Performed at Spoke and Bird Open Mic, at the Artistry. Performance found here
Sec 2, pre-puberty. I was dressed in a cloak and cosplay, running around my school, asking kids if they would like to join the drama club. Alumnis, probably, older boys, definitely, surrounded my childish frame and asked if they could join the drama club with smug faces.
One boy put his arm around me, I am haunted by what his shirt had smelled of- Too much deodorant, too much danger. My first boyfriend would only be angry because they had touched his “girlfriend”, as if I belonged to him.
Sec 2, still pre-puberty. It was dark and I was in a haunted house in our school’s basement, we had created it for family day. Fake blood dripped from my knife, my hair was dishevelled, my face pale and I had put everything into terrifying people younger or older than me, screaming and laughing at anyone and everyone who came by. I had meant every scare thrown at those who walked by me.
And the scream I produced when some older boys grabbed my shoulders for a selfie, grinning and laughing and pulling me this way and that – Even when the rules clearly said: Do not take photos of our Actors, Do not Touch our Actors, Do not Touch, Do not Touch strangers you don’t know – Was real, was primal, was the most horrifying sound I had ever produced from my oesophogus without warning, on purpose, and the chairman of the drama club told me: “Just keep going, we’re going on a break soon.” I had meant every scare of that day, but only once did I mean my scream.
Polytechnic, Year 1, post-puberty. “Maybe later” cut off at Maybe and somehow Maybe became yes, I felt the stiff fabric of jean shorts burn my crotch as he grabbed me and I want to push but I am frozen in shock and my body pretends to be asleep. I find myself slumped in a disabled bathroom, having woken up from disassociation.
Every day of the month I dated him was spent on sex, I endured the whispers that fed into my head all year. His voice haunted me as I tried to convince myself that everything he said was alright with me, because there was no way out, because “no” was just part of the game, because I belonged to anyone who dated me. There was no discussion, because dominant Masters dictate where the game goes.
His mother would later call me an ugly slut.
Polytechnic, Year 2, post-breakup. A year into my new relationship and our safe word is Red. I never used it. “No” was enough. “Stop” was enough. “Wait” was enough. A few moments of silence was enough. A push was enough. An expression was enough.
The answer “Not feeling it today” to “Are you okay?” was enough.
Discussion was everything and my mind learnt to remember all the things that it shut out. I remembered every push and pull and taunt and whisper and cringe and flinch, and I squeezed my eyes shut until I hear “It’s ok, we can do this some other time” as hands withdrew from my body and I wondered why I was crying.
My Body. It is my body. But why had I spent all my life thinking otherwise?
I listen to the blame-pushers and the victim-blamers and the silence heard in shame, and I think about my 14-year-old, child body when the grown-up boys older than me, clearly aware that I was a child, believed they were allowed to touch me. I think about my 17-year-old, no longer child body, while the blame-pushers and victim-blamers inch closer.
I raise my voice higher.
Me too, I scream, at the teachers who said “Do not dress in revealing clothing” and “Do not attract trouble” in the same breath. Me too, I scream, at every person who ticked the “None of the above” option when it came to fight-or-flight because there was no fight-or-flight option. Me too, I scream, at the men who tried to defend themselves with “Not all men”, even though we all already know. We do not mean that all men will assault, but we do mean that no one should.
I raise my voice higher.
Me too, I scream, at that boy in my class who yelled and laughed “They’re raping each other” when someone asked why two of our classmates weren’t in class. Me too, I scream, at my female friend who asked a teacher about consent and recieved the answer of “First of all, you say no. Second of all, don’t go to a boy’s house alone”. Me too, I scream, at my male friend who asked a teacher the same thing and recieved the answer “Well, are you ready?” instead.
I raise my voice all the way to the rooftops, holding on to every single piece of my body, my bones and skin, period blood and sweat, pubic hair and nails, the composition of what I had been wearing when my assault happened.
And I listen to the sound of a chorus of people who now scream back at me:
And I raise my voice higher.