”
“You do that,” said I with death in my eyes.
My friends cheered. To them I was Wonder Woman. I’d defeated the oppressor through contest of arms.
But that didn’t change the fact that he’d grabbed my ass. For all my strength, and for all my ability to fight, I was still a victim.
Boys Will Be Boys
Why had he done it? For the same reason the boys had snapped my bra strap; because they thought they could. Because being interested in me entitled them to my body. Because “boys will be boys” let them get away with it.
“Rape culture” is a term, like “feminism,” guaranteed to enrage the right wing. They think it means that the people who say it think that all men go around raping women like savage baboons. And of course, that’s not true.
But many of them do go around grabbing asses and snapping bra straps. And no one stops them.
And, I would point out to the person who asked, “Every single boy?”, neither did you. You reacted defensively and not, as you would have yourself believe in your self-image, protectively.
I believe that more evil is perpetrated by cowardice than any of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. Sure, you didn’t pull the trigger. But you didn’t do a thing to stop the one who did. You sat around and let it happen. You were more interested in saying, “Not me!” than you were in saying, “I’m sorry this horrible thing happened to you.”
And every time someone says, “Every single boy?”, they’re doing it again. And again.
I don’t remember specifically which boys did and did not take part in this “amusing little prank.” I was nine. But I do remember that nobody stopped them. And that, more than the experience itself, is the problem.
I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I own a dog and am owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.
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