Why Does Everyone Feel Entitled to My Body? (And Other Frequently Asked Questions)

There’s a question that’s been haunting me lately. It’s a question I’ve heard many times and one that every woman should be asking herself. Why does everyone feel entitled to my body?

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, police arrested an Idaho teen for threatening to bring a gun to his high school and attack the cheerleaders. His reason? The girls wouldn’t send him nudes.

This is not a completely isolated instance. Actually, a surprising amount of people who instigate mass shootings left behind notes or messages revealing that they felt rejected by women and were angry that they wouldn’t date them or do sexual favors for them. Such was the case during the notorious Isla Vista shootings and the recent shooting in Oregon at Umpqua Community College. Men did not get what they wanted (i.e. access to a woman’s body), so they lashed out.

So please, tell me: Why in the world does everyone feel entitled to my body?

Of course, not everyone will go to such violent extremes, though I think it’s important to note that even if they don’t, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel some sense of entitlement all the same. It starts when we’re young. Boys we don’t like try to kiss us on the playground. They try to flip up our skirts and then laugh about it when we’re flustered. They get angry when we fight back. They were just having fun. We just don’t understand their humor.

It continues into young adulthood. People start catcalling us on the street before we’re old enough to wear a proper bra. If we react, they get angry. Someone we’re not interested in asks us out. When we say no, they get angry. Someone at a bar comes up from behind and gropes us. When we push them away, they get angry. Whenever they don’t get what they want, they’re angry. Maybe that’s why so many guys just stopped asking for our permission — they knew they might not like the answer.

Other frequently asked questions: Since when has my consent become not a question, but an expectation? Since when does my “no” warrant such a hostile reaction? And since when did I start becoming afraid to say “no,” anyway?

It goes further than everyday interactions. Politicians have decided to turn our bodies into a debate. Should our birth control be paid for by health insurance or is it not a valid form of medication? Should they defund the accessible sex healthcare center that helps thousands of women make safe, healthy decisions? If we become pregnant, who decides what happens to our bodies and, consequently, our futures?

They answer these questions by turning them back on us. Since when is using birth control a need? Since when are sexual health clinics something the government should fund? And yet, when it comes down to it, why should abortion be legal when you become pregnant out of your own sexual decisions? They will cut off your access to contraceptives, but they will be the first to tell you it’s your fault when you become pregnant. Your actions, your consequences.

Is that what you call agency?

And I’m afraid. I’m afraid people are taking away my choices, either by law, by force or by intimidation. I’m afraid because somehow I am always the one to blame. No one seems to listen when I try to explain that my body is just another thing I no longer feel I have full control of; they only try to justify why I shouldn’t complain.

But really, why should I be surprised? On the playground, boys believed they had a certain right to my body. It only makes sense that they grew up to be men who believed that, too.