The first time a man slapped me on the ass, I was fourteen years old, bussing tables at a family restaurant.
Catcalls make me jump out of my skin. I have never figured out how to take them as a compliment.
When I learned that “no” did not always stop slipping lips and wandering hands, I was sixteen. I was told that it was my fault for being tempting. I haven’t left the house with shorts on for years. It makes me nervous to be alone somewhere with another person when I have a dress on.
I always get uncomfortable when men make jokes about why women go to the bathroom in groups. Nobody likes to hear that we are taught from the youngest age that we should never go anywhere alone.
The second time that “no” did not stop someone, my date pulled up in front of my house and hit the door lock, wrapped his hand around my throat because I told him I just thought we should be friends.
The third time, I was sprawled out on a hammock in the front lawn with a man I’d been out with a handful of times. When I first said “no”, I thought maybe he didn’t hear me. “Please no, please don’t”. “Please no, please don’t.” “Please no, please don’t.”
Once I was told by a man that it was my fault if he ever went too far because his brain was wired like an animal. I didn’t argue. Can you believe that I didn’t argue? I wanted to say that even my dogs recognize the word “no”, but I was afraid of how he would react. I had to sit through the rest of the date with a smile on my face.
I carry my keys just to walk to the mailbox at night. I’m too paranoid to jog down my street alone.
I have been groped on the sidewalk. I have been groped at the bar. I have been groped on the bus.
The time I was followed all the way to my friend’s car by a group of men who stood around laughing and jeering and banging on the windows, not letting us pull out of the parking garage, was the last time I ever let a man buy me a drink at a bar.
I have men in my life who would call themselves my friends who have put their hands on my hips and my thighs without my permission. There is no question. They do not think they have to ask. They laugh when I bristle.
It took twenty-two years to realize only I had a right to my body.
I used to bite my tongue, but I do not say “no” quietly anymore. I bark my discomfort like an old dog, weary and uncomfortable even in its sleep.”