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Member since: Wed Oct 22, 2003, 10:58 AM
Number of posts: 111,428

About Me

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt

Journal Archives

Well shit.

When you put it that way ..

The level of misogyny on display in GD has become toxic. (HOF THREAD)

I don't know how so many people manage to simply ignore it.

The Hawkeye Initiative redraws absurd superheroine poses with Hawkeye

We've seen a lot of clever responses to the spine-twisting, butt-baring poses so many female comic book characters are subjected to, but The Hawkeye Initiative is particularly fun. Their mission: to take those particularly awful poses and replace the female characters with Hawkeye.

Why Hawkeye? It seems it all began when artist Blue decided to switch the poses and positions of Hawkeye and the Black Widow on one of their comic book covers:

Then Blue and Noelle Stevenson (also known as Gingerhaze and creator of the fabulous webcomic Nimona threw a challenge out to Tumblr: fix those "Strong Female Character" poses by replacing them with Hawkeye doing the same thing. And the Hawkeye Initiative Tumblr was born. Granted, the poses aren't always exact copies; the contributors are having a bit of silly fun and tend to give Hawkeye but sparkles or make him mug for the camera. But it's always interesting to see artists recontextualize a female pose with a male character.



And before anyone gets started with the false equivalence...


Sadly -- but hardly surprisingly -- many people are still unclear about why sexual harassment is even a problem.

Some of the consequences of widespread sexual objectification are:

Sexual harassment
Depression, eating disorders, etc.
And of course, violence against women:

Thankfully, more and more people who do recognize the sexism inherent in sexual objectification are speaking up. Support these voices. Call out objectification and raise awareness of the problems it causes. This is just one very effective method of fighting back against rape culture and helping to change the way women are portrayed and perceived.

And because this is too good to miss and I know not everyone will click the links, I'm going to include one of the redrawn images of the Madara cover... From the awesome tumblr blog Less Tits N' Ass, More Kickin' Ass:

...just by making the pelvis horizontal and lifting the torso off the ground, I’ve managed to move the center of gravity so her weight is on her feet instead of her knees, she can use her arms to maneuver in most directions, and you still get an interesting body shape to look at. I think this works better, and much more ready to spring into motion.

More in-depth discussion here:

We have a patriarchy problem. (trigger warning)

“In the 1890s, when Freud was in the dawn of his career, he was struck by how many of his female patients were revealing childhood (sexual) victimization to him. Freud concluded that child sexual abuse was one of the major causes of emotional disturbances in adult women and wrote a brilliant and humane paper called “The Aetiology of Hysteria.” However, rather than receiving acclaim from his colleagues for his ground-breaking insights, Freud met with scorn. He was ridiculed for believing that men of excellent reputation (most of his patients came from upstanding homes) could be perpetrators of incest.

Within a few years, Freud buckled under this heavy pressure and recanted his conclusions. In their place he proposed the “Oedipus complex,” which became the foundation of modern psychology… Freud used this construct to conclude that the episodes of abuse his clients had revealed to him had never taken place; they were simply fantasies of events the women had wished for… This construct started a hundred-year history in the mental health field of blaming victims for the abuse perpetrated on them and outright discrediting of women’s and children’s reports of mistreatment by men.”

Lundy Bancroft

From the ibelieveyouitsnotyourfault tumblr:

In first grade, a boy named John— a notorious troublemaker—systematically chased every girl in our class during recess trying to kiss her on the lips. Most gave in eventually. It was easier to give in than keep running. When it was my turn, I turned and faced him, grabbed his glasses off his weasel face, and stomped on them on the hard blacktop. He ran to the principal’s office and cried.

In fifth grade, I was asked to be a boy’s girlfriend over email. It was the first email I ever received. He actually told me he wanted to send me an email, so I went home and made an AOL account. We went to a carnival and he won me a Garfield stuffed animal, and then he gave me a 3 Doors Down CD. A few days later, he broke up with me, and asked for Garfield and the CD back. I said no.

In sixth grade, a girl in my year gave head to an eighth grader in the back of the school bus while playing Truth or Dare.

In the summer after sixth grade, I kissed a boy for the first time at sleep away camp. He was my summer love. During the end-of-the-summer dining hall announcements, where kids usually announced lost sweatshirts and Walkmen, an older girl stepped up to the microphone, tossed her hair behind her shoulders, and proudly stated, “I lost something very precious to me last night. My virginity. If anyone finds it, please let me know.” The dining hall erupted into laughter and cheers. She was barred from ever coming back to the camp again, and wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to anyone.

In seventh grade, I told my brother I decided when I was older wanted a Hummer. What I really meant was I wanted a Jeep, but I didn’t know a lot about cars. My mother overheard and screamed at me for “wanting a Hummer.”

In the summer after freshman year of high school, I went to sleepaway field hockey camp with many of my close friends. One of them, named Megan, I had been friends with since kindergarten. One night when I was showering, she ripped open the curtain and snapped a photo of me on her disposable camera. I screamed. She laughed. We both laughed when I got out of the shower a few minutes later. After camp was over, her father took the camera to the convenience store to get it developed. When he gave the finished photos back to her, he said, “Your friend [Anonymous] has grown up.”

Sophomore year of high school, one of my best friends Hilary had a party in her basement while her mom was away. We invited some of the guys in our grade and someone’s older brother bought us a handle of vodka. One of the boys who came sat next to me in Spanish class. His name was Thomas. I remember playing a simple game, where we passed the bottle of vodka around in a circle and drank. I remember being happily tipsy and having fun, to suddenly being very drunk. Thomas and I started chanting numbers in Spanish, and he leaned towards me and kissed me. We kissed in the middle of the party, with all of our friends cheering. Then we went into Hilary’s bedroom.

Hilary’s bedroom was in the basement, on the ground floor, with a large window next to her bed. When someone went outside to smoke a cigarette, they realized it was a front row seat to what was happening in the bedroom. It was dark outside, and the light on was in the bedroom. They called everyone outside to watch. I don’t remember getting undressed, but apparently we were both completely naked in Hilary’s bed. A friend of mine told me later she tried to open the door and stop what was happening, but Thomas must have locked it. They said they pounded on the door. I don’t remember hearing them pounding. I don’t remember seeing everyone’s faces outside the window. I remember Thomas holding my head down, and shoving his penis into my mouth. I remember trying to resist, pulling back, but he held his hands firmly on my head, pushing my face up and down. That’s all that I remember.

The next day, my friends and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. I couldn’t eat anything, and it wasn’t because I was hung over. Every time I tried to put food in my mouth, I felt like I was choking. Anytime a flash of the night before appeared in my mind, I felt like vomiting. My friends sat with me in silence. Then they told me a girl named Lindsey, who had briefly dated Thomas freshman year, had stood outside and watched the entire time. Even after everyone else stopped watching. My friends said they didn’t watch.

On Monday, Thomas and I sat next to each other in Spanish. We didn’t speak. We didn’t make eye contact. I went to the girls bathroom and threw up. I hear Lindsey and Thomas live together, now, ten years later.

Junior year of high school, my teacher for Honors Spanish was named Señor Gonzales. Señor Gonzales had all of the girls sit in the front row. Señor Gonzales called on any girl who was wearing a skirt to write on the chalkboard. Señor Gonzales asked a friend of mine, who had broken her finger playing an after school sport, if she broke her finger because “she liked it rough.” Señor Gonzales was a tenured teacher.

Senior year of high school, I got my first real boyfriend. His name was Colin. He was on the lacrosse team with Thomas. He told me that sophomore year, Thomas told everyone on the team what happened that night at Hilary’s. Everyone cheered. Colin said that, even then, he had a crush on me. Even then, he wanted to punch Thomas.

Colin and I lost our virginities to each other. Colin said if I got pregnant, he would make me have the baby. He didn’t believe in abortion. Colin said if I got pregnant, he would make me have a C-section. Colin said that if I didn’t have a C-section, my vagina would be too loose for him to ever enjoy having sex with me again. Colin said that he wouldn’t let our child breastfeed. He said his mother gave him formula, and that he turned out just fine. I didn’t get pregnant.

Junior year of college, I lived in Denmark for the spring semester and studied at the University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen is one of the safest cities in the world. Guns are illegal there. Pepper spray is illegal there. One night, my friends and I went to a concert at a crowded club in a part of the city I didn’t know very well. I brought a tiny purse with money, my apartment key, and my international cell phone. For some reason it made sense at the time to put my purse inside my friend’s purse. Maybe I didn’t feel like carrying it. We were both drinking. My friend left the concert to go home with her boyfriend. One by one, everyone I was there with left the concert, until I was suddenly alone and I realized I didn’t have my purse, or any money for a cab ride home.

I started walking in the direction that felt right. I walked for a long time. I had no idea where I was, and didn’t recognize the area. It was almost 4 am. I was on a residential street when a cab pulled up next to me. I asked the driver if he could drive me to an intersection down the street from my apartment.

I don’t have any money, I said.

I really need your help, I said.

I will do it for free, he said.

Sit in the front, he said.

I sat in the front. We drove in silence for some time, until he pulled over on the side of a dark street.

I don’t want to do it for free anymore, he said.

He locked the car doors and reached across the center console and slipped his hand up my skirt. He grabbed my vagina. Hard. I pushed his hand away and unlocked the door. I ran down the street and realized he had taken me a block away from the intersection I wanted. I walked to my apartment and threw rocks at my roommate’s window until she let me inside. She yelled at me for waking her up. I escaped. Nothing happened. I was fine.

The summer after I graduated college I helped Hilary find an internship. She was an art major and wanted something for her resume besides waitressing. We found a posting on Craigslist to be a studio assistant for a painter in the Bronx. It was listed as an unpaid internship. The toll for the George Washington Bridge was twelve dollars, plus gas, but she got the internship anyway. She wanted the experience.

The artist was a 38-year-old Canadian painter named Bradley. Hilary was 22.There was another intern there, an art student from Manhattan named Stella. Bradley needed assistants to help him make bubble wrap paintings. Stella and Hilary would take a syringe and fill the tiny bubbles with different color paints until it formed a mosaic. Bradley always had Hilary stay after Stella left to clean the paintbrushes and syringes. He told Hilary she was beautiful. More beautiful than his wife, who he only married for citizenship. He told Hilary they had a loveless marriage. He told Hilary he wanted to have her beautiful children. They began an affair. He told Hilary has wife knew and didn’t care. He told Hilary he was going to leave his wife soon.

Everyday Hilary drove to the Bronx, cleaned Bradley’s paintbrushes, and had sex on the studio floor. Everyday she went home with no money, and everyday she paid the toll at the George Washington Bridge. She needed the internship for her resume, she said. It was too late to find a new job, she said.

I could go on. I could tell you a lot more. About the whistles on the sidewalk, the kids who sat at the bottom of the stairs in high school to look up our skirts, my friend who was a prostitute in South Carolina, the men who’ve cornered me in parking lots and bars calling me a tease, the unwanted grabbing on the subway, the many times my father has called me fat, the time I traveled to the Philippines and discovered Western men pay preteen locals to spend the week in their hotel, the messages on OKCupid asking to “fart in my mouth.” About how I wasn’t sure if I had been raped because I was drunk and kissed Thomas back. How he raped my mouth and not my vagina, so that must not be rape. How easy it was for me to escape the dark street in Copenhagen, and how that made it not matter since “it could’ve been worse.”

Men have no idea what it takes to be a woman. To grin and bear it and persevere. The constant state of war, navigating the relentless obstacle course of testosterone and misogyny, where they think we are property to be owned and plowed. But we’re not. We are people, just like them. Equals, in fact, or at least that’s the core of what feminism is still trying to achieve. The job is not over. We’ve made great progress. There are female CEOs, though not very many. There are females writing for the New York Times and winning Pulitzer prizes, though not very many. There are female politicians, though not very many. But these advances are only on paper. The job won’t be over until equality permeates the air we breathe, the streets we walk and the homes we live in.

I think back to how easy it was for me, in first grade, to feel fearless and strong in my conviction to stomp on John’s glasses. I felt right in reacting how I did, because John’s behavior was wrong. But his was an elementary learning of the wide boundaries his gender would go on to afford him. For me, it would never again be so easy.

- Anonymous, age 25

From the projectunbreakable tumblr:

"It was easier to give in than keep running."

It is bullshit, no doubt.

But changing laws won't fix it.

In most places she'd be arrested not for going topless, but for causing a disturbance.

This situation illustrates the need for radical feminism. Liberal feminism alone cannot affect the changes necessary for women to enjoy the same freedom as men.

The 7 P’s of Men’s Violence


Patriarchal Power: The First “P”

Individual acts of violence by men occurs within what I have described as “the triad of men’s violence.” Men’s violence against women does not occur in isolation but is linked to men’s violence against other men and to the internalization of violence, that is, a man’s violence against himself.(2)


The Sense of Entitlement to Privilege: The Second “P”

The individual experience of a man who commits violence may not revolve around his desire to maintain power. His conscious experience is not the key here. Rather, as feminist analysis has repeatedly pointed out, such violence is often the logical outcome of his sense of entitlement to certain privileges. If a man beats his wife for not having dinner on the table right on time, it is not only to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, but is an indication of his sense of entitlement to be waited on. Or, say a man sexually assaults a woman on a date, it is about his sense of entitlement to his physical pleasure even if that pleasure is entirely one sided. In other words, as many women have pointed out, it is not only inequalities of power that lead to violence, but a conscious or often unconscious sense of entitlement to privilege.

The Third “P”: Permission

Whatever the complex social and psychological causes of men’s violence, it wouldn’t continue if there weren’t explicit or tacit permission in social customs, legal codes, law enforcement, and certain religious teachings. In many countries, laws against wife assault or sexual assault are lax or non-existent; in many others laws are barely enforced; in still others they are absurd, such as those countries where a charge of rape can only be prosecuted if there are several male witnesses and where the testimony of the woman isn’t taken into account.

Meanwhile, acts of men’s violence and violent aggression (in this case, usually against other men) are celebrated in sport and cinema, in literature and warfare. Not only is violence permitted, it is glamorized and rewarded. The very historic roots of patriarchal societies is the use of violence as a a key means of solving disputes and differences, whether among individuals, groups of men, or, later, between nations.




Our default setting is not 'yes'.

It is long past time to end the assumption that if someone doesn't say no, or fight back, that they are consenting to sexual activity.

People react to stress in different ways. Some may freeze up. Others might be traumatized by past sexual violence and react in passive compliance while inside they're terrified.

It is really not too much to expect that someone should care enough about their partner to notice their state of mind, signified by body language or evasive responses to queries.

One way to fight rape culture is to stop pretending that it is hard to tell if your partner is fully engaged, interested, and enthusiastic. It isn't.

Sexual Violence and Neoliberalism - Historical Materialism NY 2013

Room to Breathe: Breaking the Chains, Unleashing the Imagination, and Taking Responsibility

for a World Without Patriarchy


This is where the connection between the social origins and the social consequences of individual desires must be grasped. Not all theories that seem on the surface to be in opposition to harmful and oppressive tradition actually reflect the kind of world that is possible: a world without slavery in any form. On the contrary, the defining of sex as “whatever you want it to be” when what people want is being shaped by a patriarchal system, is in itself a stamp of approval on the intolerable conditions women face in the world as it is.

In a world where acid attacks, stonings, arranged marriages, forced sterilization, domestic violence, stalking, rape by machine gun, criminalization of abortion, and super-exploitation are commonplace, it is damaging to imagine that personal desires and individual identity exist somehow abstracted from influence. To refuse to confront the reality of patriarchy and to naively (and somewhat selfishly) claim that personal desires and individual identity are untouched and untouchable private property, is an endorsement of the following stories, right here in the U.S.:


What does mistaken anal sex, cum shots to the face, and the encouragement of rape fantasies have in common? Lost intimacy. Constructed identity. A twisted version of sexuality imposed on people by patriarchy, by the reality that in this world, being born female is a condemnation to serve as a disposable utility. To the point where "being yourself" or discovering your own complex desires and turn-ons is an obstacle course fraught with prevention and misdirection. Riddled with predetermined patriarchal notions and barriers, from the cult of motherhood to the flesh trade. That is the backdrop on which "sex positive" thinking encourages everyone to "do their own thing," in a nation and a world where dehumanization of women is the thing to do.

Patriarchy in all its forms, including the pornography apologetics of “uninhibited individuality” that abstracts desire from its social context, continues to shape our relationships with others and ourselves, to shape our futures, our dreams, what we think we "deserve" and what we believe we're capable of. No individual lives outside of the real world or escapes the formative lessons of the "money shot"—you know your place before you even get to the age where sexuality is interesting. If you can't imagine sex without porn... you're fucked.

And then, every other girl growing up... when they see that going on, it's not just that their dreams are extinguished, the dreams don't even flourish to begin with. Because when you see every woman around you treated that way, it's like trying to grow a plant underneath a rock. - Sunsara Taylor



i believe you | it's not your fault

An excellent tumblr.

trigger warning for rape & suicidal ideation


A few examples:

Sometimes You Freeze
By Anonymous

Dear Teenager,

I’m about to tell you something that I didn’t know until it happened to me.

A few years ago, I was raped by someone I thought was my friend. Actually, I thought we might date eventually. At the time, I told him I was still nursing a broken heart and wasn’t ready to be with him. Because he supposedly cared about me, I thought this would make him leave me alone. It did not. He thought he could make overpowering me physically into a romantic entanglement. I remember getting a text message from him a couple weeks later asking for my address. He wanted to come pick me up and take me out for a fancy dinner, nice dress for me and suit for him. I had a panic attack under my comforter before being able to tell him no. It took me nearly a year to come to terms with the fact that I’d been raped. I wanted so badly for it to have been a misunderstanding.

I couldn’t remember the details of what happened. I could remember some moments very clearly. But I couldn’t remember saying no, and I couldn’t remember fighting back. I lived with so much guilt because of this. I’m strong and opinionated. I state my wishes clearly. I had had friends who had been victims of violence before, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the concept.

But what nobody told me was that our bodies react in different ways to violence. When we feel we are in danger, our instincts take over. Our conscious thoughts fall by the wayside. We may not run away or fight back physically if our bodies decide that freezing is what will be most effective in preserving our physical and mental health. If you’ve ever heard of “playing possum,” that’s when an opossum pretends to be dead so that other animals will leave it alone. Humans do this, too. I remember falling asleep in hopes that he would leave me alone. It worked for a while, so my body made a good call.

If you are violated and you don’t remember why you took certain actions or did certain things, please don’t berate yourself. You were not complicit in your attack. From the moment your attacker made it clear that your wishes about your own body were secondary to his/her wishes, your body was in emergency mode. What it did, it did to protect you. You, your body, were always trying to take care of you and make sure you were alive the next day.

And just because you don’t remember something doesn’t mean you didn’t say or do it. As I started to recover from the attack, I recovered some of my memories. I did fight back—not with my fists, but with my wits. I’d used creative ruses to try to get out of the room, I’d said many different shades of no. When that didn’t stop him, my mind even tried to minimize damage by trying to turn the encounter consensual. I tried to care about him; I tried to want him. I felt so guilty about this after the fact, because I felt like I’d betrayed myself in the moment. But I was just trying to survive until tomorrow. I was trying to stay sane.

If you’re having a hard time putting words to what happened, if you’re afraid to call it by its name, if your reactions were confusing and don’t fit the narrative of what our culture identifies as rape, that doesn’t mean anything. Each attack is different, perpetrated by a different person under different circumstances, and each survivor is different, too. If you don’t hear other people with your story, it probably means that they’ve just been too scared to put words to it yet. I’ve been there.

And I believe you. It’s not your fault.

- Anonymous

It Was Not Nothing
By Jenny Yang

Dear Little Sister,

I was quite young when I realized my own parents weren’t the most emotionally supportive. I wish we didn’t have to be so young to learn that sometimes our own parents can let us down. I knew they loved me, but so many things get in the way of kids getting the love that we need.

Most of these things are totally out of our control. In my case, I was the youngest of our immigrant family. I got better at speaking English and “being American” than the rest of my family. A lot of times, my own parents relied on me to figure out the world, even when I was very young. Sometimes our own parents are not the best place get comfort when we are being mistreated by the world—especially if this is a world that they don’t understand. And sometimes, sadly, grownups just think that our life is so small when we are little and young.

I was the only girl and youngest of three kids. When I was six years old, I was new to the block and finally playing with the neighbor kids on a regular basis. This one day, a boy from the next street over showed up. He was this jagged-toothed, sandy blonde white kid with a mischievous grin.

He interrupted our freeze tag and started making fun of me. I didn’t quite speak enough English after only being in America for less than a year, but I could see that his face was mocking me. Maybe he knew that I didn’t understand his words so he had to make himself perfectly clear.

After laughing at my face for what felt like forever, he reached underneath my flouncy knee-length skirt and flipped it up. My face got hot and all the other kids started laughing and pointing. They saw my underwear and I knew the kid was being mean.

He tried flipping up my skirt again but I ran away just in time. I escaped to my house with hot tears streaming down my face.

As I heard the sound of the screen door slam behind me, I realized I had interrupted my mom who was deep in conversation, speaking Mandarin Chinese with a neighbor lady. I screamed in Chinese, “Mom! The boy down the street. He was laughing at me and he flipped up my skirt.”

While I cried and clutched fists full of my skirt in anger, all I wanted was a hug or an “I’m sorry this happened to you.” But all I got was laughter. Their laughter echoed the sounds of the kids who mocked me just seconds ago.

“Oh, Jenny! Is that all that happened? He flipped up your skirt? Hahaha.” She turned to her friend and shot her a glance that said, “Oh look at this silly girl.” This friend of my mom also started giggling. Grownups can be so mean sometimes.

“Jenny. Don’t worry about it,” my mom insisted. She was about to turn back to her friend to continue their conversation but I stood there and screamed louder. Something was wrong. Harm was done.

“Mom! He just came up to me and flipped up my skirt! Everyone saw my underwear!”

My mom laughed some more.

"Oh, look at my daughter. Isn’t she funny getting so upset? It’s fine. It’s just your underwear. It’s over.”

“But, mom!”

My mom laughed even harder.

“Look how upset you are. Don’t get upset over this. Nothing happened. It’s nothing.”

In Chinese, the words “mei shi” literally translate to “not a big deal” or “not a thing.” No thing. Nothing.

My mother would go on to contradict herself when it came to how I was supposed to carry my own body. When I got just a few years older, she told me to close my legs when I sat down because “a proper girl didn’t show her underwear.” So when is it okay for a girl to show her underwear? Only when a strange boy forces you to show it?

After feeling rejected by my mom, I ran into the bedroom and cried. I knew there was nothing I could do to get the reaction that I wanted. I wanted my mom to understand that what this boy did was not okay.

From that day forward, I vowed in my heart to never wear a skirt again. I learned that to wear a skirt was to be laughed at and to feel vulnerable. That to be a girl was to be weak and ignored. That life was better to be just like my two much older brothers rather than the silly, youngest girl who was never really seen for how I felt and who I was. That this was just the beginning to learning all the ways that life was so unfair to little girls and young women. That our own parents can love us so much and work really hard to clothe and feed us, but that they might not protect and nourish us in very important ways that help us to grow up, and feel whole and safe.

I am here to tell you all of this because it’s okay. I will believe you when somebody mistreats you. I know it matters to you so it matters to me. You know when you are not being treated well. I’m here to tell you that you are right. You do not deserve to be mocked and bullied by anyone. You deserve to have grownups believe you when you say that you were harmed and violated. Your body is yours. What you wear has nothing to do with other people’s bad behavior.

I see what happened to you. I know exactly how you feel. It was not your fault. I believe you.


Jenny Yang

It Was a Slow Flood
By Leah Williams

Dear teen girl,

I wish I could hold back the floodwaters for you until you could cross safely. I would pull back the tides and restrain all the crashing waves until you felt okay. I wish someone had been able to contain all the waters swelling around me whenever I felt like drowning.

It was a slow flood. It started when I was about nineteen and I was walking home from a film shoot, with my iPod blasting Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It was about five in the morning and I was exhausted. I was living in Brooklyn with my best friend and roommate, and I was walking along 4th Ave towards our apartment, and the streets were empty. It was eerie but peaceful; like the whole world was made just for me to see.

A car slowed down and drove beside me. The tinted window came down and a man said something to me from the inside but I couldn’t hear him over the blare of my music. I walked faster. A moment later, I was being forcefully pulled into the car. There were two men inside. One to hold me down, one to do as he would.

I was a competitive swimmer as a child. I’ve always had very strong legs. I don’t think they were expecting harsh and swift kicks to the head.

I got out and ran. I ducked down a one-way street they couldn’t turn into and I ran until I was safe inside my apartment. I passed out unceremoniously on my bed. Later, when I told the story to my friends, I laughed about it. We all laughed at how ridiculous it was.

Months later I was waiting at a red light when a man pulled up next to me and started masturbating while watching me. I sat there until the light turned green. My heart was pounding and I felt sick. I felt dirty and gross. When I called my friends immediately after, (who, at the time, were all guys) they laughed at me. I eventually laughed too.

A year and a half later I had just moved to Los Angeles and a celebrated painter invited me over to his place for tea. I didn’t know anyone yet or have any friends. I was excited to make a friend, hopefully someone who could help me navigate the waters of a bizarre big new city.

He wanted more than tea. His hand was inside my dress within minutes of me stepping in the door. He kept pleading, pulling at my clothes, and swatting my hands away. I started laughing. I was saying no, and stop, I was saying “Please stop,” but I was laughing so he did too. He ripped my dress. I laughed harder. I forcefully extracted myself and ran home, still laughing. He called me consistently for months afterwards. I saw his paintings all over Hollywood. I saw his picture in the paper, smirking at me from the pages. When we ran into each other, I was polite and deferential. He always wanted to hang out again.

That wasn’t the last time something like that happened to me. There are more stories. I have to separate these memories and string them up innocently, each to each, because when I lay them all out in connection to each other I feel like I am trapped underwater. I feel crushed by something inescapable.

I laugh when I am uncomfortable. I have given a slight smile and a nervous giggle when a predatory man sidles up to me to take his best shot. I have laughed off the unwanted attentions of men who got too close. It took me a very long time to unlearn automatic politeness. It took me a very long time to stop caring about sparing the feelings of men who attacked me.

I know it is exhausting; constantly defending bodily borders. I know that it is complicated; balancing all the things you are supposed to be. I know it’s hard to be the beauty when all you want to do is snarl and be the beast. I know how tiring it can be treading water when all you want to do is let go and drown. I would drink up every ocean if it could protect you from men who pull you into cars or leer at your skirt hems or lure you into their tastefully decorated dens.

After caterpillars wrap themselves up in their cocoons and are comfortably mummified, they liquefy. Everything they are is destroyed before they become butterflies. I just want you to know that despite an insidious undertow trying to tug you down, that you will not drown. Human bodies are 60% water. You are an infinite reservoir, baby, all liquids take the shape of their container. You and me, we’re more than the men who want us to feel small. Nobody can make us feel like the beach flea when we were born to be an arcane and endless sea. I can tell you right now that an unfortunate reality is that the world will only get bigger and badder as you grow older. The monsters lurking in the waves will get harder to slay. The good news is that you get bigger and badder, too, and you will never have to fight them alone if you don’t want to. We will be here for you.

- Leah Williams, age 25

i miss sea's voice. i'm so tired.
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