This poem is based off of a variety of experiences, all of which occurred while I was in college. The most recent ones were not too long ago, one being the weekend before my birthday and the other the weekend after.
Rag Dolls and Humans
“sexy”, “baby”, beautiful”
Just a few of the words the come my way
I try to be flattered, but I’m not
Because there is no meaning behind it
They don’t realize I have a name
Which they ask for later on, but rarely give their own
Their face partially hidden by the lack of light
Smelling of soap, bourbon, cheap cigarettes
Or the cologne they wore in high school
We move together
And friction becomes fire
Of which I am about to get burned
As his hands move to places
Despite my insistence of boundaries
Places that have been likened to a car, a key lock
Or various types of food
Despite my indications and resistance over the loud music
He either can’t hear or refuses to
And so I am a rag doll
At least in this moment
As he pulls my hair and picks me up
Pulling me close and holding on with an iron fist
Using kisses as a seal of power rather than affection
Marking my face and neck
I look into the sea surrounding me
People drunk on lust and liquor pitchers
I want to feel that same euphoria
That thrill which seems to be like a flick of a switch
But yet there is nothing aside from wanting
Wanting to feel what I can’t
I can only wish that I were with someone else
Someone who doesn’t put me through physical pain
Like a rag doll
And that’s how I understand that I am human
I break away into the chaos
To be pushed into the presence of someone I’ve poured my heart out to
He’s leaving as well
“Can you help me get out of here?”
“You’ll be fine”
I’m scared and I wish you would take care of me
I try not to picture that blue-eyed happy look he gives me
Whenever we see each other in one of these places
Through my tears as I walk alone
I don’t allow a breath until I have locked the door
Tripping over my own shoes from fatigue
Looking in the mirror
I see a wreck
A beautiful one
Not because she’s pure or perfect
But because she’s human
One created by God
Who knows how to be strong
Because once again, she has survived
We, the ones who’ve dealt with aggression and assault
A power struggle
A decision of power and competition
Not a consequence for unfortunate decisions
We get to decide our limits, our wants, and our needs
Unspoken signals don’t mean a damn thing
Dancing is not an invitation for crossing lines
Kissing is not a pathway to the bedroom
Respecting my body is not a trade-off
Because I am not a rag doll
I am a woman
I am a creation
I am a human being
After I initially published this, a couple of readers wrote to me, expressing concern and hoping that these things hadn't actually happened to me. One implied that none of it would have had I taken enough measures to keep myself safe. Ironically, I wasn't alone when most of this stuff took place, minus the time that I had to take a detour to a gas station because a drunk guy kept trying to force me to hold his hand and then let him come home with me, and I was only a block away from my apartment building.
I have to wonder what staying safe even means anymore. Does it mean only going out in public when the sun is up? Does it mean walking around while avoiding talking to people and even making eye contact because they might hurt me at some point? More than anything, does it mean sitting around and letting life pass me by, ultimately isolating myself from the rest of the world? I'll admit that I don't always make the best decisions, but more so because I'm impatient and just want to get out of that environment for the time being. I have really strong instincts, so if I sense that something isn't right I usually won't go that route.
But I shouldn't have to be that worried about walking a block a half, and I shouldn't have to spend money to avoid idiots who can't keep their words or their hands to themselves. I do go out on my own some nights, and to be honest it tends to be easier to just do that and find people rather than stress about where we're all meeting and when. I should be able to go get a drink and watch a hockey game without looking over my shoulder. But realistically, it's not that easy.
I feel like I'm able to let most of it go, but collectively these experiences continue to stay with me. Part of my aggressive, "tough girl" attitude doesn't just stem from growing up in a family of athletes, but also because I want to let people know that I'm not one to be easily convinced or manipulated. I'm still incredibly skittish and hate it when people sneak up on me, even if it's all in good fun. And if there's one thing that bothers me the most, it's being grabbed or touched by complete strangers. I don't care if my height (or lack of it) makes me look supposedly adorable, that does not give another person the right to treat me like a toy doll.
But I'm just as concerned for the younger generations as I am for the current one. This includes but is not limited to my baby sister, who is high school, and two cousins who will be going to college this fall. I shudder to think of them going through any of what I did but they other part of me has a feeling that they'll witness it to some degree. Heaven forbid if that's the case, I want them to know that it's never their fault. If someone says or does something to make them uncomfortable, they have every right to feel that way, regardless of how "normal" or common it is. And in the heat of the moment they happen to make decisions just for the sake of wanting to get out of a situation, it doesn't mean that what they did was wrong. They are not defined by the clothes they wear or what they do or don't do with their bodies. They're no less loved, cherished, or beautiful.
Which is why I stand by the choices that I've made, though a lot of them were not the best. I refuse to let a culture force me to live in fear because of what could or has happened.
We all have a responsibility to listen to our instincts and keep ourselves safe in the best way that we know how. That being said, there is also a responsibility of ensuring a safe and healthy environment for those around us, specifically by respecting the boundaries that have been set by others, and realizing that we don't deserve certain things just because of who we are or what we do. Relationships are cultivated, not forced. Sex should be a mutual decision, not a right or a demand.
I like and appreciate men. I've met many who are absolutely wonderful and special to me, which is why it's hard to genuinely get involved in activism. I want to make a difference, but I don't want to spend all my time and energy being angry or upset. When I'm passionate about something, it's hard to separate myself from that, and I'm glad that I'm at least aware of it.
We all have different gifts which are used for the same purpose. I will continue to write and I will continue to speak when necessary. It may not look like much, but at least it's something.
photo credit: Frederic Poirot via photopin cc