Teenager: Not yet a woman, already a prey
8 years old. A naked man flashes his penis at me and my sisters on a bike ride.
10 years old. A man starts masturbating in the street as I walk down with my mum. Hand on dick. Eyes on me.
12 years old. School trip to Germany, my penpal’s dad runs his hand up my thigh as he asks how my day went.
13 years old. A man wolf-whistles at me in my short skirt.
14 years old. “After your run, I’ll wash your sweaty back,” says an old guy on a bench.
15 years old. Still running, don’t know yet what from. Beautiful park, early morning, bunnies hopping across dew-covered fields. A guy appears, talks to me, comes closer and closer, wants to help me do stretches. He starts appearing, out of nowhere, every time I go for a run. I remember his yellow sunglasses and the smell of his axe deodorant.
16 years old. We climb over the gate of our boarding school, our first nights out on the town, drinking too much cheap vodka. Young and wild and free. A whirl of men, trying to take advantage. “Come with us, get in the car.” My friend starts climbing in, I grab her arm, we have to run away because they’re angry now.
18 years old. First college parties. The same guy is at every single event — he’s in his mid-fifties. You see him watch girls get drunker and drunker, and dance closer and closer to them, and get countless rejections, until eventually, he finds someone drunk enough that when he starts violating them they do not react. No one steps in. Of course, they don’t. They laugh behind her back and tell their friends and for the rest of the year she’s that lame girl who kissed an old guy.
Looking back, I realise that before I even realised my own sexuality, I was being sexualised, treated as prey by men far too old not to know any better. In fact, part of how I discovered my own existence as a sexual being was through these men who turned me into meat.
I came of age feeling passive not active in my own desire.
Some of you reading may have teenage daughters, and they might not be telling you about the incidents that they are already encountering, because being…