Friday, May 30, 2014

Not a Pretty Girl, Part I

I meet him at a Yule party I attended with a friend. We flirted a bit, and he kissed me with the help of a clove studded orange (a supposed old Yule tradition where you had to kiss the person who handed you an orange filled with cloves). I didn't think much of him after the kiss. He was fairly attractive but there was something to the cold indifference he exhibited that was a turn off. I was not confident in myself but not so insecure as I had been when I was younger. I didn't see him again until a month later we both attended a Twin Peaks marathon party. Neither of us were interested in watching T.V, and we went to another room to talk. We had similar taste in books and music and come to find out in sexual proclivities so I went home with him. The next morning as I was getting dressed, needing to get to my friend's house so I could make the Greyhound back home, he said "I just want you to know this was a one night thing. I don't want you to get any ideas that it meant anything more." And I paused in buttoning up my oxford shirt. I felt the color flush to my face in a hot rush of shame. I should have been angry but instead I was pushed back into the space of the not pretty girl. The girl who was good enough for a quick fuck but not for an actual relationship. Not good enough to be the public eye candy that hung on a man's arm. As I walked back to my friend's house, I carried the sting of a rejection I didn't even care about. I had zero interest in dating the man I had just a rather blah sexual experience with but I still felt the old slut shame creeping up on me. Once again, I chastised myself, you have jumped into bed with some guy. What's wrong with you? He thinks you're gross.

When I got back home after that weekend, I went on another diet. I was already smaller than I had been for the last five years but a little voice whispered "It isn't enough." I spent hours examining myself in the mirror. I thought about growing my hair back on the sides, dying it something a little less out there than my usual midnight black. I remember a guy friend once accusing me that I was purposefully making myself ugly. The stinging words of the guys I lived with hung between my reflection and my eyes. Lester. From the Adam's family. I didn't even warrant Wednesday. Instead I was the ugly bald male uncle. Not even female to their eyes. An ugly figure made to be mocked. Someone to be fucked in the hidden darkness of night, or in the vapors of a drunk urge. Nothing more.

During the awesome Twitter storm with the tag #yesallwomen these feelings, that moment, came back. A woman had written a tweet that said "I don't know of any women who hasn't been raped, abused or sexually harassed" and some man wrote back "You must not know any fat girls." This time though there was no shame. Just anger. Throughout this whole conversation which is so vital I have found little challenging the ideas of beauty. There are a lot of tweets from pretty girls about being harassed at bars, work, etc. Being told they weren't smart because they were pretty. My experience has been very different.

People don't believe that I have been raped and sexually harassed. I was raped when I was fifteen at a friend's camper. We were drinking with some older guys, and I was very drunk. At some point one of the equally drunk guys began to grope me and I feebly said "No" and tried to push him off. It didnt' work and at some point I just gave up, moved to some part of my brain that could be separated from my body (it was something that I as a fat girl was used to doing for a variety of reasons). When I tried to tell my friend what happened a few days later, she refused to believe that the guy would even want to have sex with me. I was too ugly for that after all. The guy didn't acknowledge my existence when I saw him in the days that followed. I learned then that I was too ugly to say no. The expectation was that I should be gratefully for every sexual advance made toward me, and for the next three years, I lived my life with that idea firmly planted in my mind. Meanwhile furthering the label "slut" that was hurled at me in the grimy hallways of school. Little did most of these people know that I didn't want to have sex with 98% of the men I had sex with; I just didn't feel like I deserved to say "No."

I didn't get hit on at work. I was never sexually harassed on the job. I never had students hit on me, or ask me on dates. At least in public. Those things happened in hidden places away from the eyes of others. I never dared to tell people because I was afraid the reaction would be that of my friend "Who would want to hit on you?" So I endured just as the pretty woman endured because I was afraid that I wouldn't be believed. But my feeling came from the fact that there was something wrong with me. No one would believe me because I wasn't pretty enough to be sexually harassed.

I do not write this as an attack on pretty girls. They suffer in a society that has very rigid standards of beauty. I write this as a way to began to shift the conversation to a closer look at our narrow standards of beauty. Women like me are often dismissed from the conversation because society deems us not sexually worthy and thus not "real" victims of sexual abuses. I wonder how many girls like me suffered sexual abuse in silence feeling that we didn't even deserve to be victims.


Holly said...

Powerful and brave, the last sentence I suspect speaks a truth that many women carry. Misogyny knows no boundaries--and is always wrought to make women feel as if they deserved the hatred and abuse and don't deserve to speak out and against perpetrators.

Renee Salas said...


Bootsie said...

So. Much. Truth.