Watchful Gaze

Olivia Taylor

Olivia Taylor

I always watch your eyes. I have no interest in looking anywhere else.

I wish I could say the same for you.

You think I don't notice the split second that you ogle my breasts.

You're sure I don't see out of the corner of my eye, you, looking my body up and down.

You're positive I don't notice you staring at my legs while I'm sitting next to you.

I see it all.

 

A lifetime of being over-sexualized has taught me to dress conservatively. I've learned that if I don't want to be ogled, I should wear loose-fitting tops, dark jeans and high necklines. I'm comfortable with hiding my body for the sake of keeping it just that — my body. But why the hell should I have to? Why can't these nameless men whom I see everyday, everywhere I go stop defining me by my cup size?

I've started sending Snapchats to my friends of the outfits I am wearing when strange men or even men whom I admire and see regularly make eye contact with something other than my eyes. And guess what? When it happens, I'm almost always wearing dark jeans and a t-shirt.

Olivia Taylor

Olivia Taylor

But I guess it's not the loose ones that are a size too large and make my breasts swim under fabric. Is that all my closet should be filled with? Is that what it will take to make the over-sexualizing disappear? Because for fuck's sake, I don't want to live like that.

Should I be happy that men find my body so attractive they forget there's a brain at the top of it? Because I'm not happy. I'm pissed.

I want to dress for me, and me alone. I want to wear an oversized sweater when I'm cold and a low cut tank when it's hot as hell.

I recently had a conversation with some peers about rape culture. I said I hope someday instead of teaching girls how to protect themselves, we teach boys not to attack. They called me an idealist, an optimist, and unrealistic. They shot me down by saying that there will always be bad people. Of course, I know this is true. I'm not naive. I'm perfectly aware that some children will not grow into adults who make healthy choices, and that sometimes it's inevitable. But I also believe that we should at the very least...try.

And what does that mean for me? That I should accept the fact that I'm going to feel demeaning stares everyday for the rest of my life (or at least while men still find me desirable), forever nervous that their stares will morph into something more violent? It also means that I'm going to wonder with every outfit if some pair of eyes will follow me around the room, not because of my captivating personality, but rather my apparently irresistible figure.

Olivia Taylor

Olivia Taylor

I must say, I am grateful to have some men in my life who never look away from my eyes. I am so grateful for them.

I guess there is no immediate solution, really. I will continue to spend my mornings choosing clothing that will not draw too much unwanted attention. But I just want you to know, I see your gaze.