So, I have to caveat this response: This is my experience, and should not be taken as speaking for all women, or all people who have had similar experiences. I don’t think all women are victims, and I don’t feel overly victimized today — although I was feeling really terrible when I wrote the original post. Also, I really, really do not hate men or think they should feel guilty or shamed by what I’ve described in this piece.
My point was that, due to the other experiences I had where my sexuality or enjoyment was not considered, that experience at the pool (where I think a lot of people would feel, I don’t know…excited? Exhilarated?) felt invasive. It was not mutual. It was a man who was older than me, and who wasn’t particularly close.
I don’t know if more detail might help, but for what it’s worth? I was the only one in the pool at the time, and as I was getting out, I looked up and saw him through the trees, staring over his beer bottle. There was no one else around, and I felt straight up afraid. I can’t say what I thought might happen, but if you’ve ever had that “get the hell out of there” feeling, well…that’s how it felt. I’m not saying he was a predator, or even that he meant anything by it — it just felt terrible and dangerous.
When I say that rape culture (or whatever term we decide works best here) shrinks your world, this is what I mean. I chose not to “look sexy” for a really, really long time because it seemed that doing so would result in more being taken from me than I was ready or willing to give. And so, by all of these seemingly small events compounding each other, I was unable to experience someone possibly being admiring of my body as a positive thing.
I absolutely agree that if we did not have this kind of culture, that might have been a different moment.