My Bumpy Trek: From Tomboy to Sex Object to Me
Posted by BroadBlogs
As a little girl I wanted to be a boy. As a teen I wanted to be a Cosmo Girl.
I got punished either way.
Sometimes so badly that I stopped eating and started hiding and cutting.
Many scrapes and bruises later, I’m glad to be me.
Let’s start at the beginning.
As a kid I felt like I was the wrong gender and I did everything I could to be a boy. I put my hair in a ponytail to get it out of the way, I wore tank tops and basketball shorts, and I played ball with the guys.
But boys made fun of me for trying too hard to fit in. And girls made fun of me for not trying to fit in at all.
I was determined to fit in.
In Menlo Park, CA money, looks and status seemed to be the most important things. So I obliged in a complete about-face, transitioning from tomboy to sex object by seventh grade.
But I couldn’t have done it alone. My older sister and her friends pointed me in Cosmo’s direction. I followed the magazine’s trends: short jean skirts, makeup and flowing tresses. Soon, I mirrored the Cosmo Girl.
Adolescence is weird. I thought this would make me more girl-like, and more liked by both girls and boys. But that’s not what happened at all.
Sure enough, the guys were talking to me and about me. But the more boy-magnet I became, the more girls resented me.
I had never had sex, but I was slut-shamed incessantly. Which made me avoid girls and hang out with guys more. Which only escalated the gossip. Boys saw me as a sex object, and treated me that way, too, trying to take advantage of my body.
The gossip and harassment kept me from sleeping at night and eating during the day. At lunch I hid in the bathroom. I didn’t need to eat because I starved myself out of punishment. I cut myself out of punishment, too. In fact, I developed a strange craving for pain. And as I slept thru my classes I gained a new label: bad student.
Finally, things got so bad that I left school.
My mother was understanding and loving throughout. Because of my poor mental health she had me under 24-hour supervision and homeschooled me, herself. I was furious at first. Later, I realized that she did it out of love to save me from more harm.
Homeschooling may have made me the ultimate social loser but I couldn’t have been happier to be away from the kids who destroyed me.
I also went to therapy twice a week to help process the trauma of those six months.
As I healed, I let go of Cosmo Girl and returned to my tomboy self. I began eating and sleeping and regained my interest in school and sports.
Those six months of middle school where the darkest of my life. Yet I healed. And I learned a lot about authenticity, conformity, gender expectations, sexual objectification, envy and judging others based on appearance. I learned about the double bind of feeling pressured to live up to certain standards and being punished when you do.
As much as I hate looking back on that time, I am grateful that I went through it in order to learn that as women we are all together in this world.
Only supporting and cherishing each other will lift us all up.
This was written by a student who asked me to just use her initials in the byline.
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About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on October 15, 2014, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged body image, bullying, feminism, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.