Growing up Muslim and insecure, I never felt sexy. I always strived to please my modest parents
Poor Brown Girl with Long Legs: A Fragmented Autobiography
“You should insure your legs,” my literal partner in crime said to me as we debriefed our wild night in Los Angeles over curly fries. Aimee, my best friend, and I began our night in an upscale bar. I had a mini skirt on that showed off my 5’9” physique. My legs and confidence were endless with the help of some heels and champagne.
A year ago, I would never have imagined that my appearance could manifest spontaneous adventures, but now as I crossed my legs, batted my eyelashes, and gave a quirk smirk, men swarmed around us. Free drinks were glorious to poor brown 21 year old girls. We were willing to play the “flirting game” for these drinks. We knew these drinks were not really free. It came with the cost of exploiting our bodies and sometimes even more.
A few vodka shots later, I was in the secret bar making out with a tall man wearing a blazer. I could not remember his name of and every few minutes, I would glance at Aimee to make sure she was okay. We were good at reading each other’s body language. Sometimes, I enjoyed the physical pleasure from the men, but I mostly enjoyed the power I felt from being labeled the tease.
This became a ritual- Aimee and I would go out and draw attention from men, usually using my legs. Legs, that were hairless and soft. Legs, that were smooth and slim. Legs, that had the to ability to dance for hours. It became almost too easy to manipulate men with my legs. I craved the power and worked my magical legs to get things out of these men- not only for me, but for my friends too.
Growing up Muslim and insecure, I never felt sexy. I always strived to please my modest parents and wore pants that covered my legs. When I had the opportunity to live in California for three months, I molded into a new vibrant individual. Wearing shorts for the first time truly shifted my personality and mindset. Navigating my sexual side became fun, playful, and experimental. I was independent and had to survive. I learned quickly that my body was a survival tool. I also began loving my body and unlearned the “bad/good girl” myth. As I grinded with men on the dance floor, I felt no shame. I was putting my feminism to practice as I helped my sisters. We were the “bad bitch” squad and eyes were always on us.
At times, these eyes transformed into touches- unwanted touches. Many times when women flirt with men, men think it is a pass allowing them to touch women anywhere and anytime. If there is no genuine consent, it is sexual harassment. Aimee and I knew our actions could lead us to danger. We were always hyper alert because the terrain of party culture is misogynistic.
In the club, women are sights to gaze at, to sexualize, and to belittle. Men feel entitled to women’s bodies and women are silenced into accepting the sexual violence. When I was touched inappropriately for the first time, I was shocked. I screamed at him and told him to not put his hands down my pants. He finally agreed to just keep it PG, but then he attempted again to finger me. This time, I had no energy to stop him and let it happen. Eventually, I would let more guys touch me in the most private spots. The emotional energy it took to say “No” was overwhelming. I convinced myself flirting came at this cost.
Little did I know, this was numbing me out. As powerful as I felt with my leg abilities, I was still submissive to men. I was literally their “bitch.” When I finally confessed to Aimee that I was sexually harassed multiple times, she cried and told me she loved me.
“We need to stop being so reckless,” Aimee said. For the sake of our mental health and the protection of our sacred bodies, we need to abandon the nonchalant attitude.
It was fun to embody new personas, but I wanted to be an empowered Nancy. This does not mean returning to an usexual version of me. I find solace on the dance floor and still enjoy flirting, but I value my voice and femme power even more. Aimee and I will always have each other’s backs.
Sexual harassment may be out of my control, but I amcurrently in therapy. I am opening up about my experiences on how my body has been treated as disposable. My legs and my actions cannot be blamed for the sexual violence I faced. With summer approaching, I plan on stunting and wearing tiny shorts. I plan on more epic and hectic nights with Aimee. I promise to respect myself (whatever that may look like) and simultaneously continue exploring the power of my legs.