Here’s The Thing…{On The Epidemic of Bullying.}

Growing up I was lucky never to be on the business end of the bullying stick.  Not in the traditional sense.  I somehow escaped that horror of the formative years.   But these reports of sexual harassment running rampant in grades 7-12 are striking a chord I didn’t realize I had to strike.   These are memories I haven’t thought about in years, and yet they still prove just as frustrating and inexplicably embarrassing when trying to sort them out today.

[This post has turned out to be fairly graphic.  Mom, Dad, you're probably going to want to skip this one, and everyone else:  you've been warned.]

In the ninth grade I switched from the Los Angeles Unified School District where I was a drama kid with pink hair, to a blue ribbon private Catholic School with pleated skirts and religion class.  (They let me keep my Doc Martens.)   Yes…I was a Jewish catholic school girl.  Kind of makes sense, right?

I was fourteen and I had never kissed a boy.  It just wasn’t the world I lived in in Jr. High.  I played guitar, I was super in to chick bands, and I devoted most of my free time to drama class and thrift store shopping.

But when high school hit?  I was really self conscious about my lack of…experience.  I wasn’t even totally sure what “scamming” was but I was too afraid to ask anyone.  I wanted to appear mature…so I acted like hot shit.  I didn’t let on.  And my fear of boys seemed to come out sideways in a pretty serious show of Riot Grrrrlism that terrified most every member of the opposite sex I came into contact with.

Ninth grade passed without too much incident.   I was grounded for most of the year thanks to an ill-advised middle of the night joy riding stint that ended with my parents getting a wake up call from the LAPD at 4 in the morning.  I would have grounded my ass for six months too. 

But by my Sophomore year of high school I guess the boys in my class had started to feel the testosterone pumping because things were…different.  I was in math class one day — the teacher was out, and we had a sub who didn’t do much.  A boy who hung out with the same group of friends I did motioned for me to come to the back of the class – he had a question.

Here’s the thing.  I was terrible at Math.  And this kid?  I’m pretty sure he graduated from an Ivy League school with a degree in something of the sort.  But I obliged.   And when I got to his desk?  There it was.  He had his math book in his lap with his dick in the binding.

No really.  In the tenth grade.

Anyway – that was a mistake on his part because I had never seen a penis up close before.   It shocked the hell out of me.   But I was a saucy little thing.  I didn’t squeal, or tattle to the teacher.   I just slammed the book shut.   I mean, what was he gonna do about it, right?

Rumors swam.  I was a lesbian.  I was a sadist.  I was a steel-toed-boot-wearing-man-hating bitch.  That was the most popular.   It didn’t help that I acted the part, what with my penchant for 7 Year Bitch and the like.  All because some dude had decided it would be funny to expose himself to me in third period.

Over the next three years, I would be groped, poked, prodded, flashed, and grabbed by the same guys who called me a lesbian and spread rumors that I bit a guy’s penis when I gave my first blow job (again…had never touched one, except when a kid in my Chem class asked me to feel something “weird” on his leg and then flexed his wang in my hand.   What do you want?  I was naive…which is Evian spelled backwards.  But I digress.)

Obviously it wasn’t just me.  It ran rampant in the halls of my parochial school.

Lights off in theater class?  Expect to get a hand up your shirt.

Walking up the stairs ahead of a guy you were friendly with?  Expect a jab to the lady business.

And heaven forbid you fell asleep at a party…

On our Senior trip, my dress was yanked over my head by a good friend of four years, exposing me completely (braless) in the middle of a crowded party in a hotel room.   When I smacked him in the face, he grabbed my wrists and threw me to the ground.  We were separated, but beyond that no one even really blinked save for one friend of Scott’s asking if I was okay as I fled the room.

The stories I’m telling aren’t unique.  If you went to a school like mine they probably aren’t even particularly shocking.  But that doesn’t make them okay.  It wasn’t okay.  It’s not okay.  Reading reports of young girls feeling sick to their stomachs over incidents in school is all too familiar to me.  Girls who never said a thing because they didn’t know what to say when the harassment was coming from their peers.

Let’s teach our children that this isn’t acceptable and that they don’t have to stand for it.  Our sons and our daughters need to know that the bodies and minds of others aren’t ours to mess with.   There’s enough stress in adulthood – let’s help these kids catch a break.

12 Responses to Here’s The Thing…{On The Epidemic of Bullying.}

  1. whimsyvalentine says:

    Holy crap Morgan! I’m so sorry you and your classmates had these experiences. It’s not right. And it seems like it’s just getting worse. It makes my blood boil to think that those boys went on to college, and much much worse. It makes me furious that pretty much everyone seems to think it’s totally fine that boys and men treat women as nothing more than sex objects without feelings, thoughts or dignity. UGHHHH. I have to go hug Ruby and pray that she has the chutzpa you did when you encountered that prick with his prick in the book.

  2. MrsDivineBodies says:

    AMEN!!! Everyone thinks that private schools are so much better thank public schools but in actuality I feel that some of the kids have a sense of entitlement. I think in their minds it’s okay to push someone to their limit to get what they want because he/she simply wants something. In private schools everything is hush hush as if these terrible things don’t happen.

    Once again, you are my hero and I want to be strong just like you when I grow up.

  3. RitaArens says:

    I had experiences like that, too. They sort of came flooding back while I was working on the Piedmont Hills cheer skirt post.

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  5. Melaina25 says:

    I’m shocked. We are of the same generation (I think we are a year apart?) but obviously Ohio and LA are worlds apart. I can’t believe a guy in HS had his dick out in a book, at school! I’ve been called a freezer and at one point someone said I stuffed my bra but that is probably the worst sexual harassment I experienced in HS. I’m so sorry you went through this and it disgusts me this stuff is still going on with no recourse.

    • FireMom says:

      I’m right in this age range, just across the line in PA as I was growing up (in Ohio now), and I can tell you that there were penises and groping and lesbian calling and general sexual harassment in our schools.

      Thank you for telling your story, Morgan. I love you all the more.

  6. Polly says:

    Thank you, Morgan.

    I <em>was</em> one in high school (a lesbian; didn’t know it at the time), in a suburban public school. And though by whatever string of I can totally see stuff like this happening, and more, I can totally see not at all identifying the righteous indignation I should have. Usually only by degrees, do people come to their sense of self empowerment, just as by degrees, the boys and young men who harassed and assaulted you (if you would put those words to it; not my place to, I imagine) come to their sense of entitlement. Neither is a given.

    Thank you for going somewhere difficult to share this: your daughters’ sake, for mine’s, and absolutely for my son’s sake, too.

    • the818 says:

      @Polly Thanks Polly – I can’t imagine how much more damaging it all could have been if I had actually been struggling with my sexual preference at the time. I was fiesty, but I still giggled it away…although it did help me to manage my job as a Hollywood assistant in my early 20′s – I learned to quickly shame the perpetrators with humor and life has been a better place since. :) I have no doubts you are raising one hell of an amazing son.

  7. IC_Jen says:

    Great post! found you via punditmom on the twitter. I remember similar incidents at my suburban california public school. At that time, no one was talking about sexual harrassment, boys were just being boys. Mind you – I am not saying the girls were innocent, they just didn’t have a penis to put on display so the game was a lot different.

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  9. Tiffgriff06 says:

    Wow. You have brought up a lot of stuff that I have tried not to think about for years. My senior year was my easiest year of high school because I finally got a car and was able to drive myself to and from school. My middle school and high school years before that were full of this kind of stuff on the bus. I lived out in the country which usually meant about an hour ride both ways. The boys on that bus were ruthless in their desire to embarrass and harass you. Before I began riding this bus route I had been pretty much invisible. A nerd. But these boys were all about girls. I was groped the first time in seventh grade and from there it just grew. There are things that happened to me on that bus that I would kill a boy for doing to my daughter. And the guys were the only ones. The older girls made you feel horrible when you would fight to get the boys to leave you alone. Then when you stopped fighting they called you a slut and all kinds of horrible things.

Talk to me. Please. I'm almost always alone or with a toddler.