As a child, I read voraciously. I had a wild imagination. I could stare at walls and just create my own dream world. I had dreams. I knew that, one day, I would be someone’s hero. I would save the world or something. I imagined my life, full of friends and pretty things and laughter and… full of life.
My imagination was my downfall.
One day I imagined, as children do, that it was right to trust my brother. I imagined that maybe if I played along, he would love me. I don’t know what I wanted. I do know what he wanted. I found out. I imagined that maybe he really liked me and this would give us a better relationship. But I think I knew, even then, that I was just the only thing available to him.
One night I said no. He argued and tried to convince me to say yes. He had always convinced me before. I don’t remember who convinced who the first time, but I remember times that I said no, and he acted like it was fine, but I would end up doing the thing I’d said no to. So he tried one more time. But our parents were in the next room. I wouldn’t do it. He gave in. I won.
My imagination was my downfall.
I went to bed. I laid there in the dark. I was afraid. My imagination whispered to me. What if he comes in? What if he doesn’t listen when I say no? If he comes in, I need to get away. I was so afraid.
He came in my room and tried to grab me.
I ran to my mama. I told her we had been doing things. Through sobs, I told her, we were touching each other. I knew it was bad. I don’t remember anything else from that night. I don’t remember what she said. I don’t remember if he was ever included in the conversation. I do remember seeing him and my dad sitting on the front porch talking one day, shortly after. I knew it was about me. We never brought it up again.
I should have gone to therapy. He should have been sent away. But we never brought it up again. No one told me that it wasn’t my fault. No one told me that he knew things I didn’t know. No one told me I’d been abused. I grew up believing that I hadn’t been abused. I grew up knowing it was my fault. “We just don’t talk about it.”
But I was afraid.
That night he validated my imagination. That night he taught me the most formative lesson I learned as a child. He taught me that I didn’t matter. He taught me to not say no. If I try to say no, chances are, the man won’t listen. Chances are, I will lose control of the situation and then I will need to be afraid. I will need to run. I will need to cry. So never say no. He taught me that, to keep control of the situation, I need to know what the man wants. I need to predict his behavior, because, once, my imagination was right when it predicted his behavior. He taught me that since my own brother only cared about me as a sexual object, that is how everyone else probably sees me as well. I had better learn how to be a good sexual object, because if I’m not, no one will have a reason to care about me.
How to be a good sexual object:
- Watch porn. Lots of it. That’s really the best way to learn sexual objectification. It will teach you what your expectations should be. It will show the whole spectrum of ways to be objectified and people who might objectify you. It will teach you how to look and who to pursue and how to manipulate people and what to do in bed (or on the floor, the couch, the backseat, the grass, anywhere, really).
- Value physical appearance highly. “Ugly and Fat are the worst possible things to be, no matter what.” –the internet, media, TV and movies, music, teenage girls, teenage boys, young children, adults, friends, family.
- Use eye contact and casual conversation as way to communicate sexual interest. To keep from looking like a whore, avoid eye contact at all costs. Do not talk to strangers. Resting Bitch Face is necessary to keep trashy men away.
- Know the lingo. Friends and boys will be impressed if you know what things are called and what they are used for. The most important knowledge is sexual.
- Assume every man is guilty of perversion until proven innocent. The innocent ones can be great friends, but keep the guilty ones closer or they might take advantage of you.
- Embrace whorishness to anyone who can’t tell your parents. When online, be the first to label yourself a slut. Send nudes, but make sure they’re classy. Out-sex everyone else.
- Stay afraid. If you relax, you’ll probably get raped. Be aware of your surroundings. Know when you’re in danger, or potential danger. Make a contingency plan for every power play, every pickup line, and every incidental side glance. It doesn’t matter if not one of those plans are needed. They were once.
- Never say no. You can have boundaries with some men, but you have to say yes to something or you lose control. If they push the boundaries, you must allow them. If you say you aren’t interested, you better hope to God you throw up on them before they wrestle you out of your clothes. If they go all the way after you said you didn’t want to, too damn bad. Never say no.
- Maintain control at all times. If you lose control of the situation, you become a victim. You don’t want to be a victim. Always make them think you want what’s happening to happen, so you look in control. Of course, this means you’re never in control, but they still think you’re being a good sexual object, so it’s okay.
- Keep expectations realistic. All they want is sex. They won’t spend the night. They probably won’t text again until they want more. They don’t even really want sex with you; they just don’t have any other options now. You’re not worth more. Get over yourself.
Now you know. You know what I learned the summer between fifth grade and sixth. You know why I’m afraid of my own imagination. Because, once, it was right.