The abuses started while she was still young. She was 12, moderately tall with brand new boobs. Her mother wouldn’t let her wear “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to her that it was weird until the boys of my class started sneering at her and advised her to “stop wearing sports bras” because she looked saggy in them. It was a boy who told her that she had to start shaving my legs if she wanted anyone to ever like her. She denied and said that wasn’t true. The boy laughed in her face and called her a dyke. That night after shaving, her mother asked her why she was so futile.
They started coming up with reasons to touch her, pinching her ass, snapping her new bras or straight-up grabbing her breasts. The boys dropped pencils so she would have awkward lean overs and staged run-ins. There was this one time when a popular boy she knew who lived near her street forced his way into her living room while her parents were out and fought with her over a remote control just so that he could nick a feel. She never said anything. She believed speaking up was not an option rather it was an easy road to being even more snubbed and being considered “crazy.” Besides, who would ever believe that he’d wanted to touch her?
The boys at school named girls one by one, by the flaws of their bodies which was something they considered theirs. They would write them on chalkboards to taunt the girls. Draw crude and disrespectful pictures. And if the girls ever expressed how much it hurt them, things would only get worse. She would cry in the bathroom and hope for some serious illness to keep her out of school, even if only for a day.
When she first kissed a boy, he encouraged her to do the same with his friends. Not because he thought she might want to, but because he considered her a toy which he wanted to share with his friends too. An experience he wanted to his less “fortunate” friends to have. For them it was a celebration and for her it was a social suicide.
Even if she wanted to, she could never win. She still remembers how excited she was when she was invited to watch a movie with this popular boy she liked. She primped for hours, spent hours trying to look beautiful. When she got there, he did not put on the movie they had agreed to watch, but a porn film. She had never seen one before. He unzipped his pants, pushed and pulled at her. She cried the whole walk home after having been harassed like that.
The worse part of it all was that they knew they were wrong but there were just never any consequences. They knew they could just treat the girls like objects and get away with it. She wanted to make them stop. But the bitter truth is that some boys never do. They have never stopped reminding her of her status. She is reminded when I she is abused in her sleep, or groped in a bar, or held down by an old friend. She is reminded when she refuses to talk to a strange man and he spits in her direction, or calls her a “bitch.” She is reminded when she is asked why she wore such a pretty dress if I wasn’t trying to excite men. She is reminded when she is told to be less aggressive and more agreeable. She is reminded when young girls are bullied so brutally by men who wanted to harass them that they commit suicide.
This girl’s story is not uncommon. They’re more common than most people might think. Ask anyone who is or has been a teenage girl. 16-yr-old boys assaulting women is common. It’s ‘normal.’ It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t talk about it or bring it up until we’re women and we know it doesn’t have to be this way. And this might sound uncommon, but remind the men that we’re, you know, people, not tools? We deserve better than this.
We don’t talk very openly about what it’s like being a teenage girl. If we did talk about it, what it was like for us, maybe we wouldn’t be so harsh on them. Maybe we would see their lives for the small and large violations they’re often made up of and what these kinds of harassments do. Maybe we would be less surprised when we would hear that a fifteen-year-old boy was arrested on the scene of a sexual assault. Maybe we would be less shocked by the fact that it’s 12-17 year old boys who are most likely to commit sexual assault. After all that is what they were doing to the girl. They think it’s easy? Being a teenage girl? Being treated like toys and given no respect. One can’t even begin to imagine the mental torture and emotional pain it causes them. Give them what the one thing these girls deserve, RESPECT.