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.