“Keep your dress down and your legs closed.” Sex was talked about like a self- defense class. No specifics, no talk of body parts, their beauty, natural function and normal feelings. No discussion. No questions.
Apart of my Southern upbringing, I was taught in church and at home by older women that it was my responsibility to ensure my virginity and that it was my fault if it was lost or taken. Because girls were “fast” and “hot in the ass,” which meant we were more mature than boys, that we wanted it, that we made the boys do it.
It was never their fault; instead, it was something that I did or said. And I certainly asked for it. So these women didn’t want to hear it.
Woman as temptress was one of my first classes for womanhood.
These women were speaking from experience but this just wasn’t my experience. Really late bloomer and not interested in playing house or with baby dolls, I kept my head down and read long books. I didn’t want to go outside and didn’t want to play with the boys. Because related and unrelated, they liked to feel on us girls.
They loved to play games involving a chase. When they caught us they hit our buttocks, hugged us too tight and for too long, squeezed our breasts, touched our vaginas through shorts, pants and long dresses. A few of us were familiar already with this game. We were being felt up at home. Groomed.
Bought pretty, long dresses.
Still, I said, “Yes, ma’am.” Because you don’t call adults liars. It was considered talking back, deemed disrespectful and an immediate and intense interrogation began.
“Who you calling a liar?”
The question was followed by a slap across the mouth.
Because adults don’t lie. So I didn’t tell anyone when my nineteen year old cousin raped my twelve year old body, mind and soul on the kitchen floor at my aunt’s house one night. Because that would call it all into question. He found me again when I was fifteen and since I’m being so honest, my neighbor raped me too. My twelfth year was a difficult one.
And I have so many questions that mostly begin with why? “Why would you say this to a young girl? Why would you shame me but never explain what sex is other than something men did to women? Why would you blame my body for everything?”
This is why I didn’t realize that I had been raped until I was nineteen years old. Because I wasn’t hot or fast but scared, confused and alone. I had no one and had not been empowered to tell what had happened to me. Sure, our mothers said, “If somebody touches you, tell me and I’ll deal with him. I’ll kill him! I’ll have him arrested!
Some of us did tell but she couldn’t believe that it was her boyfriend or our father. “No, you’re trying to steal my man! You want him!” Now our mother’s enemy and her competition, we cannot pull on her dress or hide under her skirt. We can’t tell her anymore and so he keeps touching us, raping us.
And at church, we hide it all under long dresses. Because Eve deceived Adam, we keep silent and cover up. It is all the woman’s fault. Her mouth involved in one horrific cycle that she can’t speak a word about.
You may be wondering why I am talking about this now. It is due to the most recent story of gender- based violence. Six of the eight beautiful souls murdered, allegedly by 21 year old Robert Aaron Long, were Asian American women. Stop AAPI hate by the way. They worked in spas and have been judged harshly online for potentially being sex workers. However, it is a known fact that most of these women if not all are forced into this work. They are beaten, their passports taken to ensure control over their bodies.
Long is a Christian, a baptized believer, a member of a local Southern Baptist Church, Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia. He was described by a friend as “super nice” and “super Christian.” Captain Jay Baker said that Long just had “a bad day.” For them, this was not Long’s usual self, a bad day and not evidence of a bad life or bad theology that blames and shames women for the crimes committed against them. He is a murderer but apparently, it doesn’t matter as much if you go to church and depending on who you murder.
Like Long, who claims he has a “sex addiction” and needed to remove the sources of his temptation, these women are being blamed for the sins that he wants to commit against them. And I have heard enough of that! I just couldn’t be silent, keep quiet, cross my legs and tuck it under a long dress.
Because I know this story all too well and it kills me too.