Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, & Weight Gain: Facing Facts - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, & Weight Gain: Facing Facts

harassment

I made the decision to pause on my post for the Clean Eating Boot Camp today because there’s something that, over the course of the past couple of days, has been bugging the daylights out of me. I may end up writing about this again tomorrow… just because I have really particular thoughts about this topic.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of someone sending me this blog post regarding sexual harassment (or catcalling, as it is so lovingly called) on the street. It uses some extremely adult (and, in some cases, offensive) language, but I don’t believe that this means her point is any less valid. Go read it.

No, really. I’ll wait.

I want to highlight one passage from the post in particular:

Often times, the response is simply ‘oh, well’, the woman shouldn’t be walking down the street ‘like that’. Or she should expect to be harassed based on the way her body is built. Or that a woman should ‘appreciate’ the attention, as if a blatant sexual comment from a stranger is something to be desired. There are the occasional few who are capable of empathy and do go on to recognize how their behavior may be undesirable. Some simply say they are mocking what they see other men do. I ask do the women respond favorably and I know they don’t. So I wonder what makes Black men think this behavior should be perpetuated.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being considered community property just because some men think my skin color makes me a member of a secret harem and I owe them the time of day and some pussy and a blow job.

I want to be invisible. My daughter now dresses in boy clothes. Her sexuality has been a topic people feel they have the right to speak on ever since she was 5 years old and learned to dress herself.

No one asks why my daughter dresses to hide her gender; why she wears layers upon layers of clothes; why she wants to be invisible. She’s had to see me be harassed in the street her entire life. Why would she want to be seen?

Since we’re all coming out of hiding and keeping it real… I’ll go ahead and do the same. I am a victim of sexual harassment.

As a young girl in Cleveland, our childhood environment was full of kids going out of their way to be little adults. I can’t tell you the number of kids joining gangs, carrying knives and guns, cursing, making their dolls have sex, playing hide-and-go-get-it (please, don’t ask), and goodness knows what else I knew. There were some girls who loved that kind of attention (those girls also, by and large, became Mothers at an early age), but it made me uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable, simply because it was always taken too far… and it’s not a far leap from harassment to assault in a heightened situation. Gaining weight felt like solace to me… the more weight I gained, the less attractive I would be, the less likely I’d be to be harassed on the street.

It was strange because, by a stroke of luck, my parents decided to pack up and move us to Indiana. Actually, the best high school in the state… devoid of diversity yet full of girls who were thin, blonde and nothing like me. I didn’t feel like I was in competition with them for boy attention, not because none of them liked Black girls – that wasn’t true – but because I was too busy trying to be invisible to the attention I expected to get. They were competing with one another for the same group of boys.. meanwhile I was on my own just trying to hide.

Once I left for college, I was in a much more diverse environment. I wasn’t really ready for dating, didn’t know much about men, so I experienced my fair share of “college dating woes.” However, I had developed this unhealthy ability to hide who I was within what I ate. I had already learned how to not pay attention to my body or what I was doing to it. I had already gotten used to not being paid attention to – it was what I wanted. I learned a cycle of dysfunction that centered around not wanting attention… and had become so used to it that I couldn’t see what was wrong with it.

Obviously, since I have a child, I was able to (hopefully) date and procreate with someone, right? Of course, I eventually found a man who “loved me for who I was, not my outside appearance.” Keep that in mind. The relationship lasted a few years, but has since dissolved. I dated once more after that, but that was it. Right before that ended, I began to focus on my mental and physical health… and while I get that together, I’ve made the decision to remain celibate.

Now, as a single parent tasked with teaching my child all the things I was unable to learn about myself and my health and my body , I’m left with questions and assumptions that may not be easy to discuss… but I can assure you that they’re not easy to write.

First, I cannot help but wonder if this explains the disconnect between Black women and our bodies – the fact that a large number of us went out of our way to stop paying attention to our bodies because we were too busy trying to make ourselves less appealing to harassers. Furthermore, I notice that there’s a lot of discouragement during the ages where young girls are supposed to be learning about and understanding their bodies… to do exactly that. I wonder if we are, in a roundabout way, encouraging harmful behavior in our daughters because we are trying to discourage male attention… and beyond that, sexual harassment and assault?

I’ve been raped and assaulted; because I refused to acknowledge and accept a Black man’s advances. There are women who have been gunned down in the street because they refused to play along with a Black man’s attempt at flirting.

I’ve been called every combination of whores, bitches, cunts and skank.

I’ve been accused of, asked and requested to do any of a number of things with my body.

I’ve been threatened with sexual assault repeatedly by people I don’t know and who may or may not have been capable or willing to go through with their threat.

I’ve been spat on.

I’ve been hit.

I’ve been groped.

All after declining the verbal advances of a random Black man on a corner/block/street/ in a town that doesn’t much matter.

Think about that. How well can you relate to that? How prevalent do you think this is? How prevalent do you think this is where the majority of our young girls are being raised?

Secondly, if we spend so much time trying to discourage male attention, when are we teaching our daughters how to handle any male attention? I mean, I’m in the business of raising healthy young women. I want her to know how to, in one hand, appreciate a compliment while, in the other hand, being able to acknowledge unwanted attention. I want her to know that one has absolutely nothing to do with her, while the other has everything to do with someone acknowledging the beautiful person she is.

Really, I want to get into some good ol’ feminist theory and ask why it is easier for us as women to put ourselves through this than it is to correct the behavior of the men… or perhaps ask why no one sees this as another devaluation of Black girls and women (saying that it’s easier for a Black woman to just not “look that way” – you know, the way that we are genetically inclined to look –  than it is to just raise our boys better)… or maybe even ask how it became a mainstream principle that women were objectified and their respect came secondary to a man’s gratification… but I recognize that this post didn’t set out with that in mind.

I also want to know why we seek out men who will “love us for who we are,” as if we, in a way, are afraid of a man actually appreciating how we look. Or are we unable to understand that a man can healthily appreciate a woman’s appearance without objectifying her? Orrrrr do we simply not want to be held accountable for our appearance, so we want a man who won’t hold us accountable for it? I mean, let’s keep it real – any person who stays with us stays with the desire to love us for who we are… that’s a default. Why don’t we want more than that? Why is it so wrong to ask for more? Ingrained devaluation?

Can I also see if anyone else sees this as blaming the “victim?” If we’re allowing ourselves to “hide” the beautiful people we are because we’re afraid of something we shouldn’t have to endure in the first place? We’re blaming ourselves for the crap happening in the first place… instead of placing the blame on the perpetrators of the harassment. And if we’re trying to keep our daughter from “being fass,” then aren’t we blaming them in advance? Don’t we, really, just perpetuate this idea that women control everything… and men should be held responsible for nothing? Ladies, I know it’s flattering to think that your cupcakes and your ho-ho are that “powerful,” but as you can see… it’s not.

Someday, we’ll have to learn that sexual harassment, much like sexual assault and rape, are about the perpetrator trying to flex their power on the victim. It isn’t about how you look… it’s about the perpetrator going out of their way to reinforce the idea that they have some kind of power over you. What power, you ask? The power that society bestows men by default… but again, that’s feminist theory for you. Again, I know we like to think that we are the center of everything, but really.. this is one of those times where we need to let that go. Taking blame for a man’s bad behavior to the point where we harm ourselves to “avoid it?” As if fat women are never victims of sexual harassment or assault or, dare I say… rape?

Don’t worry – in this post, I am largely speaking of myself. And in my heart of hearts, I believe that I was able to move beyond this mentality because I was forced to – my health was on the line. I had a child to raise alone, and feared not being around to do it. But now that so many of us are succumbing to the disease chain of poor health… will we finally do what we need to do?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

83 Comments

  1. Kirsten

    September 17, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    This was almost too close to a very real and raw wound that I have carefully buried.

    The unacknowledged source of excess weight on Black Women’s bodies could almost certainly be traced back to an unconscious need to become less desireable, less physically appealing, less of a target.

    I KNOW that this has been an unconscious, unacknowledged connection to my excess weight. I recall learning that the panniculus, the apron gut, also known as a “booty-do” is often found on those who have experienced sexual abuse.

    I wonder if there has ever been a study of overweight Black women who have also dealt with some type of sexual violence.

    How brave of you to address this.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM

      I’ve seen that before Kirsten, and I’m wondering if the sexual abuse/apron gut connection is driven by the foods most of us cling to WHEN we emotionally eat, and the immediate affect they have on our tummies. Hmmm… another interesting topic!

      Thank you for your kind words. :)

    • CeCe

      August 18, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      Wow! What a post and all of the comments hit home for me too. There are so many things to address. So here it goes.
      1. My Story-I too am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was molested by an older boy at my babysitter’s home when I was 3 or 4. This was not “kids play” as the boy was much older and bigger than me and I had no idea what he was doing. I didn’t want to go into the basement with all of the kids because I didn’t want it to happen again, but I had no words to really describe it. I remember crying until the babysitter put me on “punishment” and made me stay in her room by myself. It was a relief and I felt safe. I doubt I said anything to my Mom about this at the time.
      I was further abused by my stepfather, both physically and sexually. I convinced myself that it didn’t affect me because I hated him and I tried to minimize it and put it behind me. It is so clear to me now when I look back at my childhood pictures, how I used food to comfort myself and hide from male attention. When I started to develop breasts, it seemed that everyone had to comment it on it. I had already felt that something was “wrong” with me and that I was “bad” because of the way I was being treated at home, but this additional attention caused me a great deal of embarrassment and humiliation. The interesting thing is that I think it is my most authentic self to be outgoing and social. These types of experiences however, have made me self-conscious and afraid for most of my life with my “real” self showing up only on occasion. I could go into the course of my dating history, but let’s just say that there was always an underlying fear of being physically hurt if I “made him angry”-which comes directly from being in a home with domestic violence, or being used for sex, which I think comes both from those early experiences, cultural messages and early consensual and non consensual sexual experiences. At 43, I am still dealing with the consequences of being sexually abused and the various forms of sexual harassment and subsequent sexual assault that many women have discussed here. I certainly don’t have all the answers and it is not an easy or short road to emotional health and well being-and frankly I think this is more about a lifelong PRACTICE of self care and self love-but I keep taking the steps, sometimes very small steps, to reclaim and create the life I want to live.

      2. The weight-I have struggled with weight since I was six years old, but do believe that I will “get there” by focusing on that self care, self love road which will reconnect me with my body and teach me to treat my body with love and respect. Part of that is feeding it in a healthy way and moving it in a healthy way. I have tried so many diets and weight-loss schemes, that I have failed to maintain. Usually in the face of some type of stress or trigger that makes me feel unsafe. So again, it’s the little steps to health that will make the greatest impact. Websites like this help and so does support. So thank you Erika for sharing your experience.

      3. Now to the men-So often discussions like this melt into a debate about how women are always expecting the worst from men and how telling our REAL stories furthers the divide between us and men. That somehow we are CREATING a rift by discussing the REAL ways we have been assaulted by men. I cannot even begin to express the anger I feel by this active attempt to silence us for the sake of men “looking good”. It’s dismissive and very disrespectful. The reality is that men globally are raping, beating, selling and disenfranchising women on a daily basis. This is real and is the ACTION of men and not the responsibility of women to keep quiet about it. For the MEN-if you think this makes you look bad, the address the men engaged in this behavior and DO everything in your power to stop it and to educate other men so that the cycle stops. Then, we will have gone from “looking” good to BEING good.

      4. To other survivors-Even though we don’t always believe it, we are worth doing whatever it takes to heal and live the lives we want for ourselves. Lives filled with love, support, authentic friendships, fulfilling and nurturing work, etc. Baby steps yall!

  2. Sibyl

    September 17, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Excellent!

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM

      Thank you. :)

    • Janine

      October 30, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, CeCe :)

  3. Marcus

    September 17, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I found this blog through twitter. I am a black man. I feel the pain that you feel. I have (female) relatives that I have been able to get an inside perspective on this. As a writer, I have produced some songs, poems and essays about how to make it better as well as how to demand better forms of manhood.
    There is a concern though… Try (respectfully) not to deepen the wedge between black women and black men. I know that your victim (personal experience) sees a black face. But, your natural womanhood should see a black face as well. My experience is that in which I never get to meet a real black woman. I always have to go through her evil twin first. I can appreciate that to a certain degree. It’s just tiring and discouraging because we find that this defense isn’t used to filter out the bad ones. It’s designed to keep everybody out.
    I’m doing my part to heal our women with words and the absence of “sexual harassment”. But it hasn’t really helped my personal life all that much either. Yeah it hurts you to be mistreated, but remember…it hurts us (real men) to try to get to you. We have to find the balance.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 12:32 PM

      Thank you for your comment.

      I have to be honest with you. Telling me to not deepen the wedge between men and women smacks of “stop putting our business on front street.”

      A post like this, for me, is in “the business” of helping women. Helping women includes helping them not only understand where feelings of inadequacy might’ve originated, but also helping them to identify issues this might’ve caused them in their relationships as well as helping them stop hurting themselves in the meantime. I am a woman who has been there – I no longer have an “evil twin” (that you felt made enough of a difference in this discussion to bring up. Why?) because I have properly compartmentalized and rid myself of these emotions. I am free. I’m hoping that other women can do the same.

      In the meantime, let’s keep it funky: I have very little interest in playing the PR role for men. I specifically wrote the following:

      Secondly, if we spend so much time trying to discourage male attention, when are we teaching our daughters how to handle any male attention? I mean, I’m in the business of raising healthy young women. I want her to know how to, in one hand, appreciate a compliment while, in the other hand, being able to acknowledge unwanted attention. I want her to know that one has absolutely nothing to do with her, while the other has everything to do with someone acknowledging the beautiful person she is.

      because I believe an ability to better interact with men will help our relationships and how we approach them. Going out of my way to “not deepen a wedge” isn’t going to happen here… especially when, instead of helping to acknowledge the problems in the community, you opt to sneak in a dig at Black women.

    • Deborrah Cooper

      August 11, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      This is a theory that I’ve often put forth over the years. There is no other reason that the percentage of overweight/obese Black females is so disproportionately high in the U.S. Statistics by the CDC say that 4 out of 5 African American women are considered either overweight or obese. Surely that is not genetics or food but underlying emotional turmoil.

      I work in the relationships field and have interviewed thousands and thousands of women over the years. Though statistics say that 1 out of 4 women have been sexually assaulted or raped by the time she is 18, I disagree. My casual and unscientific but honest discussions with women cause me to believe the number is more like 3.5 out of 4. The young Black woman that escapes any sort of sexual assault at the hands of a Black male is the exception rather than the norm. Even a Black girl’s own father and grandfather must be viewed with suspicion.

      The comment posted above by Marcus was very disturbing and had me SMH. Can Black men ever take an issue that has to do with women and not turn it around to be about them? Black women are discussing awful experiences that happened to them in childhood and through their teens at the hands of adult males. Yet all he can do is come in and give orders and cry about how the verbal assaults little girls experienced at the hands of beastly males makes HIS life uncomfortable and challenging. Are you kidding me right now? Wow.

      All in all, excellent post and responses ladies. Keep up the great work.

  4. TKOEd

    September 17, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    Great post. You raise some great questions I’ve never heard before in your last few graphs. Thank you.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 8:13 PM

      No, thank you for coming through. :)

  5. Penni Brown

    September 17, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    To the men that read this – while you might ‘understand’ how this constant harrassment, molestation and devaluation might affect women; to make statements like ‘i have to go through her evil twin first’ contributes to the devaluation. What I hear is ‘yeah yeah, that’s sucks that you went through that, but can you please get over it because its now affecting MY life and MY relationships.’

    What I want to hear is men, black men especially, rushing to protect and defend me from the foolishness. Hold your brothers accountable when they mistreat and are rude to women. Its not enough to shake your head and look away when you see your boys get out of line. Be PROactive and pull dude up by the coat tails. The reason many of us are like M&Ms is because we’re constantly having to protect ourselves. No other group of women has to do that job solely on their own. Its tiring, and frustrating and damaging.

    This will never stop until men tell other men to stop. Maybe then, we’ll feel safe enough to wear our gooey centers on the outside.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 2:14 PM

      THANK YOU!

      I’m like five minutes from having to write ANOTHER post because that one comment struck such an ire with me. It just reeked of “a woman cannot heal if it comes at the expense of putting men on blast.” I don’t think so. I love y’all, but my needs absolutely come first… specifically in a situation where I don’t feel protected, or a situation where I don’t feel like anyone is looking out for me. I’m not that chick. LOLOL

      • Pat Watson

        April 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM

        I got on here because I was hoping that someone was writing about what I have experienced and can nowhelp me figure out how to get past the consequential difficulty losing weight. I am a white girl (or was), but I developed early and was very curvy by 7th grade. I have spent my life feeling like public property to men and being overtly and covertly hated by other women. I’ve felt like there must be a pot of gold inside my vagina that men can reach and get rich because of the way the treated me. I recall not knowing what to do with the attention, feeling afraid like I was about to be eaten up, and wanting to hide. I had no idea that it was prevelant and threatening in the lives of black girls and women. I feel sad to think of it.
        Beyond the sexual harassment, I remember being told by my father that if I was beautiful, smart and successful, no one would like me. So, in the last year of my doctoral program I gained 50 pounds fast.
        I love that you gave this the “blame the victim” frame. I never thought about that. And, the gift of that spoiled man’s complaint is that I too felt pissed. Right now, I don’t care if it makes his life harder. And, I agree, “confront your brothers” and start fixing the source of the problem if you don’t like the outcome.
        I feel my anger rising and I am glad. I want to enjoy good health, a body that moves easily, a body that fits into the clothes that fill the rest of the store, and a brain that knows that their inappropriate gestures are not about me.
        Oh, thank you for your blog and the many strong voices who have replied.
        I am deeply grateful.
        Pat

    • Susan

      February 20, 2013 at 3:47 AM

      OMG, YES – THIS! Not just for Black women but for ALL women!

    • Candace

      November 30, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      It’s not just black men, but all men need to be held accountable, and stop acting like a bunch of little boys that are part of a club. Until the silent majority becomes vocal and willing to step up to the plate to protect women, the insecure men that need to hurt women in order to feel powerful will proliferate.

  6. Kim

    September 17, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    *sigh* I hate to admit it, but one of the reasons that I fear losing weight is the return of cat calls and rude remarks from men on the street. As a “big girl” men tend to ignore me on the street . . . every once in a while I’ll get “Hey, Big Girl!” or “Look at them big legs!” (which is oh so flattering, let me tell you *smh*) but generally I am invisible . . . which I don’t mind . . . except when the Denzel look-a-like comes strolling down the street.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 6:27 PM

      That’s another element to this that needs to be addressed – as mean as it may sound, it is still a reality – that in our attempts to make ourselves less attractive as a means of hiding from harassers, we’ve also managed to hide ourselves from potential mates. The very ones who dare to have visual preferences for their potential significant others.

      Whether that’s a “good” thing or a “bad” thing, I’d rather leave for another post… but it’s a reality that does exist. Sigh.

    • Kimberly

      September 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM

      WOW! This ENTIRE post is me but this response?!? Definitely me. I keep sabotaging my weight loss progress and I think this is the root of it all. Fear of men. I had completely forgotten about my purposeful weight gain in college because I didn’t want to deal with the attention. I was literally trying to be more holy and sanctified and figured weight gain would keep the guys away. WOW. thanks for helping me confront my twisted, confused thinking that I tucked away for years. Let the healing begin.

  7. Msladee

    September 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    This post and the linked post made me tear up a little. I can definitely relate to Ms. Jones. Yes, there is a correlation between sexual harassment/assault/rape and weight gain. Here comes the inevitable question (or the at least a question that always arrives when such theory is proposed): Well, (insert random person) was raped and they didn’t get fat/lash out/make themselves invisible. Why can’t the others just be/think/feel like her? *Sigh* Tangents like this are also part of the reason we NEVER address the correlation. Every conversation seems to shade the relationship. I’m so glad you and Ms. Jones are able to bring this real issue to light and address it head-on.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 6:17 PM

      Well, you brought up an important question… let me try to offer up an answer.

      First, just because there’s a correlation doesn’t mean that there is direct cause and effect, meaning just because sexual trauma occurs… doesn’t always mean that it will lead directly to weight gain. Women respond to sexual trauma in different ways – they may become promiscuous, they may become cutters, they may self-medicate with pills, they may become drug users, they may self-medicate through food, they may choose to hide themselves with “extra padding.”

      All of those things can exist without sexual trauma causing it. All of those things can exist independently of one another, and there are some women who wind up experiencing a number of those “effects” due to an inability to deal with the trauma healthily. That’s the key, here – whether or not one has the means or support system to cope. Not all of us are so lucky.

      And really, I couldn’t care less what anyone else says – I received enough messages publicly and privately about this post to let me know that I wasn’t alone in my feelings or thoughts. That’s not a shot at you, but at that line of thinking that says it’s okay to erase or ignore a woman’s history and very real experiences because “others succeeded where YOU failed.” Get outta heeeeeeeeeeeere. LOL

  8. Sarah

    September 17, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    Thinking about this whole issue, to me, street harrassment is only the newest variation on the sexual trauma that Black women have been going through for literally hundreds of years in this country as a part of slavery and its aftermath. This desire to stay invisible seems to go so deep, sometimes. It’s a hard thing to break.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 7:15 PM

      You know, someone else brought up this angle to me… that the devaluation is a learned characteristic from slavery.. but she was relating it more to another aspect of emotional weight gain. Either way… these are powerful thoughts.

      I’m glad y’all are so freaking smart.

      • A.Marie

        August 29, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        It’s interesting…this thread resonated with me and reminded me of The Wind Done Gone by Alice Walker. One passage of the book talks about how Mammy was once Mr. O’Hara’s mistress and she gained weight to become less attractive to him. I had always seen Mammy as such an asexual character and it is interesting and troubling to think that it was intentional. When I think about my own struggles with losing weight, I wonder if I am also subconsciously harming my body in the name of self-preservation.

  9. Inkognegro

    September 17, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    Nevermind the “wedge” between Black men and Black women. These stories just don’t get the proper exposure. When you bounce from individual story to individual story it is too easy to make excuses.

    The excuses have to stop.

    The boys will be boys minimization has to stop.

    I’ve never raised a hand to a woman but I bear the responsibility of protecting my sisters.

    I cannot merely wallow in my own self-righteousness, I must be vigilant in denouncing the pathology that allows for this kind of behavior to endure.

    Thank you for this post. It is so necessary.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 8:26 PM

      “The boys will be boys minimization has to stop. ”

      This!!!!!

      • Pam

        August 18, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        Hi Erika,

        You hit the nail on the head. Sexual harrassment and abuse have been major factors in my 30+ years of struggling to manage my weight, first as an adolescent and then as an adult. I see my adolescent students having to fend off disrespectful and abusive commentary and behavior from boys all of the time. I always ask the little boys (young men) how they would feel if someone spoke to their mothers or sisters they way these boys speak to their classmates. Sometimes they get it; most times they don’t.

  10. Golden Silence

    September 17, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    There is a guy on the link you post who is trying to make the conversation about men and their egos. As usual, there are some men who refuse to see street harassment as a problem and daily threat for most women. To the men who care about this issue and realize it’s a problem, I commend you.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope we live to see the day when street harassment is permanently a thing of the past.

  11. Ladycakes

    September 17, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    I think one of the biggest problems is that people think about sexual assault/harassment in sexual terms instead of it’s intent which is control. The most valuable thing a woman care offer a man is body. It takes a great amount of trust for a woman to share her body with a man.

    Sexual assault/harassment defaces a woman’s body and tell the woman that the control over their bodies is fraudulent and ultimately belongs to a man whenever he gets urges. Therefore what a woman wears or behavior makes no difference and shouldn’t ever be dicussed.

    What should be dicussed is why this type of misgynogy is acceptable and why the blame is heaped back on the victim. We need to hold these men accountable for their actions.

    • Erika

      September 17, 2010 at 9:14 PM

      “The most valuable thing a woman care offer a man is body.”

      I need to think about that one, for real.

      • Laura

        January 27, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        I know, I kind of was very unsure about the whole, “The most valuable thing a woman can offer a man is body” of that comment myself, since at first, it sounds like her intelligence or personality isn’t as valuable as the body. But then, I thought about more along the lines of, hey, your body is the only body you have. It is one hundred percent unique, and you’ll never get another one. The amount of trust you’re offering anyone when you let them do anything to your body; a man, woman, surgeon, tattooist, etc., is enormous. You’re saying, “This is the only body I’ll ever have, and I’m going to let you do whatever, because I trust you not to screw up with it. So please, don’t screw up with it.” So there’s that as well.

        Also, me and a friend just realized that this means rapists are kind of the equivalent of people forcing surgeries on you and taking out your gallbladder, or something like that. Or, alternatively, taking the chance while you’re knocked out and steal your kidney. As she said, “I’d believe that can leave you just as scared, traumatised and violated.”

  12. Msladee

    September 17, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    To clarify, I wholeheartedly agree, the effects of such harassment show in various ways. It’s the question itself ( the fact that because ALL women who experience X don’t result in Y then why is it a valid issue) bothers me much like the tangent on if women didn’t dress this way or look that way then X wouldn’t happen. Both take away from addressing the macro issues like street harassment and weight as a defense mechanism. To me, such questions deflect from macro issues, but being in the business of debating everyday, I can anticipate those kinds of questions arise before they actually do. Why? It’s way easier to devalue a problem than be part of the solution. It’s easier to say tough luck than it is to address a person’s (and in this case a large segment of the population’s) pain.

  13. s

    September 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    i’m usually a lurker but i had to comment on this post and your response to the man who tried to derail this conversation with a transparent “what about the menz” plea. i’m really glad to see an in- depth and introspective blog post about the pervasive affects of sexual harassment and abuse on black women. i’ve been grabbed, had a man put his hand up my skirt in a crowd, called all sorts of vulgar names, and had to threaten to call the police on two men who wouldn’t leave me alone after i rejected their advances.i started to feel like a walking vagina on the street, not worth more then what i could provide for these assholes, which was sex. i’ve never been overweight, and i’ve never gained weight in response to sexual harassment but it got to a point (especially living in new york where people walk everywhere)that i had to steal myself for whatever catcalls or disgusting behavior might be exhibited towards me by black men on the street. i started to plan my outfits by what would get me harrassed the least. it was mandatory for me to have an ipod and sunglasses on whenever i went out, as well as a mean face to show that i was not open for small talk. like you and others have said, i really don’t give a damn what a strange man thinks of my behavior, i’m going to what i need to do to make it through the day and block out any uncessary irritants, which are men i don’t know and don’t WANT to know. i’ve gotten a little less defensive over the years, so that if a man approaches me in a respectful way, i’m not automatically mean, but i shouldn’t have had to formulate all these defenses in the FIRST PLACE. men need to hold themselves accountable for their behavior, and so do we. there is no excuse for catcalling. ever.

  14. NaturallyAngelic

    September 19, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    Reading both your article and the one you linked is all too familiar to me. I was molested and assulted for years as a child. In my high school years, I gained weight, wore loose clothes and did not take care of my personal hygene. I was a mess until I finally admitted to my family that I was (and still was at the time) being abused. It took a theapist to get me to understand that my weight and the way that I carried myself were defense mechanisims to ward off any unwanted attention from the oppisite sex. It was hard work getting to where I am today. I am on the long journey of shedding the unwanted weight and learning to love myself and let others in. In the last 2 years, I’ve learned to take care of ME and build up my self esteem.

    But the one thing I HAVE to work on is my trust in the oppisite sex. Outside of my family, and a few close friends, I’ve been a bit mistrusting of men and the catcalls and inappropriate language is not helping. I pray for the day when men learn that by stepping to a woman with respect will get them the attention that they desire from us. My granny always says that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    • Erika

      September 20, 2010 at 5:01 AM

      *big hug*

      The number of e-mails and messages that I’ve received saying this exact thing is… overwhelming.

  15. BrooklynShoeBabe

    September 27, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    My husband sent me this link. What you linked to, what you wrote, and what a lot of the other comments read were some really deep/important stuff. Sometimes, I forget just how epidemic this is when you’re trust trying to protect your own individual self walking in the street.

    I can think of four very distinctive acts of sexual harrassment I received on the street, and at least two of them happened when I was overweight. In high school, I remember walking home from high school when a man started following me in his car. At first, I was flattered by the attention since I was always the “plain” girl but when I realized he wasn’t going to take a simple “thanks” as an answer I panicked. I ran into a bodega and stayed there until he went on about his business. The most recent time was when a man rubbed my ass while I was picking out a newspaper. I turned around and said “What the fu*k?” and he just shrugged and left. I looked at the other men in the store as to say “You not going to say anything?” and they all just shrugged.

    When is the shrugging going to stop? How can I make it stop? I’m raising a 5 year old and a 3 year old daughter and I don’t want them to grow up and have “war stories” like we’re sharing here.

    Thanks for writing and posting.

  16. lynn

    September 27, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Thank you for this post. I was molested when I was younger and now I am obese and I’m sure subconsciously, that has something to do with my current state and health.

  17. Jane Laplain

    September 28, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    I had thought that the original article hit too close to home for me, but this one even more so. I’ve been trying to process these very same issues for a long time and only recently began breaking out of my denial about the reasons behind my cycle of extreme weight gain then loss due to discomfort and illness, then gain again becuz i felt too visible all the sudden… and the extent to which sexual and physical harassment has shaped my life.

    Reading these comments I wasn’t surprised to see your standard “Try not to take it so hard black men and black women are too divided as is” derail. No, YOU try to take the way your fellow black man treats black women MORE seriously. YOU put your own brothers on blast so that I don’t always have to.

    Thing is, most men would have no trouble at all empathizing with women if they considered the way that the very thought, not even the act but the THOUGHT of another Man catcalling and making sexual threats to THEM makes them go livid with horror and disgust. They would say “well its because I’m not gay and I don’t want no man comin at me like that.” No it’s NOT because youre not gay. It’s because you, like any normal person, don’t appreciate random men coming up to you and forcing you to hear about how they’d like to put their penises inside of you and do sexual things to you and then threaten you with violence if you don’t like it. THIS is exactly how women feel. I don’t need all that. I don’t need to hear how I rate with you sexually I didn’t ask you I don’t know you and I’m not trying to know you and dammmit you’re not trying to know me either you just want to make your manhood MY problem because you don’t know what else to do with it.

    If any man had to spend a week as a woman he would hate all men. That we somehow DON’T end up hating all men is a miracle in and of itself.

    • Erika

      September 28, 2010 at 10:54 AM

      PREACH!

    • Pat Watson

      April 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      I AGREE. Men would feel scared too.

  18. keeksr

    September 30, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    “First, I cannot help but wonder if this explains the disconnect between Black women and our bodies – the fact that a large number of us went out of our way to stop paying attention to our bodies because we were too busy trying to make ourselves less appealing to harassers.”

    i don’t even think the “if” should be in there…it is and it does!
    this article really was like an “aha!” moment for me as i read on. for years, i have lamented about how i need to lose weight, eat right, etc. but there was always this unidentified, confusing fear about actually doing it that i could never put my finger on.
    i’ve gotten my share of (unwanted) attention from the time i hit puberty, although nothing that was too traumatizing…but as i’ve grown, i’ve finally had to do some serious self-reflection about what the implications of losing weight would be…it’s not so much that “ok, now i have to deal with the male gaze on my female form” as it is “after hiding behind my body for so long, what do i have to offer someone for whom i might reciprocate feelings?”
    so much time and unconscious energy is spent on self-preservation, that it’s easy to lose sight of crafting an identity….

  19. Tanya

    November 4, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    I started to read this post and couldn’t finish the first paragraph. When I was 16, I was raped a few times. The last time it happened I was holding my son who was turning 2. After that I started gaining weight steadily. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that my weight gain was probably a result of my rape. At 16 and just having a baby, I was subjected to a lot of oohs and aahhhs and unnecessary comments from youths and adults. The comments from the adults bothered me the most because the “men” weren’t sensitive to the fact that despite the fact that I had a baby, I was still a baby.

    • Erika

      November 5, 2010 at 3:53 AM

      Oh, Tanya… *big hug* :(

      I don’t know what to say, but I do know that healing yourself definitely needs to be of the utmost importance to you right now. No way can you be of the most good to the people who need you the most, without making sure you are in order.

      This is the kind of thing that pisses me off – our babies (and by babies, I mean our young Black girls) are just not safe from this stuff. I mean, I’m enraged and heartbroken for you and every other woman who is reading this and not quite courageous enough to do what you’ve done here.

  20. Tanya

    November 14, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    Erika, thank you so much!! I didn’t know then but I know now that a huge part of my weight gain was so that I didn’t have to be hit on! Now, at 36 and 268 lbs. I will eagerly kick someones ass if they say something out of line. I’m so unhealthy- hypothyroidism, high blood pressure and quite a bit unhappy with my body image.

    However, I’m alive and I’m not stuck at a 17 year old rape victim. I’m a grown woman who doesn’t live as the victim anymore.

  21. Niki

    November 28, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Thank you so much because I have put on weight due to being sexually assualted. Food made me feel better. I don’t exercise because I am afraid to leave out of my home and suffer from post tramatic stress disorder. If I am at home I go through periods of depression which does not help my situation at all. When I feel down the last thing I want to do is excerise. Sexual assault is not just something that can happen in our teens it happens to women of all ages. Why would a black man feel he would have to rape one of his black sista’s? I couldn’t explain it if I tried. I believe its a evil sickness. When I asked the rapist why he would do this and he has a daughter he would not want that to happen to her. He said I know its wrong but I do what I want to do and besides she is just a child. But this same man has raped a child in the past. Do I think he will rape again, probably. Wow has the world grown so cold that we don’t care about others in our community. I can’t control what abusers do all I can control is what I do. So from this day forward I am going to take charge of me which includes losing this weight and becoming healthy so I can help others.

  22. Debbie Estelle

    January 27, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    I also want to know why we seek out men who will “love us for who we are,” as if we, in a way, are afraid of a man actually appreciating how we look. Or are we unable to understand that a man can healthily appreciate a woman’s appearance without objectifying her? Orrrrr do we simply not want to be held accountable for our appearance, so we want a man who won’t hold us accountable for it?
    ___________________________________________________

    I think you may have touched on something here… Something we as women (especially black women) need to take time to look more closely at. It truly may be any combination of the three… even more things.

    I think for a lot of us, while we want to be physically appreciated, when we know we don’t fit the “standard” of beauty get kind of angry (maybe in part at ourselves and in part at what/whomever caused us to want to hide) and develop the “you love me at my worst to get me at my best” attitude…

    Or… Maybe we are saying “listen, can you stick it out with me good or bad?… will you love me if I’m a size 2 or 22? Some of us don’t know if we will ever GET TO a size 2 or leave a 22! LOL! But seriously… We want assurance it’s not our physical beauty ALONE attracting/keeping a man… You know we ASSUME at times people are in it for the long haul but after some mess pops off… we sometimes see our relationships aren’t what we thought they were…

    Unfortunately, I feel a LOT of us (in some form, mild or not) have been at the receiving end of unwanted advances… For some reason these sorry excuses for men (not black men, the black men who DO this!!!) then try to make us feel ashamed for not responding to the advances in a way they want… I mean what should we do?

    Then, what about those women who’ve had the advances come from family friends? Their mom’s BF’s… a stepdad or even a “father”… The damage done here can DEFINATELY cause a woman to want to be invisible…

    The bigger issue (and you touched on it in this post) is a LOT of us need to take time to evaluate and get our TOTAL health in order… We need to start with ourselves and ask the hard questions. We need to, maybe, do that with therapy… medication or any combination. But sometimes our cultural norms (or lack of insurance) puts us in a place where therapy isn’t always easily accessible… or where it is looked highly upon.

    Ultimately we have to be willing to be couragous in the face of injustice. We have to be couragous enough to reclaim our health and our lives and then go from there…

    Our communities need reshaping but it starts with us… As you stated, if we aren’t healthy, how can we help our daughters? Our sons? Speak up to these cowards who feel it is okay to rape us mentally, spiritually or emotionally?

    I pray that it happens one woman at a time… It’s really sad that TOO many of us have dealt with this non-sense in one form or another.

    BTW I think (not like you asked! LOL!) it is a WONDERFUL idea to remain single/celibate until ones’ OWN health is order is the VERY thing we need to do to ensure this mess isn’t continued on in coming generations. (To me, THIS is breaking ‘generational’ curses). This is an act of courage! I commend you for it! More of us need to be this couragous and our relationships (when we do have them) would most likely be a LOT better! We’d choose better partners and MAKE better partners!

    Blessings sis!

  23. Cali_Chick

    March 3, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    This article really got my attention, as I could relate to some of the issues regarding covering-up as not to draw attention to my body as a teenager. As I developed more as a young woman the unwanted attention was very overwhelming. Over time, I transitioned from oversized sweatshirts and pants into gaining weight( unconsciously) as a safety zone. Food and cooking food gave me comfort as I wrestled with my own self-worth as a woman. It took me many years to understand it all and to define my own sexuality not based out of being objectified by a male. I am in a more accepting place of loving me as a whole, especially the inner teenager who felt she had to hide her fierceness in order to just ‘be’.
    As my tears are flowing as I write this, I just want to thank you for article.
    Peace and Blessings!!

  24. Melissa

    April 5, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    I was sexually molested as a child… I never gained weight as a defense but I did stop going outside and I could no longer be intimate with anyone. I only left the house to go to work, school, and grocery shopping. I was married when all of the memories and the effects of such childhood trauma finally broke through the barrier that I had in my mind. It’s amazing how well the brain can defend or protect itself, but let me tell you,
    those barriers won’t hold forever. I nearly ruined my marriage because I could no longer make love to my husband and I severely damaged our and his social life because I never left the house. Even when he had friends over I would hide out in our bedroom.

    I’m also that lady that puts on a ‘I swear to God you better not even think about talking to me’ face when I am in public. This is no way to live and it’s very very sad that it’s the victim that has to live in a prison.

    So I’m telling you gentlemen, the way you behave and treat a woman isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I often wish the people that hurt me could live a week in my shoes so they could fully understand what they did to me. But, alas, that will never happen. All I can do is keep on keeping on and work to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

    And any man that says I should be more open and let him in cuz he’s a good guy… go eff yourself!

  25. Demetrius Smith

    April 25, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    Good Day,

    I hope this reply finds its reader in good health and spirits. As man I wanted to share with you my feelings regarding the concept of sacrificing health in order to avoid unwanted male attention.

    Great thespians will tell you that they can play many any type of role with conviction because they have the compassion to tap into the soul and inner-being of the character. While I cannot identify with the situations expressed in your blog or by the author of the blog you linked above, I do have the capacity and compassion to identify with the sentiments and emotions from where these feeling are expressed.

    With that said, I would like to caution anyone from sacrificing their health for any reason. This is imperative from many standpoints but I would delve into a few to try to obviate the urgency of my words.

    First, I am not trying to discount the concepts of the original author but her post, in my opinion, revealed a woman that is very confrontational. The men represented in her blog post were extraordinarily disagreeable but I find it hard to believe that the majority of her experiences with Black Men are as described in her post. In fact, I would surmise that these are a few of the more memorable of the minority encounters with Black Men.

    Also, the experiences she noted were so vile and attributed at such a frequency that it is apparent that her safety is perpetually compromised. Considering this predicament any rational person would have removed themselves from that situation.

    I wrote the above to express that readers should be careful to not emotionally attach themselves to her experiences as she may not share your sensibilities or mental stability.

    Secondly, I am of the belief that we have a social responsibility to be with one another. This is a responsibility that is becoming increasingly difficult due to health/weight issues prevalent in the black community.

    While men are able to “love a woman for who she is,” black men cannot ignore the responsibility that we have to our offspring. The natural assumption is that an unhealthy person will reinforce unhealthy dietary practices to our children. This is a major concern and a primary deterrent when confronted with potential mates that are unhealthy.

    Finally, assuming unhealthy dietary practices will, in effect, predetermine your pool of potential candidates. I am a 30 year old, well-educated, professional man and I can tell you from experience and from the discourse had with brothers of my ilk that there are only a handful of instances in which a black man will consider a serious relationship with an overweight woman. They are as follows:

    • He is a big man himself
    • He has children with her and she has gained weight
    • He married her and she gained weight
    • He has not achieved the same level of education as she has
    • He does not have a similar financial status as she does

    In short, sacrificing your health will only compound the problem. Many brothers will be immediately deterred from considering you as a potential candidate and you will predestine yourself to someone that is either himself unhealthy, feeling as though he is settling, less educated or broke.

    I know my words are curt but the ideas and advice I express are from a place of love.

    Erika’s Note: The only reason I’m approving this comment is because I want it to be known that I replied publicly.

  26. kelly

    April 26, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I stumbled upon this blog through a friend’s interest in facebook, and I’m so glad that my nervous clicking landed me here to read your post and the replies by both women and men on this topic. This is something I’m currently dealing with (oddly enough). I have serious body image issues stemming from a childhood of sexual and physical abuse and parental neglect. Sadly, my older sister and younger brother have gone through the same thing and although we all deal with it differently, I find myself in a world of pain whenever yet another relationship fails, or when my emotions sabotage any kind of intimacy friends/acquaintances/coworkers try to induce. I just turned 30 and have been well over 300lbs for several years. My most recent relationship lasted only about 3 months, and ended violently and abruptly due to both our issues clashing at a very delicate time. I find myself emotionally eating even though I am working with a therapist and on medication- the therapies alone done don’t rid the pain of my past. I learned a while ago that I subconsciously keep myself fat in order to avoid unwanted attention on the street, but it also keeps me from letting anyone good into my life. I still have a long and lonely journey ahead of me on the road to recovery (I unfortunately do not have a support system outside of my therapists), but it helps knowing that I’m not the only one who feels this way and has had similar experiences. I wish us all the best in overcoming the abuse and finding the courage and strength to bring this topic to light, and to be able to move forward. Thank you for sharing your stories.

  27. Sheedah

    April 26, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    thanks for this post today it really hit home. I just sent an email yesterday to yet another man who has grown inpatient with me and my issues with sex, my body, weight, etc. I grew up in a neighborhood where groping, cat calls, etc. were apart of the daily walk to the store, school or anywhere. The women had accpted them and when I complained as a young girl I was silenced and encouraged to ingore it. How can you embrace your curves, thighs, and butt when grown men are always making them “nasty”. Before I was a teenager I heard men say they wanted to do things to me that I had never heard of. I was sexually assaulted as a late teen and it led to weight gain. In our community weight is usually a non issue when it comes to attacting men so it didnt stop I was just thrown in a category with women that probably have very low self esteem so men can say whatever they want. I can go on and on about this, I am still overweight but I actually like it. I can dress up and get sexy when I want or I can not try and fade into the background. My most recent ex worshipped my body and there was something about that attention that made me sick on my stomach. Now he is confused and I am alond again, I think I need to seek counseling to stop this cycle! thanks again for the post.

  28. Carolyn Matteo

    April 26, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Thank you for this commentary. I did go back and read the entire blog posting that you referenced. I was shaking as I read it because I identified so strongly with the words. I was sexually abused as a child and the target of unwanted black male attention. I now realize that the excess weight gain that I carried since childhood was my protection and my anonymity. But, oh, did that disconnect with my body and spirit came at a price! I am now happily remarried and have to slay demons of the past on a daily basis. Thank the LORD that HE is the almighty. Thank you so much for your careful reflection on the association of weight gain and sexual harassment. We are doing our daughters a great disservice if we don’t address this issue and empower our daughters so that they can be the GODLY women they are destined to be. We are all daughters of the most HIGH KING and it is time for others to recognize that fact. Thank you again.

  29. Tj

    April 26, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Like so many others this post really resonated with me. I was molested at a very young age by my stepfather. There were several other incidents of men and boys that tried to take advantage of me sexually all BEFORE puberty. When I look at my 7yr old daughter now I get a little anxious because she is built like I was, she already has a brickhouse frame so to speak. You can imagine what going through puberty was like. My confusion and fear were amplified everytime some old lech talked about my thickness, my big legs, the barely formed breasts that I tried to hide. I was pretty outgoing and friendly as a young girl, puberty sent me into a shell that I am just now coming out of in my 30s.
    I hid myself in layers of clothes, with my head stuck in a book. I became very introverted and I began to gain weight as well. The only time I felt safe to come out of my shell was when I performed. Singing and dancing gave me the outlet to do my thing and not worry about eyes on me since it was almost like I was in character.

    All of the feelings and issues I had suppressed came to the surface once I was married. I am so thankful that through my relationship with God and the love of my husband I am in the process of healing. Thank you Jesus for your healing power! I am learning how to deal with my emotions instead of eating to make myself feel better. I am losing weight, becoming more comfortable in my body, and yes also feeling much more free sexually.

  30. Sophie Benshitta Maven

    April 26, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I have to preface this note: I am not black.

    And from the point of view of a white woman, unfortunately the abuse is universal, and not limited to certain skin color, certain cultures, certain countries or states.

    And the behavior abuse creates is also quite universal, thought here are cultural differences there, for sure.

    As I don’t foresee change in this tendency of men treating females as their rightful property, I am spending my energy in healing the females, from the inside out.

    Thinking that we are, somehow responsible for the abuse, is a cultural conversation, as deep as anything human: will not change it fast enough for this generation or even the next 2-3. But I have developed a methodology to assist the work of the Divine Power to heal, fast and permanently. Regardless of skin color.

    We are all sisters, or if you prefer, sistas… Much love.

    Sophie

  31. Courtney

    August 11, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    First and foremost: as a 25-year-old black woman with an eating disorder for 6 years (ed-nos causing my weight to swing between 100-180+ pounds and eating to cope with depression since elementary school), please let me express how much this blog is needed and how awesome you do what you do.

    Second: Your response to Mr. Demetrius Smith was a work of beauty. I feel you exposed him like a naked baby and everything that I raged about when I read his comment, you shone a spotlight on. It’s almost like you’re in my head.

    Third: To your readers (and yourself!), there’s a really, really thought-provoking article written by Tracy Renee Jones titled “Street Meet: Black Women, Black Men, & Everyday Sexual Harassment” that I think a lot of women could benefit from reading as well (warning: it can be triggering). It was hosted at http://www.rippdemup.com but since they re-designed, I can’t seem to find the link (nor through google). But hopefully they’ll get everything loaded and people will be able to do a search to find it… the way she writes juxtaposed with the imagery are VERY powerful.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      August 11, 2011 at 10:50 AM

      LOL That’s the article I quoted in the post!

      • Courtney

        December 10, 2011 at 5:57 AM

        LOL. Man. Apologies… I think I actually found that website through this post but didn’t comment until some time later, apparently completely forgetting the connection.

  32. Candice

    October 2, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Firstly, I must say that I really love your blog. I’ve felt many of the things that you’ve written about but never fully articulated them in my mind. I haven’t read to comments to this post, so it’s very well possible that some of the issues that I’m about to raise have already been mentioned or even refuted by someone else.
    Regarding the sexual harassment we black women face, I think there’s a worldwide culture of disrespect around women’s bodies, but especially the bodies of black women. The humiliations and violations that our ancestral sisters and mothers have faced hundreds of years ago to the present is a much more violent manifestation of what we are facing today. Much of this would not have happened and would not continue to happen if our rights as full human beings were appreciated and respected.
    When I was younger, I kept up with whatever was in style. I felt like I was exercising my personal choice when i bought some garment from a store. In reality, what’s available in most stores is extremely limited. Only certain cuts and shapes are available from store to store. In essence, nearly every sells the same thing, and hence, everybody’s wearing practically the same thing with color, print, and brand being the only real difference. That being said, much of what’s offered by the fashion and clothing retail industries are clothes that are sexually objectifying. I live and work in a working-class Latino neighborhood, and I can’t find a single thing in the area’s clothing stores that is simultaneously flattering, modest and feminine. If every pair of jeans is designed to make a display of my rear end and every blouse is designed to showcase my breasts, is it really logical to expect that I would enjoy having privacy about my body when nearly everything on it is out on display? I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming the victim, but I do think how we adorn our bodies reinforces the inequality between men and women and creates the perfect storm for continued harassment.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      October 2, 2011 at 5:50 PM

      Firstly, thank you for the kind words! :)

      Secondly, I think I may have to disagree with you on one point. There’s no way a person can be complicit in a situation they were never asked to be a part f. You can’t be complicit in something if your participation is unwilling. I don’t ask to walk down the street and be harassed. I don’t ask for men to grab at my arm as I walk past them. I certainly don’t ask to be sexually assaulted or worse, raped.

      I am wary of when women make statements like this, because it’s important to remember something that I implied in my post: it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you’re wearing or how angry you make your face look. All that matters is that you are there, and you are an “opportunity.” You are an “opportunity” for someone else to show how big and bad they are. It isn’t about what clothes you have on – and I get it: clothing makes you more enticing depending on what you choose to wear, so a choice to wear different clothing should make you less enticing, I get it – and it isn’t about how thin or fat you are. It, again, isn’t about YOU. If it weren’t YOU, it’d be someone else. People internalize this stuff and try to make it about themselves, but it isn’t. The fault doesn’t lie at the feet of the victim any more than the actual problem.

      In a utopia, a person would be able to walk around buck-eee-naked with a unicorn horn sticking out from their forehead and be left alone – they wouldn’t be bullied, they wouldn’t be picked on for sport and entertainment, and they certainly wouldn’t be sexually assaulted. We obviously don’t live in a society like that, but it’s not because people don’t walk around naked. It’s because people no longer care to acknowledge or respect boundaries. In short, your comment DOES, in fact, do a little bit of victim-blaming and it needs to be clear that the victim is not where our focus should be placed when it comes to laying blame, mama.

      • Kim Swartz

        January 10, 2012 at 1:24 AM

        When I was young I was a size 10 with a chest size of 38DDD, you would have thought I would tip over. That was 45 yrs ago, I was propositioned by teachers, a vice principal and a shoe salesman. I was 16 yrs old and didn’t know what some of them were doing at first. One teacher gave me a personal business card and told me to call him on my 18th birthday and he would take me to dinner, he would come up to me in class when we were working and tell me how nice I smelled. I was scared but did nothing. He never touched me but I knew what he wanted. The boys had names for my busom, Sugar Tits, Jugs, one boy opened my gym bag and pulled out my underwire bra, then went around telling everyone, “Kim’s boobs are so big she has to wear a steel bra” As young as 8th grade I walked down the halls with my books pasted again my chest.
        Well, years later I gained weight after marriage, my husband once commented that I didn’t look as big as I did back then, duh! I eat to protect myself, I always and still do. I am single now, and have been for 19 years now and I think it all goes back to that. I lose weight and the men come charging in, so I eat and they leave. Why me? Why as all my friends have remarried, do I sit at home eating my way into celibacy? Men still comment on them still but only as a passing fancy, unless they are looking for a one night stand.

  33. Freda

    December 5, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    I can’t thank you enough for your blog. Your writings always help me understand why I was doing some of the (obviously self-destructive) things I was doing.

    While reading this article I was shaken into putting down my lunch plate (baked salmon & steamed zucchini with mushrooms, yay). Until a few minutes ago I hadn’t made the connection between the abuse I suffered throughout life and how I allowed my weight to balloon out of control. I’ve recently lost 27 pounds (through exercise and now, with help from your advice, diet) and sometimes find myself feeling EXTREMELY uncomfortable with some of the attention I get from men, even though the great majority of them are being polite — more eye contact, smiles accompanied by appreciative head nods, striking up conversations . . . I hadn’t even realized, until now, that the weight was a cloak of sorts, hiding a great part of the “real” me.

    I’m going to proudly strut changing body and, armed with the knowledge that I don’t have to hide anything anymore, I’m going to get to work on the next 30 pounds I need to lose.

    Again, thank you, Erika.

  34. Aisha

    December 9, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    All I will say is I can relate…

  35. Mariam

    December 9, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    You are TEACHING! Excellent read and so much to think about. Feminist theory on a Friday night.

  36. HiPurpose

    January 4, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    All I can say (with tears in my eyes) is Thank You! I too am a lurker and was compelled to reply to this post. The additional question that I have as a person who has experienced it is –What about the support from our sisters who may not experience the same thing? I have confided in close friends about being in the same situations (raped because I am “too fine”, followed, stalked, cat-called etc.) Their response? What were you wearing, what did you do to provoke them? I am glad to see you expose that this is an epidemic, one that is highly contagious and dangerous to the health and self esteem of our sisters and ultimately community. I especially hope that those that haven’t experienced this (male or female) can be more empathetic because this is real and it does happen every day.

  37. Kendall Iris Devine

    January 9, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Thank you.

  38. Linsay

    January 9, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    I wanted to share my story. I was 18 when I was raped by a boy I liked and I thought that he liked me also. At the time I was down for almost anything because that what my friends and cousins told me that is what you were supposed to like. I wanted to fit in so bad that I slept with someone that I shouldn’t of. At 18 all I asked was that he wear a condom. And he decided that he didn’t want to and he took what he wanted. I remember laying there asking for god to make it over. After this man was done he rolled over and fell asleep and I rolled to my side into a ball and cried. In what would could a 18 year old fresh out of high who knew nothing of men and what they wanted. After he left I took my blanket rolled in a ball and cried. All I could keep thinking was I said no. The next morning my cousin came back to my house and I told her what happend and since she was supposed to stay there that night but didn’t she asked me not to tell my mom what happend. My cousin said that she would go to the hospital and hold my hand as they did the rape test. My mom came home that night and I couldn’t tell her my little secret. The next day I went to work left early and went to the hospital but my cousin who was supposed to be my support system never showed up so I had to get the rape test done all by myself and talk to the police officer on my own. Between the stress of living with this on my own and having no one to talk to 3 days later I became very sick. My mom found me laying on the floor of the bathroom throwing up and hemorging on the bathroom floor. My mother asked what was going on and I had to tell her that I was raped. She rushed me to the hospital and I found out that the man that I was sleeping with got me pregnant a few week prior to the rape and I was losing the baby and i was highly infected I needed to recieve medical attention. My mother took me home with tears in her eyes and took care of her daughter who couldn’t cope with the pain of first the rape then losing a baby. Because of the lies of my cousin she told everyone I lied about her wareabout and she left with a girlfriend instead of a guy and my extended family believed her. The lose of my baby, my pride, my faith, and my family I started bieng eating even more. I gained a hundred pounds and still struggle with the weight on and off because of the trama. I have been raped twice by two different men at two different ages and it not only effect your mental state but your self worth. That for me is where food ties in I hate myself so much sometimes I feel like I deserve to be fat so no man will get close. As I am getting older I am working on my food issues that stem from my rapes and lose but I know one day I will over come it.

    As women we are strong we will over come it with the help from god and learning that whatever the situation no man has the right to take that choice from you. Don’t let food be a punishment for someone else because they don’t have to live in this body you do. Take your POWER back and fight for your self. I realized I am stronger then I realize and these men will not defeat me!

  39. Kim Swartz

    January 10, 2012 at 3:27 AM

    Now I am going to additionally say, I am not black and my abuse over all these years knows no color or class. Doctors, educators, people on the street have over the years and when I was too young to understand it. When the shoe salesman told me that if I showed him my breasts that he would give me the pair of shoes I was wanting for free, I bolted out of the store, told my father and he called the store, they did nothing. I see this man periodically, since I still live in the same town, now an older man with his wife and I want to run and hide.
    When I lose weight, men start to “come on to me” and I freak out and gain it back. I want someone in my life that wants me for ME!, not my boobs. Since being single I have had a list of men who if I lost weight would date me, this is a long list. They are attracted to me either from my personality (I am not a wall flower) but then retract and sometimes they tell me why. I had one man say to me, “If you lose 30 lbs. here is my phone no., call me” I told him when he gets his hair back to try and find me. I think I have a better shot than you! Now one would think that would motivate me, it does quite the opposite. I run for the cookie and ice cream aisle as soon as I leave that situation. One guy told me that his ex-wife said I could be a model if I lost weight! Well that date was over quickly.
    It is hurt that I carry everyday, every minute of my life. I can’t black it out or ignore it. It’s ugly head rears weekly, so much so I have become more and more recluse in life, avoiding large crowds of people.
    Did I at 14 years old ask for this crap? God no, as I said I changed my walk to avoid bouncing and using my books as my shield. Still young men AND professional men taunted me and what did I do, laugh about it because back then there was no recourse, no person I could confide in that would help me. My mother had died when I was 16, my father helped when I asked but I didn’t ask enough. I didn’t want to be a bother. I raised my daughter and my son’s differently and it showed they didn’t look at a person from the outside, they looked more deeply and used that to be respectful of the human race.

  40. Juniysa Serens

    January 12, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    This helped further cement why I am overweight- that irrational fear of being beautiful and being sexually harassed and assaulted. The twisted thinking that it was better to be ugly and avoided rather than to be beautiful and harassed. There is no place in this world for that kind of dichotomy. I wrote about my experience on my blogsite.

  41. J. Wilson

    January 25, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    I just made the connection of the past year that I didn’t work on my weight partly because it offered some protection against disgusting comments from men. In remember back in the summer of 2010 stopping at red light when a man in the opposite lane starting shouting about how big my breasts were. At first, I thought he was talking to someone else but quickly realized that he was addressing me. I felt so nasty. Comments like his explain why often lose weight then regain it. I just can’t handle the comments. It’s not something I talked about with people. Most of my friends and family are slim. I’ve only mentioned it to my doctor and he was empathetic.

  42. J. Wilson

    January 25, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Oh, I clicked on the link for the article but it appears that the author removed it from the site. I would love to read it though.

  43. Kristy

    February 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    I found your website thru a google on weight gain after sexual harassment. I am a white woman who has been sexually harassed. And I have gained weight after the harassment. The wanting to hide hits home with me, too. It don’t matter if we are black or white we are all women. All races and even all genders have probably faced harassment. I completely relate and understand you. As a matter of fact. I had lost almost 100 lbs and then started getting lots of attention. I remember distinctly on a hot May day going into a eatery and a man that liked me was there. I remember, thinking where is a jacket I do not want him to look at me or even know that I am there. I remember wanting my fat back. Well know I have gotten some of it back and I realize the one that is paying the price for all of this is me. Please pray for me to be able to heal from all of this and lose weight. Thanks Kristy

  44. Tesia

    February 20, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    Wow, I think it was Divine Guidance that led me to this post! I’m usually a lurker but I feel so compelled to write out my story here because this IS what I’m grappling with RIGHT NOW and this feels like a safe space to share. I have no idea what I’m going to say but hopefully whatever it is it will be articulate enough for people to feel me. lol. I have always been a big girl. When I was younger, like 12, my body was shaped like a grown woman…which, like many here have already stated, led to unwanted attention from men– I had an old white man stalker who used to follow me in his car as I walked home from school, I was attacked in an elevator in a different state by two teen boys (can’t express how scary that was to be attacked so far from home and out of your element), I was touched inappropriately by my uncle’s friends and a cousin…I was almost raped by one of my drug addict mother’s drug addict friends all before I was 13 and I mean really, the list goes on and on and on. Fortunately I don’t THINK (not as far as I can remember, but I DO have questions) I was ever “sexually penetrated”…but the effect is still the same– I have felt uncomfortable being an “attractive female” in this lifetime because I have learned that you will be abused. Sooo…on came the weight. Like others I began to look as unattractive as possible (subconsciously) to become invisible to men . I claimed it was because I wasn’t so superficial that I cared about those types of things and that I just wasn’t “the Girly” type, but I am now realizing that it is a response to abuse. This is a different topic, but I just want to throw in here that it also effected the type of man I attracted. Because I had taken on this more masculine persona (again, to feel POWERFUL and IN CONTROL) I attracted more feminine men, who were younger than me– less intimidating and easy to control. Now, at 43 years old, 340lbs and single, I am realizing that this can NOT continue!!!! I can NOT continue to live this miserable, unsatisfied life!! I AM a loving, feminine WOMAN and I can not hide anymore! In my attempts to keep out the bad, I have also kept out the good! I have to stop using this weight to defend me and know that I am strong and ABLE to take care of myself without it. Also, that every man is not out to get me. Yes, there will be ignorant a$$holes out there, but I can deal with it…right??? I mean we can’t just live in fear. It will be a long and tough road (to speak to that, I’ve lost 30 pounds so far and I have a long way to go, but a guy on the train told me I was beautiful and I IMMEDIATELY turned to the side so that I could inconspicuously keep an eye on him!! My stomach got a knot in it and I totally went into defense mode. sigh.) but I am ready to walk it.

    Thank you for being here, Sista!!

    • Kristen

      December 27, 2013 at 2:54 AM

      I am so thankful for this post! I was a DD size in 4th grade, I got so much gross attention from men! I now weigh 300lbs. I know that men are not looking at me like “that” anymore. I wonder I we were physically strong we wouldn’t feel as threatened? I am a white chick btw, but we women have to stick together!

  45. Clarke

    March 29, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    I am living this right now. I was raped in 1991, went into post traumatic stress after the birth of my daughter. Have been in therapy since 2010. This post is just confirmation of what I already knew. I had been overweight before my rape, but coincidentally I had lost over 100 pounds, just before the rape, and have not been the same since…but every day is better. Never give up ladies. Tomorrow will be a better day.

    Thank you to the non-black women for being courageous enough to post on this site. I had a feeling this wasn’t something specific to the African-American community…

    My mom would always say to my sister and I “men are different” now I understand SMH

  46. Lana

    March 30, 2012 at 3:31 AM

    thank you for this. it took me a while to understand why i wore baggy clothes for so long-i had a run in w/a perv when i was 13. and over the years my clothes got baggier and baggier. and i got bigger and bigger. lately, ive been taking martial arts classes and trimming down. needless to say ive been getting more and more unwanted attention. and more and more people telling me i shouldnt dress a certain way if i dont want the attention.

    • Siegrid

      September 4, 2012 at 10:04 PM

      Lana, I think you should wear what you want to wear. It’s not up to them, it’s up to you.

      But, if you’re wearing clothes that give you unwanted attention, and you want to. But be smart about what you wear and who you talk to. Just be smart. Wear professional clothing, that is flattering and not slutty.

      If you can’t afford it, start posting it up online in different groups for clothing that flatters.

      But please remember being “safe” from predators is more about them than about what you wear. If what women wear entices men to rape & attack, then I think they’d outlaw bikini’s on the beach.

  47. Melynda

    August 20, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    “Really, I want to get into some good ol’ feminist theory and ask why it is easier for us as women to put ourselves through this than it is to correct the behavior of the men… or perhaps ask why no one sees this as another devaluation of Black girls and women…

    …are we unable to understand that a man can healthily appreciate a woman’s appearance without objectifying her? Orrrrr do we simply not want to be held accountable for our appearance, so we want a man who won’t hold us accountable for it? I mean, let’s keep it real – any person who stays with us stays with the desire to love us for who we are… that’s a default. Why don’t we want more than that? Why is it so wrong to ask for more? Ingrained devaluation?”

    Thank you so much for this. This has gone a long way to making me heal.

  48. Caroline

    October 7, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    I really enjoyed reading this post, and I found the questions you posed in it to be really helpful on a personal level as I relate to much of what you wrote. My only critique is that this is not remotely unique to Black women – this is universal to all women. It would be naive of me to suggest that there aren’t distinct racial issues in life, but this is not one of them – not the harassment and assault, but also not the psychological response of hiding from it by gaining weight. I’m as white as it gets, and I totally relate to nearly everything you wrote. Thank you for giving me a lot to ponder with respect to allowing myself to be healthy and beautiful, learning to even tell the difference at this point between being objectified and a proper compliment, and preemptively blaming the victim even though it comes from a desire to protect.

  49. Carmen

    October 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    I was reading this moving thread and thinking about how much it reflected my life, although I am white. I have found that my body causes “problems”–when I am fit I am quite curvy, with DD breasts and a butt that sticks out. It’s interesting because I don’t fit the stereotype of what white men are supposed to be attracted to–and in fact (especially if I am a little thicker) they wouldn’t date me as a girlfriend because they don’t want to bring me around their friends, perhaps (by a little thicker I am talking a size 12 as opposed to an 8 or a 10; yes, this is how shallow young white men are; not that I care, I am rarely the least bit attracted to them)–and yet, whenever they get the opportunity, they attack me. I have been catcalled, groped, fondled, digitally penetrated, and raped five times by four different men. Twice by a boyfriend before I was old enough to know better (17–quite slim and gorgeous then; he was a huge hulking bear of a guy, probably close to 300 pounds, I have no idea what I saw in him!–I think I had ugly duckling syndrome because I had been a rebellious and tomboyish teenager and had a terrible thyroid disorder that went into remission, causing my skin to clear up and my weight to go down; why else would I have been so willing to entertain any male attention?). After that I was in a five-year on-and-off abusive relationship, although I had been deeply in love with my boyfriend when I met him (again when I was 17). I left him, got my shit together, finished my associate’s degree, worked hard all year, and moved to Spain to teach English; after completing my grueling CELTA course I got a terrible double-ear infection and bronchitis (I think from five weeks of no sleep and constant stress–it is truly a grueling course) and then traveled up to Madrid for two job interviews. Despite my illness I got the jobs and went to stay at a hostel while supposedly looking for an apartment–what I was actually doing was lying in bed being incredibly sick, hacking to death, unable to hear, in terrible pain, and with no insurance in a foreign country where I was about to start not one but two new jobs. The hostel owner told me she was scared I was going to die (fortunately a girl in the hostel, another new teacher, found a very nice apartment for us and did all the work for me while I lay in bed coughing). I was put in a room by myself. One of the guests at the hostel noticed I was alone in a room–and extremely sick (voiceless and unable to hear)–and decided to come into my room in the middle of the night and get in bed with me and undress me. I just let him, because, in my mind, not only had I triumphantly escaped this abusive relationship, but I had worked hard to achieve my dream of teaching in Spain, and I was not now going to be raped on top of being really sick and starting two brand-new jobs in a foreign country–I just couldn’t deal with it. The most disgusting part was that after this I struck up a “relationship” with him and had further sexual contact, just to try to convince myself I wasn’t really raped–a habit that kind of stayed with me, as though, if something else happened between us, it would negate what came before, cancel it out, so to speak (I know, this is really sick). That whole year I mostly read and worked all the time and didn’t enjoy Spain nearly as much as I might have otherwise. I went home to finish my bachelor’s–I was 23 then–and my first year (as a junior) I did nothing but study all the time. I had a low-wage, exhausting summer job with 14-hour days working as a tour guide on the Grand Canyon Train, and one day my roommate suggested that, since school was about to start, I should quit and come out with her and go to Ladies’ Eighties and get drunk. We had been talking about my lack of a sex life, and she kept saying, “We have to get you laid, we have to get you laid.” We drank ten cent well drinks all night and then moved on another bar at about one in the morning. She went to the bathroom for five minutes–five minutes!–we were both too drunk to remember the girl code of “always go with your friend to the bathroom.” In that time some guy came in, scoped me out, bought me a drink, told me there was a party back at his place–he was with a friendly-seeming couple–and, despite my protests, took me by the elbow and steered me outside and put me in a cab. You can guess the rest. The rest of that year was a nightmare of sorts–I went crazy drinking and partying and sleeping with a ton of men. I also had good friends, and some of the men I did want to sleep with, but quite a few took advantage of me (in ways I would call icky but not rape, though I suppose by the legal definition “intoxicated and unable to consent” I suppose it was–but I knew what I was doing, I was just very self-destructive). I also sought out men specifically to degrade me. I finally stopped doing this after a fierce crush on a guy for simply showing me the slightest kindest after I slept with him–for shoveling snow from my walk, that’s all. He turned out to be mostly an asshole too, but the fact that I was so moved by this gesture made me realize how truly fucked up I was–I think I cried for days (I had dropped out of school for one semester; amazingly I did end up graduating on time and with a 3.8 GPA). I stopped sleeping around, but continued my job at the local restaurant brew pub, which was supposedly a “family” restaurant but where middle-aged men out with their daughters stuck their hands down my pants (at this point in my life this kind of stuff was so routine I never even slapped anyone–it started with an old man in a movie theater when I was 13, and never stopped; I remember my friend expressing amazement at a bar when I did nothing as a man approached me from behind and fondled my breasts. She slapped him for me. I suppose I thought by then I was worthless, and besides, I had never learned how to stand up for myself; saying no to advances, whether verbal or physical, just scared the hell out of me; I would just freeze up. Strange, because I had been such a rebellious kid; maybe it was because I was sent to so many psychiatrists as a kid to try to train me out of my distinctly unladylike habits of getting in fights and talking back to teachers? I certainly became somebody told different and completely unable to stand up for herself). It’s made even more odd by the fact that twice I have saved other women from being assaulted–apparently I think other women are worth standing up for. Toward the end of this whole period, when I was no longer sleeping around but still working at the brew pub, where cheap alcohol was offered as a perk and all the servers and bartenders and bouncers were alcoholic (as was I), I was living with my best friend. We really were the best of friends; we bonded over our issues and got in trouble together and went on trips together. She was a skinny, pretty white girl with long dreads, and I was the curvy one. It was funny to see how she’d get hit on by all the fratty types who wouldn’t give me a second glance unless their friends weren’t around. We were a dynamic duo. She was into a douchey bartender at a local nightclub–I knew the guy was an asshole, as I had been carefully selecting assholes as the previous year to abuse me (and perhaps, in retrospect, my whole life–not because I was attracted to them–forget that alpha shit–but because, like many women in this culture, especially many women both shamed and objectified for their body type and character, I hated myself. When will men realize that women go for alpha assholes because of internalized misogyny and not because of a true sexual preference? Isn’t that why such men set up this whole patriarchal paradigm in the first place? Come on, you know they’re the guys who started it!). My friend would ask be to accompany her and be her wingman at the bar on a Tuesday night when no one was there, so she could flirt with this guy and make out a little without risk of it going further. I always agreed willingly, because I loved her. He came to our apartment a few times and she always asked me to stay downstairs with them–she said she was working up the nerve to sleep with him (and I guess I was her control system). I really didn’t want her to, as again, I’m protective of my friends, though I never told her that; it was her choice. I think the guy thought I was the annoying friend hanging around and cockblocking. Or else he was jealous of our extremely close relationship, of our love for each other. One night she went out with some other friends and I stayed in to study. She apparently got wasted and made out with three different guys in front of him. After this she approached him at the bar and crooked her finger, beckoning. He told her, why don’t you go home with one of your other guys. She got extremely angry and yelled, “Fuck you!” and gave him the finger and stormed out. She told me she felt bad the next day, as she’d been drunk and she had been making out with other guys in front of him (it was still stupid of him to be butthurt–we later found out not only did he have a girlfriend but he was sleeping with dozens of girls in town). My roommate went out of town the next day. The day after that I went to work and he came into my bar. I had just finished my shift and my female coworkers were buying me shots. They bought me about ten shots in a row, and then multiple pints of beer. One of them badgered me into telling her how many sexual partners I’d had, although I told her I didn’t want to tell her, as she’d be judgmental. She gave the appearance of being a “flower child,” a river-rafting hippie, so I told her, 28 (many of them had been in the last year, but I didn’t tell her that). She immediately began proclaiming how her pussy was so special she wouldn’t give it up to just anyone–i.e., being super-judgmental (I ran into her at a concert in the future and she said, “Hey there little slut.”). The women–who had always been rather catty about the college girls who worked at “their” brew pub over the summer (the attention they got from the male customers and staff, which was sometimes fun and sometimes sickening)–they got up and left me. This was pretty routine, too; they would let the summer college girls get totally wasted and then any old person–one of the bouncers, a customer–could take her home. Zero feminine solidarity. No one ever had our backs. So they left me there, and the guy–my roommate’s bartending crush–said to me, “You’re way too drunk and it’s too late to walk home alone.” He was being really kind and friendly and after all he was an acquaintance and even though I had pegged him as kind of douchey when does one think “player” extends to “rapist”? Needless to say, he walked me home, and when I turned around to wave to him he came in the door after me. I was blacking out, in and out of consciousness at that point. He left me naked on my hardwood livingroom floor and slammed the front door next to my head so hard my teeth rattled. He didn’t use a condom. My first thought on waking up was, “wow, I had a rape flashback–about ______?” And then I realized where I was and that it was real. I didn’t bother to report it; I had reported my rape the year before, and the police officer had told me it was my fault, saying, “you should wait until you get to know someone before you do that with him,” and “why did you go home with him,” and “I’ll tell you right now you have no case, the DA will just kick it back.” Then he’d complained about his long work hours and told me he’d shot a schizophrenic man in the woods who had quit taking his medication and escaped from his mother’s basement, holding a knife. I cried so hard after that (although I did report the cop, and did get an apology from him and his superior officer, I didn’t press charges, as I’d waited too long for the physical evidence–and again, “he-said she-said.” I’m sure they would have made me out to be a slut, although at the point of that first college rape I hadn’t slept with anyone or even been out drinking in a long time). So I didn’t report the bartender’s rape, not after that. I actually blamed myself. I agonized over telling my roommate. I knew she would think I had slept with him, considering the number of guys I had brought home the past year. And she did–she blamed me. For months after she kept bringing it up–in front of people, too–saying “I can’t tell Carmen about any guy I like or she’ll sleep with him.” Our friendship fell apart. It was a wake-up call for me. I quit my server job and started doing judo (I eventually got my brown belt and went to Japan). We drifted apart. Although there was much melodrama in this crumbling, it was the rape that did it–and I think that’s why he did it, to break us up. He was angry and jealous. I remember a few weeks after–when my roommate and I were still friends–because I was still trying to placate her about having “slept” with her crush I agreed to go to his bar (although she said she “didn’t even want to look at him” again, she was so disgusted). So I subjected myself to ordering drinks from my rapist, so I could be cool and hang out, be friends. When he handed be the drinks he grabbed my arm and slowly caressed it. “You’re looking good, Carmen. You’re looking skinny.” My friend was standing behind him, not looking at him. “Don’t you think she looks skinny?” He said to her. And the worst part is, as he drew his hand down my arm and away, I grasped it and gave it a warm squeeze. Yes–I would flirt with guys who raped me; I would sleep with guys who raped me; I would do all of these things out of self-loathing and a desire to make it “not rape” (which it unequivocally was, in all cases, though perhaps particularly with the bartending guy, because I actually asserted myself more than once and yelled for him to stop; why did I not freeze up this time? Maybe because I was thinking about my roommate, and the consequences of this particular rape?). I had tried the same thing with the guy the year before, hooking up with him again–but he had a sneaking suspicion that what he had done was wrong and didn’t want to have anything to do with me (or else I had just been a “pump and dump”). I did eventually get to talk to that guy about how I felt about it–we did have a dialogue about it–in which he first claimed he didn’t think it had been rape, just bad casual sex, and then said, “I was angry that night. My fiance had just dumped me,” which to me seems like a confession (why would he confess to this is he didn’t think he had raped me?). But obviously this kind of pathological behavior of mine is habitual in these cases. Anyway, all of what happened was so tied up with my body and the way it looked and the fact that it was “inappropriate” and yet men still desired it and felt a need to punish it, maybe, for their own desires? I don’t know. All of the people involved with this story were white, except my friend at the bar with me (the friend who also slapped a guy for me) and except the guy who raped me in Spain. I know black women are preyed upon at alarming rates, and I have never met another white woman who has had as bad luck as me…what does that mean? I mean, in college all my friends went out drinking (I was also roofied twice, although once I caught the man in the act of slipping it in my drink, and he got up and ran out; the second time I was not so fortunate and I lost 45 minutes during which time my friend says I disappeared from the bar. I hadn’t even wanted to go out that night–my friend dragged me to a concert–and I was wearing no make, a hoodie, and jeans, and had one drink, which I left on the bar while I was texting). So is it my fault for traveling alone, or going out? Why didn’t this happen to all the other girls I knew? Yes, it happened sometimes–I did know other girls–but only reading this thread have I seen so many women pour out their tales of constant abuse, and it breaks my heart…I do believe it has to do with bodies and lust for/shame associated with curvy women; maybe I was seen as “easy,” or “not quite human,” or men were angry they were attracted, or I presented a vulnerable target, or there seemed something of the “temptress” about my figure, like I was a fallen woman and it was all my fault…or something. I have no idea. This culture confuses the hell out of me. In Japan I dated a Japanese guy for a year and a half, and I also had a few other partners there–and I also got attacked and groped there on quite a few occasions (also confusing, as they supposedly fetishize thinness)–I really think when their is a dominant paradigm like thinness in play, that men really want something different than the norm, and I also have a sneaking suspicion that despite our society’s obsession with prepubescent bodies most men can’t control their appetite for large bosoms and bottoms and hourglass figures. After I left Japan to come back and work on my master’s–and one of my subjects is to try to write about my unique experiences as a woman growing up–I just decided I wanted absolutely no attention in this Southern town, and I drank a lot and ate a lot and put on 30 pounds. I am currently exercising a lot–I bike 20 miles a day during the week to commute–and I go to the gym–so I am sure I will lose it by May or so. Maybe because I am older now (29) this will not be a problem anymore. I am kind of terrified of male attention now (I hate it when guys sidle up to me and put their arms around me or call me “sweetheart”). I never learned how to deal with it, despite my martial arts training; I’ve just been so fully trained into not asserting myself. Maybe low self-esteem is a big part of it, and depression. What should I do? I don’t know. I have not had sex since I broke up with my boyfriend, and there is a big part of me that never wants to deal with men again. It’s good I’m not doing the casual sex thing anymore–considering my history, I can’t handle it (maybe one day, when I’m in a better place, and trust my judgment about men more)–same goes for a relationship. But I am still drinking too much. How can I get past this one day, and share my story in a meaningful way–especially when I am afraid people will look at me and say, “You?” And look me over like, “What did those rapists see in you?” And not believe me, as women are often disbelieved when they tell their stories…I just want to be healthy about sex again one day, but for now, I will just be single, and have friends, and be in school, and not (ever!) go out drinking to bars or clubs (I drink alone to avoid them, which is safer but depressing)…I guess that is all I can do for now. I am so sorry for all that has happened to the women on this thread. I have become, not surprisingly, a pretty radical feminist–our society needs great changes regarding the way we view women’s worth and autonomy. I really hope you are all okay about this one day, and me too. Thanks for letting me share this here.

  50. Jessica

    December 5, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    GOD/GODDESS bless you for drawing attention to this! This article and all the comments have me in tears.
    While I am not a Black woman, I relate in so many ways.
    I was raped and to make things worse I have had men white AND black come up and grope me. As a rape victim I never really learned how to properly deal with such confrontations. I would freeze up and go into panic mode and not say NO not say “this is unacceptable”. Eventually I got tired of having this happen and started packing on the pounds. Today I am married and having health problems, and to get better I am going to have to lose weight. And I really think understanding why I am so uncomfortable with the idea of losing weight is the first step.

  51. Annette

    March 5, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Well thank you for addressing this issue it reared it’s ugly head again with me. I have a super that thinks he is all that. He like “big butts”. When he moved in and rang my door I had cracked it to see who is this. Oh he was all hot and wanted to come in and push his way in. Not interested, not my type that should have been enough. Also he was married.

    Now that I have lost weight he thinks it’s his right to comment on it..don’t lose too much now. Heaven forbid I lose what he lliked. What is it with men that think it’s their right to objectify women? Like it’s a harem and they are allowed to pick and choose. They have no right to get right to get angry and assault any women who says no.

    Even now I am comfortable in my baggy clothes it serves it’s purpose in getting off the radar when it comes to these men.

    I was taller and bigger for a girl so the only close friends I had were boys my age growing up. Also almost everyone of them that I got close to in elementary school tried to assault me. I wonder how did they know that as such an age. Was it me that encouraged that? Now thinking back they were following what they saw or what they were encouraged to do.

    Well I will suggest some form of self defense course for any girl growing up. My sister got it and it gave her a since that she could do anything. It gave her an aura and guys didn’t mess with her it gave her confidence. She did Judo. She still got a lot of attention from the men she liked yet knew how to handle those who tried to take it a step too far.

  52. 11 Reasons

    March 11, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    *sigh*

    This… this was almost too real for me to read while at work.

    When I was in middle school, literally right after I hit puberty (a bit earlier than my peers) I was the victim of sexual assault by an older classmate. The victim shaming did a number on me and I gained 30 lbs over the span of a year while battling depression. I felt so safe in knowing I was sabotaging the one thing I felt caused me to be attacked: my body. I secretly hit my eating disorder, played sports then indulged in binge eating. When I got to college, it was a whole new arena and “being thick” was “in”. The attention picked back up and i became mortified. Between my freshman and senior year, I gained more than 60 lbs. I felt safe knowing that “big girls” didn’t get hit on as much. and as I’ve slowly started losing weight, i feel the insecurity picking back up. Thank you for this post.

  53. Kristina

    March 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    This is despicable. My heart goes out to all of you women, those who have been assaulted, you are so brave for sharing your stories and trying to better yourselves. Such abuse can lead to some pretty nasty places. I wish you all love and healthy futures!

    The problem with these abusive men is the fact that they don’t respect women. That being the case, other men NEED to be in on this conversation and part of the solution. If a man is being offensive to a woman in public, do you really think he’s going to listen to another woman tell him off? Unlikely. He’d probably scoff or say something derogatory to that woman too.

    Men need to speak up when things like this occur, not just shrug. Hell, the fathers, brothers, and friends need to set an example. If men are shown not to respect women by other men, they probably won’t learn it on their own. They follow the example set by their elders and peers. And naturally the male example is going to be the best way to show how a woman should be treated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>