I Don’t Want to be Afraid

I wrote this poem about a form of sexual harassment that happens almost everyday to many women, most of the time we don’t even think about it.  I will preface the piece by noting that it is probably one of the most mild forms of harassment, but I still wanted to shed light on the event in order to point out how little occurrences can still have a profound impact on their victims. It is not right or fair for me or anyone to accept these events as a normalized part of our culture, but often we do.  I decided to write and post this piece to describe my experience and explain how unbelievably frustrating it feels for me to accept this behavior on almost a daily basis. 

I don’t want to be afraid
September 2013

I don’t want to be afraid anymore

A man looks me up and down as I walk by
Dominates me with his eyes
He wont take them off of my body
He knows that I can see him staring

Stern fire, angered passion
All together, his stare tightens
Looks at my chest, my thighs
My fear begins to rise

He, in this moment, has the power
The power to terrify me
For a millisecond my mind wanders
To what he is capable of doing
He just told me with his eyes
That he, at the very least,
Is capable of dominating me
Without moving a limb on his body

Staring at me
As if he has the right
To use my body as he pleases
My flesh
My figure
His eyes are fixed

His eyes alone show me
That he has the power
To make me feel uncomfortable
To make me feel threatened
To make me feel objectified
For his pleasure
So that he can be pleased
Staring at me

My mind wanders
To what he is capable of doing
Wondering if he will follow me
Touch me
Grab me
Attack me
Who gave him the right?
My heart rate continues to rise

I say nothing, do nothing
I can’t look back as I pass by
But I can still feel his uncomfortable stare
In this moment he won
Heart pounding
Chest tightening
Fear engulfing
So many emotions
In a matter of seconds

And just as fast
I brush it off
Knowing that it will happen again

Anger comes later
I bet he never thought about what his gaze does
Lingering far too long
What power he has
What dominating culture he represents
It is unbelievably frustrating how often this happens

I am afraid
Even if it was only a moment
I was afraid
Felt like I got away
This time
It was just a gaze

I don’t want to be afraid anymore

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3 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to be Afraid

  1. Magdalena says:

    Hear hear! Or is it here here? Thanks for this, Jenna. A reality many of us live every day that we really do need to bring to light and address. I have to check myself in terms of what I’ve come to accept as normal.


  2. Kati Rae Cowardin says:

    You put into words very well a very particular and meaningful moment that women experience all the time. This poem brought up a lot of emotions and really resonated with me. Thank you.


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