My Bumpy Trek: From Tomboy to Sex Object to Me

Bullying pretty girls

Bullying pretty girls

By KEG

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.

Bullying girls

Bullying girls

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 BroadBlogs

I 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 , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I have no words what to say – I have to find Shakespeare to compliment you:) well deserve!

  2. That’s amazing.

    She’s amazing. Well done on seeing the light in such darkness! Bless.

  3. Such a powerful and transformative journey- such clear insight. I love her awareness that we’re all in this together. And so interesting that really, as women, damned if we do damned if we don’t still- “too tomboyish” “too sexy” is what the reception can be when really all we are trying to do figure ourselves out and get along in the world. Here’s to change happening.

  4. KEG – The Amazing,
    WOW! Now, I get it, living in the SF Bay Area, I am VERY aware of the number of teens in the Menlo Park Area that have chosen to end their lives on the railroad tracks.

    But now I see it, Menlo Park, the homes of Venture Capitalists, A-list Movie Stars, Singers & Songwriters, Professional Athletes, Political Heavyweights, Super-Scientist, Old Money & New Money; the list just keeps going.

    Bullying isn’t just a flaming frying pan, its a pressure cooker with a bad seal.

    Thank you KEG for choosing to be the Original Amazing You.

  5. KEG,

    A beautiful and touching story of triumph. You had the courage to chart and follow you own course.

    Kudos!

  6. I know that women and especially young women are under tremendous pressure to conform to a stereotypical look of the ideal western woman. I can only imagine that the amount of pressure is utterly overwhelming, being bombarded at every turn with the social pressure to conform.
    Images of ideal female beauty are everywhere combined with the ever persistent social stigma of not having a supermodel body.

    Its so ever present that many women cannot feel comfortable in their own bodies even well into adulthood. Combined with having to have the latest fashions in clothing. These pressures are often a very unobtainable and highly unrealistic goal.

    I do see some strides and advances in trying to change the way women perceive themselves and the way they feel they need to represent themselves. However, I have seen these kinds of campaigns many times and the pressure has never let up.

    Its no wonder that many young women have behavioral disorders with the ever present pressure to conform. Personally, I think in order to truly address the issue, young women and girls need to be brought up in a environment where they have the opportunity to learn that they are beautiful the way they are and that although they have the choice to choose how they wish to live, they shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.

  7. This is a very touching story. Its sad that we, as women, let society get into our heads. However, it takes a very brave person to stray away from the norms of their gender, especially at such a young age. Not only does society pressure women to fit certain requirements, but in school, these stereotypes are completely necessary. Children are bullies and having to grow up with constant judgement from your peers must have been absolutely horrifying.

    I admire women who have tough times in middle school and in high school, because I believe this is the hardest time to be judged because you barely even know yourself, making it easier for others to mold you into somebody you are not. As we get older, the victims begin to ignore comments or judgements, and also, bullies mature and realize their discrimination.
    I feel like women will never be perfect for society. People in our world set standards that women cannot reach. Girls are forced to face either being judges as a boy or as a slut. It is going to take a long time for girls to be able to be comfortable being themselves in schools and in society.

  8. Cristina Cibrian

    This article details the gender conformity issues and sexual objectification experienced not simply by the author but by many young girls in today’s society. This story is thought provoking and troubling. The author discusses the hardships associated with the need to assimilate. The issues she identifies seem hardly typical to a middle schooler, but sadly they seem to be more common than many people realize. An eating disorder coupled with bullying and subsequent bad grades are all too prevalent in young girls today. Her detailed account of cutting herself horrifically enabled the reader to understand the gravity of the situation she endured. Her mother appears to have dealt with the matter sufficiently sending her to much needed therapy, which was important in the dynamic of her ability to survive the enormity of the situation.
    I believe good advice was given on how to deal with a similar issue as a parent. Middle school years are difficult for many young girls. Many girls face enormous doubt with their changing bodies and seem to face an actual self-loathing. I often refer to these years as “my ugly years” myself. I found the story to be relatable on many levels despite the fact it seems so grave. Ultimately the concept of learning about “authenticity, conformity, gender expectations, sexual objectification, envy and judging others based on appearance” is an incredible early lesson in the hardships of life. In the end, I wish she would have included her full name. Her final message, “only supporting and cherishing each other will life us all up” inspires.

  9. This is such a touching, realistic and important story. There are so many extremely great points. Bullying in our society is truly alive and it’s sad that not only are young women experiencing this but also children.
    As women we need to come together more and stop making others feel a certain insecurity. Women should empower women as much as possible. We already have to face a tough society within workplace situations and so on. Why must we put each other down?
    The young woman who wrote this post took a big step to even write this post and share it with the world. I myself had a hard time with other girls in school liking me or getting to know me for who I was. I soon came to realize it’s not about what people think of you but how you feel about yourself. In the end of the blog you notice the girl took time out to know herself and love herself. She didn’t try to be something she wasn’t to love herself. Growing into a woman can be challenging, but with a good support system, as the girl had in her mom, you can overcome what you may think is the end of the world.

  10. Well Said! And thx for sharing! I am happy that you go through this journey. It never occur to me that this issue can be so huge that actually affect someone’s health. I agree with you that women need to stand together and support each other, no matter how we choose to present ourselves. It needs courage to accept and embrace our true self. So congratulation again on becoming a woman and find your true self!

  11. This is a very sad story. She seems like a very strong and brave person by overcoming that problem. I’m glad she got over it. I’ve never gone through something like that, but I bet it is super hard. It is sad how media can affect little girls the most. It is easier to get in their heads. Girls are exposed to a girl image they must follow to fit in society and that could be really harmful. It is not letting them be and put pressure on them. Media gets in their head, then they internalize things. I like how she says that “Only supporting and cherishing each other will lift us all up”. I think that’s a great way to go with. For instance, I have a younger cousin that is always complaining about how ugly and fat she is when really she is not. She says that all her “friends” are slimmer and they call her fat. That is an example of how society tells girls they have to be some way and that if they’re not, they need to change if they want to fit in. I now think that I need to have a conversation with her and explain what is happening before she does something harmful.

  12. This is truly an amazing post, I got to say. This show a great example of the double bind concept that are force on many women today. Dressing comfortable with baggy clothes and you get call a lesbian. Too much cosmo like and revealing clothes and you get consider as a slut. Nothing we women do is ever good enough for this androcentrism culture. And yet, it’s often girls gossip about other girls. Like why can’t they open their eyes and see that they are just hurting their own gender. Us women need to realize this and come together as one and support each other. Expectations for women in this patriarchy society are too much. Girls are support to be thin, have long hair, wear revealing clothes in order to consider hot. Otherwise, they are ugly. Yet, if they do look like the expectation, they get calls a hoe and whatnot. Also, get treated as a sex objectified. I’m glad the author of this post had overcome those and realize that she’s better off being her true self.

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