When I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, I sat next to an older boy in my social studies class. He was a senior, but flunked the class his sophomore year, which explained his presence in a class for tenth graders. I was shy in high school, at least when not surrounded by my fellow theatre and choir geeks, and like a shark sensing fresh blood in the water, he attacked.
For weeks he sat next to me and whispered vile and disgusting things, all sexual in nature. They were horrific and disturbing and sixteen year old Meg had no clue had to cope with something like this. I ignored him, pretended I couldn't hear a word he said, focused on my classwork.
He was good, always managed to whisper just loud enough for me to hear but not loud enough for the teacher to notice. Occasionally the other boys, because yes, I was surrounded by boys, would tell him to stop. But, then again, he was a senior, bigger and scarier than them.
One day my teacher happened to sneak up on him from the opposite side as he leaned across towards me and continued his nasty whispers. To this day I have never heard a teacher get so angry. Honestly, I think the teacher would have punched him. Instead, he had this senior removed from class. He never came back.
And so started my history with sexual harassment.
I have had bosses tell me I have nice tits. I have been crowded into a corner of a supply closet by a co-worker and groped. I have had strangers yell at me while I run. I have had people tell me to smile more. The list goes on and on and on, over and over, lather, rinse, repeat.