23 Women Revealed The First Time They Were Sexualized, And It's Really Upsetting
"Unfortunately, at that age, I felt like it was my fault. I didn't wear that outfit again."
We asked women of the BuzzFeed Community to share the first time they remember being objectified. Hundreds of brave women shared their difficult and devastating stories. Stories like these should not exist, let alone be so commonplace. The subject matter throughout this post is very upsetting, so please proceed with caution.
1. "I was in seventh grade math class. My elderly male teacher leaned uncomfortably close to my ear and said, 'You have such cute, tiny feet. You should wear sandals every day.' He played it off like he was just joking around about my feet being abnormally small for my height, since I'm 5'7" and wear a 5.5 in shoes. But, looking back, it was totally unacceptable. I was so embarrassed that I didn't wear sandals to school again the entire time he was my teacher."
2. "This wasn't the first time, but it was definitely the most uncomfortable. I was a modest teenager and never showed cleavage because I felt awkward about it. Well, I wanted to buy a covering one-piece swimsuit. The shop assistant, who was a man in his thirties, told me I had to show my boobs because they were beautiful. What kind of grown man says that to an obviously underage girl?"
3. "I developed early, and the guys on the swim team told everyone I 'stuffed' to make my boobs look bigger, which would've been pretty hard to do in a wet swimsuit. To try and prove his point, this nasty kid squeezed my boobs at a competition in front of everyone. I howled in pain, his eyes widened, and he said, 'They’re real!' I was 11 years old. He got kicked off the swim team, expelled for a week, and had to issue a public apology. I quit the swim team after that — it just was too traumatic after what that little fuck did."
4. "I was in high school and running outside near my house. As I was running, I noticed a truck slowing down next to me. I looked over at the driver, and he was recording me on his phone. We made eye contact and he grinned, laughed, and drove away. Unfortunately, at that age, I felt like it was my fault. I didn't wear that outfit again."
5. "I had a head of super long, thick, red hair. Strangers were always touching and running their fingers through it, and grown men would grab it. I remember being 5 or 6 and some man at church started stroking my hair. He even wanted me to lay my head in his lap. When I was 11, I told my mom I was going to the library, but instead I went to the beauty school institute and got a pixie cut. I didn't grow my hair out again until my thirties."
6. "I was 12 and in seventh grade. I was already kind of busty and super uncomfortable about it, so I would wear modest tops. One of my teachers, who was about 25 at the time, used to call me up to his desk to help me and would talk to my breasts. I can remember hunching in on myself and feeling so embarrassed and ashamed — like I had done something wrong."
7. "I was no older than 8 and in Walmart with my mom. She sent me to get some chips, and while I was in the aisle, some old man came up to me and said I looked good and he wished he could take me home. I was a child wearing a huge coat."
8. "I was about 8 years old. My mom’s cousin looked me up and down and said, 'Wow, you’re going to need to get a chastity belt for her!' Big yikes."
9. "When I was in middle school, our dress code prohibited us from showing any midriff. One day, a male teacher came into my classroom and lined up all the female students in front of the class. He then made us all raise our hands above our heads. Anyone whose shirt exposed any midriff at all was sent to the office, which ended up being more than half of the group. I will never forget how mortified I felt. I was sent home for the day because the office ran out of baggy shirts for us to put on over our tops."
10. "I was in fourth grade when puberty found me. I remember grown men hitting on me, asking about my ethnicity (I’m Korean), and telling me they had a 'thing' for Asian women. I didn’t realize then that it was objectifying and fetishizing all rolled into one."
11. "I was around 10 and my family was on vacation at the beach for a few weeks. I wanted to go on a walk with my dog, but no one else wanted to go. So, I decided to walk around just the neighborhood by myself. I was wearing shorts and a tank top because it was the middle of July. I got about halfway through my walk when a golf cart full of grown men started driving around me and shouting vulgar things that I was too young to even understand at the time. They ended up following me all the way back to my family's house, shouting at me the whole time. I was terrified the rest of the trip to go anywhere alone."
12. "When I was in elementary school, I had to walk home from the bus stop and pass by a house where a group of men would stand outside, catcall me, whistle, and say what they wanted to do to me. Since they lived almost next door to me and it was a small town, it was easy for them to look up my parents' phone number. They started calling our house and left messages on the answering machine for me. This was in the late '80s, and I was 8 or 9 years old."
13. "My first vivid memory where I was aware I was sexualized was also tied to my identity as a Black girl. I was 13. The college where my grandfather taught sold discount season passes to the city's theater, so he took us grandkids whenever my grandmother bowed out. He and I went to the symphony. It was a black tie event, so my grandmother lent me a dress and her fur coat. After the show, my grandfather went to the bathroom. I was waiting in the lobby while people were milling around and enjoying cocktails when I was approached by a cop. Why? Apparently I looked like a sex worker. At 13. In the '90s. I had no makeup on — just the dress and coat. My grandfather was briefly questioned until someone interrupted and addressed him as 'Dr.' and suddenly the suspicion evaporated."
14. "My friend and I were about 11 and decided to go for a walk down the street. A group of young men drove past us and yelled, 'I WANNA FUCK YOU' at us. The worst part was that they drove back the other way a few minutes later and yelled it again."
15. "I was at the beach when I was 10 and was wearing a two-piece bathing suit. Some men kept staring at me, and my mom thought it was hilarious. She offered me $5 to walk by them so she could watch their reaction. I was so uncomfortable and started covering up as much as I could. I still cover up at the beach 25 years later and avoid two-piece bathing suits."
16. "When I was about 8, I went to visit my cousins. I wanted to stay the night, and my mom and aunt approved, but my aunt did let me know we'd be attending church the next morning. I didn't have appropriate church clothes with me and I lived an hour away. So, I took a tank top and pair of pants from a hand-me-down bag. During church, I had to use the restroom. On the way back to our pew, my cousin and I were stopped by a middle-aged man who began berating me for my outfit. He said it was inappropriate and that I must not have a father figure in my life. I was so shocked and confused. We told my aunt what happened after church and she went to confront him. Unfortunately, he and his family had left already."
17. "I was 12, and I remember sitting on a bench with my 10-year-old sister when an old man started shouting at us and calling us prostitutes because we were wearing shorts. We were just children."
18. "When at 14, I found out the boys in my class had a bet to see who could grab my boobs the most in one day (with or without my permission). I had to go to the head teacher in tears to make the game end, but the boys were never punished. They were just told to stop."
19. "When I was 9, my mum went to buy me my first 'adult' bike. The man in the shop told me I would look good in 'one of those young pornos knocking around' when I sat on the bike. Needless to say, I did not get a bike that day."
20. "I was 6. It was summer, and we all ran around in swimsuits. My mom had made a two-piece for me, and some gross old man said it wasn't fair to him that I looked so good."
21. "My female ballet teacher came up to me at the barre, swatted me on the butt and said, 'Dancers don’t have big butts.' Up until that day, I didn’t know I had a big butt. I was 9. After that, I became very insecure about my butt and tried to tuck it under, so much so that I ended up looking like a waddling duck. I even lied to people saying I was missing a vertebrae and that’s why my butt stuck outward. Now, I embrace the bubble butt I was born with."
22. "When I was 12 and my sister was 18, one of her friends asked her if he could ask me out on a date. When she informed him of my age, he said, 'Well, she's got the tits of an adult.'"
23. Finally: "When I was 13, I went on a family vacation with my parents. I developed early, but never thought much about it until this trip. As we were walking down the street together on our way to dinner, we passed a new Hooters location being built. There was an employee outside who walked up and handed me an application for employment, telling me I should consider applying."
Women, if you have a story you are comfortable sharing, leave a comment. You are not alone.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.