There was the time the neighbour liked to touch me, numerous times, mostly blocked from my memory. I’ve bored myself with those stories.
There was the boy who cornered me in an old rusted stairwell, whimpering in his older voice that this was how we played hide and seek, and he had found me, and he could do what he wanted, his hands like fingerless paws on my skin.
There was the boy who thought playing Go-Bots or whatever we were playing meant he could put his hands down the back of my pants before I squirmed away, startled.
The boys who played me like a fiddle between them, daring each other to see how far the sad eyed girl would go.
The boy who thought coercion meant ok.
The friends of my father who leered and tried to grab.
About then I got big enough to hurt back, and mostly, it stopped. Except for the sad drunk times when no one knew how to say no. Those almost hurt more than the others. The ones I really could have stopped.
All have left their marks.
There’s a kerfuffle, which I won’t link to because drama? I’m done with the drama-I have enough kthxbai, but it opened a wound I thought I had closed over, a wound ripped bare by the innumerable hands and fingers and lips and eyes of boys and men, the one a girl learns to live with, learns to take without complaint. The grubby fingernails of a boy, stabbing at areas too soft for blood, the silences they ensure. The silence that overlays.
I understand speaking of it all. Of coming clean on a horrid thing, maybe the horrid thing that once was done. I understand my own almost mute response, the recognition in the thigh of that woman, the tears I never did shed, my response being more defeated than anything, used to the men in my life, the boys even, thinking I was theirs in some pincushion way. I wasn’t angry-I was saddened that my body, my ears and eyes so viscerally responded to that action. That I have been that girl, that woman many times over. That so many of us have, conditioned to accept it as a matter of course.
We make mistakes, all of us. But sometimes you trace back the “mistakes” made against you, and you wonder. Am I a target? Do I draw it to me, like a magnet, these hands, those lips, blank except for lust, unseeing or hearing? How did it take so long to gain the ability to say no, to fight? Why do we insist on not seeing these actions for what they are-a constant waving assault on us, on our women? On us?
Is assault only counted if it’s the most base of crimes, rape? The fingers we’ve put up with, the tongues, do they not lash and molest as well, scald our skin until we’re no longer clean in our own bodies? Giving clearance for small discretions, do we open the door for the larger, letting it swing clear of our consciences because these other things, the groping and the trapping and the touching, they aren’t that bad?
They build. They rape our minds and our futures, in their way. They allow our sons and brothers to believe that a pound of flesh is just that, flesh for taking, like a slab of cattle stunned on a table. A culture created, but the petty allowances of all of us, women alike. Because I hear the voices of other women saying “it’s not that bad, really”, and it makes me wonder, just how many times they were left alone with their grandfather or their father’s friend, left to anticipate the grab or the leering grin and wagging tongue. Left to fend for themselves.
I’m much stronger than any of those boys. All boys. But the sudden jarring dissonance of that hand on a thigh, those words, so often implied if not spoken. “is this what you want? THIS is what you want!”, the flashback to that girl in someone’s cold bed with warm, molting hands, or standing, scared still under the black stairs of a fire escape-these are the things you cannot escape.
I see cold eyes, frigid eyes that never changed from boy to man. Creatures who never really saw me.
It scares me when women speak with this same coldness, as if the scars we all carry are meaningless. I am more than my scars.
I just wish that none of us had them in the first place.