Women Are Sharing When They Were First Sexualized, And We Need To Normalize Shaming Creepy Men Instead Of Innocent Girls
Note: This post contains mentions of sexual assault and harassment.
It's sickening that most, if not all, women have experienced being sexualized, and most can remember the first time it happened to them — when they were only a child.
20th Television / Via giphy.com
After sharing the responses to u/I_LIKE_LIMA_BEANS' question, "Girls and women: How old were you the first time someone made a sexually inappropriate comment to you? How did you react, and did it affect how you saw yourself or acted?" more women chose to share their deeply personal stories.
It's important to share their stories to give women a platform and expose the prevalence of the sexualization of young girls — and the shame they unjustly internalize as a result. These stories are but a fraction of the more than 700 responses BuzzFeed received:
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 hanging out with a group of friends — all girls — and we were all about 12 or 13. We were wearing shorts and tank tops because it was summer. Then, this group of four or five guys — all easily in their 20s — walks by, and they start saying things like, 'Hey, pretty, bend over!'"
2."Eleven. We were on a family vacation in the Dominican Republic. My 12-year-old sister and I were out for dinner with our parents, and our dad went out for a cigarette. He overheard a group of 50-year-old men talking about what kind of stuff they would do to us in bed. Our dad punched the one straight in the mouth."
"They did stop, but we felt uncomfortable the rest of the trip. It's a beautiful place, but that ruined it for me." —yyccourt
3."In fifth grade, my dad told me to put on a bra right after I started developing. My mom would yell at me anytime I didn't wear a bra because it 'makes my dad feel uncomfortable.'"
"I think these are the worst ones for me." —kpthornton02
4."I was about 12 and wearing a bikini, and my uncle made a comment about my new boobies."
5."I wasn't older than 10 or 11, and I was at my church's summer day camp. It was expected that we would get down on our knees to pray on the ground. I found that uncomfortable, so I would allow my thighs and butt to hover above my shins while we prayed. That day, like any girl in the summer, I was wearing denim shorts. They were nothing inappropriate or extra short — my parents generally only bought us clothes that were on the modest side. After we finished praying, an older woman, who had been standing behind me during the prayer, pulled me aside and told me I couldn't wear the shorts again to summer camp because they were inappropriate. She told me because I was bigger than other girls, my butt had been on display while we were praying, and I had been out of line. I remember I felt so sad, confused, and deeply ashamed."
"She really made me feel embarrassed and ashamed of my own body for the first time. It's not just men who sexualize young girls but also women who are 'just looking out for you.'" —lauren9650
6."When I was 13, we went to Las Vegas for a dance championship. My parents were on the slots while my sister and I entertained ourselves in the kids' arcade. Men walked by and asked to take pictures with us as if we were 'for hire.' I was too scared to say no because no one was there to protect us if they had gotten mad."
"I took it the best way I could — that it was a compliment to my looks — but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was wrong and made me feel scared." —kellir7
7."I remember when I was in sixth grade — I was 11 — that this boy was obsessed with me. At the end of the school day, when we were walking out to the buses, he kept trying to grab my ass. I yelled at him to stop, then the teacher (she's a woman) yelled at ME for yelling at him. When I tried to explain why I yelled at him, she said she didn't care and that I needed to stop yelling."
8."I was wearing shorts, and I was told by my father to 'cover up.' My mom looked at him like he was insane, and I pretended to not hear him. I went into my room and immediately changed into sweatpants. I didn't wear shorts until long after that."
"He'd also slapped my butt a lot when we walked upstairs and he was behind me. I was scared, so if he was ever behind me, I would go very fast." —annalorraine
9."When I was 11 years old, I had a long, silk nightie that I really loved. I used to get ready for bed early just to wear it. My aunt had given it to me. One evening, my mom took me aside and told me it was 'immodest' to wear it in front of my dad and brother."
"I never wore it again." —clara1meade
10."When I was in eighth grade, there was this kid in my class who was a real creep, and I always brushed it off. I was pretty developed by then and big-chested, and he used to say that I was trying to impress him. He sat at a table by the door, right by the bin that we turned our work in. I was putting my work in the bin, and he started teasing me. He poked me in the side — too far north for my liking, almost brushing my chest — and I told him to stop, but he didn’t. The teacher yelled at him. I also had this teacher in an afternoon class, and he had me file a report to the school. He really tried to get the kid kicked out of the class or get him out of any classes with me, and the school just didn’t do anything about it."
11."When I was in eighth grade, my class was arranging an Easter breakfast, and everyone had to bring in a food item. I brought a cucumber, and one of the boys in my class told me, 'I know you're going to have fun with that in the restroom afterwards.'"
"I didn't dare touch the cucumber after that." —sawthorn
12."The first time I was catcalled, I was 14. I was walking home in shorts and a unicorn sweater. Multiple grown men whistled at me, honked their horns, and winked. I remember going home and taking an extra-long shower that day."
13."I was 15 years old in the hallway after school. I was about 4'8" at the time, and a friend's older brother, who was 6'6", turned to one of his friends and said, 'I bet she wouldn’t even have to get on her knees to give me a blowjob.' I guess he thought I was far enough away that I wouldn’t have been able to hear, but I did."
14."I was 8, and my mom's friend was over with her daughter. We were playing on the floor, rolling around. I was wearing bike shorts, and my mom's friend said that my pussy looked huge in the shorts. I was so confused. Even now, I don't wear trousers, leggings, or shorts unless they are baggy because I don't feel comfortable."
15."I was about 11, and I went on a school field trip. I skipped a few grades, so I was sitting with 13-year-olds. On the bus, the boys who sat in the back kept making these suggestive moves. They didn’t touch me physically, but they acted like they were having sex with me by making these moves."
"I asked them to stop, and they just laughed at me. It made me very uncomfortable." —bellaevans18jsgjf
16."Twelve years old. My 16-year-old sister and I were driving around, putting up garage sale signs. I got out at the first spot, which was a stoplight. These fortysomething assholes were whistling, leaning out of their cars, and honking. I was a snarky kid and told them they were desperate pieces of shit and flipped them off. They called me a bitch, and I said, 'Thanks!'"
17."When I was 13, some old man at church who I didn’t know gave me a once-over, looked at my dad, and said, 'You've brought that beautiful daughter back, I see!' It made me super uncomfortable. After that, I kept an eye on him because I kept feeling like he was watching me. The worst part was that when I told my dad how I felt about it, he told me I was being rude and that I should be grateful for the compliment."
18."When I was 14, I was walking to my grandparents' apartment after interviewing for a summer internship. I was wearing my best business-casual outfit, and the interview had gone well. I felt SO confident. A car then pulled up alongside me and started following me slowly down the block. I immediately started looking around and trying to figure out where I could hide if I ran. The window rolled down, and this guy leaned out and started catcalling me. I tried to ignore him, but the car stayed alongside me the whole time. Finally, he went, 'Why don't you say hi?' I quickly waved at him, and they drove off. My confidence was gone, and I felt so gross. I immediately began blaming it on what I was wearing. Ever since then, I pretty much only wear giant sweatshirts that I can hide inside."
"It's been over 10 years, and I still don't have that confidence back." —marmalady
19."I started working at a cafe when I was 14. We had a regular who would always come in and get tea. Obviously, at my job, I have to be friendly to customers, so I was always pleasant. One day, he asked me when I would be going back to Pakistan, to which I replied I'm half Indian, not Pakistani. He was from the Middle East, himself, and looked absolutely disgusted before walking away without a word. The next day, he came in to get his tea and chose the longer line specifically to talk to me. He said that he had two tickets to India leaving in three days and that I should go with him. I didn't even know how to react."
20."When I was about 10 or 11, I was at the mall with my mom, sister-in-law, and newborn niece. I wanted to let my mom and SIL have some alone time without me or my niece, so I stood outside the store while they shopped. My niece had started crying, so I took her out of the stroller and held her in my arms. This big man — maybe in his 30s or 40s — walked up to me and told me to 'suck his dick.' I was so scared; I didn't really look at his face. At first, I didn't understand what he said, so I asked him to repeat himself. He did, and it set in. My face turned white, and I started to tear up, so I ran back into the store."
"I told my mom what had happened, and she and my sister-in-law took me to walk around the mall and find him so they could 'have a few words with him.'
We never found him, but for the rest of the day, I was too scared to leave the house, and it scared me for a few months." —jadynmarie
21."I was a tomboy when I was 12 and lived in jeans and T-shirts. I had to wear a dress to school for a band concert, and my teacher, a fiftysomething-year-old man, leered at me and said, 'Oh, you do have legs, and they’re really nice ones.' It was a while before I wanted to wear a dress again."
22."At 12, I wore a T-shirt to the beach that read, 'Beach or Bust.' A stranger in his 40s approached me, fixated on my chest, and said, 'Well, you got the beach part right!' and laughed. His family had set their towels down near ours, and he had two young daughters."
23."I was about 6 or 7 at an after-school program at the church next door. Once every week, kids got snacks and did crafts, games, and activities. The pastor would always rub my shoulders and have me sit on his lap. He would tell me he was going to make babies with me. Being a little kid, I didn't understand any of it or realize it was wrong. It felt wrong, but I didn't want to say anything because he was a pastor. I was afraid of getting in trouble if I said anything — afraid that God would be mad at me for tattling or something. Other kids had seen this, though, and thought it was weird or wondered why they weren't being favored, so they had said things at home. We got a new pastor for the program shortly after."
"I don't know what happened to him. He was an old man, too, in his early 60s, I think. This was in the early '90s, so he's probably dead by now. I'm in my 30s now, and it still bothers me." —amberhendricks85
24."I developed really early. I got my period around 8 and sprouted boobs around the same time. When I was 10, I was in my family's backyard, practicing for cheerleading practice. My uncle and mom came out to watch me. My mom was drunk, but my uncle wasn’t. In the middle of my routine, my uncle started making comments: 'She’s got the perfect body'; 'she would be perfect for Playboy'; 'she could be a centerfold.' I was horribly embarrassed and deeply ashamed."
"My mom said, 'No, she needs to lose some weight first.' My uncle kept going on about my chest. I ran into the house and never told anyone. Months later, my uncle raped me." —lobsterthirty
25."This dude on the bus sat next to me and asked me weird questions about myself. When he asked about my age, he was shocked when I said I was 15. He said, 'You don't look like 15 because of your, you know...' and proceeds to hold his cupped hands in front of him, mimicking boobs."
26."When I was 11, I was wearing shorts because it was summer. I was at my friend’s dad's birthday party. My friend's uncle was there and told me and my mom that I had 'great thighs.' My mom got really mad and shouted at him. Then, my friend's mom got annoyed at my mom for calling him out because he's 'family.'"
"What 50-year-old man says that to an 11-year-old?! As if him being family takes away from the fact he's creeping on young girls. Ew." —confettiline
27."When I was 7, I sat on a male relative's lap. I was told to get off so I did. They said I shouldn't sit on their lap anymore as I was getting older and it's inappropriate!"
"Then, when I was 10, a boy at school would repeatedly ping the back of my bra. I told the teacher, who basically said boys will boys and I shouldn't be so sensitive." —jessbudd
28."I'm a girl, and when I was 11, I had cut my knee riding my bike. It was bad enough to require stitches. My mother had taken me to the ER, and a male nurse tended to my wound. My mother was just outside the room when this male nurse said to me, 'Wow, your legs are really hairy. You should really shave them.' I was so embarrassed, I almost cried."
29."I was 12, and I was wearing a leopard-print blouse. A waiter at a restaurant catcalled me when I was walking out, saying, 'Nice kitty.' My dad was right next to me and basically shouted, 'I don’t think so — she is 12.'"
"My dad is quite large, so the waiter was terrified, rightfully so." —jessicam48417f776
30."When I was 14, I was walking to a walk-up snack place by myself, wearing leggings and a hoodie. These two guys were chatting by their pickup truck, parked in front of the snack shop, and they whistled at me as I walked by. One guy said, 'Damn, I’d love to take that ass for a ride.' I didn’t wear those leggings for at least a couple of months after that, and, to this day, I still feel uncomfortable whenever I wear leggings or any kind of skintight pants."
"Those people may think their comments don’t matter or it’s just a small thing, but creeping on young kids really affects their lives." —shadeofblue
31."I was 7. I was on a flight to London with my dad. We had two seats next to a much older man, who had the window seat. He looked at me and said, 'She should sit in the middle seat. Then we can both enjoy her.'"
32."Age 12, seventh grade. My math teacher asked me to stay after class. He then waited until we are alone, stared at me up and down, and said, 'Hm, one day you’ll grow into your legs. They’ll look great.' I was wearing a mini skirt. I never, ever, ever wore a skirt to school again."
"For the rest of the year, he’d look me up and down every time I came into class or left." —joyously20
33."I was NINE years old at a clothing store and had put a pair of glasses on. I walked away from my mom to go look at a mirror and see how they looked on me. A grown-ass man, probably in his late 20s — though he could've even been in his 30s — looked at me, stopped, and, in a very sexual tone, said, 'Don't worry, they look good on you.' Then he winked and walked away. A grown man made a sexual comment to a 9-year-old girl just trying on glasses."
"I never told anyone about it, because for some reason, it was so embarrassing, even though it was about 11 years ago." —kristeylou
34."I was 11 and had a T-shirt with a map of the London Tube on it. One of the stations was placed on the breast, directly where a nipple would be. My family and I were at my dad’s friend's house, and my dad's friend pointed at that station and said, 'I'd ride directly to this station.' Everyone laughed, and I’ve never felt more uncomfortable and disgusted in my life."
35."My first experience was online. I posted on (what I thought) was a very safe web forum, asking what to do if I had accidentally left my tampon in for too long. I was 13 or 14 and had just recently started my periods, a fact I stated in the web post. Most of the replies were helpful and nice, but one said something along the lines of, 'Let me stick my fingers up there, and I’ll check for you.' It made me so ashamed of asking the question in the first place, so ashamed of wearing tampons, and so ashamed of the fact that I had a period."
"It took me forever to realize that it was that sicko's fault and not mine." —jamied41
36."When I was 5, my mom's boyfriend told me that he could see 'everything' I was wearing underneath when I dressed up for Halloween as a witch. The costume included a short black skirt. I was ashamed and never dressed up for Halloween again."
37."Every weekend, my family went to the same restaurant for breakfast. When I was about 8 or 9, the busboy — who was the owner's 40-year-old son — would come by our table while my grandpa would go pay. He would talk to me and stare at my boobs. He then started trying to sit next to me. The following weekend, he tried again, so I went up to the register with my grandpa. He asked why I was up there, and I told him. He said, 'OK. Tell your mom and grandma to go on to the car, and I'll be there in a minute. I have to go to the bathroom when I'm done paying.' The next weekend, the busboy was there but on the other side of the restaurant. When he saw my grandpa, he paled and turned around."
38."I was 7 or 8, and we moved to a new town. My older brother's new friend, who was 13, would say to me when my brother wasn't around, 'Pull your pants down. I want to see your underwear.' He didn't just say it once, either, it was three different times. I didn't know what to do or think at the time. Thankfully, my brother came around and heard it, and we told my parents."
"I never saw that douchebag again. I was so young — thinking back now it's like, WTF?" —nataliesi
39."When I was about 10, a man my father's age asked me if I had started my period yet, because 'pussy tastes better if blood hasn't come out yet.' I was only going to the deli a block away, so I was alone. I ran home and told my dad."
"Apparently, the dude was a child molester, and I clearly wasn't the first one he said shit like that to. This was before Megan's Law.
That scumbag was pretty much run out of town by a posse of angry parents since the cops couldn't do anything because he didn't 'technically' do anything wrong." —tastypastry2
40."I was 3 or 4 when my parents and I went to the beach. I was wearing my swimsuit with a little round skirt on the waist. Mom and I were playing by the water, minding our business. She overheard a group of dudes nearby — they were probably 15 or 16 — talking about who was going to be first and comment on my legs. Even though I didn't hear them, I'm unable to wear a swimsuit without feeling like I'm being watched."
41."Ten years old, karate class. I was leaving the dojo when the teens' class was entering. One creepy boy — I'd say he was 15 — started making comments about how cute I was and how he could see my bra. Unfortunately for him, I was exceedingly short and level with his crotch. Long story short, he was on the floor screaming within three seconds."
"My mom got me Dairy Queen." —chanl
42."When I was 15, I was really excited to go into town in this outfit I'd put together — black overalls, a T-shirt, combat boots, and fishnet tights. It was a hot day, so I was glad the overalls were short. As I was walking into town, a guy in his 40s yelled at me to 'give us a blowjob' from his car. I told him he was a pervert and to go fuck himself, but I was terrified. I was dreading walking up that same street back home in case he was there. I told my parents, and they agreed he was out of line. But, they also, to my immense disappointment, said, 'Look at what you're wearing,' and told me I was bound to get noticed in an outfit like that. I haven't worn fishnets since."
"My dad commented that my fishnets weren't appropriate. I know my parents didn't mean it, but they made me feel like the harassment was all my fault." —zoecatherinegrant
If you or someone you love has been affected by sexual violence, check out the resources available from 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.