GRAPHIC DESIGN Samantha Cass
TW: Sexual Assault and Mature Language
I’m sure by now you’ve probably read stories about the predatory nature of older men preying on younger, particularly teenage girls. With the #MeToo movement, numerous survivors of sexual abuse have gotten the courage to come out with their experiences and call out their abusers. Recently, male celebrities like Chris D’Elia and Ansel Elgort have been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by younger women, and in the case of Elgort, a minor. As older male celebrities, they had the power to take advantage of these women because their victims had idolized them. As much as I hate to say it, sexual assault is not an unusual occurrence. In Canada, those aged from 15 to 24 are 18 times more likely to experience sexual assault than those 55 years or older. 82% of all victims are girls under the age of 18, and girls who are minors are five times more likely to report sexual assault than boys under the age of 18 (Canadian Women’s Foundation). In this first edition of StyleCircle’s new series “Into the Subconscious,” I want to talk about my personal relationships with older men when I was a teenage girl and the traumas I didn’t know I had.
As much as I hate to say it, sexual assault is not an unusual occurrence…
When I was younger, I fell prey to the fantasy of an older man sweeping me off my feet and being in a mature relationship, and so did my friends. At 14, my best friend dated a 20-year-old who worked for her mother. At 16, another friend was dating a 30-year-old. I never approved of their relationships because I thought it was super weird that an adult would want to date a minor. However, in the Philippines, the age of consent is 12-years-old, resulting in thousands of sexual abuse cases and trafficking. I am not accusing their ex-partners of abuse, but the fact of the matter is, these men were much older than my friends, and they should have known better. At the ages of 18 and 19, I dated older men. I’m now 22 and reflecting on these experiences, I feel nothing but sadness for my naiveté and disgust for the older men who thought it was okay to fuck a teenage girl.
I was born in one of Manila’s many slums. My father died before I was born, and then my mother when I was six. I was adopted by a single woman when I was seven, so I didn’t grow up with any predominant father-figures. I didn’t think much of it then because I was raised by strong women all my life, however, I always had a fascination with older men; perhaps it was to fill that fatherless gap I had, but it went deeper than that.
At 18, I got Tinder and was excited because I was finally legal and could go out to clubs and bars without a fake ID, and I also thought it was okay for me to finally sleep with older guys who didn’t go to my high school. The first guy I slept with from Tinder was a 22-year-old British man. At the time, I didn’t think the four year difference was a big deal, but I’m 22 now, and I cannot even imagine being with a 20-year-old, let alone an 18-year-old fresh out of high school. Ryland* was one of those “free-spirited” guys with long brown hair, he wore silk Hawaiin shirts, liked to travel, and would skateboard through luxury malls in his spare time. We weren’t exclusive, but we had an agreement that we were okay with having sex with other people (as long as neither of us knew about it). We had a friendship connection outside of the sex, and I was even the last person he saw before moving back to England at the end of the summer. After my first semester of university in Toronto, Ryland messaged me, saying that he tried living in Peru for a month, but he was now returning to Manila at the same time I was. I jokingly told him that he was only returning to the Philippines because Peruvian girls weren’t into his “skinny white ass.” He denied it, but we both knew it was true.
Don’t get me wrong, I think models are great to look at, but once being attractive is your entire identity, there’s nothing left but crust.
There is a stereotype that Asian women are both submissive and hypersexual, and as a straight white man, he knew that. He knew that Filipinos idolize white people, but that topic is for another time. Asian women have been exoticized by white men for hundreds of years. This racist and sexist fetishization reduces Asian women to this harmful stereotype, which can lead to violence. In a 2015 study by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, up to 55% of Asian women in the U.S. have reported sexual abuse in their lifetime. In a national survey in 2017, 18% of Asian or Pacific Islander women reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking. When I was young, I thought being called “exotic” was such a great thing–the first image of something exotic that pops into the mind is of a beautiful place or a rare bird. However, I am neither a place nor a bird. I am a human woman who happens to be from a country colonized by white men.
I knew he was older than me, so when he told me he was 34, I was shocked but thought I had achieved something by being with an older man who actually had a real career and an apartment right in front of the CN Tower. He was nice, but all older men are nice when they want to fuck a teenager.
That same summer, I dated a 28-year-old Filipino-American model. He told me I was mature for my age and loved that I “had a past,” yet at the same time said he did not like being with my friends because they were “too young” for him. Honey, you were the 28-year-old dating a girl ten years younger than you, who just graduated high school, what did you expect? What other friends would I have? After him, there was another Fil-Am model who was 26. Neither of these “relationships” lasted long because of their egos. Don’t get me wrong, I think models are great to look at, but once being attractive is your entire identity, there’s nothing left but crust. Matt* and Spencer* were two of the most egotistical and immature people I’ve ever met, and they believed that they could get any girl they desired because they were models. Being a model is not a rare career to have and definitely shouldn’t be idolized. I confess that I was attracted to them for a brief moment because they were handsome men who desired me, but they were not into me because I was the prettiest girl they’d ever met, they were infatuated with me because I was 18 and an easy target: a hypersexual recently-legal-girl who loved to party and get drunk.
At 19, I went to a fashion event by myself and met Nash*. He invited me to get drinks afterward, and I said yes because I was new to Toronto and wanted to explore new places. Unsurprisingly, I got drunk, and he took me to his apartment. I knew he was older than me, so when he told me he was 34, I was shocked but thought I had achieved something by being with an older man who had a real career and an apartment right in front of the CN Tower. He was nice, but all older men are nice when they want to fuck a teenager. Nash not only took advantage of my age, but he purposefully bought me drinks, knowing that I would get drunk and would be more susceptible to sleeping with him. Was it my decision to say yes to getting drinks with him knowing that he was obviously attracted to me? Yes. I was 19 and wanted to explore my sexuality; there’s nothing wrong with that. But it was not my fault that he got me inebriated. It was not my fault that he fucked a 19-year-old girl who wasn’t sober enough to say no.
The similarity between Ryland, Matt, Spencer, and Nash was that they were all significantly older than me. We all lived in different life stages of each other: I had just graduated high school and they already had established careers and were preying on girls who had just recently graduated high school. A big power imbalance was between us, not only due to their older age, but because they were white or white-passing and I was a young woman who is a visible minority. They knew what they were doing when they were going after me. But why was I so complacent? Where did this need for sexual gratification from older men stem from?
While talking to my therapist, I dug deeper into where my hypersexuality came from. It’s not just because I was missing a father-figure, it was because when I was five-years old, I was sexually assaulted by my older cousin multiple times. I do not remember who he was, but I know he was a relative, which is why I always hated when my mum asked me to visit my birth family. I never went to family gatherings because any of the men in my birth family could’ve been my rapist, but I wouldn’t know who it was. This is one of my earliest memories and the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me so angry that I had no control in the situation because he was older and stronger than me. I couldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know what was going on until I was much older, after repressing that trauma. About 93% of cases of child sexual abuse were perpetrated by someone the survivor knew, and rarely a stranger (YWCA). Children are at a heightened risk of sexual violence because they do not understand that what is happening to them shouldn’t be happening at all.
I was hypersexual from a young age because I wanted to take control of my body. I lost my virginity at 16 to “get it over with”, despite my classmates not having sex at the time, because I wanted to be the one in control. There was no pressure from my peers or a partner; it was my decision. I liked older men because they appeared mature and wouldn’t gossip about having sex with me because they were experienced. After all, they all have had sex with numerous other women and having sex with me wasn’t majorly significant, I was just another number. I didn’t think it was a big deal to me at the time, but whether I was five or 19, older men have been the root cause of my sexual trauma.
Not all of my sexual experiences have been bad or abusive; in fact, for the last three years I have been in a healthy and loving relationship with someone I trust. I have learned the difference between attraction and fetishization and how to spot them in people (do they like me because they find me attractive or do they like me because I’m a young Asian woman?). I have learned to be more wary of people’s intentions and be more vocal about certain topics I care about. My experiences of sexual assault are shared experiences amongst millions of women in the world. Even though it happens frequently, sexual assault is still a taboo subject, and it shouldn’t be. We need to be talking about these issues and figure out ways to solve them, and to do that we need to be teaching kids from a young age what sexual assault is so they don’t have to repress that trauma if it ever happens to them, the way I did. We not only need to believe and protect survivors of abuse, but make those abusers accountable for their actions. We must learn that our body is ours alone and no one should be able to take it away from us.
My need for control comes from not having it, I had lost my voice and was being overpowered by older men. My intersectionalities, as a young fatherless Filipino woman, resulted in me seeking attention from men, as well as my social location in a country where women are taught to be submissive to men, yet highly sexualized–a country where the president can order soldiers to shoot female socialists in the vagina and have no repercussions. A country that was once a matriarchy, but the second the colonizers set foot on our soil, decided that the patriarchy was a better form of government. My need for control doesn’t only come from my own experiences but from the experiences of my ancestors who were abused for their gender for hundreds of years. This trauma is deeper than me. My need for control stems from the roots ripped out of my land, but I am finally planting my feet and growing steadily towards betterment.
*Name has been changed