My body is the beautiful, celibate temple that it was destined to be. Aromantic moments happen, but my truest gratification comes in many forms.
This essay contains discussions of sexual violence and mentions molestation
By Janyce Denise Glasper
“You’re going to make someone very happy one day,” a friend said often, so often that this empty sentiment that says we are only on this earth to be in fairy tale-ending relationships started bleeding into my subconscious.
I now know that this anonymous someone I’m supposed to make very happy is, and always should be me.
My path to happiness, otherwise known as my journey through understanding my asexuality or, as my close friends have nicknamed it—my sexual hermit life—began in the sixth grade. I had an epiphany during the school nurse’s request for permission to teach me sex education. Our parents were supposed to sign a form, giving the okay to let their children learn about sex. Then and there, I instructed my mom to select “no,” having no interest in the act.
Something within said, “Oh no, sex is not for this body of mine.” Yes, I had minor fleeting crushes (mostly on unattainable celebrities), and I was comfortable in the somewhat romantic desire to become a famous artist and writer, hoping to share my art the way one shares their body with a lover. But there was never a desire for sex. During that time, my 12-year-old body changed tremendously: long-lined stretchmarks began covering some 60 percent of my hyperpigmented brown skin, telling stories in these rhythmic yellow-white strips, skipping over my face, neck, shoulders, hands, forearms, stomach, and feet. They seemed ugly to me, uncomfortable secrets beneath the layers of baggy clothes, secrets that were mine alone.
Men on the streets brusquely assaulted my body, screaming indecent insinuations from their cars, following my daily walks, interrupting my reading at the library. If I rejected them, they turned malicious and vengeful, their “pet names” becoming foul insults. No place seemed safe. Furthermore, women were trying to nudge me in their direction, mistaking my adamant refusals of heteronormative relationships as a form of misandry and a preference for women.
One February morning, after missing the school bus at 15-years-old, I walked the endless miles to my high school in the cold, terrible snow. I foolishly accepted a ride from a man. He took off in another direction, leading to an abandoned house. There, he forced me to strip and molested my body—clothed in only a black leotard—touching and rubbing against every single place, his hands, his body, his dry lips. I will never forget the humiliation, the first of many stains on my memory. After he dropped me off at school, I told my brother and my mom came immediately. Then the white cops arrived, further damaging my broken psyche.
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“She’s probably too scared to tell her mother, she’s having sex,” one said to the nodding other, right in front of my devastated family, right in front of a traumatized girl. These two laughing white cops did not offer the slightest empathy. In their minds, Black girls were not capable of purity, cannot possibly be virgins. To them, I was promiscuous.
Unfortunately, my mom believed those white cops, compounding my shame. The next day, when I spread my thighs open for the white male gynecologist and white woman nurse, I prayed that it would be my last time ever exposing that part of myself to anyone’s critical eyes. It was a metaphorical mecca, a promised land that was mine. Always mine. Now complete strangers were seeing it, invading, poking and prodding, checking for innocence credentials. For a great while, I could not bear the touch of other people without jumping and shivering uncontrollably.
I met my first and only boyfriend at 21. He was financially proficient, eight years older, and a marijuana addict. I liked spending time with him (only as a friend) and felt immense gratitude for his surprise gifts. However, “thank you” wasn’t enough. Whereas the school nurse distributed that yes or no form, this boyfriend often said, “If you love me, you would do this.” I felt conditioned to stay, unable to leave as his anger increased, as my “nos” became incessant. His abuse was eerily similar to my mom and peers at school—critiquing my headscarves and short hair (all of his girlfriends had long, unhidden hair), my enjoyment of Junk Food t-shirts (too old to wear cartoon character shirts), my weight (must remain under 120 pounds or otherwise be called a “pig” of “big fatty”). In that six-year period of frequent out-of-body experiences, hearing the words, “you’ll grow to like this,” it took a long time to realize that this was not healthy, let alone a definition of love. This was dangerous, mind-numbing toxicity.
I have been free from hell for four years now. The clarity has been tremendously rewarding. My body is the beautiful, celibate temple that it was destined to be. Aromantic moments happen, but my truest gratification comes in many forms: painting and drawing, reading books, writing stories, fair-trade chocolate, and sometimes the pleasing company of another person.
Fashion is my other weapon. I grant myself permission to love my body inside and outside, walking with my head held high, donning headwraps and form-fitting thrift store clothes. I love the ancestral inheritance of distinctive exterior features: broad nose, full lips, and coarse 4c hair. I love this 139 lb. body. I love identifying as an asexual being. Whenever someone says, “you’re dressing up for love,” I confidently reply with, “yes, I am dressing up for me.”
Janyce Denise Glasper is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and independent scholar from Dayton, Ohio. She obtained a drawing emphasis BFA from Art Academy of Cincinnati and post-baccalaureate certificate and MFA from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She runs AfroVeganChick and femfilmrogues with plans to launch Black Women Make Art (BWMA), an art history database about Black women visual artists past and present on 1/01/20.
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