Trigger Warning: This post contains mentions of sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, it's not much of an over-generalization to say that most (if not all) women have been sexualized throughout their lives — and from a young age.
They then shared their own experience, which they clarified wasn't the first time somebody had made a sexually inappropriate comment to them — but the time that most affected them: "I was 14 and went into the city to shop with my best friend. I was wearing my soccer letterman jacket, which I was super proud of. We were walking by a homeless man and he said, 'The one in the red has nice knockers.' It seems like such a little thing, but I began slouching to hide my breasts because they made me feel dirty."
They continued, "When I got a bilateral mastectomy due to breast cancer a few years ago, I remembered this incident once again and got so mad that someone had made me feel ashamed of my body, causing me not to appreciate it for so long. I was just so unprepared for a grown person to say something like that to me."
And they aren't alone — as shown by the many responses received from women who also wanted to share their story. This is just a small sample of those responses, meant to shed light on how common and prevalent these situations continue to be.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual harassment or violence, you can find professional resources at the bottom of this post.
1. "I was seven when some weird-ass guy wanted me to show him the girl's changing room at the swimming pool. Luckily, I had the common sense to go looking for my teacher."
"I was 11 when the 'normal' harassment started with guys twice to thrice my age trying to hit me up and go out with me. The very first guy I remember trying to chat me up on the bus tried to convince me to tell him I was 18. When it finally sank in that I wasn't lying when I said I was 11, he had the graciousness to go completely white in his face and flee the bus at the next stop.
I was 13 when a guy at the bus stop tried to convince me to go on a love-weekend to Paris with him. He was easily 40." —u/BerriesAndMe
2. "I remember when I was 9 or 10, I went to the beach with a new two-piece swimsuit that I was super happy to wear because it had sparkles and made me look like a mermaid. The bottom part had a skirt attached, so I liked to twirl to see the skirt twirl. Some dude went, 'Do that again, sweetheart!' and then whistled and said something about 'legs for days.'"
"I remember being really embarrassed and ashamed. I didn't want to tell anyone because my parents would make it a big deal, and then it would be my fault for ruining the beach day for my brothers.
I didn't wear the swimsuit in public ever again." —u/gentlybeepingheart
3. "I was 13. I was at a bus stop, and I ate a banana. An asshole (40 to 50 years old) came up to me and said I looked good with this in my mouth. I was so disgusted that I said, 'I think I'm going to throw up.' This offended him, and he went away."
"By the way, I'm feel sorry for the women who had/have similar experiences." —u/DockIIIIIII
4. "I was seven. I had this beautiful dress that had a full circle skirt. I spun around in it — because how can you not when you're seven and love your dress? My uncle's friend (a man in his fifties) was there, and he told me to spin again because he could see my underwear."
"I remember just feeling so gross and afraid. I told my mom, and she was livid. We left, and I was never allowed near that man. I also couldn't wear that dress afterward without thinking about how that incident made me feel. It definitely took a little bit of my innocence away." —u/seeseecinnamon
5. "I was 13 or 14. A guy in his early twenties comes to me and asks if I’m a virgin because he only dates virgins."
"Me being a shy timid person just stared at him and couldn’t form any reply. Just froze on the spot." —u/Countess_Yiffy
6. "I was 12 at a BBQ my parents were having. I was in a bathing suit because we had a pool. A friend of a friend of my dad's said he’d like to leave his wife there and take me home instead."
"I didn’t say anything because I was so ashamed. I put clothes on and stayed in my room the rest of the party — even though an adult overheard him, and he was forced to leave." —u/sassylittlespoon
7. "About 12. I was on my period, looking and feeling like shyte, simply walking home from the shops. I was wearing jeans and an oversized T-shirt. This asshole and his late twentysomething-year-old friends started honking their car, hanging out the windows while catcalling me. I ignored it, when they suddenly came around again and slowly drove past me. They kept saying how sexy they thought I was."
"I had a moment where I thought, 'Oh, god, this is how people end up getting kidnapped. There are four of them and one of me. Even if I run, I won’t make it very far.'
I started walking faster, and eventually, I assume that they got bored and sped off. I basically ran home. I have similar incidents but this was the one that came to mind first." —u/indigoshaman
8. "When I was about seven, a neighbor had a friend over — a guy I didn’t know. He asked me if I wanted to kiss a frog on the mouth or a rabbit between the ears. Of course, I said rabbit between the ears. He proceeds to pull the inner white pockets out of his jeans, hold them up and out, push his hips forward, and say, 'Well, start kissing.'"
"I didn’t exactly understand at the time what he meant, but I knew it wasn’t appropriate. The first of many times in my life. I had forgotten about it until I was in a grocery store recently, and this 50 to 60-year-old guy told a woman that her daughters 'are beautiful.' The woman just said thank you and walked away.
The kids were like five and eight. It really unduly bothered me, and when I was trying to figure out why, I remembered this time and several other times when I was young and older guys were inappropriate with me. It sucks. I’m sure literally every woman has a story." —u/greenhouse5
9. "I was 12 years old, walking to the store with my two friends to get a Slurpee. We walked past a group of grown men and noticed they were all staring at us. As we passed, one of the men exclaimed loudly to his friends, 'I wanna cum on the blonde one's tits.'"
"Twelve years old." —u/Siegfriend_Von_Anal
10. "My dad told me not to eat bananas like a fucking whore when I was 11 or 12."
"I was very confused and didn’t make the association with bananas looking like dicks until many, many years later." —u/Idk_whats_real
11. "The first time I really remember being sexualized was by my dad when I was 11 or 12. I had gotten this really soft, kind of tight, black blouse for Christmas, and I put it on to go to church. When I took my jacket off at the church entrance, my father freaked out and took me back home. He made a huge deal because, apparently, the shape of my nipples were visible. He made my mom buy me training bras the same day."
"I think there were comments that I didn’t understand many times before I was pubescent, but this was the first real memory. I’m 31 now, and I’m still truly horrified if my nips show in public. That altercation with my dad that day affected me for life." —u/Jefauver
12. "I was eight. I was helping my younger cousin onto her tricycle, so I picked her up. As I was bent over picking her up, some creep on a bike whistled at me and yelled, 'Aye, mami.' I was in pink shorts and a matching Winnie the Pooh shirt."
"My dad chased him down the street with a bat." —u/princesspotato92
13. "I was nine years old. A car slowed down, and the driver (maybe mid-twenties) said to me, 'Hey, little pussy, I bet you give good head.'"
14. "I was 15, walking downtown with my best friend and her mother. This older man — he looked like he was in his fifties — walked past us, then circled back around to pass me again while saying, 'Mmm, I'd love to use that ass as an ashtray! Put all my cigarettes out on that!'"
"I was shocked and scared. My best friend's mom jumped between me and him and cursed him out. I was wearing a dress that day. To this day, almost 20 years later, I'm not too comfortable wearing dresses in public." —u/drayadoll
15. "Twelve. Just some random guy in a grocery store. He asked something like was I happy that my boobs were coming in."
16. "I was 12, and we were moving houses. I was trying to get up on the mattress shelf in the van, and one of the moving men shouted that he could see my panties and they were pretty."
"I threw them away." —u/whiskey__throwaway
17. "Ten-ish. A family friend 'jokingly' suggested I go help his wife breastfeed since I was so big already. I bawled. My parents made him apologize. I still remember it clearly. We are no longer friends with them."
"I remembered another situation. I was around 15, and I was eating an apple at work. This older (I would say thirty-ish?) male coworker was standing nearby chatting and looked over at me eating. He said, 'For someone who's never had sex, you really know how to deep throat that apple.' The manager on duty overheard, pulled me into the office to make sure I was okay, then lost it on my coworker. He was fired not long after." —u/Bubbly_Cranberry5790
18. "I was in eighth grade, and I would wear shorts 'cause it was hot out. The boy that sat next to me would touch my right shoulder and say, 'Did you know that every rape starts with a touch on the right shoulder?' Or, he would say something like, 'Your thighs are so thick, it’s giving me a boner.'"
"I always brushed it off. Now, I’m 17, and it took me forever to realize that I was sexually harassed." —u/lolrazzledazzle
19. "I was 12. I was babysitting my younger brother (who was one) and took him to the park. Someone apparently assumed he was my son and told me to keep my legs shut next time."
"I had to ask a friend what it meant. It mostly just made me afraid of being a teen parent and being publicly shamed." —u/Peskypikachu
20. "I was nine, and a random guy decided to say how nice my legs looked in the shorts that I was wearing. I didn’t say anything, just walked faster in order to get home."
"After that, I immediately started to hate wearing shorts, skirts, and dresses. Up to this day (I’m 21), I still feel self-conscious and uncomfortable when showing my legs." —u/RESMoon
21. "Eleven years old. At a wedding reception. During a conversation, my age was mentioned, and — WITH MY MOTHER STANDING RIGHT THERE — the father of the bride said, 'She's 11? They didn't make 'em like that when I was 11,' with a full-on leer on his face."
"Extra sad part, that was the first time I remembering something inappropriate being said. But the first time I was inappropriately touched was more like four or five." —u/TheMadVixen
22. "A step-cousin asked to see what color panties I was wearing. I was probably six."
"I was a waitress at 15, and a man I was serving said, 'I should be in prison for the thoughts I’ve had about you.' Never forgot that one." —u/meatmama
23. "Not the first time but the first one that really stuck — I was about 14 or 15, visiting my brother for his college graduation. My parents and I walked to a small store down the street from our hotel. I was walking ahead of them when a homeless man yelled, 'I want the one in the pink panties!' I was wearing pink shorts."
"I didn't say anything and neither did my parents. They just blocked the man's view of me, and we went about our evening." —u/polkadotpinecone
24. "I was 10. I developed ahead of all my cousins and friends. At our annual family 4th of July cookout, all of us kids were running around in our swimsuits. My uncle grabbed my arm to stop me, looked me over, and cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. He then said, 'This one already looks like a woman. All the boys are going to fall in love with that body.'"
"This made 10-year-old me believe that men would love you no matter what as long as you had a good body. Spoiler alert: It didn't turn out well. I'm better now, but it has taken years, and I'm still not where I want to be." —u/butyourhonour
25. "I'm 16 and was on my knees putting my stuff in my backpack. My teacher goes, 'Oh, (my name), on your knees? That’s how I like it the most.'"
"Everyone kept staring at me, confused. I still don’t know why he said that. It's not the first comment I got, but the last comment that made me hella uncomfortable." —u/Silly-Tone5708
26. "Sixth grade (so 11 or 12). I developed early, and I was the new kid. A few of the guys in my class made a bunch of comments. I told them to stop, reported it to the teacher, and got the 'boys will be boys' response. After that, I didn't respond — until one little douche decided to try to unhook my bra."
"Well, I'm a pretty easy-going person. But if you touch me, it's on. I grabbed that kid by his stupid little bangs and bashed his head into the wall until he got the message. I got sent to the vice principal's office, where I explained my situation: Repeated harassment progressing to physical assault, all ignored by the teacher. The boy got suspended, I got left alone." —u/Karbar049
27. "When I was five, there was a nine-year-old neighbor kid and his four-year-old brother who were my first experience with inappropriate sexual talk and requests. The nine-year-old would play with me and his brother in his room, pulling blankets over me and asking if I wanted to have sex. He knew it was wrong because when his mom walked in, he jerked the blankets off. They showed me books with the female anatomy, talked to me about female parts, and he drew nipples on my Barbies with a Sharpie."
"They must have been exposed to way too much. I remember having anxiety (I think my first anxiety experience) and an extreme sense of guilt as though I was dirty and wrong even though I didn’t really understand what was being done —outside of already having been taught, as a girl, to feel like my body and parts are dirty (not in a weird 'Carrie religious mom' kinda way, but how girls are taught to view themselves differently in general).
The highest occurrence of street harassment and inappropriate remarks was from age 13 to 16 from all ages of men. I couldn’t walk to get my sister from her elementary school without roofers whistling and smiling at me. I was stopped by some neighbor men on their patio who were trying to chat me up and tell me they 'love me.' My 13-year-old self knew it was weird. Even though they were overtly being sexual, I was worried about being rude and would just weakly say, 'I... love you, too?'
Predators and dirtbags try to go as young as possible exactly because children don’t know any better at that age and won't call them out. People act like pedophilia and generally dirty-ass behavior is some kind of rare occurrence, but it’s so disgustingly common." —u/Dread_Wolf_TakeMe
If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual violence, check out the resources available on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to talk to a trained professional.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.