I learned the truth at 17, and all the ages in between.
If men all saw what women see, then there would be equality.
Age 11—I must endure boys at school feeling privileged to touch my body without asking. They run up behind me between every class to rub their hands down my back.
“CARPENTER’S DREAM!” they shout: Flat as a board, easy to screw.
Run away, laughing. The back-rubbing is to see if they can yet feel a bra-strap–which they cannot.
This sexist shaming by boys of pre-teen girls helps drive demand for an unnecessary new product called “junior bras”:
Cup-less flat elastic bands that fasten in the back like a bra, junior bras simultaneously represent the sexualization of female children, and their subordination.
Age 13—My father’s friend Mr. B.—the same man who kindly carried me home once when I was hurt—is at a party thrown by my parents. He comes into my bedroom. Says “Bite the other end.”.
Leans in, inches from my face, a tiny cocktail weiner now poking out between his teeth. I back away in horror.
This is the first time any male has tried to kiss me.
Age 14—6:00pm. Summer. My friend Vicky and I are sitting on the grass in my front yard, chatting. A car slowly drives by, pulls up to the curb. A boy yells out: “Hey, you want to go to a party?” We assume it’s someone we know—the sun is in our eyes—but we decline.
Two boys, about 16, get out, run over, leap on top of us, and start tearing away at our clothes. On my front lawn, within sight of anyone who might go by. Or come out of my house. It is still light out.
Vicky and I each try, silently, to fight off our separate attackers. I now learn boys are far stronger than girls.
Across the street, Mr. G. comes out on his front porch. He is a New York City detective. He turns to go back inside.
Don’t you SEE us, Mr. G.? What’s WRONG with you?!
[*To be clear, he DIDN’T see us.]
(Why didn’t I scream? Was I breathing? I remember the boy’s fingers over my open mouth part of the time. Was everything happening so fast I was in shock? It was very fast.)
The boy atop me gets frustrated at how effectively I am resisting, so he stands up and JERKS down on my ankles, throwing my arms up over my head. That lets him leap at me long enough to tear open the buttons on my summer blouse. I am so embarrassed.
This is the first time any male has seen my breasts.
And now I am getting very scared, and I am trying to hurt the boy. So is Vicky. The boy raping her decides maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. He calls to the boy raping me, and they run back to their car, which has other boys in it. I guess they were the audience. The car drives off. Vicky and I run inside my house, fixing our clothes. We don’t tell anyone what happened.
It is interesting that the boys were eager until we grew more violently fearful. Based on my own experience working with rape survivors, terrified resistance will not normally save you.
Had these boys thought their manliness would overwhelm our femininity and we would just spread our legs and welcome them while they raped us? Could they have believed the myth that we would LIKE it?
Age 15—I am standing at the end of a school hallway and overhear two boys, approaching, discussing me. They don’t know I can hear them. One says:
“Hey! That’s B. Outlier! She puts out!” The other boy says “Eww!! I wouldn’t do it with HER!!”
I have never even kissed a boy at a party.
Age 16–I am given my first-ever compliment from any man or boy:
“Your *ss is your best feature. You should back up to people to be introduced.”
Age 16, still—A knock at the front door. It is the boyfriend of my older sister Macy. When I open the door, he begins to yell at me furiously.
I don’t understand. What have I done to him? He is not my boyfriend. I have nothing to do with him!
He is from Italy. He is an oldest son dating an oldest daughter. That makes him responsible for the behavior of all of her siblings. And he has heard about me:
I am sleeping around. A slut. Everyone knows it. It is such common knowledge, so talked about, that word has spread from our highschool over to this man’s nearby place of work.
Even though I have still never even kissed anyone.
Exactly why does my sister’s boyfriend—or any man other than my lover or gynecologist–think it is his right to have anything to do with my vagina? Why does my entire school—and town, apparently—want to criticize what my vagina has been up to?
Whose penises are they criticizing?
Age 17–I go to Spain with the Spanish Club. Our teacher tells us ahead of time that we girls must wear only skirts. Pants will make us appear “loose” to Spaniards.
In Madrid, in the subway and in the public market, the crowds are so thick that you are pressed on all sides, unable at times to move. I cannot escape the horror when male strangers behind me choose to reach up under my skirts, push aside my underwear, and insert their filthy fingers inside my vagina.
This is the first time any male has touched me between the legs.
Age 17, still—I now have a boyfriend. After some time, I decide to have sex. But I pretend to get carried away in the heat of passion, because good girls don’t want to have sex before marriage.
Age 17, still–I summer job-seek, as do my friends. The guys are offered high-paying factory jobs, or jobs with the county. They tell of days spent goofing off. We gals hear “Guys need the work more.” or “The work’s too hard for women.” We can get only low-paid work: Chambermaids, telephone solicitors. No goofing.
Age 17, still–I tell my boyfriend I am breaking up with him. He rapes me, to try to win me back. (It doesn’t work.)
Age 18—My sister Macy is marrying. I am the Maid of Honor. I meet the Best Man for the first time at the rehearsal. Quietly, so that no one can hear, using many different adjectives, he tells me throughout the rehearsal how extremely ugly and offensive I am.
I am stunned, and devastated. I have always known I was extremely ugly [abusive childhood], but a freedom to despise me for it is heartbreaking. I go home that night and weep. I can tell no one. The man is a beloved friend of the entire wedding party.
He continues his secretive abusive behavior at the rehearsal dinner, and the day of the wedding.
Age 19—I have purchased my first long dress: A spaghetti-strap gown at a thrift store. It’s bronze satin, fitted at the top, sweetheart neckline, flowing skirt, with a pattern of cherry blossoms.
I model it for my friend Maria, walking across the dorm lounge to her room. On the way, a male I barely know volunteers his opinion:
“You should never wear dresses that expose your shoulders. They’re far too bony.”
I never forget his remark, and never bare my shoulders again.
Age 20—Two good-looking, intelligent men want to date me. After I choose one, the other begins to publicly insult my looks and abilities.
If a woman openly and repeatedly yelled insults about a man across lounges and volleyball courts, men and women would think her odd: Overly angry, perhaps mentally ill. I think they would start to avoid her if she persisted.
This man’s friendships with both genders continue uninterrupted. As far as I know (my friend is his friend), no one remarks on his inappropriate behavior.
Age 21—I am hit on by my 50-odd-year-old boss. (Find a young woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed at work.)
Age 22—I am hit on by my 40-odd-year-old boss. I am sickened that he had also hit on my predecessor—a 16 year-old.
Age 22—I swore I would never be a secretary. I am an Executive Secretary, serving as sole business and personal secretary for a Vice-President, and to his 45-person staff, doing all filing, supplies ordering, business typing, and maintaining of frequent updates to company and technical manuals.
A few of the males I serve never bother to learn my first or last name. One day, one of that group is standing nearby when he overhears that I have a degree in Linguistics and Literature. He says “I didn’t know you had a degree!”, and immediately tries flirting.
I tell him that I don’t respect the attitude that people who have attended college are more worthy than those who haven’t. He never quits flirting. His little brain must not have earned its degree.
Age 24–As I run or bicycle next to public roads, young men in cars yell whatever they feel like at me. Sometimes, a car swerves at me so closely it scares me half to death. Sometimes, a cup of soda with ice hits my back. More than once, while biking, I am slammed with a hand, hard, on the rear, bringing me close to crashing.
Age 25—I think I have been hired by an exciting, dynamic firm based on my stellar accomplishments in computing. I attend my first company party, where I and another female are literally cornered by the 50-plus-year-old company president and a visiting Board member.
I learn I was hired because it was assumed I will be the company Party Girl: Give a laugh and spread my legs eagerly for any male employee who wishes it.
Age 30—I am promoted to Director. A pr*ck working beneath me—M., a transfer from the user side of the house—begins spreading poisonous lies over on the user side of the house about, not only me, but our entire operation. My boss calls me in:
“What do you think we should do?”
“Well, J., here’s the problem,” I say.
“M. has been trying to get into my pants for a year, and I’m not interested. He is seriously p*ssed, and even MORE so since I started dating someone else. Now, you’ve promoted the woman who rejected him to be his boss. He will destroy this entire operation rather than report to me.”
“But you’re absolutely the best person to run the show–and we need you to get this project done!”
“I agree. But it can’t work this way, and we both know the politics: M. has to stay involved, given his connections to the upper echelons. The only way this can work is if I report to M. Then his f*cking oversized ego can stay satisfied.”
I resign as Director, accepting an invented title to keep my salary. M. is named Director and boss of me, and becomes sweetness and light.
Age 35–Looking to change companies. My I.T. skills and experience should net me six figures. Nothing. A headhunter explains:
“Erase some work history, get some plastic surgery. Pass for 25.”
Age 50–The first time any woman tells me I look nice or am pretty.
Age 57–The first time any man tells me I look nice or am pretty.
I’ll be 60 soon, but the picture was too good to waste.