I am here for the teenagers
There are still articles circulating about the DFTBA Records/Tom Milsom/Alex Day revelations from last week, and I noticed there are a few articles that cite me and link to that masterpost I found. I love you all very much and appreciate the link, but that post was actually originally compiled by this poster and you should give them some love, too.
That said, this whole situation has been buzzing in my brain a lot since it happened. A lot a lot. The whole thing sends me back to being 13-17 again, watching my friends flirt and date and make out and sleep with men in their 20’s and even 30’s. Watching a good friend stop using protection because the guy didn’t want to and besides, she’d convinced herself she wouldn’t mind having a baby. At least it would love her. She was 13.
I grew up in the Inland Empire (Southern California, near LA, for those who are unfamiliar with CA geography). We went to school with the children of celebrities, or kids who’d been on such-and-such a television show for three episodes. My own sister is an actress. Brushing elbows with band members or D-Z list celebrities at parties was the norm. It was a thrill to have one of them pay attention to you as a young teenaged girl. It made you feel really, really special. It got you bragging rights. I remember one of my best friends being over the moon when she got to tell the story of how she (a tall girl for her age) had to stand on tip-toe to make out with a member of a pretty well-known 90’s underground band. She was 15.
At my very first “big girl” party, my friend and her sister had a good time dressing me in a skin-tight bodysuit and overalls, doing my makeup and hair, and telling me to lie to the boys at the party and tell them I was three years older than I really was so I could play Spin The Bottle.
I was 10. I chickened out and went to hide in my friend’s room instead. I had a habit of chickening out. Probably why I don’t have an “I made out with X from Y!” story of my own to tell.
You hear stuff like this and it gets really easy to blame the girls. Oh, they’re LIARS. It’s just a kiss! They giggle about it later with their friends, obviously it’s no big deal. They’re THRILLED. They were into it at the time. They’re asking for it.
But I was there. I remember. I watched these “relationships” crash and burn, my friends sobbing broken on the floor, souls crushed by cruel words, self-worth slowly whittled to nothing. Self-injury and depression and drugs. I remember that part, too.
I never once witnessed one of these flings or relationships that wasn’t firmly rooted in manipulation or abuse. I have the benefit of age and experience now (ohohohoho so lofty at an elderly 30), and when I look back, my stomach still flips and hurts. I think about men MY AGE going after the girls we were then and I want to vomit.
I think of my own history. Of growing my oversized breasts in the summer between middle school and high school and noticing an immediate shift in male attention. I didn’t like it. I knew it wasn’t about me. It was about those tits. Those tits!
(Seriously, you have no idea how often I’ve asked boys and men why they were interested in me and got responses like, “Well, you know, you have nice hair and whatever. And THOSE TITS! Can I see them?”)
Maureen Johnson also made a post on this topic, and she said something that resonated with me. Something about these horrifying experiences being so ingrained in our culture that virtually every woman has these stories to tell. I have them. Groped again and again. Comments about my tiny body riding giant *insert gross slang here*. Raped at a party (twice). Lifting my shirt to try and glimpse my breasts. Approached, intimidated, called a bitch for trying to get away. A million-million everyday aggressions and insults and intimidations that are so much the fabric of my life that I ignore most of them these days.
And like Maureen, I have lived a pretty privileged life. My stories are nothing compared to the (ongoing) abuse other girls and women suffer every day, layered on top of racism, transmisogyny, homophobia, ableism, and so many other marginalizations that inform their womanhood.
So I’m giving no one brownie points for recognizing that they’re emotionally manipulative and that they used that to their advantage. For knowing they came from a place of power over another. Of course they know that. They all know that. That’s the point… finding people who don’t actually vehemently say NO because they want to please you, or they’re scared, or they’ve been worn down.
I am here for the teenagers and preteens. I am here for every minor who has found themselves in one of these power dynamic situations, whether it was romantic or sexual or merely a “friendship,” and has been harmed by it, or will be harmed by it. I’m not here to pander. You are all so smart, so capable, full of so many multitudes, and I have faith in you. If you need help, I want you to know that there are resources available to you.
I want you to know that you’re not alone, that those bad feelings in your gut are not wrong, and that there are always people who know you’re still having experiences for the first time and take advantage of that to trick you into thinking a bad relationship is the way of the world. Being an independent adult is a whole new stage of life, and not everyone takes that responsibility as well as they should.
But there are good people, too. You have them, and they will never take advantage of a power imbalance. They will never hurt you. And you have each other. Never forget that.