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I was 13 years old

Author:

Trigger Warning

I was thirteen years old when I had sex for the first time. I was in my first proper relationship and felt overwhelmed with the attention and love that he showed for me. I had people saying ‘you are too young to love’ constantly and yet, I felt these people were wrong as I fell into an intense, overwhelming relationship. As a couple of months went by, I felt a pressure not only from him, but from his male friends, to ‘prove’ my love for him by having sex. At this age, many girls had yet to have their first kiss and I felt ashamed that I was already so far ahead. When it finally happened, after much persuasion, I stumbled home in pain and kept it a secret. I gave in to his demands as I was flattered by his attention and felt that I would lose him if I did not give myself to him. I didn’t tell my friends or my family, but as little as two weeks later, I had boys coming up to me asking if it was true and the word ‘slag’ was thrown around. I ignored these daily torments and kept my head up, wrongly convincing myself that my boyfriend had not told anyone.

We continued our relationship for almost a year. A year in which I began to lose friends and I hardly saw my family because I was spending all my time wrapped up in this relationship dream world. We drank together and then he would ask me to do things I didn’t feel comfortable doing. Later on, I realised that it had only been me drinking, thinking of it as a social thing when it was really a way to get what he wanted from me. From the outside, my friends were convinced that I was in a perfect relationship and kept telling me how lucky I was, yet they didn’t have a clue what was going on because I was too frightened to admit it.

Girls and very occasionally boys, are told through religion, media, the internet and friends, that keeping your ‘virginity’ intact is important as it means others will respect you and you are still ‘complete’ and ‘pure’. Many girls are told that they must wait until they find that special person to give everything they have to and that if they are no longer a virgin, they are dirty and damaged in some way. I remember feeling as if I had no one who would understand me, because I was confused and I felt angry with myself. I searched ‘losing your virginity at age 13’ into google, and phrases like ‘have some self-respect’ and ‘disgusting’ hit me in the face. By this time, my boyfriend was being praised for ‘doing the deed’ whereas I was disappearing into myself and losing my confidence.

Three years after the end of the relationship, aged 17 and severely depressed, I broke down in front of my mum and told her everything. After being fearful for a long time of what anyone might say, I was relieved that she took me in her arms and cried, telling me that she did not judge me and that I was not spoiled or filthy, like I’d told myself I was for four years. Many young girls are shamed and teased for being sexually active yet can easily be pressured into it. A year after I had sex, we were taught sex education for the first time and I felt angry that we had not been taught earlier. I knew everything that they told us but not once were we told that it is okay to say ‘no’ in a relationship and not once were the boys told that it is deeply wrong to pressure someone into something they are uncomfortable with. I wanted to write this piece as although I regret my decision that I made at such a young age, I now no longer hate myself for not waiting. I am still whole, I’m still alive and I still have so much more to experience. I am not shattered or broken with a piece missing.

 

The author of this blog has asked to be kept anonymous.

 

A Body Is Just A Body

Author:

 

By Alice Koski

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A body is just a body. There is nothing inherently ‘wrong’, ‘naughty’ or ‘offensive’ about that. However, when it comes to women’s bodies being shown in the media, these are the kinds of words that get used. Our view of women’s bodies has been so confused and twisted that we hardly know what to think when a woman decides to show herself naked in the media. Is she brave, empowered and confident, or has she just degraded herself? 

When the nude photos of Kim Kardashian for Paper Magazine were released late last year, it was all I saw on Twitter for about a week. And although a few people shared positive opinions of the photos, the majority of tweeters and commenters reacted negatively and nastily to Kim’s decision to bare all. Many called her trashy and said that a nude shoot was unsuitable because she’s a mum. 

Calling Kim’s photos ‘trashy’ or ‘classless’ just because she’s naked in them shows people’s attitudes towards women’s nudity – a woman who shows her body is immediately judged as having no self-respect or self-worth. It’s also alarming that people think Kim shouldn’t be posing nude just because she’s a now a mum. How Kim wishes to present herself and her body is up to her and no one else – motherhood doesn’t change that. Mothers are scrutinised so much more than fathers in the media and pressured to appear ‘respectable’. Where are the people telling David Beckham to cover up his abs in those underwear ads? He’s got three kids! Oh right… it doesn’t apply to men.

I’m not claiming that tblob (1)hese photos of Kim Kardashian are completely unproblematic. It’s just that it’s not her nudity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that she is portrayed in an unrealistic, sexualised way. Naked women are automatically sexualised and Kim hasn’t tried to avoid this – if you haven’t seen the photos, she’s covered in baby oil (which lead to comparisons of her to a glazed donut – insulting and commodifying). Furthermore, the images are digitally manipulated (the magazine editor admitted to this), which is damaging as it presents an unrealistic body type. So whilst I don’t think that Kim Kardashian should be shamed for her decision to pose nude, I don’t think we should look to her as the perfect example of how it should be done.

In a similar vein, Keira Knightly posed topless for Interview magazine’s September 2014 issue. She decided to pose topless only if the images were to remain unmodified, as a way to protest against “the media’s damaging attitude towards body image”. In the interview for the piece, she says “Women’s bodies are a battle ground and photography is partly to blame.” I admire Keira for taking a stand and showing off her body, knowing that she would inevitably be criticised by some. She received some negative opinions and comments of course, but generally the response to the photos was positive. She was clearly in control of how her body was being presented, and she showed it truthfully. 

A body is just a body and seeing a bum and some boobs shouldn’t be something to get upset over. Nudity can be powerful, and when done for the right reasons, can be a way to break stereotypes and change people’s unhealthy attitudes towards women’s bodies.

 

The Skin I’m In

Author:

By Anna Hill

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Trigger Warning – Self Harm

Since I was born I’ve had eczema – a skin condition I still can’t spell, that leaves me with itchy, red, dry patches of skin in various different areas. When I was younger it was much worse, more of my skin was covered in the bumpy patches – behind my knees, my ears, the inside of my elbows and so on. The constant scratching and obvious red areas made me very shy of showing my body in any capacity, and I would hate specifically showing my arms. The skin between my forearm and my upper arm was the worst, particularly in summer. I would often scratch until I bled and the whole cycle made me feel ashamed. The eczema sometimes got so bad that I would have matching bumpy red, bleeding skin behind my knees and my elbows, all at the same time.

It was so obvious my skin was angry, it was writhing with anger, just under the surface. It was so evident inside me, around me, irritating me. I had so much restless energy, which ultimately led to more itching. My itching was never commented on explicitly but it was always present, implicit in the glances and the stares of my teachers, classmates and adults who I came into contact with. The feeling I got after I had itched – namely pain, after some satisfaction at first, forced me to be anchored to my body, and so did the glances at the patches on my skin. Not only is it dull, but it is very tough to be present, only so far as the confines of your body, to the landscape of our physical selves rather than the present where the world exists both internally and externally.

One of the reasons why eczema made me feel so insecure, was that it was not discrete. Whilst I felt my friends were growing up daintily (which in hindsight is not true), and had pretty skin (to me they always looked nice even when it was dotted with spots), I imagined myself as a tomato. The redness of my skin wasn’t helped either by the fact that I too am a blusher. My whole body was red, it was a walking wound sometimes and I felt like my weeping skin took up too much space.

After a while I started to see that my skin became alive with that itching feeling – you know the one, that little tickle starts and once you give in you’re gone – especially when I was stressed. During my G.C.S.Es not only was I very stressed but I also itched a lot, and then I realised that my skin was more raw (because I made it that way – even when I was sleeping) during that time I made the connection.

It went further than just stress being a trigger for it though later on, and although it took a while, I excavated my pain and my pressure in a way that made sense on my skin. It’s difficult when you have a skin condition that actually shows those around you your feelings. My anger and my stress all come through on my skin, and undoubtedly they still will, because I have a diagnosed skin condition. But it is what the stress and the anger are directed at is what I want to change. The further I went into my ruins the more I understood that a lot of the reason I continued to itch was to punish myself. It was to show myself that I was angry, angry at the world that hurt me and told me being queer was wrong, and also at myself for failing to live up to my impossible standards in life and school. I felt guilty for all these things. I felt my anger was not allowed – I was a girl, I was supposed to be pretty, sweet, kind and mostly importantly have soft skin. I wasn’t supposed to be covered in red scars and full of a yearning to burst out of my skin. To peel away all the bad skin and be shiny and new born.

When I itch now I recall all that itching that I did when I was angry and frustrated at life and myself. I recall all those times I did it to inflict pain, or to inflict any type of feeling on myself. The repetitive action of itching is very difficult to get away from and when I look at my body now I often feel like I look like a wound, my body is a visible reminder that I hurt, that I felt pain, that I damaged myself. That my trauma bleeds out of me, visible to everyone that looks at me.

But is this thinking helpful to me now? My skin will always be bumpy and itchy, so is it helpful to talk about it in the context of self-harm? Does the way I talk about it reinforce the pain, and the cycle of tearing at my skin? Leslie Jamison, in The Empathy Exams, wrote that “[her] feelings were also made of the way [she] spoke them”. It is a constant balance between the “state of submission” to feelings and thoughts and the “process of constructing” them.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to approach not only my eczema but my whole body with more compassion, with more understanding. I could completely accept my interpretation of my actions – that they stem from a place of hatred, but then it would be too easy for me to continue to hate, to continue to despair at myself, and thus punish myself when I fail all the more. Instead I want to make a home for myself in my self. Regardless of how aesthetically pleasing my body is, it is mine. It is the only constant home I will ever have and it will be with me my whole life. It’s presence facilitates a lot of what I do – my fingers typing these words for example – and so my goal is not to be perfect in treating my body, it is to be kinder to it. My body is not just made of scars and it is easier to remember that when I attempt to be kind, in little ways and big ways. I aim to be less angry at myself and at my red bumps, to be less frustrated when I fail to reach an academic goal, to be kinder when I do mess up. I aim to accept the skin I’m in rather than revolt against it.

 

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If you are interested in hearing more about self harm from a young person, go here.

If you want to know more about self-harm, go here.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Assault.

Author:

By Issy McConville

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Trigger Warning

So we’ve reached January. That month that feels like an endless Monday – it’s cold, it’s dark, and aside from the few extra pounds gained purely from Turkey consumption, Christmas feels like a distant memory. But there’s one memory in particular I want to talk about. Christmas is a truly unique period – perhaps it’s the glint of the tinsel dazzling your eyes, or perhaps it’s those ill-advised 2 for 1 Wetherspoons pitchers – but inevitably, your reunion with your school friends in the pub ends up on the sweaty dance floor of the same terrible club you used to sneak into underage.

Sadly for me this year, despite the promise of reliving the fantastic memories of the Hippodrome Foam Party 2012, my return to this particular club was a marred experience. There I was, throwing some shapes to the Spice Girls in the cheese room (no regrets) when I felt someone touch me. And this happened 3 times in this night alone. I’m not proud to admit that eventually I snapped – I turned around and slapped a man as he laughed with his friends. I know that violence was not the answer. And I also know that wine makes me a little aggressive. But this should never have happened to me. I should be able to go out with my friends without having strangers touch me as they walk by.

Last night’s shocking episode of Big Brother saw Jeremy Jackson removed from the show after inappropriately touching Chloe Goodman. Trying to explain his actions, he stated that he was ‘drunk’ and it wasn’t an ‘aggressive’ move. But what could be more aggressive than a complete violation of her body, of her personal space? He said he thought she was flirting – but she was just a woman helping him as he got sick. This isn’t flirting. The fact that this could happen on live television, and the fact that so many on Twitter jumped to Jackson’s defense is revealing of the damaging attitudes that exist. Groping someone when you’re sober IS sexual assault. Groping someone after a few too many drinks IS STILL sexual assault. This image of sexual assault as the creeping stranger down a dark alleyway needs to be dispelled for good, because it means that too many of us don’t recognise assault when it does happen. Being felt up in a club is an experience that is almost too common that we’ve become immune to it – but we need to stop letting these things slide. If a man touches me in a club, he should be removed, just as Jackson was removed from the Big Brother house. Watching Chloe’s distress was very upsetting, and this is happening to girls every single day. The response of Channel 5 was pretty questionable, as they still aired the footage, and advertised it as ‘explosive drama’ – making Chloe’s assault into some kind of entertainment for viewers.

Despite this, I am glad Big Brother took action in removing Jeremy Jackson. But let’s build on this example. Let’s stop our acceptance of regular incidences of assault, just because it’s easy. Let’s have better structures in place in bars and nightclubs, so women never feel afraid to report. Let’s challenge this sense of entitlement towards a woman’s body. It is a strange facet of humanity that we enjoy gathering in a small dark room to move around to some electronic beats for hours – but we really do. And when we do, we should all be able to feel safe.

 

 

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