During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Not for Ourselves Alone” is running a special series called 30 Days of Bodyshaming, designed to give a voice to the many different experiences of girls and women. This series will feature guest posts by professors, writers, a cartoonist, young girls, and mothers. Gut wrenching and honest, these stories are presented in an attempt to bring about a deeper understanding of the plight of girls and women as we make our way in world that, for us, is hostile at its best and violent at its worst.
The Moral of the Story by
Mine is not an uncommon story. In fact, it is likely pretty cliché. This sort of status quo, run of the mill, rating that I’ve assigned my own story is likely among the primary reasons I’ve shared it with so few over the course of the last 20-something years. It’s not significant. That, and the fact that I have carried, frankly, a good deal of culpability and self-doubt over it.
I’ve always been kind of a risk-taker. I like challenges and, more to the point, I like to challenge others; push their buttons and boundaries. I’ve heard it said that by age 9 we girls have established the level of self-esteem that we will forever more embody. This was not to be the case for me though. At age 9 I was once a brazenly self-confident child and I would carry this through to my college years. This assurance wasn’t a cover for some deeply held self-doubts; I just felt good about myself…. then. So it was then that I left my all-female dormitory one frigid winter night in central Illinois with a friend from down the hall, to go to a fraternity party. Oh, I hear your wheels turning already. You know exactly where it’s going and how it ends. Yep, it’s such a cliché. Girl gets herself gussied up to go to a party held at a household rife with hormonal, inebriated, barely-post-pubescent boys. Girl becomes intoxicated herself. Girl flirts with boy. Girl wakes up the next day with strange boy in her bed and little memory of what occurred in the preceding hours. Girl never sees boy again. Geez girl, we’ve heard this story a bajillion times.
I know you’ve heard it a bajillion times. I had too. Which is why I was clearly to blame for getting myself into such a rookie situation. In fact, there are at least half-a-dozen reasons why I obviously brought this upon myself:
- I grew up with the most vocal, feminist mother a kid could have. My sister and I were well-trained on exactly what kind of men were out there and how to deal with, slash avoid them.
- Fraternity party
- The shirt I wore was chosen specifically for its super sexy, off-the shoulder style (rolls eyes in 21st century). When Boy so gallantly put the slippery sleeves back on my shoulder I teased, “Do my bare shoulders offend you?” And when Boy gave his long-forgotten response, the brazen, over-confident, button-pushing girl of my youth cleverly replied, “May I offend you further?” These things remain with absolute clarity.
- Boy did not immediately take me up on this offer. What kind of sexual predator doesn’t pounce on that? More drinking. More dancing. More time.
- I willingly left with Boy. At least, I must have. I can summon up the glacial chill of sitting his car, waiting as it warmed up.
- I clearly snuck him up to my room. Remember the all-girls dorm? Boys were not allowed after 10:00pm. I had zero memory of it, but my alcohol-induced ninja skills must have somehow kicked in for me to get this boy past security and up to the sixth floor of Haynie Hall that night.
- I must have said yes. Or at least, I must not have said no. Or stop. Or maybe I did. I don’t know because I was too damn drunk to recall. Just a single moment remained. A moment of dizzily staring at the ceiling, feeling vaguely confused that my back was somehow on fire.
- Finally, how can Boy be to blame if he had been drinking too?
See, it’s that last part that has troubled me the most over the years. I understand date rape. I get that a female who is drunk is not in an acceptable mental state to give sexual consent. But is it still date rape if the boy is also drunk? Legally it is. But why? In my mind, number 9 up there has always remained, law or no.
When I awoke that next morning and sat up on the edge of my bed, I saw that there was blood on the sheets. Virginity already a distant memory by that point in my life, what could have happened? That single recollection popped back in my head. Plodding down the deserted hallway in the early morning hours, donning fuzzy purple robe and rubber filp-flops, swinging open the door to the communal bathroom, I checked the long, horizontal mirror above the sinks. Each of the vertebrae on my back was scabbed over in crusty red-brown nubs. The dizzy ceiling vision gained came through again but with clearer perspective – from the position of my dusty, barely-padded, dorm-grade, carpeted floor.
Boy must have left shortly after that; another part of the account that has dwindled from memory.
My sister, author of this thought-provoking blog, asked me to share an experience of “…body shaming, sexual assault, struggles around puberty or the discomfort of wearing the “wrong” thing and having it be an issue.” I suppose my tale encompasses all of those things. And yet I sit here, unable to formulate the “moral of the story”. I still cannot place blame on Boy.
Leah Kintner is an ESL instructor, elected school board member and mother of two. She is also my most amazing sister.