“This is my body and you cannot have it. It is not yours to touch, to hold, to take from; it is not yours to do with as you please. I am no object.”
These words are a sentiment seared into my heart; it screams them as it pumps blood to my body, and often I wonder if the men around me can hear it beating out each word, a battle cry and a howl of sorrow. I am not theirs to take- never again.
I am more than a photograph of a girl’s body; I alone hold her female, feminine story. We have been to hell and back and we are here to share that truth, if only in fragmented pieces over much time.
My body and I, we are often at odds with one another in ways I cannot fully communicate to people who don’t live with embodied pain of past traumas unspoken, who don’t know what it’s like to hide away unspeakable secrets for years too many. I continue to carry that in my bones- it wasn’t mine to contain but I carry it. That pain flows through me and out of me like the blood I shed from the lining of my uterus. But then, we’re not supposed to talk about such things, right?
Pain and periods. Blood and birth, death and decaying inside out. What it is to be a woman who has seen and experienced things we don’t quite know how to make sense of… to be a human being who suffers and thinks about it. Period blood; scary, dirty, forbidden. I raise you Toxic Masculinity; the most hideous thing that has ever touched me.
I refuse to be scared away by fragile male egos who cringe at the word “period” while they wail about blue balls and the dangers of getting a girl pregnant- the violent men who shame women without birth control, the misogynists who expect transactional sex. These men who would never consider a vasectomy, or hormones that invalidate their masculinity; meanwhile, so many women are far too often trapped on hormones and painful contraceptive devices-whether to prevent pregnancy, or to control our painful bleeding, or to help us conform to societal “norms” of how women should appear, with large breasts (and nipples we must never show) and no body hair- and uteruses to be considered valid in a heteronormative, transphobic, and patriarchal society that oppresses anything that can be “othered”.
The implication that women have true choice in the matter over our reproductive healthcare is insulting; show me where the choice truly exists other than inside the shackles of abstinence. And for every vote of abstinence, I ask you how many men are also willing to hold themselves to the same standard practice of “abstinence”- and to define their criteria for the construct. If it’s a pull-out method and a heteronormative ideology of sex that puts more power to the penis, I’m not here for it. And for all the men who say that this is radical, that this is “not all men”, who claim to know and practice better- go out and be the difference. Prove it.
And there will always be a fear in me of the men who do simply just take- without consent- from female bodies when it pleases them, especially from women who are most vulnerable- because society continuously teaches men that they are allowed to do so. Our present laws and language fail to provide them with much other example. Rape culture is rampant, often in the most insidious forms. I do not feel safe; so many of us do not feel safe.
Being a virgin did not and has not kept many of us safe from rape, from assault, from abuse. Yet does the responsibility of contraception and abstinence continue to fall upon the shoulders of women, too? Must we tie our legs shut, cover ourselves in more layers of shame, hide away in our homes until it is time for us to be made whole by men?Or perhaps we initiate a radical sex strike instead, in a twisted effort to manipulate our oppressors, continuing to deny ourselves pleasure and freedom, all in the pursuit of basic safety and human rights that should have been safely granted to us long ago, without the threat of revocation? I ask, every day- will we EVER hold all men accountable and make it the STANDARD for men of the highest privilege to take responsibility for their actions, past and present? Will we insist upon a better, more equitable future where those with most power work to create and protect a reproductive healthcare system accessible to everyone?
This starts with the fight to ensure and protect basic human rights to bodily and spiritual autonomy, for all people with reproductive healthcare needs. In these times we must remember that our identities are made up of so much more than our hormones and genitals or whether or not we can reproduce- certainly there is more to womanhood, to personhood, than that. During Pride Month, more than EVER, let us not forget that key to our complex human identities.
When our female reproductive rights are weaponized and taken from us, and our bodies treated like objects to control and diminish, it’s hard to remember our worth unless we are fighting for every facet of our identities. With pride, and true allyship towards those in our community who need our support most, may we can continue to ground ourselves in our value- knowing that we deserve the right to choice and freedom.
I am more than a photograph of a woman’s body. This is my body; it will never be yours to take.