I wasn’t even a teenager, maybe 11 or 12 at most, when I encountered my very first harassment. It was quick. Came from a complete stranger. In the middle of the day, at a busy intersection, as I was standing behind my mom waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street.
Back then I was tall for my age. Had a bit of growth spurt, and perhaps looked a bit older than my peers. As I stood a few steps behind my mother, a boy, or maybe a man, someone much older than I, brushed past me. And even though he hadn’t stumbled or had any reason to reach out his hand, suddenly a large hand was on my left breast.
Holding it tight between his five fingers, for about half a second.
He was gone as quickly as he had appeared before me.
And today’s the first time I’m mentioning this incident to anyone. Not even my mother, who was standing right in front of me, knows this had happened. Not a friend, not an ex. No one.
Why is that?
Well, first of all, young as I was, initially I was mostly confused about what had happened. First, it was confusion, and then it was a sense of embarrassment. I didn’t want anyone to know that some guy in the streets had groped my breast. So I stayed quiet.
You see, I’m perfectly aware that my experience is nowhere near as traumatic as some others. No one had ever pinned me down and tried to lift up my skirt and snake their filthy hands up my body and to my private parts. No one had ever forcefully planted a kiss on me. I’ve been lucky, and most people I’ve dated have been extremely respectful of my wishes and boundaries.
The one time someone tried to be a little more forceful than what I was comfortable with, a loud yell — “STOP!” — was enough to get him to stop and go no further.
Yes, I’ve been lucky.
But that gross feeling that I had that day, so many years ago, as though there’d been a bunch of maggots on top of my breast instead of a human hand, remains with me to this day. The feeling of embarrassment had since then turned into a feeling of rage and then numbness, because, life…
But even so, when I think back on that steamy mid-afternoon when I was 11 or 12, it still enrages me and fills me with disgust.
What do those who’ve been violated much more than I feel? Those who’ve suffered the fear and disgust and humiliation simultaneously as they were pinned down, and the perpetrator's hands were on their naked flesh?
Does the disgust or anger ever go away?
Even after the unfolding of the #MeToo movement, it appears that some people just don’t get it.
When people defend bad behavior by nonchalantly shrugging and saying “boys will be boys”, they’re missing what’s at stake.
What kind of message does “boys will be boys” convey?
Does a teenage boy who has no respect for the opposite sex grow up to become someone who does? Maybe some learn, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But others simply refrain from doing things that could get them into trouble. That does not mean they somehow learn to respect, they’re simply trying to stay away from jail time.
But what about the girls they traumatized when they were teenagers? What about their scars? The boys get off scot-free because hey, boy’s will be boys, right? But the fear and humiliation that the girls suffer, who pays for that?
“Boys will be boys” is not enough, and the people need to wake up and get it already. There are teenagers, like the Parkland survivors, who’re going out there, educating people about gun violence, working on the grassroots level to get more people to be aware, woke, and vote. Don’t tell me that while some teenage boys (and girls) are perfectly capable of doing such extraordinary things, others get to violate girls in a drunken stupor or even attempt rape, and then go on without any repercussion just because… boys will be boys.
This is unacceptable. Period.