Why is it the burden of young girls to ignore the boys who tease?
In high school, I met a boy who had a lot of things going for him, and it seemed that everyone thought he was kind and polite. And he liked me. But when we were alone, he constantly pressured me to be sexual. He made requests of me that I found shocking. All I wanted to do was hug and kiss at that point. I wasn't interested in going farther than that. When I said no, he wouldn't stop. He would try to convince me. He would use manipulative language. He would call me names. He would threaten to leave and tell everyone that I was a prude. I was so confused. I cried all the time. I was put in a terrible position: choose between engaging in behaviors I wasn't ready for or facing the possibility that I would be marked as unlovable. I wanted to disappear.
Why is it the burden of young women to bow in to pressure?
As an adult joining the workforce, there were men who would make comments as I crossed the manufacturing floor. I had to talk to them to conduct business, but they couldn't keep it professional. One man always commented on my big butt. One man asked me if I was a virgin. Another man said he hoped I didn't mind him saying that he would be delighted if I would show up in a bikini to work. I hated it, but I needed to work. You can't not work. So I'd suck it up. I'd play along. Make the best of an ugly situation.
Why is it the burden of women in the workplace to smile and laugh and endure daily verbal assault?
I volunteered at a radio station, with a man who was a known womanizer. I wanted to learn how to spin songs on the radio, and he let me do that. But he also groped me, asked me for kisses, and implied to the public that we had something going on behind the scenes. I told him I was not comfortable with him touching me. He said "that's just how I am. I need physical affection." He basically said it did not matter to him how I felt about it, he was going to do it anyway. I stayed because I wanted to learn the radio, but I resented the cost.
Why is it the burden of women to pay for their education with skin?
My upbringing did not prepare me for this world. I learned "don't rock the boat." My parents and teachers told me to take the high road. I learned that these are burdens we bear. Growing pains. Stuff that happens but isn't all that important. I wish that I didn't have these stories to tell. If I could rewrite my stories, I would stand up to each of these men and say "Don't treat me this way." But I didn't know I could do that. If girls today are expected to put an end to rape culture, they will need to have greater confidence than I had. They will need to speak up.
But I really hope that society does not expect girls to be the only ones responsible for putting and end to rape culture. We can't do it alone, and we can't do it in a hostile environment. We need society to revere and prefer safer spaces. We need boundaries that are understood by our culture. We need social norms about consent. We need social pressure against locker-room behavior.
And we need everyone to take a little more responsibility, so we don't have "victims" and "bullies" anymore. Someday, maybe we'll just have people, communicating honestly about the kind of treatment they will accept.