This Body Is My Temple,
This Flesh Is Not Your Toy
I’m taught to be careful, that men are to be feared
I’m told that I am vulnerable, it’s whispered in my ears
and it steers
every step that I take when I’m out in the world
exposed for the taking, like some vow that I’m breaking
when I watch you watch me
slither your eyes down my spine
reaching my hips, your eyes grow wide
I’m told it’s my own fault you want to get inside-
my shirt is too low,
my shorts are too high,
my skin is too soft,
I know better, I should hide
my legs, my shoulders,
my stomach, my neck
you think it’s all so perfect
you forget I am human, you forget I can feel
every disgusting thing you say to me,
and it makes my “weakness” seem more real.
My flaw is I’m a woman,
my biggest sin
is the body I’m in
because men will look, drool,
want and take
not realizing they’re making an unforgettable mistake
because the girl you’ve put your hands on will feel your touch forever
be seared by your burning fingers, yet you think you’re so clever
and the big business men, they try to take hold
making laws for my body until my blood runs cold
old men in suits decide what I’m allowed to do,
but this only flesh I have is for me, not for you.
I’m fed up with being terrified to walk out of my door
risk being howled at and called a bitch or a whore
(all because I had the courage to say no more)
expect to be catcalled and degraded by boys
who let their pride and their dick decide when they make noise.
I don’t deserve to feel gross just so you can boast
I don’t need your calls to feel anything at all
I am my own f*cking being and this body is mine
and you’re lucky I let you look with your eyes
but don’t dare think I’m asking for your hungry stares
when it’s hot and I’m more comfortable with some skin to bear
because to me it’s just skin, it’s just flesh and bones
I’m not a walking trophy trying to make you moan
So next time your eyes refuse to leave my body
Remember you’re creating a culture that lobbies
For women to feel ashamed and put up on display
When all you can think about is trying to get laid.
I long to feel beautiful, not because of my curves
Not because I am “hot”
But because it’s what I deserve
I am sensitive, caring,
honest, even sometimes brash
and I’m done cowering from your verbal lash
your hurtful threats spat while you
lick your lips,
you should know what comes with these breasts and these hips
I am strong, I am brave
I will take care of myself
and if you learn nothing else,
to every disgusting man
and perverted boy
this body is my temple
this flesh is not your toy.
All genders can be victims of sexual abuse, and of course not all males behave in the stereotypical manner described here. Nonetheless, I wrote this piece as an attempt to break free of the vulnerability pushed upon me, and other women, in our culture.
1 out of every 6 adult women in America has been the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, and victims of sexual assault are much more likely to suffer from depression, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other life-threatening issues.
I wrote this poem as deep personal therapy, to sit with my own experiences and recognize the strength I've gained because of them. However, I decided to publish this piece for one very important reason...
I began opening up to women I trusted, and most had similar experiences and lived with similar fears. But then, I began talking to men about what women in our culture face daily, and almost all of them were blindsided.
Even some of the most caring and genuine men were oblivious to the precautions and horrors women experience every single day. If these men didn't know, then other men don't know.
If the people in our culture aren't aware of the damage their threats, advances, and aggressions instill, how can we expect them to better respect what they don't understand?
As a young adult woman born and raised in an urban area, caution escalating to the point of fear has followed me since grade school. Being in a parking lot or garage is accompanied with eyes alert, keys ready, and pepper spray in reach. Parties are consumed by guarding drinks, keeping an eye over my shoulder, and peeling hands off of my behind. A casual stroll down the street forces me to keep my head low, speed walk, avoid crowds, and dress in bulky clothes to escape unwanted calls and advances.
I hope that through open, even exposed expression I will continue to educate myself and others on the crippling realities that have become the norm in our society. I pray that women will find safety, strength, and healing, and I hope that both genders will discover the knowledge and compassion to pass impervious respect on to our younger generations.
I'm no longer afraid to speak up, to stand up for myself and for other women in my culture.
Silence perpetuates violence, and it is about time we raised our voice.
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