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I Was 12, He Was 20 -- So Why Did Everyone Blame Me for Our Sexual Relationship?

For years, I thought I was asking for it -- but not anymore.

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I wonder what I would have learned from not getting what I asked for. Would I have learned that there are other things about me as valuable and compelling as my sexuality? Would I have learned that some men are trustworthy? Would I have had more options than the ones available to “that kind of girl”?

I recently spent an afternoon at the beach with a friend and her 12-year-old daughter. I noted the sharp lines of the daughter’s body (perfection, by our media’s standards), so like my own at that age. She was dazzling and precious and still unaware of the ruckus she was causing among the male onlookers. I realized that regardless of what this girl asked for, if someone eight years her senior touched her, I would unreservedly call it sexual abuse. In that case my politics and my emotions would have no quarrel at all.

So that is what I will call it. Feelings around abusive dynamics are often complex and ambiguous, but that doesn’t lessen the impact in the lives of the victims. I was abused. And I liked it, some of the time. I loved him, certainly. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have lived with it for the rest of my life and I couldn’t possibly have foreseen the extent of the reverberations. That is meant to be the job of the adults in the equation.


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