by Rebecca Ju
Let me tell you why all men are trash.
When I was fourteen, a man yelled, “Nice ass!” at my friend as we biked through our town center. She slowed a little, turned and replied, “Thank you!” I asked why. She said it was a compliment, and I felt like less of a woman because he hadn’t taken the time to vocalize his appreciation of my body.
When I was fifteen, a friend asked me to come look at something in a back alley behind a school building. There wasn’t anything there but gravel, but when I got close enough, he pushed me against the brick and kissed me. I can still remember how cold and wet his tongue was. I kissed back because I didn’t want to offend him. We went back inside, and I politely excused myself, cried in a bathroom, then walked out to see him high-fiving his JV basketball teammates. It was game day. They had bet him that he couldn’t find a girl to kiss for good luck, and he had won the bet. The next day, he thanked me. For their win.
When I was fifteen, a classmate asked me to study physics with him. He was older and told me that his room would be the quietest place to work. I believed him, went with him and sat on his bed. He put his hand on my knee, and I remembered how all the other girls had had their first hook-up already, so I let him kiss me. He took off my shirt, then my bra, then pushed my hand towards his crotch. I hesitated, so he pushed a little harder, and I stopped resisting. Then he reached his hand into my own pants, and I squirmed away. He tried again. I said, “I don’t think I want that.” He said, “You will, just trust me.”
When I was sixteen, I started dating someone. I thought he was the most wonderful boy on earth, with the most wonderful eyes and the most wonderful smile. He wanted to touch me everywhere, because he thought I was wonderful, too. I told him that I had a “no below the pants rule” with a bit of a smile so he wouldn’t think I was scared. I was terrified. Every time we kissed, his hand would creep lower and lower, and I’d have to remind him of my rule. One day, I wore a dress, and he tucked his hand underneath my skirt and slipped beneath my underwear before I could say anything. I gasped and flinched. He said, “Technically, you weren’t wearing pants.” I still remember how cold his fingers were.
A few months later, I said “I love you” to him for the first time. He spun me around and kissed me and hugged me tight. He said it back, and I filled with warmth.
One night, he slept over. It was late, and we had the house to ourselves. He wanted to “kiss me down there.” I told him I didn’t want him to, but he said, “I just want to know what it’s like.” He said, “Please let me do it, it would make me happy. Don’t you love me? Don’t you want me to be happy?” I felt like shit for saying no again. He kissed my neck, my chest, my stomach, and I pulled his hair to slow his descent. I didn’t say anything when he slid out of my grasp. He kissed me down there. I still remember how cold and wet his tongue was. I let him stay down there until he was satisfied, and when he asked me if I liked it, I nodded. Then, he asked me to go down on him as well, since “it was only fair.” I didn’t want to be unfair, so I tried, but I gagged and felt like disintegrating. I told him I couldn’t, so he turned away and closed his eyes.
A few weeks later, we celebrated our six-month anniversary. He bought me a stuffed bear and a necklace and wrote me a poem.
I’d gotten over my aversion to oral by then, so he moved on to asking me if I was ready to have sex. The answer was always “no,” because I wasn’t. Then, he’d ask me why. I couldn’t give him an answer. I snapped once and yelled at him to stop pressuring me. He said he was just asking, that I could always just say no. I apologized for raising my voice.
We were naked in his bed once, kissing and cuddling and whispering love into each other’s ears. He slipped his penis inside me, just slightly, “accidentally.” I believed him and tried to ignore the feeling that my stomach was rotting. The next time, he asked if he could try it again, just for one second, since he was so curious what it felt like. I said “no,” and he asked again, and this time, I said “yes.” It felt like I was being split in two. He stayed for longer than just one second. I thought he was finally pulling out, but then he thrust his hips in toward mine. He said he couldn’t help himself. I screamed, and he apologized and held me until the pain dulled. I was glad he was there to hold me.
The next day, he said to me, “You’re keeping track of your period, right? To make sure you’re not pregnant?” He was playing a video game and didn’t turn to look at me when he asked. I answered, loudly so he could hear me over the sound of machine-gun bullets thudding into animated zombies, “Yeah.”
A month later, my best friend had sex with her date after the winter dance, making me the last virgin in the group. I told my boyfriend I was finally ready to go all the way, and he was so happy. I loved seeing him so happy. We had sex, and I told him I loved him when he was done. He went back to his video game, so I picked up my clothing, dressed myself and went home.
A few weeks later, we celebrated our one-year anniversary. He surprised me with dinner, complete with my favorite dessert and candles. My friend told me that we were “couple goals.” I beamed.
When I was seventeen, we broke up. I cried myself to sleep for weeks. My friends set me up with someone to cheer me up. I went on a date. My ex got wind of it and texted my friends to tell them to keep me from “being a fucking slut.” They didn’t reply. I got over him enough to start seeing someone else. It was casual and easy, and he was kind and sweet and gentle. I only ever needed to say “no” once. When my ex heard how well things were going, he texted the boy to say that I was “on meds for mental issues” and that he should “stay away from that crazy bitch.” The boy thought I should know and showed me the message. I panicked. He helped me breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth and in through my nose. He wiped away my tears with his sleeve, and assured me that he didn’t believe a word of it.
I texted my ex and asked him to leave me and my friends alone. He told me that I had no control over what he did. I blocked his number. I was too mortified and terrified to see the boy again, despite how well things had been going between us.
When I was eighteen, I began dating again. There was a boy who loved me so intensely I forgot how much I hated love. We spent all our time together, but he never wanted to be exclusive. I didn’t care, as long as I could still see him. We went to the same college, and he began hooking up with other girls. I hooked up with someone else, too, and he threatened to fight him. I had to stop him from punching the nearest tree when I told him I’d slept with someone else. He told me he loved me, and that he wanted to be with me.
When I let go of his fist, he punched the tree anyway. I apologized for his bruised knuckles.
A few months later, he told me he’d fucked someone else after he’d told me he loved me but before I’d agreed to date him. I told him, “Let bygones be bygones.” I told myself his honesty was what was important.
Over Christmas break, he called me to say that he wasn’t sure about our relationship anymore. I had tickets to come see him for New Year’s, so he told me to come for the weekend anyway. He had friends over, and he said they didn’t like me, so I stayed with an acquaintance instead. I saw him for a grand total of thirty minutes that weekend, during which told me that he hadn’t really made up his mind, yet. But he kissed me at midnight. My acquaintance and I became great friends.
When we got back to school, he decided for sure that he wasn’t interested in dating me. He saw me kiss someone else at a party and pulled me outside to talk, crying. He asked me to get back with him. I said no. He drunkenly slobbered pain and anger into my lap, begging me not to hurt him anymore. I apologized, and I cried, too. I didn’t go out again for weeks.
When I did, I went to his frat. A friend of mine asked me to leave with her. When I asked why, she said it wasn’t safe for me there. My ex was drunk and angry that I had been let in and was threatening to kill the brother who had been on door duty. For a month, whenever that frat had a party, I stayed in while my friends went out. By the end of that month, I was more angry than scared, so the next weekend, I went with them. When he saw me, he yelled at me to leave and told me that I was ruining his life, that it was my fault he couldn’t think of anything but me. I left him there, blackout and sobbing in the stairwell, trying my hardest not to feel guilty. I got a message the next morning telling me that I was no longer welcome in that frat.
In one of my seminars freshman spring, I met a graduate student. He drove me to coffee shops after class and cooked for me in his apartment. I slept with him on the first date because he was the first person I’d ever wanted to sleep with on the first date. He brought me a heart-shaped cookie on Valentine’s Day and stayed the night in my room. He logged onto Facebook on my computer. The next morning, I opened my laptop to see a chat window with a friend of his. He’d described, in excruciating detail, exactly what we’d done in bed. He said, “It’s always the quiet ones who are the freakiest.” He said, “When I cooked for her, I could practically see her soaking through her underwear.” His friend asked to be kept updated. He said, “For sure.”
When I was eighteen, I was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. In the psych ward, another patient told me that I was “too pretty to be depressed.” Another one asked for my number. We weren’t allowed to have phones in there. He made me a bracelet during art therapy, and I wore it out of obligation.
When I was nineteen, someone said to me as I walked by, “Hey little mama, why don’t you show me what’s under that skirt?” I kept walking. He had asked the three men ahead of me if they’d had any spare change.
When I was nineteen, my friend and I told a man to leave us alone after he coated our bodies with his gaze and said, “Lookin’ good, baby.” He told us to just take the compliment. We said that it wasn’t a compliment, so he yelled, “Go suck a dick, you fucking whores.” We kept walking. No one else on the street said a word to us, nor to him.
I am still nineteen, and most of the hurt I’ve experienced has by now turned to anger. I repeat to myself the mantra, “All men are trash.” I have met so many men who are wonderful, intelligent, kind, loving and generous, but I believed that was true of every one of those men who hurt me so greatly in the past, so I can no longer afford to trust my first impressions.
All men are trash, because a few men have ruined all good men for me. All men are trash, because it seems unreasonable that I do not give men the benefit of the doubt. All men are trash, because men in my life have made it a necessity that I believe that mantra, because I cannot possibly choose to open myself to such violation again. All men are trash, because I am only human, and I need to be angry. I need to be angry, or else they win, and I will never get rid of the fingerprints on the inside of my thighs. All men are trash, because these stories surprise no woman. I don’t feel justified putting my name on this piece, because relative to all the women who have been hurt by men, I’ve gotten off easy so far. All men are trash, because they still think that the men in these stories aren’t their teammates, aren’t their friends, aren’t them. All men are trash. I don’t just have bad taste in men, because too many men like that exist. All men are trash. Because all women who have been hurt don’t just have bad luck. All men are trash. Call me stupid, call me unassertive, call me naive. Call me attention-seeking, call me compliant, call me responsible. Don’t worry, I’ve said it to myself for years. I can take it. All men are trash. If you hate hearing that phrase, don’t take it out on me. It’s not worth your time. All men are trash. All men are trash. All men are trash. All men are trash.
I still remember how cold and wet his tongue was.
Take out the trash, and maybe I’ll stop chanting.