Monday, September 10, 2012

what happens when you're told you are only valuable if you're beautiful.

i'm going to warn you, this post is going to contain trigger warnings for pretty much everything. well not, everything everything, but i'm going to talk about sexual assault, low self esteem, rape, possibly every sad and awful and inexcusable thing ever. read at your own discretion.

where to begin. 

in the beginning of july, i went to the gym one afternoon after work. i enjoy the gym in the afternoon because most of the tools who like to take up a bench watching themselves lift 70 lb weights incorrectly, aren't off work yet. (or venturing out of their mom's basements yet. but i digress.) it's nice to be able to work out and not fight the crowds or be someone's eye candy. and okay, being someone's eye candy actually feels nice sometimes, but that is another part of what's wrong with the story i'm going to tell. 

so i've staked out my bench and i'm doing my workout. i've gotten a few glances, being one of the only women who isn't working out in the "women's workout" room, because i don't enjoy working out in a cramped, stuffy room short on equipment and space, but no one has really said anything to me. then a man takes a bench right next to me and wants to chat. i'm not sure if he's just being nice or it's he is trying to flirt. then when we winks at me i'm pretty sure i'm being hit on. i don't wear my wedding ring to the gym because it's a pretty big rock and i only really wear it when i've showered and dressed up. i don't know how to tell this man that i'm married and i also don't know if i am supposed to tell him or if that's presumptuous of me. maybe he's just being nice. maybe he's staring at my backside because he's admiring how fit it looks. maybe he flirts with everyone and it means nothing. part of me feels awkward, part of me feels uncomfortable, but another part of me is thinking, way to go, you've still got it! 

and okay, this is the part that is really hard for me to admit. if he wasn't hitting on me, i'd spend the entire workout telling myself i'm not pretty enough, not fit enough, not worthy of someone's attention, even if the attention is making me uncomfortable. because i've been told my entire life, or at least from the time i was in second grade, that i'm only valuable if i'm physically attractive. there was a boy in my second grade class who "liked" me. he told me i was cute and that he had a crush on me. this had never happened to me before. then i found out i needed glasses and was so excited about the purple frames i'd chosen. i told this boy about my glasses i'd soon be wearing and he told me, "when you wear glasses, you won't be cute anymore and i won't like you." bam! no one likes you if you're not attractive! that was the first of hundreds, thousands of times i'd get that message. and even though i'm 24 years old, in a loving, committed marriage, and i'm an educated adult, i still believe that message. even though that message goes against everything i stand for. even though i hate that message. for the most part, it's still with me. 

okay, back to the story in the gym. i ended up going into a different room to finish my workout and leaving in a different way where the guy wouldn't be able to see me leave. i didn't want him to think i was encouraging his flirting. as i'm shutting my car door, there he is standing in front of the car. this man followed me out to my car and came out of nowhere. he's saying something to me, making a phone sign and holding it up to his ear, i see him mouthing, "you should call me." i'm still shocked and a little freaked out that i was followed out to my car. without rolling down my window, i point to my ring finger and say, "sorry, i'm married." then, i can hear him yelling a very rude swear word and saying, "are you serious??" 

he walks away and i sit in my car in disbelief. and i lock the doors. 

then i spent the entire night, obsessing that i hurt his feelings. that i was giving off signals i wasn't aware of. i should have rolled down the window and explained things to him instead of acting so weird. 

i was freaking out that i'd hurt some guy's feelings. some random guy who hit on my and followed me to my car in an empty parking lot and startled and scared me. i felt like the bad guy. 

how does this happen, you may wonder. 

this is what happens when for one thing, we live in a culture that teaches this. 

saw this in my first women's studies class at BYUH. 
yes, they are allowed to talk about this at BYU. 
if you're interested, look up the full version on youtube. 

another reason i think the way i do, is that i was raised around a group of boys who were constantly reminding me my only value was in my looks. one of these boys would go on to sexually assault me and my best friend, and tell me parts of my body weren't as nice as hers. and i would feel that i wasn't enough. wasn't enough for a guy who was sexually assaulting me. but even before all that, this group of boys had a game they played. they rated girl's bodies with three numbers, on for her face, one for her midsection, and one for her legs and backside. they would rate all the girls in front of me. once, they realized i was a girl too and rated me. it wasn't a very high rating. i didn't feel upset at them for treating me that way. i was upset with myself for not being beautiful enough. i was also raised around many boy cousins who talked about girls in a way that assured me, you're only valuable if you're attractive. 

i grew breasts early on, and i grew breasts larger than most of my peers. the boys in school made comments, to my face, about my growing breasts. i lost track of the amount of times i was asked to flash boys. they asked me what cup size i was. they told me that's all they saw when they looked at me. once boy told me his name for me in his phone was "ginormous gizunguz." in my yearbooks, there are so many comments about breasts and "hey call me so we can make out." i was terrified my mom would see and think i was a slut. this all happened the year i was sexually assaulted. over and over and over i was told my body was the only important thing about me. 

my second year of college, i worked at the mall during the summer. there was a verizon wireless booth near where i worked. the guys who worked at that booth would often try to talk to me and the other girls as we walked by for lunch. one day we stopped and said hello. one of the guys working there, who had to be five years older than me, literally asked me if i would go out to the parking lot and give him a blow job in the backseat of his bmw. literally those were the words he said to me the first time he spoke to me. did i spit in his face or even tell him what a pig he was? of course not. because i had been well trained by now to know that if some stranger wanted me to give him oral sex, that was a compliment. never mind that it triggered terrible things. never mind that i was uncomfortable and embarrassed. hey, someone thought i was a worthy sexual partner. i just laughed it off and walked away. that is only one of many, many experiences like that. 

this isn't even covering what happened with the first boy who assaulted me. how i bought my first thong because he kept asking me what color underwear i was wearing and i was embarrassed to be wearing such "little girl" undergarments. the undergarments that covered my backside and weren't "sexy." i'm not going to go into the things he said and did to me, but i will say that they still haunt me. that i still feel the need to be "hot" and "sexy" or i'm not valuable in any way. 

so fast forward a few years. i've moved away and gotten away from those high school boys. i've learned and grown and started figuring out that i have more to offer than my body. i'm married to a man who loves me for  my mind, my brain, my heart, and my body, a wonderful combination i've never really known until now. working as a counselor was one of the hardest things i've ever done. it was pretty much a trigger finger for my PTSD. but i was really good at it. then there are a few of my co workers who begin to make those comments. so and so thinks i'm hot. so and so has a crush on me, and is telling everyone about it, even though he's married. then an older man makes comments to me about my breasts. i'm having panic attacks and remembering how terrifying it was last time i "told" on the boy who assaulted me. (i said that it was all consensual, not that i'd been assaulted.) even then, his friends peed on my house, harassed me at school, yelling, "whore!" every time they saw me in the hall. i blamed myself and still do sometimes. there was no way i could report these men at work. i was going to just deal with it like always. 

until i found myself emailing my boss and telling her i needed to talk to her. 
and we sat down in her office and i started sobbing and apologizing for sobbing. 
reported those men, called the head boss and reported them again. 
quit my job because i felt unsafe working there. 
stood up for myself when my employers tried to convince me to stay on for the rest of the month, assuring me the guy would work different shifts than me and wouldn't bother me. i told them i wouldn't work there after he knew because it wasn't fair for me to be in that position. 

went home and cried a lot. did the whole lock myself in the bathroom hiding from travis having a panic attack. but once i was done with all the shock of what had happened and i realized no one was going to harass or bully me or pee on my house, i realized i had stood up for myself. i hadn't let the cycle continue. 

and that was empowering. 
terrifying, too. 

i kind of always feel it's my fault for being sexually harassed because i have large breasts. 
this is absolutely false. 
my outward appearance is never an excuse for someone to ask me to give him a blow job.
being attractive isn't the only thing women have to offer. this is something i think i'll have to spend my entire life trying to believe of myself. 
if a man follows you to your car and then swears at you for not giving him your number, that's because he is a creep, not because of how you look in your gym clothes. 
and sexual assault is never the victim's fault. it doesn't matter what you are wearing, if you flirted, if you wanted him to be your first kiss. sexual assault is one hundred percent because the perp made a choice to assault you. these are things our culture is constantly reaffirming the opposite to us. we need to remind ourselves these things all the time. 

my friend alyssa sent me this article and it was spot on. go {here} to read about mormon culture and what needs to change. 

knowledge is power and that's what changes the world. our world needs so many things to change. please believe you're worth more than what you look like. please believe that rape is caused solely by rapists. please challenge the system and make those small changes that will lead to bigger changes. 

phew, i'm exhausted. 
as always feel free to email me. 


an annoying amount of bikini pictures, summer catch up, and avoiding talking about "things that matter." plus it's getting late and i'm feeling goofy!!!!

so i haven't posted in a while. mostly because the computer has been in the shop, aka travis's genius brother generously cleaned it up for us. running like a champ-a-roo now! so the whole, not having a computer thing has gotten in the way of the posting, but also because i'm up to my old tricks of avoiding. avoiding thinking about what happened at work and the rough month i had PTSD-wise. avoiding thinking about how angry i am that i don't see those kids i fell in love with anymore and how much i miss them. but now that i've avoided for a comfortable amount of time, i'm ready to confront. well, in the next post. ... haha.  how about for now, i do a quick catch up on our summer.

don't worry. i don't just have panic attacks and avoid thinking about tough things. or just be caustic and sarcastic about it. i also do fun summer activities! see!

went to the daybreak community pool.
spent time working out and eating shave ice with my mom. 

went to the pool some more with liana and amelia. 

made some pretty enormous payments on my student loans. 

went on a random mexican food kick. and yes, i cook more meals than i take pictures of.
yes, i'm a freak who overthinks social media and wants to reassure you that i don't always
post pictures of what i cook. i promise i cook more than two times.
stop explaining yourself. 

took a family trip to our cabin in island park, idaho. went kayaking in a lightning storm,
which was an amazing and terrifying experience.

oh hey, went to the pool some more!
are there enough bikini pictures in this post?? 

finally hung pictures and added a bookshelf to the front room.
LOVE our new house. 

hit up daybreak's "fizz fest" with travis and enjoyed one of the last clear summer nights.
went to gourmandise to celebrate my dear friend roxanne's 25th birthday! ate a lot of chocolate.
this is the face she makes when we tell her what we love about her. so excited this girl moved to utah!

so there you have it. even though i'm unemployed, i'm finding ways to keep busy. i've also had some photo shoots that i'm pretty stoked on. can you believe it's almost the middle of sept?? where does the time go, i ask you!? 

hope your summer was wonderful and that you got to spend at least half the amount of time i did in a bathing suit. hey, i worked most the summer, so i had to cram the tanning in, right? 

best wishes. 

best wishes, what? 


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