The most clicked on thing ever on my website is something I wrote about a book titled Sex Me that was marketed as being written by a woman who was in a crazy, toxic romantic relationship with R. Kelly. That anonymous story is mad traumatic and speedy and was only available as a PDF. I read it around the time that R. Kelly docuseries Surviving R. Kelly came out.
So yea soon I wrote about that book in connection with the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov in a piece called Nabokovian Desire in Sex Me: Confessions of Daddy’s Little Freak. Lolita is a novel about a horrifying stepdad kidnapping his mishappened stepdaughter to pursue a sexually exploitive relationship with her. Both books reveal something about the seemingly endless nature of abuse–the abuser can’t seem to just stop being abusive and the abused can’t seem to get away.
I was brought back to that topic recently when I reread The Lolita Effect by M. Gigi Durham, which is a book about the mythologizing behind girls’ socio-sexual identities. She explains how adults project sexiness onto young girls specifically, both in media and in real life. The media serves as a normalizer, making everyone think it’s all no big deal even though real live girls are being raped and trafficked and killed on any given day. Reading about it made me feel like it was pure luck that I made it out of certain situations alive over the years. I was definitely potential prey. I had a man show me his dickprint at a bus stop, grown men trying to get me in their cars, a guy scaring me and my sister to death by touching our hair when he was left in a room with us, dudes yelling out crazy shit at me in the street. All well before I turned 18.
While I was still in the middle of reading Durham’s book last week, I had a guy ask me how old I was while I was out riding bikes with my son. I said that I was old enough, and he was like nah I really wanna know. So I told him and he said ohh no way–then why do you look like you’re 16? I was like I don’t know lol. That was meant to be a compliment obviously, but, at the same time, if you thought I was 16 why are you talking to me? Before I pulled off from the store, after that guy knew I was a grown woman, he kinda grabbed my bike seat while I was standing up off it, and I had to be like bro do not grab my bike. All I could think as we rode away was that I didn’t used to know what to say when I was really just a girl on a bike.
-Rachel Wagner 2020