Testimony 136

I went to KEGS for sixth form a long time ago, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable to look back on. The boys had no idea how to interact with girls properly, and we were seen not as equals but as definitely sexualised ‘other’. Being new to the school I didn’t know anyone, and so to avoid being alienated I was forced to laugh along at the misogynist ‘jokes’ in order to make friends. It’s been ten years, but the below have particularly stuck in my memory:

– being told a boy in the year above I’d never spoken to had made comments about my legs

– first day of school being told by a female senior member of staff that girls shouldn’t use their ‘womanly wiles’ on teachers to get out of homework

– a boy in my physics class would constantly make sexual remarks to me and do things like bouncing balls up my skirt, only to be told off by the teacher for being ‘disruptive’ because he was clearly too uncomfortable to address the situation properly

– being told by a boy in my class that my new glasses made me look like a porn star

– I couldn’t even single out the comments made about girls’ bodies and sexual histories because it was literally universal

– a boy who constantly wore away at my self-worth over a long period of time to try to get me to sleep with him

– the speech at the charity ball made multiple girls cry because of the nastiness of its attacks on girls in the name of comedy in front of the entire 6th form

– the boy who thought it was funny to drop a bag of books on my head from the top of the staircase

From day 1 I was fully aware that my value rested in me being a sexual object, not in any of the qualities I’d valued in myself before I started. I lost confidence academically and stopped speaking up in class for fear of the comments that would follow. It took literal years and a lot of conscious work for me to regain that confidence in myself, and only now by calling it what it was – a relentless culture of sexual harassment and misogyny – am I able to fully come to terms with it.

Full solidarity with anyone who has experienced this, and additionally to those who experienced the racism, classism, and homophobia that were also endemic. From the pupils – myself included – to the staff, everybody was complicit, but the school failed its most vulnerable pupils at an institutional level all in the name of some outdated notion of prestige. It breaks my heart that this is still an issue a full decade later and that so many testimonials have been added to the site.

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