Reclaiming My Hypersexualized Brown Body

***Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault***

In all honesty, I am selfish and spoiled. I have a method of doing things and I am stubborn and oppose anything that threatens that system. I am afraid of commitment so I jump ship whenever it all gets too familiar and too serious. I have a great fear of boredom and routine, although oddly enough, I thrive on routine. Or maybe I am so scared of falling in love with someone and talking myself out of loving them because I never actually cared to stop and think about what it was that I really want in a partner. It hurts to see the pain in someone else’s eyes when you tell them you cannot be with them anymore. It hurts me that I am unable to expose my true self because I am so broken inside and I feel too ashamed to share the ugly parts with anyone else.

I am intimidating enough so when men I am drawn to demonstrate any type of real attention I allow myself to be carried away. It’s the effects of abandonment at an early age; it is what happens when you do not have affirmations early on from those who are supposed to love you. It is the side effect of being seen as a sexual object from an early age and nothing more. Earlier this year at a bar, an older woman stood next to me as we waited for a band to set up. We talked about happiness and what that looked like for each of us and she shared that for her real happiness was being able to walk around naked. Maybe it was the weed, maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the music playing in the background but I completely missed the point of her answer. After a long pause and the end of whatever trance she was under she smiled and said that being able to walk around naked without any threat was what happiness was all about. Then it hit me hard. It was such a powerful idea. Imagine being able to walk around in your own body and never feel threatened, ashamed or vulnerable for just existing.

Once when I was in high school I was walking home when a man started whistling and blowing kisses at me from his car. I usually ignore catcalling but something told me to look so I did only to find a car seat in the back with a child staring blankly at me. I cried as soon as I got home. I never felt more ashamed or humiliated by a man. The guilt his actions made me feel was too much so I cried alone. A man I once loved told me I was nothing but a pretty face. Another man I also loved only calls me when he is lonely and tries to play it off by engaging in meaningless conversations in order to gauge how interested I am at any given time. Once I was at a party and two men were having a conversation, somehow I managed to stand close enough to be included when one of them could not stop looking at my hips and thighs. Maybe I was too busy looking disgusted when the other asked me how I felt about the topic because it completely caught me off guard. When I asked him if he was seriously interested in what I had to say his face was full of confusion. Someone actually cared what I had to say and he actually listened and maintained eye contact. It was amazing.

But you know it is not only men. I have friends that want to hang out with me and check me out when I am not looking. I have ‘friends’ that giggle and smile when we hug or when I am wearing something they find pleasing. They extend goodbyes or just stare at me in the middle of conversations and they are lost somewhere I am uninvited. Most of the time, I am not a person with complex thoughts and strong opinions. Most of the time I am a visual object that makes others happy and somehow I am not in on the reasons why they are satisfied and I am not. Another time I was at a house party a friend of a friend kept insisting I should only date women and would not stop following me around that night. She kept handing me drinks and talking about who knows what. Once, when I was a teenager a grown man followed me out of the metro until I walked into a hospital for safety reasons. There’s a man that lives down the street from me that waits for me to walk my dog so he can gawk at me. I used to run early in the mornings until a white CRX started following me around and parking by where I’d run every day. There’s a man at work that walks around and runs into me constantly or does whatever he can so I can earn his attention throughout the day. Once I made a man come without touching him. Once when I was a child a friend used to love playing house and kiss me. Another time during childhood my babysitter’s husband decided he liked kissing me too. Once when I was a teenager I woke up in the middle of the night only to see a man standing by my window staring into my room. Once I was parking on campus when the man next to me was too busy staring at me to notice the woman behind him pulled out at the same time. All I remember was her yelling, “did you seriously not look before reversing?” Another grown man acquainted with my family liked touching me when I was a child. Once as I was walking to a bar with my friend and cousin a homeless man kept following us and yelling, “goddamn girl you got ass.” Once when I was a freshman a high school teacher commented as I walked in class, “Alnaly you should seriously consider modeling” loud enough for the boys to embarrass me even more. I cannot think of the number of times I have been groped in public. I cannot think of how many times people have “accidentally” rubbed up against me. Actually, today at Trader Joe’s a man with enough room in the aisle deliberately brushed up against me as I grabbed something. Most of the time I tell myself I am overreacting and then when I am with someone else and something happens they look at me with shock.

I am not exaggerating or lying when I write these examples and instances down. These are only a few cases that I can think of and the reason why I hold these in my mind is because they make me realize how sensitive and aware I am of the amount of unwarranted attention I attract. I find myself sitting in public spaces and surveying the whole area as if something were to happen to me, not unlike those who have lived traumatic experiences and find themselves constantly scoping out potential threats. I wish I knew before that the reason why I am so sensitive to the attention my body receives is because I did not know how to handle my sexuality. I was never taught to protect myself, rather I was taught by a conservative tradition that my sexuality did not exist and if it did, it was shameful. I was not given a lesson on the urges and the nature of sexual attraction. I only learned through experience and I was robbed of the ability to walk around carefree without feeling any threat (real or imagined) towards my body. It amazes me that I am still uncomfortable with the way some people look at my body. I am old enough to know why I react the way I do and how it is inevitable for people to look at anyone at any given time yet some days I still find myself covering up more. Some days I find myself standing in front of my closet trying to hide my thick thighs, hips, and butt so I do not have to worry about anyone being inappropriate in a “professional setting.” As if my existence was a problem. As if my body is a great distraction when it really is not yet I cannot help but feel like it is when men only want to add me on social media apps to gain my attention rather than have a conversation with me. Men would rather add me on Snapchat and save my pictures than actually read the shit I write. Men I am interested in somehow cannot help themselves around me until I decide I want more than sex. And somehow, ironically, the ones that do want something more I end up running away from because I cannot remember what trust feels like anymore. I forget that it is possible to have relationships because of the amount of trauma I have buried so deep and ignored. Ever since I can remember I have been ashamed of my body because it has become a prize for outsiders rather than my own sacred space.

Then I think of the historical exploitation of brown bodies and the devaluing of our existence. I still cringe when white women walk around exposing themselves for the sake of equality and feminism because I know that for WoC it is not always a viable option to expose our naked bodies. The feminine body is not anything to be ashamed of but when you are highly sexualized it is difficult to walk around ignoring that indigenous women in the U.S. suffer higher rates of sexual assault than any other racial group. My ancestors were literally forced to birth a new population so I find it difficult to free my nipples. We do not lead the same privileged lives as white women that are not fetishized for their features and disposed after aggressors have their fill. Yes, white women are more often coveted for their features because of Eurocentric standards of beauty but their bodies are protected by their whiteness and the invisibility that it offers in the current oppressive systems that influence our lives. We are not all equal and some of us still live out the effects of the colonialism that destroyed and continues to shatter our homeland, spirituality, culture, histories and bodies.

I am more than my “pretty face,” small waist, round hips, thick thighs and big ass, I am an actual functioning and insightful human being. I think it is time I take myself back and heal. It is time to write down that which my ancestors were feared, exploited and destroyed for, our bodies and their infinite creative power and resiliency.

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