I’ve always had the seeds of feminism planted in me. For a long time, I’ve considered myself a feminist and aligned my views accordingly, but I think my degree of feminism varied on a scale. If you think about it as a 1-10 rating, I would score myself to have always hovered around a 5. I was half-way in. I believed in feminism, I felt that it was important, I saw the inequality between sexes, therefore, I was a feminist. I was strong in my opinions, I was knowledgeable with my facts, I wasn’t shy about these things either. But, I was still only half-way in.
After being abused, I see the world in a completely different light. I see the power-struggles as more daunting. I watch as everything in our society reinforces sexism. I feel alienated and isolated when I’m the one with the opinion that differs from everyone else’s. Now, I’m not saying you must have had a traumatic experience in order to reach ‘full feminist’. For me, it was this experience that completely opened my eyes and brought me to a 10.
I think back to my teenage years and how pressured I was when it came to sexuality. There was always an expectation that once I reached a certain age, I was going to have to let a boy kiss and touch me. When I avoided sexual contact after a heavy make-out session, boys often lost interest and referred to be as “tight”. I didn’t want to be the girl who was afraid of sex. I didn’t want to be the girl who boys ignored because I wasn’t ready. So, I succumbed to the pressure and gave in.
I can remember so many times when I compromised my values and own desires for the sake of a boy. Having sex when I didn’t feel like it, performing sexual acts when I didn’t want to, allowing boys to go further than I wanted because they kept pushing for it, sacrificing my safety for the continued attention of a boy. I put myself into some really unsafe situations with boys and men I didn’t know very well.
Throughout that entire time, no one ever told me to stop. Many of my friends were doing the exact same thing as I was. If anything, we felt liberated with our sexuality and took a stance to not let it define us. We proclaimed to have the same allowances as men when it came to sexuality and not to let our gender define who we slept with or how many people we slept with. It’s great to say that you’re going to give yourself, as a woman, the same standards as a man. In theory, you should. But the world around us wasn’t built for that. So, as we were entering into situations, we felt a false sense of certainty and power, when in reality, we were powerless.
Some women are lucky that even in unsafe situations, they weren’t abused or raped. Others are not afforded this luxury. More often than not, women are taken advantage of and sexually assaulted, abused, or raped. If I compare what I have had done to me in the bedroom, under a sexual pretense, to what I would consider as acceptable behavior walking down the street, the two are drastically different. I would never allow someone to spank me, choke me, pull my hair, hit me, force me to do something I didn’t want to do, or force me to be submissive. So why did I allow men to do those things to me in the bedroom? When or how did I decide that this was acceptable?
I know now where I learned this from. My society. Books, movies, television programs, social media, news reports, peers; they all taught me to be submissive. Along with numerous other gender role expectations, my society taught me never to question a man’s motives in the bedroom, that it was expected of me to be obedient, that rough sex was passionate, sexy, and romantic. Romance is so heavily weighted on a man’s ability to rescue, protect, spoil, and love a woman. Where women are seen as the receivers and a hidden expectation that in return we will love the man both emotionally and physically. I’ve been brainwashed by a society that largely views women’s bodies as a commodity, something that can be bought and sold, an all-encompassing vessel of sexuality. So how can I change this?
It’s an uphill battle. When you choose to go against the “status-quo” you run into a plethora of problems. You become the person who’s no fun at parties. You’re the one who people feel uncomfortable around because they don’t know what will set you off. You become the one who needs to settle down and not be so sensitive. You feel alone. You feel different.
I’ve spent many nights very emotional about this. It’s hard being the ‘other’. It’s hard when you see a society that has built a structure that made it so easy for you to be taken advantage of, manipulated, and abused. It’s harder when the people you love and care about most don’t see it the same way. I can’t go back to who I was. I don’t want to go back. That version of me was unsafe and naïve. I was strong, I was smart, but I was unaware. It’s hard to be who I am now and see what I see. It’s hard to feel like everything around me is against me. It’s even worse feeling like the man who abused me made my life this difficult. This is my reality now, so I have to do everything I can to stay strong. My hope is that more people will begin to see the power struggles that exist without having to experience being at the weaker side. My hope is that both men and women realize that this mentality disadvantages both of us.