I was visiting family this Labor Day weekend. My 2 1/2 year old niece was coloring a picture, and I started flipping through the coloring book it came from. It was princess-themed, of course, and the more pictures I looked at, the more depressed I got. Here is a sampling of the captions that were at the bottom of each page: -Pretty as a Picture -Pretty as a Princess -Lovely Locks (underneath a picture of a princess brushing her hair) -Sweet Smile -Such Poise -So Graceful -In love (under a picture of a princess apparently daydreaming about a prince) -Beautiful new dress I counted at least 5 different pictures of a hand mirror or a girl looking in the mirror. Not one picture showed a princess or a lady actually DOING anything (unless you count the single picture of a girl dancing with a prince – I don’t). My smart, energetic, very active niece is not yet 3, and already the toys and books we surround her with are giving one clear message: you are here to be looked at.
This only came back to me when I was 17, despite happening when I was about 6. I was at a friends house playing in her bedroom, when her older brother and a friend came in (he was 9 or 10 I think). He told his friend and his sister to hold me down whilst he “explored” my body. I remember him taking all my clothes off and basically doing whatever he liked, parting my legs, fingering me etc. . I remember screaming at his sister to let me go, but she said that he was her older brother so she had to do what he said. I can’t actually remember how long this exploration went on for. When I told mum what had happened she was angry but didn’t quite know what to do. I think she talked to the boy’s mother, but nothing ever really came of it. For years I repressed the memory, and wondered why I was scared of sex, or felt ashamed of it. I wonder how much this experience has to do with it. It took me until the age of 21 to come to terms with myself as a sexual being and be okay with that.