My First “Sexual Experiences” Felt Demeaning
By Fe Hmelar
I’ve never had a boyfriend, never gone on a date, or even been kissed. But I have been sexually assaulted. Twice.
And that is partly why I have never dated.
In middle school I was quiet. I wasn’t the popular girl always going to parties. Most days I spent my time in play rehearsal, drawing, or watching Bones with my grandma.
A few boys did ask me out but I always said, “No thank you.” I didn’t feel ready to have a boyfriend and wanted to wait until I was more mature.
But on the last day of middle school, as I waited in line for my graduation ceremony, I suddenly felt hands on my butt and my chest. I froze. I didn’t know how to register what had just happened.
I looked up and two boys I knew from math class were staring at me and laughing. Behind them other boys egged them on, “Good job guys!”
I couldn’t believe that those boys had violated me right in front of the entire school, my friends and my family.
It’s sad that my first “sexual experience” felt demeaning and embarrassing.
I didn’t report them or tell my parents since offenders so often get just a slap on the wrist — if anything.
In high school I was determined to never be violated again. I avoided boys and said “No” to any guy who looked my way. I didn’t want a boyfriend to think that he had a right to touch me just because we were in a relationship.
Still, I was assaulted again. It happened last summer while I was living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
When I first arrived in KL I was assigned a personal chauffeur and a bodyguard named Mike. I couldn’t understand why I needed a body guard but within the first 24 hours it became clear. I was catcalled repeatedly that first day. Men’s stares were even more disturbing as I felt eyes piercing through me and practically undressing me — despite being forced by my family to wear modest clothing. Because apparently Western women are seen as “loose” and my mom didn’t want to attract attention.
Other than catcalling and stares, life in KL was filled with gratifying adventures. My bodyguard made it possible for me to carry on as if I were home.
All was well until the day I went to a bookstore and told Mike to wait in the car. I’d just be a couple of minutes, after all. But in that short time I felt a hand press up against my pelvic area and make its way to my chest. It was so quick that I just kept walking, feeling completely petrified. I felt both saddened and enraged.
In this foreign land the moral code and manners felt alien. I was not seen as a man’s equal. I was treated like property and made to feel that I had no control over my own body.
While I’m glad I live in a country that has progressed far beyond that mentality, America still has far too much sexual assault. And I’m tired of girls being told to carry pepper spray or use the buddy system. It’s time to teach men to treat women with respect and to reliably punish those who do not.