If you’ve had the privilege to date me, you know I’m weird, lovely but weird. Not a hand holder.
I’m the survivor of sexual assault. I don’t use the word rape because I feel guilty. Not an innocent victim. Went reluctantly but not-forcibly to the hotel room of a Navy man years ago. Was inebriated enough that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I got myself into that unsafe bed, and as I was being pushed face-down into that pillow, my body propped into a position I know I didn’t put it into, and my limbs were unable to put up any fight at all, I remembered the PSAs I grew up with. For some reason, I thought if I could only manage to get out the word ‘No’ it all would stop. When that ‘No’ didn’t work, I just laid there and cried.
I walked home from that hotel room alone and quivering around 3am. I recovered quickly. That Navy man must have went back to Florida, unreported. I finally told someone about it three years later. And now I am writing it in public and for the young women and parents out there.
I am guessing what I went through Mr. Akin would consider “illegitimate.” I guess there were other times I should have said no to other men. Should have had the confidence to say no, make them wait.
I should not have walked into that essence shop in Cairo alone last year, where an older gentlemen would proceed to press himself against me.
Speaking of Cairo. That’s also why I’m writing this.
I am headed there next week. And will stay for 5-8 months. This city is known for sexual harassment. Once read that 98% of foreign women report some sort of sexual harassment. Egyptian women are themselves fighting for their rights while also fighting for their freedom. I will join them in my capacity as a foreign woman trying to hold her own independence, strength and worth.
I am sexy. I am an amazing and caring lady.
I am also a dancer who spent her entire childhood looking into a mirror. Was so self-conscious about my fat thighs. Hated much about my appearance. Like most gals I knew.
Last Thanksgiving, I went to Costa Rica. I asked a stranger to take a picture of me in a bikini and I posted it online. Not a huge deal. Others post images of them in less, as performers, as artists, as vacationers. But this was an achievement for me. This was when I felt comfortable with my body. The moment I felt I could be a nice girl and a proud woman at the same time. I didn’t post the picture so that men would react. I posted it for me. To feel strong. It felt good.
It was a long journey after that Navy man; to be able to love and to be able to be left. To understand that my body was mine.
When someone tries to define rape into categories, my guilt pops back up and hounds me. Am I the “illegitimate” one he’s talking about? Should I cover more or less of myself when in Egypt? Does anyone care if I am really proud of shoulders and calves, prefer not to wear sleeves and long skirts all the time? Do I not have a choice? Do I respect their culture, or do I respect myself, or do I have to struggle to find a balance?
If I cover myself every day, will I lose confidence in my body?
My standard of being a decent woman is not a Muslim one. Or a Christian one. My standard of goodness is self-inflicted. As part of humanity. As a teacher and role model for others, of all genders and sexualities. As a dancer.
I will go to Cairo. And I will be amazing.