Women Are Sharing When They Were First Sexualized, And I Don't Understand Why Adults Keep Shaming And Objectifying Children
"She shamed me, a child, for the actions of her husband."
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 11 and really tiny — at least a head shorter than my classmates. I was waiting alone at the bus stop in my school uniform, and an old man approached. He turned to me and asked if I had a boyfriend, and then stepped towards me. Then, he asked if I was alone or meeting friends, and where I was going on the bus. Every time he took a step forward, I took a step back, until I was pressed against the bin and he was right in my face. When my bus arrived, he asked if he could get on it with me and sit next to me. I said, 'No, it's only for school,' and ran on, shaking."
2. "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."
3. "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."
4. "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?"
5. "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."
6. "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."
7. "My art teacher in third grade told me I had 'bedroom eyes' and could get away with anything. My childhood dentist always told me I had a 'pretty mouth that boys would like.' I was way too young to know what these things even meant and remember being confused, but the tone with which they were said was so creepy, they stuck in my head and replayed themselves often."
8. "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."
9. "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."
10. "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."
11. "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."
12. "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 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."
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. "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."
15. "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."
16. "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."
17. "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."
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. "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."
20. "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."
21. "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."
22. "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."
23. "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."
24. "I dressed as Poison Ivy for Halloween when I was in high school, so I wore a green body suit. Guys kept rubbing up against me, and one even came up to me and told me I should dress this way more often so I wouldn't come across as such a bitch. It was gross."
25. "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."
26. "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.'"
27. "When I was 12, I wore an outfit that I loved to church. Yes, the shorts were short, but it was a cute ensemble with a collared top and knee socks. The pastor told my dad after church that I should never wear it again because I was turning heads of all the elders. I felt so ashamed, and never had the confidence to wear anything like that ever again."
28. "When I was born, my aunt’s male best friend 'jokingly' called dibs on being my 'first.' He was 28 at the time I think. I’m now 44, and whenever I see him, he’ll corner me and whisper, 'You know, I was supposed to be your first.' He’ll try to kiss me hello and goodbye on the lips, even with his wife standing right there. Thankfully, I have fast reflexes and he only ever gets my cheek. At least now I only have to see him every five years or so."
"And yes, my aunt knows all about what he says and does, and no, I don’t know why she’s still friends with him besides the fact that before weed was legal here, he was her source."
29. "When I was 10, I was swimming with all the neighborhood kids at one of the houses on our block. We all came in the house for snacks where the adults were hanging out and drinking. One of the fathers pulled me on his lap and held me there with his arms around me. I was wearing my swim suit, which I practically lived in during the summer. I felt so uncomfortable and squirmed away from him as fast as I could. His wife grabbed me by the arm and harshly whispered in my ear to go put some clothes on."
"I was 10. It made me feel ashamed, as though I had done something wrong. She shamed me, a child, for the actions of her perverted husband. I never felt comfortable in my bathing suit again. I always wore a long T-shirt over my suit after that. I did not understand sexuality at all and had certainly not begun to develop or see my body as sexual. I just felt shame and embarrassment without even understanding why."
30. "I was wearing leggings my freshman year and a male 'friend' made the comment, 'Yeah, keep on jiggling.' I never wore them again."
31. "I used to play boys hockey. When I turned 7, some of the other parents told my mom that I should move to girls hockey because the boys and coaches were distracted by me in the dressing room. My mom thinks that they were being petty because I had made Tier 1 and their son had only made Tier 2. I did eventually move to girls hockey when I was 10 because I had hit puberty the year before and apparently it was very 'distracting' to have me on the team, even though I dressed in a closet away from the boys."
32. "I developed early and was a DD by the time I was a teenager. When I was 14 and in secondary school, I was wearing a pink bra under my white school shirt. I was pulled aside by a teacher who said I had to go change to a white bra because the colored bra was too distracting for the male teachers and pupils!"
33. "I was 12 when my boy bestie (who I also had a crush on) hit me up asking for nudes. I felt so dirty and like I did something horribly wrong. He was around 15 at the time. I didn’t tell anyone about it until about two months later, and then I felt even worse because I lost one of my best friends over it. It’s safe to say we don’t talk anymore, and I am forever traumatized."
34. "When I was 10, I was walking my dog around my street. An older man pulled over and told me that I had 'a face he could fuck,' but that I was 'too fat' for him to actually do it. He told me to lose weight so men would like me better. I ran home in tears."
35. "It definitely wasn’t the first time, but it’s a time I’ll never forget. I had just moved out of my first apartment in the 'big city' and was excited to move onto the next chapter of my life. I power-cleaned my apartment, leaving it in better condition than I found it. My landlord did my final walk-thru and everything looked good. As we were finishing up, he broke it to me that he wouldn’t be giving me my security deposit back because he knew I had a cat. Pets were allowed on our lease with an extra $200 deposit, which I initiated and paid once I received permission to get said cat. He said the girl who lived above me used to have sex with him once a week for rent discounts and that maybe we could 'work something out' to get my deposit back."
"I left confused and angry, then immediately called my dad. I didn’t even process how awful he was being because I was more upset about not getting the money back, which I was relying on to help pay for my new place. Thank goodness my mom stopped him, but my dad definitely called and ripped him a new one. Otherwise he was ready to make the two hour drive!"
36. "I was an early bloomer and was wearing an adult bra size by the time I was 10. I had to live with the boys in my class snapping my bra straps and pointing when I had to run in gym class, but the worst of it was my own family members calling me “Dolly” and “pineapples” every damn time they saw me. It was horrifying. I wore heavy sweatshirts in the middle of summer to avoid the teasing."
37. "I was around 11 or 12 when underwater disposable cameras first came out. A guy approached my friend and me at a public swimming pool with two of the cameras, told us he worked for Kodak, and said that if we took pictures of ourselves, we could be on the boxes of the cameras. We stupidly fell for it. We spent the day taking pictures of ourselves in the water, and joyfully returned the cameras to him. I didn’t realize what happened until I was in my 20s, and the thought of what might have happened with those pictures makes me sick."
38. "I was around 8 or even younger when this creepy older man from my church started coming in, and it escalated from him hugging me and kissing my forehead (which I already disliked) to telling me he loved me, hugging me until I said it back, and kissing me ON THE LIPS. When I told some of the older women he made me uncomfortable, they said he made them uncomfortable too, but no one ever did anything. After a few weeks, I started hiding under my dad's desk (he was the pastor) until he was in a pew and service started so he couldn't touch me. Then I'd go right back to hiding until he drove away."
"It didn't always work, and sometimes he'd manage to catch me. When he died, I was so happy I cried, then felt immediate guilt. I'm still furious no one did anything to protect me, even though they knew I was uncomfortable. My parents still wonder why I'm not as religious as they want me to be. It's pretty hard to be religious when a church is the first place you were sexually harassed."
39. Finally: "I was 11 years old. I started puberty at 9, so I was well-developed by 11. I walked to a fast food place with my mom around 9:00 p.m. one night. It was a chilly night, but I had been playing tag only minutes earlier with some friends, so I was wearing shorts and a tank top. We got to the store and this man in his late 50s said good evening. I was polite and told him, 'Good evening,' back. Then he asked, 'How's it going?' I said, 'Good, though it’s a bit chilly tonight.' Then, he came closer to me and said, 'Want me to warm you up, baby?' My mom looked up, his wife looked up, and the store cashier looked up, but nobody said anything."
"I walked away and my mom dragged me home after getting our food and told me, 'Don’t be overly friendly with men because they will almost always take it the wrong way.' It was frightening to say the least, but now I feel like if I heard something like that happen to someone else, I wouldn’t keep quiet."
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.