I can’t free the nipple.

Though the movement has always seemed compelling to me, and I despise wearing bras, there is no way that my D-cups could be unleashed on society without receiving nasty looks everywhere I went.

It already happens to me, regardless. My body accessed, by both men and women everywhere I go. Either to be sized up as competition or contemplated like someone’s next meal. Oh, to be young and fit, without anything sagging or out of place is to be devoured by the eyes of men and women alike.

I am only 19 years of age and have already started to notice that my style has started to change. Rarely do I wear tops with plunging necklines or tight pencil skirts anymore. I have found myself reflecting on the fact that over the years, I have subconsciously become more reserved in the way I dress in order to avoid those prying eyes.

Wearing leggings and a tank top, to the grocery store or the mall – eyes follow. Do those eyes mean I am beautiful? Do they mean that they wished to jump me, rape me, and might even try it if the presence of my boyfriend wasn’t there to intervene? Those eyes follow, threaten to consume me.

Newsflash: My body is not on the dollar menu.

The streets of D.C. are a dangerous place for a girl wearing simple ripped jeans and a tank top. I could not even go to my favorite restaurant without passing bus stops full of men who leered at me like they wanted to eat me alive. I am certain they would have – if my boyfriend had not been at my side.

And why is it that the presence of another man will be the only thing to stop one from assaulting me? Why is it that they respect the territory of another male, more than they respect the consent of the woman beside him?

The over-sexualization of my body has caused me to feel that I no longer have control over it. Whether fully dressed or wearing a swimsuit, there’s no helping it. There’s no feeling fully comfortable when those eyes are staring, making me wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should have worn something different.

So, no I do not free the nipple when just the sight of me in jeans and a t-shirt can cause men to stare me down in the streets or honk their horns at me. But maybe, one day soon, I will. In the wake of everything, in this societal injustice, perhaps I should finally just give them something to look at.

They will stare regardless. And in this day and age, when the world wants me to feel like I do not own my body, when the world tries to make me feel like others have a say or opinion in what I wear or what I do with what is rightfully mine, I have decided to not let the sexualization of my body decide my choices anymore.

My body is over-sexualized. It is seen as an object, and even when wearing a dumpy loose shirt, men will still find a way to make me feel inappropriate, inadequate.

But, I have to remind myself that my anatomy is not something to be ashamed of. I am proud of my curves and the youth I am currently blessed with. And no amount of leering, judging, dissecting eyes can change that.

It’s time to pull out the crop tops and shorts and feel endlessly comfortable in them once more.

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