The first time I was called a slut I was 11 years old. I had never been kissed, never made out with anyone, never even considered having intercourse. I had never held hands with anyone. But I had C cup breasts in sixth grade. So I was a slut.
Having large breasts makes people see you and think “Breasts”. It is as simple as that. I learned early on that my body would always have a sexual connotation for other people. That I would be seen as showing my breasts off, even when wearing a simple T.shirt like the rest of my friends. And by the way, women are just as guilty of this judgement as men, in some ways even more so. I recently had a very intelligent adult friend admit that as a teenager he had unconsciously told himself, if she didn’t want attention for her breasts then why did she grow them so big? Irrational, yep. Maybe you are scoffing at this. But I invite you to look a bit deeper at your own irrational mind and question who you might have labeled “slutty” in your mind and why.
Of course the reality of breast implants does allow for people to imagine I picked my breasts out of a catalog. But I didn’t. I actually had no say in the matter. And that certainly should be clear with a young girl with large breasts. So we can’t dismiss the judgments based on that fact that some women do choose to have very large breasts for their own reasons, some of whom may imagine it will be fun to have people constantly looking at their breasts.
There are also theories that float out there, usually where there is little understanding of biology, that women with big breasts must be more sexual because their body is full of extra estrogen or something. (Same sorts of theories have been floating around recently regarding big butts.) I am not even going to address this. My breasts did not and do not predispose me to any sort of sexuality. Period.
Then there is the “you could just dress to hide them if you weren’t so slutty” camp. For them, I propose some logic. My breasts are the biggest point on my body, so fabric drapes from them. The only way to really hide them is to craft clothing with internal structures to hold the clothing away from my body, like a hoop skirt but around my chest. Not very practical. I can hide my waist, thereby diminishing the impact of my breasts a bit, by dressing like Mrs. Doubtfire, that is true. Less sexy, but here’s the thing – WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO?!
Maybe we could begin talking about these things in a practical way. Maybe we could finally understand that just because someone’s body or look makes you think about sex, doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to be thinking about sex. Your sexual thoughts and responses are yours. The bodies you label sexual are a cultural construct and about the beholder, not the person in the body.
My body does not tell you all you need to know about me, not even close. It is not sending you a silent message about my availability or interest. But your response to my body does tell you some things about you. Be careful about the leaps your mind can make. That girl over there is not a slut. She is a unique girl who was born into a body with its own attributes and deficits, just like you.
This week, like too many others in the past few years, I have been in stunned grief. My heart is broken. Not for me personally, but for us as a whole. I have say here for over an hour trying to write something meaningful, Trying to craft a response, a suggestion, something helpful. But really all I want to do is cry. I want to say, “This is not right”, for so many reasons. I want to wail and protest and I want to blame. I want to sidestep the pain this all too familiar outrage brings up in me.
So here I am. Right here. Right now. And I can see how I am thinking, not consciously a minute ago but consciously now, righteous anger will feel better than this pain. Removed intellectualizing about this will feel better than this pain. Problem-solving and politicizing will feel better than this pain. Compartmentalizing it into another historical mark on the timeline of human violence will feel better than this pain.
But I need to feel this pain. I need to feel this pain to keep myself fully in my humanity. Right here, right now. I need to breathe it in and not sidestep it. Don’t jump ahead; there is action to take later. Now, feel this pain. Look at the pictures of the murdered, young people will lives ahead of them. People that I might have loved had I met them.
Don’t diminish this grief. It is not the grief of the people who knew them. That is a much harsher and personal grief, I know. Think about the thousands of grieving friends and family members who don’t know how to face today without the person they loved. Imagine how it is to know your loved one died afraid. Let yourself feel this pain, let your heart break for them. Don’t turn away.
Right here, right now, watch how you get angry. How your mind goes to Why? and How? and Whose fault is this? and What the fuck is wrong with us?!! Feel that. Don’t shy away. Breathe it in. Feel it. Don’t shy away.
Let the tears come. Let them be helpless, hopeless, frightened, devastated, angry, sad, empty. Take this time. Grieve. Be human.
At this moment, this is what I can do. I can be strong enough to recognize that I need to grieve to stay a part of this human community. I cannot send these feelings underground, where they will hide and I can pretend that we can go on as usual. I owe us all that much. Right here, right now, feel this pain. Don’t shy away. Breathe it in. Feel it. Feel it. Don’t turn away. Stay human.
No doubt many of you have heard, and been outraged by, the outcome
of the recent rape
trial of Brock Turner here in Northern California. This case has highlighted
rape culture and the ways in which we as a society disregard the damage done to
victims and criminality of the perpetrators.
In a letter to the judge
of the perpetrator is quoted as saying that his son shouldn’t face harsh punishment
for “twenty minutes of action”. This statement hit me harder than all the rest
that has gone wrong in the course of this case. “Twenty minutes of action”???!!
This is so offensive I can barely breathe.
The decision to
sexually assault a person does not happen in 20 minutes. It must take a lifetime
of missed lessons about human kindness and decency. It must take years of ugly
ideas about women and their rights to safety and respect. It must take years of
warped impressions why we have sex and a blindness to the potential and
humanity of shared sexual experiences. It must take a learned sense of entitlement
and dismissal of others people’s rights or feelings.
To suggest that anyone of us could get drunk enough that it would
suddenly seem like a reasonable idea to assault an unconscious person is reprehensible.
This is not a miscommunication about sex! This woman did not regain
consciousness for 2 hours after being taken to the hospital. This was not even common
consensual sexual interactions! The woman had abrasions to her vagina from
having sticks and dirt inserted, not something one could reasonably assume would
be okay with someone. This was violence. You do not become the person who would
do this in twenty minutes.
Documents state that one of the two men who stopped the assault
was crying when he talked to the police about what he witnessed. That is a
natural human response to seeing someone violated. Most people in our world would
not have the impulse to rape, or sexually violate an unconscious person, even
in their worst twenty minutes. Young men do not need to be protected from their
worst impulses because most of them grow up without a desire to hurt other
people. I believe this. It is important to me to believe this.
We grow up together, with years of being shown how to treat
one another. Years of playing, communicating, collaborating and seeing each
other as worthy of dignity. Years to develop sexuality that kind and interactive
and vastly different from perpetration. And yes, years of learning that there
are consequences for hurting one another.
We as a society have to stop making excuses for sexual perpetration
and to start taking responsibility for raising people for whom perpetration is simply
incompatible with desire. It never comes down to twenty minutes. It comes down
to what one person believes is okay to do to another person. And they will have
spent their whole life learning that. We are teaching them. Which is why this
court’s decision is so devastating.