TW: Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, blackmail, childhood trauma, sexualisation of children, relationships and sex, abuse.
I struggled to title this in a way that wasn’t completely misleading and not intrusive to certain movements. It is hard to talk about a.) the topic at hand, b.) said topic in a way where you are, as a person with a penis, not derailing an already pushed against discourse.
But here goes.
I was sexualised way too young.
I’m hyper aware that the way in which I was sexualised was completely different to the way in which young girls, women or femme people are (I will talk about men and women throughout this as two ends of a spectrum, but I am addressing this to everyone; cis, trans, nb). Women are infantilised upon the male gaze, puberty is synonymous with a burgeoning sexuality and men see the appearance of breasts as entitlement to these young people’s bodies.
You see it constantly, men are socialised to want to be with a younger person because youth = beauty. Women peak at 35 and men get better with age, it’s a really sweet set up we got going. This isn’t just a straight problem, mind you, gay guys – all people that identify as men – search out younger, “fresher” bodies. It’s why twinks exist, evidently.
However, my early sexualisation comes in at a different level.
I often have conversations with people about how early they learned about sex. Some say they were sheltered until secondary school, others had really blunt parents who gave them the penis and vagina monologue half way through primary school.
Mine happened in primary school with my ‘on-off’ girlfriend since reception. I know, fucking weird.
Let’s call her Claire. One summer afternoon, probably year 1 or 2, I was trying my hardest to get the last drops of juice from my water bottle and I hear:
“Oi, Dan! Stop giving your bottle a blowjob!!”
Baffled, but intrigued (also embarrassed as hell) – I confronted her the next day. And so, it began.
I was around 5 I guess at this point, and by all accounts of my memory I knew about the ins and outs of the physical act of sex. My mum couldn’t leave us alone in a room because we’d be making out instantly and it eventually ended up with us not being allowed to be friends anymore.
However, there’s two instances around this time which give me the chills and make me worry about Claire – also myself.
Now, kids are curious. We want to know what we don’t, and hate being told “you’ll find out when you’re older”. My favourite game as a toddler and young child would be to ask my mum questions I already knew, to see how she’d answer.
“Mum what’s a slapper?”
“Mum what’s a poof?”
“Mum do babies come out of your bumhole or the Minnie?” (Yes, I was taught the word Minnie, prude parents)
Most of these questions came from EastEnders episodes, or playground chat. Others from Claire. She lived in a chaotic house, with a dodgy looking step dad and a mum which let her reign over the house. She was the dictionary definition of a little princess drama queen.
She was also my first two sexual experiences before the age of 7.
Anxiety has always plagued me, manifesting in different ways as I grow older, but sexually it’s always there in different ways. The first time I felt truly uncomfortable and out of place with Claire was when she took me into a cupboard and made us play doctors and nurses. Being bound by heteronormative roles, I was of course the doctor and as such had the doctor’s toolkit. She stripped us down and we prodded and probed each other, or should I say “medically examined” to make sure we were of sound health.
What makes me uncomfortable about this, looking back, was that Claire knew far too much about what to do with the human body in this context.
Our second encounter was more sinister, similar, but sinister. Again, she stripped us down but this time we were to play mummy and daddy, under the covers. That was the last time I went around Claire’s house. The anxiety attacks were too much and quite frankly, I was scared what she’d make me do next. Yet, we did continue our messy relationship throughout school.
These weren’t singular incidents of children behaving badly. We had the ‘sex bush’ at primary school, where allegedly (fake name) Hannah Hill had sex, or if you asked nice enough she’d let you watch her pee. We didn’t question it, it was an integral part of a girl vs boy daily routines – besides kiss chase and tag.
But what strikes me the most about recounting these minor, although scarring, events is that this is where I remember beginning to lie about having had sex. It would be with other boys, in the toilets or on the walk home from school and we’d brag about our sexual exploits. This was a particularly key interaction with my same-aged cousin, with whom I was in fierce competition with. In reality though, it was all nonsense.
On my part, the idea that men did sex, was firmly etched on my mind. It was this mentality of the “doing” that warped my idea over the next few encounters, coupled with my poorly learned behaviour, that I was some how in control. That I, a 7-year-old boy, was in control of what this young girl had done to me. She couldn’t possibly have done something bad to me, hadn’t coerced or forced me to do something out of my control because – I, a boy – did those things.
I would later go on to have a sexual infatuation with my mum’s best friend, a woman 23 years my senior, and pounce on her twice when we were alone. I declared I wanted sex and I wanted it with her. I would then go on to initiate the same behaviours Claire had done to me, with her daughter. Mummy and Daddy games, under the covers or just being overtly sexual in general.
This idea that men want, need or are more sexual beings. Driven by the infamous testosterone, led by their pricks – is all bullshit. We are socialised to believe this as it plays nicely into the idea of entitlement over women’s bodies throughout our lives – and I was perpetuating this as a child. I wasn’t even in secondary school.
And with this, I would go into the next few years not understanding in anyway how what I wanted and what was expected of me, couldn’t align. I wasn’t a boy if I didn’t want sex and I wasn’t normal to be ok with it. But I wasn’t.
I would be 10 years old when I was first sexually assaulted by an older girl. My family was going through a traumatic time and my Mum was less than present to say the least, so I took refuge at my uncle’s house during the summer before secondary school started.
He was a young uncle and his girlfriend was cool, she also had a sister who was 3 years older than me and we were pretty tight mates.
Looking back, we behaved problematic as fuck. We would flirt, children, flirting. This wouldn’t faze me, but it still brought about anxiety because when push came to shove I had no idea where flirting would lead – or where it ought to?
After a few nights of us sleeping on sofas in the living room, ten-year-old me would be awoken in the early hours. I would be awoken by my older friend forcing oral sex on me. Being older, she was also heavier and taller than me at the time, I had not quite grown into the 6’3” person I am today. She had braces, like those huge train tracks, and I remember being so scared she’d bite me or attack me with them – a childish response to assault, I guess. So, I struggled to fight her off, she was telling me to have sex with her and that I obviously wanted to. I didn’t.
I don’t know how I escaped, but I remember fleeing through the backdoor. My uncle lived in a council tenancy which on one side was two floors up and on the backside it opened up onto the Thames. I remember it being fairly mild, but chilly as I was only wearing my boxers. I didn’t know where to go and I think I just stood still looking at a low moon, wondering where I would live now. Betrayed but also blaming myself, I had led her on, brought it upon myself, clearly I did want it – didn’t I? A line of self-doubt that we hear all too often from women’s mouths.
She eventually beckoned me in and we sat down sheepishly for a while, she would later go on to tell me how she had been raped (not her words) on multiple occasions by boys at school. The stories and their details still haunt me to this day.
Being quasi-related I couldn’t escape her, but also being conflicted as to what had happened I accepted her back as a friend. I grew up in a family which relegated all kids to the spare room of my Nan’s house every Saturday. Every Saturday, my same-aged cousin, myself and she would sit in there playing crash bandicoot and chewing the fat.
Every Saturday she would sit next to me, cover our laps with pillows and sexually assault me.
My same-aged cousin eventually found out and blackmailed us, demanding similar actions to be done upon him otherwise he would tell our family. He deserved sex, was demanding of it, entitled to it. Also, he, being a little boy, was expected to get it -expected to do it.
She would keep in mild contact with me over the years until her 21st birthday, she invited me to the party and I went – almost having a panic attack in the process. I decided I didn’t need to be around her after that.
She went through a lot of shit in life, and is seemingly happily married with kids now, so I don’t hold a grudge or any pain towards her as such. I wish that we, collectively as children, didn’t have to go through any of it. That cycle of abuse, perpetuated on ourselves by other’s actions, by our socialisation, by being taught what was expected of us. That hurts.
She could be the reason I don’t like oral sex as an adult or have sudden anxiety attacks during sex. Why I need constant and open communication and still don’t really understand what’s going on sometimes when I feel a certain way.
I’ve since been in multiple scenarios where I have been forced or coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts because I should have wanted to or because I was expected to. I’ve been in relationships where I was told that I should want it all the time, questioned why I wasn’t aroused or been called gay to not want sex when asked.
In light of the #metoo movement and other such organisations that stand up to rape, assault and harassment – I think it’s important to realise that although it often happens in different ways, and that the UK law is against cis-het men with penises because rape only technically happens (by law) if it is perpetrated by a penis – it does happen to us. In the same way a woman with a vagina can rape, assault and harass another woman (with or without a vagina).
I want people, men mostly, to think about and assess all their sexual experiences and ask if they truly haven’t been in a position like mine, as a teen or an adult. Feeling forced or belittled if they didn’t perform or want sex in the moment. Had their “manhood” questioned and negations denied.
I don’t know of a woman in my life that hasn’t been harassed or assaulted in some way, I’ve been told so many stories of rape now from people I am close to or dating or related to, that I’m beginning to get numb to it.
I can count the amount of men that have come forward with a similar story on my left hand.
We need to allow ourselves to feel this and break away from what is expected of us.
It’s okay to not want sex.
It’s okay to be vulnerable.
It’s okay to say you’ve been assaulted, harassed or raped if you’re a man (and woman).
But rape, assault and harassment is not okay.