When I was in sixth grade, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a naked man lying curled up in a ball on my bedroom floor. Sleepily, I went upstairs to my parents’ room and told them there was a man in my room. Naturally, they thought I was dreaming, but it turned out to be true. Apparently, a young man living nearby in the our apartment complex had snuck in through a sliding glass door that was left open.
My parents called the police. By the time they got there, the man had vanished. All I remember from the rest of the scene is the police officer suggesting that I make sure my curtains were always closed when I undressed and warning me and my parents quite bluntly that if this happened again, there may be a prostitution charge. The message was clear: conceal yourself or else. Never mind that I was a child asleep in my own bed, and this man broke into my home. Thank goodness, he seemingly meant no harm, but the experience was unnerving just the same, and the insidious lesson that came from it was: my beauty is dangerous. Unwittingly attracting men could bring personal violation, physical harm and unfathomable shame. To even consider that at 12 years old, I was intending some kind of prostitution was unthinkable and repulsive. Yet that’s what was being suggested because in my innocence, I sometimes forgot to draw the curtains and conceal my body from prying eyes.
No doubt most or even all other women have had similar experiences, many more traumatic than this, where they have found themselves feeling victimized by their beauty. Rape, sexual abuse and misconduct, objectification, harrassment; I’m sure most women can relate to some form of this realization that it’s not safe to show their full beauty for fear of being violated somehow. So we hide, withdraw, shrink, brush off compliments, deny and downplay our beauty, never stepping fully into the power of it, owning it. When someone else, i.e. a lover ‘makes’ us feel beautiful, we give them our power, make our sense of self worth dependent on their positive regard. Yet owning our beauty is owning our power.
When we believe in our own beauty, we radiate it freely, and we are in charge. We get to say who gets the pleasure of our company and for how long. When we own our beauty, we are no longer the victims. We have what they want; we ARE what they want, and we are fully in control.