Chevonea, as she probably was most days of her life: a normal teenage girl.
When I was 13, I did anything to make a boy like me. It was the beginning days of the Internet: chat rooms and MySpace were just beginning. “Sexting” was limited to social media posts and webcams. Looking back, it should have been a warning: something very uncontrollable was about to happen. We were on the edge of “striptease culture,” and there would be no going back.
Historically, the teenage years have always been about sex. For most of human history, girls have wed during their teens, quickly being introduced not only to sex, but also to its consequences: motherhood and objectification. It was simply a fact of life, in a world where most people were lucky to reach the age of 40.
Now, what used to be a private affair has become the most public one there is. And its effects are devastating. I know because I lived it. And I wish I had been there to tell Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, the 13-year-old who fell to her death because a boy texted a photo of her performing a sex act to his friends, that one act does not define you. That being loved is not about sex; it’s about everything but sex. And that it’s okay to make a mistake.
When I was 13, I did anything to make a boy like me. I sent nude pictures. I got on a webcam with my clothes off. I wore revealing outfits. I lost my virginity at the age of 13. I did it to be loved. Instead, they just kept coming back for more sex. It gave them power over what I did and how I felt. But it didn’t make them love me.
Chevonea, objectified. Is this how she saw herself?
Thirteen years have passed since then. Now, I’m with a man who loves me. He loves me with my clothes on as much as off, perhaps even more so. If we go for days or weeks without sex, he doesn’t use it against me. If I send him a nude picture, it’s a nice surprise.
But at the end of the day, the thing he’d love to do the most is just cuddle, fully clothed, on the couch, talking about anything and everything, watching TV and laughing. In 50 years, when my body begins to fail and sex may be a thing of the past, I know he’ll still be there, cuddled up with me on the couch, laughing. He’d rather be here with me, in good times and bad, than with any other girl on the planet.
I wish Chevonea had known that kind of love. It’s the only kind really worth taking your clothes off for.
Girl Museum Inc.