“You know something bigger than a finger is going to have to fit in there one day.”
These words were uttered by the kid I so righteously called my boyfriend when I was 14 years old. We were sitting on the couch in the living room of his split-level house. His mother was going to be either out or otherwise preoccupied for the rest of the night and this gave him grand plans for what we could get up to in this time (we were not on the same page, if you have not yet gathered!).
This morphed into a weird tango of him being really excited to finger me, but then also just kind of uttering phrases like the aforementioned, in an unintentional shaming. Now, if you’re a woman and recall back to what it was like to be an awkward teen with a just as awkward “partner,” you know just how passionate a fingering by a 14 year old can be. So when I naturally just started watching TV in the middle of it, wondering, as far as my mind could take me, just how they made that Cheeze-It’s commercial, he retorts, “you know, some perfume down there wouldn’t hurt.”
Then, without any sort of discussion, he’s just taken his penis out.
I have no idea what a penis is supposed to look like at 14 years old, so you can imagine the state that my mind is in. When I don’t do a damn thing, he asks if I’m offended if he just leaves it out. We sat there, in silence, watching the TV with the volume so low down it was almost inaudible. My increasingly irritated vagina, his incredibly erect penis. I left at 11pm when my parents picked me up in our Ford explorer.
Every time I brought these types of things up with friends, it was like the blind leading the blind. They told me he’s just a teenage boy, “typical boy,” they said. Boys will be boys. But why was that a thing that was so wildly embraced? I had to sit, with a foreign object, erect, just a few inches from my braces-laden mouth, and this is just something we’re all cool with?
Let me be clear: I was not raped. I was not assaulted. I was jut presented with a pattern of behavior that I was supposed to go along with. I didn’t know any better. But he apparently received society’s education long before I did.
“He goes to public school, Katie. He’s around guys where all they do is talk about that.”
I was told by my girls, my day onezz, that I was supposed to just understand how he feels cause he can’t help it.
“My friend got a hand job in the back of science class today.”
“That’s fucking trash and you and your school are menaces to our age group.” “Yikes, they really do that?”
“Yeah, and she brought baby oil. Maybe you can bring baby oil when you come over next. We can just hide it between the couch cushions.”
I’m not faulting him for having had an excessive amount of testosterone and hormones pulsing through his body. That being said, what I realize now, at 24, is how hilarious and absurd his actions were.
If I could go back to that young girl now, I’d tell her that this discomfort she’s experiencing is normal, because that’s still generally the reaction that I have to a penis. That men should not talk to women like they’re pieces to transform; they should not tell her that her body needs to adjust to objects that are going to penetrate it as if it’s a right of passage. Like I need to so excessively train, change, morph, adapt, obey.
His actions were not absurd, like, “preposterous! How dare he express what his body was telling him every second!” Absurd in the sense that he was told, and encouraged, from his very formative years, that this kind of behavior is expected and okay. He can tell a girl, especially his Irish, German, very Catholic-at-the-time girlfriend of 14 years old, without a flicker of doubt, that she should should “watch a video of a girl giving head to know how to do it well and not sloppily,” and then send her one and insist she watch it. That she should take the time when his mother is out of the house “to change in front of him because if that’s all we can do, we might as well do that so he can see my body.” This wasn’t, like, a sexy thing that we both were in on as 14-year-olds. This was him telling me what we should and were going to do, me being told and encouraged to believe that it’s okay, and going along with it. My body did not consent. My brain, soul, my heart, did not consent. Also I was in a sports bra and had shin-guard, soccer shorts, and t-shirt tan lines essentially tattooed onto my body.
This entire time, it never once crossed my mind to question his acts.
I never once thought to myself that what he was saying was inflammatory, or that I should feel any different than what he was saying I should. Or that I should question really anything about someone that my young self (ha! Ha! Ha! Ah! Kill me!) thought I loved.
Earlier on the same day as the “bigger than a finger” comment, we were walking down the street around the corner from his house holding hands. I had never in my life, up to that Sunday afternoon at 14 years old, had a moment with another person, male, female, familial, anyone, where I was so content in silence. We held hands as we walked and turned corners and kicked leaves, and I breathed such a deep sigh of relief feeling like we did not have to fill these voids.
That is, until he legitimately insisted on filling mine, with a finger.
My empowered, educated, feminist self now wonders how long this fire burned inside me, doing nothing to change the physicality around me to ash, but instead, doing so to myself from the inside out.
I had a friend the other day tell me how immensely proud she is for the growth I’ve gone through as a person. It’s weird to hear someone else say it and me now repeat it, because it wasn’t intentional. I just realized that inertia says more than anything. Being scared to move and speak up is terrifying, but the only thing scarier is not moving.
Boys will be boys, but I will not be inert.