How do I even begin…how do I even begin to describe how I deceived myself into accepting my life experiences as normal and that it was just another thing that came with puberty? To be honest I can’t even remember the first time I experienced sexual harassment, I just learned to expect and accept it when I started wearing makeup, when I transitioned from a girl to a woman in the eyes of the world, when I unknowingly hit the shallow standards and tolerable age to start being admired by all sorts of men. If you know me well, I’ve probably told you that I don’t want to get married or that I hate guys, but I was not born this way; no, I am a product of conditioning. You see, naturally I believe I should be attracted to men but how can I when the weak links of the male population have scarred me into disgust, hatred and a deeply engrained mentality to be skeptical of every male interaction and compliment, to question every motive behind nice guys. Deep deep deep down inside I may entertain the possibility of marriage one day, but that thought won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon, at least not while I hold onto my own form of self-defence (at the same time is also the full embodiment of self-sabotage) that is pessimism. I think this will be healthy for me to share some things of my heart and also healthy for those who feel this same way but also healthy for those who can’t relate or are on the outside to provoke some thoughts and discussion.
When I was 14 I sold handmade bracelets on the streets of China with my younger sister and cousins. I didn’t wear makeup because it’s China and it was hot, and I didn’t wear contacts because it’s China and I didn’t want to risk infection. So there I was putting on a smile that I thought said, “Come buy our bracelets, we’re friendly kids.” We made quite a lot of revenue might I add, but I also made a questionable and unwanted “friend.” He wanted to order a customized bracelet/keychain that said his English name on it. Not a problem, I took down his name and email and we continued to chat a bit. He soon picked up, as we got into lengthier conversation, that I had a slight accent that he couldn’t pinpoint to a familiar part of China. I revealed my foreign identity and he came to take more and more interest. I didn’t think much about it, but the next day I emailed him to pick up his keychain and from then on he continued to email me with broken English. It was quite entertaining for me, but I was also naïve and didn’t think there would be any harm in being nice and continuing to practice his English with him over email. I found out he was 26 and he was saying things to me like, “Oh I’m looking to get married, maybe a little wife like you.” At this point I literally start laughing, thinking it such a joke and showed all my friends because in my mind he sounded like Gaston trying to pick up Belle from Beauty and the Beast, trying to make her his little wife like she’s a trophy he can add to his reputable collection. He then proceeds to send me more emails portraying his deepest lustful thoughts and wishes assuming my interest when I played his previous statement off as a joke. Now that I look back on it I just feel disturbed at my innocence to all the red flags of that interaction.
When I was 16 I hung out with a girl friend of mine who was in university and her boyfriend. She introduced me to her boyfriend’s roommate and the four of us started hanging out after. At this point I was still naïve to the idea that people would be pursuing me seriously. He bought me expensive gifts like a bracelet, a watch, and makeup. I was appalled and didn’t allow myself to accept the gifts but he would pout and I would give in to accepting them. Little did I know such a small action like this would be reflective of the molding of my people-pleasing mindset. It shaped me to conform to what he wanted and I lost my own voice and opinions. Now at this point many people may just wonder why I couldn’t just be headstrong and stick to my own opinions and let my voice speak up when I didn’t even like the guy. People-pleasing man…that’s all I can say. It is a condition that results in confusion of own beliefs, compromising of own values, and demeaning thoughts of self-worth and respect. And it’s oh so dangerous, because it led to sexual assault that fermented in my exponentially decreasing self-respect.
When I was 19 I had a male friend that started out friendly, but developed an obsession for me. He stopped at nothing to try to get me to date him. He stalked me at home and at my work because I wouldn’t meet with him. He stalked my best friend at home and at her work to try to track down my schedule because I wouldn’t tell him. He was relentless in his pursuit and one time cornered me in a building and tried to kiss and molest me. This broke me and I couldn’t stay silent anymore. Upon his next unwarranted visit to my work, I filed a police report against him and my boss banned him from the café. For months I was triggered by anything, angry at everyone, and scared to make any human interaction that needed me to open up. What he did was not okay, even if it was out of self-proclaimed love for me, because stalking, forced actions, and one-sided devotion is not love.
When I was 19 I was working as a tutor at an Adult Education in the city’s downtown. The students I tutored would get very personal with me. They requested my help on math homework, but my eager willingness was met with blatant proposals to have sex with them. “Do you have a man? Aw he don’t have to know. Let’s have sex, it can just be a friends with benefits thing. We’d have a lot of fun cuz you looking mighty fine and sexy today.” I told myself I needed to maintain a face of calmness and that I cannot show any sense of fear. Still, others were attracted to my ethnic background and would walk with me to the bus stop after class was over around 8pm. It wasn’t actually until that point that I realized I was actually putting myself in quite a risky situation and so my awareness was heightened to the max. This year I quit that job, but I shouldn’t have to terminate my opportunity to tutor others just because I felt unsafe every time I entered and left the place.
When I was 19 I went to Colombia on a music missions trip to praise and serve God with my musical talents. Read the post, because I did do that. But there’s a lot that I never talked about on the post, and that is the sexual harassment. Of course we were very safe and guarded by the partner organization we worked with there, but they can’t shelter us 100% from the inevitable sexual harassment that occurs from a result of ignorance and privilege. Whether it be in schools, drug rehab centers, prisons, or on the streets, men asked for my number, ethnicity, and relationship status. They showered me with hugs and kisses that I justified as part of the culture, but a part of me still felt uncomfortable. They stopped at nothing to make sure their compliments and pick up lines were translated to me in English in its full cringe-worthy bluntness. Men in prisons gave us lustful smiles, whispered the word “chica” around the room like hot gossip when we entered the room, and put their hands in their pants while watching us perform. I started to question my choice of red lipstick, was it drawing myself too much attention? Was it “asking for it”? Was it sending a message that I’m wide and open, come and look at me? I slapped a smile on my face for the sake of the gospel and our band. I’m here to share with you the love of Jesus Christ, not my own physical personal love. My politeness is not a flattered response to your flirting. My kind rejection is not me playing hard to get. I am not on the market.
Catcalls, hungry eyes, thirsty flirtations, the list goes on. I could sit here and list all the situations I’ve had thrown at me but I can’t even remember and we’d be here all day.
So me too.
If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
This is my story,
Michelle Yin | October 17, 2017 | 2:13 pm |