On April Jailbait

In response to a previous article of mine, a student suggested that I should change my name “given that the current one refers to statutory rape.”

I am not unsympathetic to this line of thinking; I had my own misgivings in choosing the pseudonym but decided to keep it nonetheless, in part because April Jailbait fits so well with Leslie Grope.

Monica and Rachel just didn’t rhyme with enough things.

The other reason is more nuanced and perhaps quite selfish.

It’s also very specific to me.

In middle school, I found my 60-year-old algebra teacher leering at me during a school dance, even following me into the hallway as I left to hide in the bathroom.

Not long after this dance I was made to feel uncomfortable again: I was talking to a classmate when the same teacher skulked over to stand directly behind me, threateningly close.

I couldn’t turn around (both for physical space and social conditioning), but I saw how terrified my friend had become in her dimmed eyes and bitten lips. I was ushered out of class before I could speak to her and spent the whole of my geometry class trying to shake the nauseating numbness that was settling throughout my whole body.

I was short, and my breasts were new, so the physics of it were simple. Standing behind me, this 60-year-old man had a clear shot of my developing chest. That sickening Pythagorean displacement of power is most of what I remember from seventh grade geometry.

His shadow has been difficult to shake. Seeing him unexpectedly in my high school years could lead me to break down into tears; sometimes, basic math problems left me with intense anxiety. Even when I was physically assaulted years later by an older friend, it upset me less than the silent stare of the creepy teacher.

It was during this feeling of powerlessness that someone defined jailbait to me.

Dictionaries vary, but the basic idea is that jailbait describes “a sexually attractive woman under the age of consent.” This might sound dumb (it might be dumb), but hearing the term marked the first time I felt like I was neither a tragic victim nor a sinful perpetrator.

You see, some people saw me as a damsel in distress, held from the Empire State Building by the King Kong of the Patriarchy, which left me feeling doomed to be a victim forever. Others just invalidated the seriousness of the experience. One girl in particular said, “He was just complimenting your boobies! Yayyy!”

Not the right response, sister.

Jailbait, to me, offered a nice middle ground between the two: It acknowledged the inappropriateness of his actions without locking me into a constant state of victimhood.

To me, the term has been an empowering one in which I’ve found footing. It carries a history of oppression, objectification, even rape and unwanted attention, but so do I, and so does sex for that matter.

That’s why I chose it to be my pseudonym. And, even if it’s a controversial one, it’s mine to keep, and I’m sticking with it.

— April Jailbait.

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