I am completely and utterly raw right now.

I have read more than 30 stories of #YesAllWomen and my heart hurts so much. So many women… so many women hurting because something happened to them. This has to stop. THIS HAS TO STOP!! I’m scared. I have four boys. I have four boys that will grow into men and one day they might cat call a young woman because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do, or because she actually is pretty, and it will strike fear in her heart. They might tell an inappropriate joke because everyone else is. They might push themselves and their needs onto another human being.

How do I teach them? What do I say? What conversations do we even have so that women won’t fear them? I don’t know. This type of thing doesn’t just go away. It doesn’t get healed in a year. In ten years, no, not even in 50. That’s too long.

As I read the stories that are shared about how woman have been treated as an object, a prize, a possession I am mortified and a veil is lifting. I’ve realized the falsehoods I’ve been taught. I was a Senior in High School working at our local Denny’s. There was an older man (I’d say in his late 20’s) also working there. We flirted. A lot. And then one day he pressed himself against me and said “Is that what you want?” as he grabbed my hips and moved his hands upward. I was mortified. Did I provoke him? Was it my fault? I didn’t tell anyone until a friend of mine asked me what was wrong. I told her the situation and she told me I had been assaulted. I laughed at her. I laughed and then I started crying. No. Not me. This isn’t rape. I don’t want to be one of those women. I’m not one of those women. We were just flirting. It was my fault. I led him on. My friend made me call my boss. My boss was a woman and I was a slut. And, really, he didn’t do anything so what can she do? I probably was asking for it. She saw the way I flirted with him.

I still don’t know how I feel about it.

In 8th grade I got my sisters leftover boyfriend. She got in trouble with him for sneaking out of the house. I wanted a boyfriend so much that I consented. I went to his house one day after school. I had never even kissed anyone before him. We were sitting on his bed making out. It was weird and cool. Then he stepped out of the room and his friend came in. He sat down on the bed next to me and said “He wants to have sex with you.” I blinked my eyes a couple of times digesting those words. “Sex? Gross. No way.” I said to his friend. “Well, he wants to and you should. When he leans in to kiss you that means he wants to have sex and you should give it to him.” I honestly thought about it. Thank God someone was watching over me. I think my sister showed up, or I left. I was shaking.

I bought into the belief that I owe men something. That I owe them me, my body. My marriage has been fighting that belief for years. My husband has struggled, from a young age, with a compulsion to porn. About 2-3 years ago it all came to a very ugly head. I wrote about my initial response to discovering it here. What I didn’t write was the change it had on me. I realized that I was a part of the problem. It was my ‘job’ to make sure he didn’t mess up. My body was his, until I realized it wasn’t. It was mine. I apologize for not being exceptionally clear here. It’s hard to articulate the connections I made in my healing. In my voice, but it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.

I was talking about the #YesAllWomen to my sister the other day and my 14 year old daughter was in the room. She was playing on her Kindle but as I got more heated and upset about how many women this has affected she slowly began to listen. I looked her square in the eyes and said “Your body belongs to you. If you are with a guy and start kissing and you say yes and then reach a point where it’s no. It means No. Your shoulders are your property. You don’t dress for them, or change your clothes because they think you aren’t modest. Your virtue is your own. You take care of it. You are not in charge of their virtue. They are. You are not in charge of their thoughts. They are. You don’t ever let them push you around.” As those words were coming out of my mouth I saw each of my boys in my mind. Who they are now. Young, carefree, kind and I worried for them. I have to teach them. We have to stop the indoctrination of our young.

I want my boys to be kind, loving, caring men. Allies.