Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some Day My Non-Raping Ken Will Come

I just typed an appraisal and the street name on the property was Firethorne. Firethorne. It just sounds like a place I would live. Like a place where only foliage with prickly things would grow. The foliage grows wild and thick and blocks out the sun completely. An insulated world where nothing beautiful could ever exist. But it's not a fairy tale because I'm too grown to imagine such things so don't worry.

My daughter is not too grown for such things and her fairy tales are of a different caliber. She wears her gaudy costumes with beaming pride, her plastic, "high-heeled" shoes, a shiny tiara on her head. She teeters over to me with a makeshift wand in her hand, shakes it and says, "Abracadabra. Make mommy a pretty princess." And I do that thing where you put your hand down and then bring it back up like I'm suddenly changed even though I'm not nor ever will be a princess or pretty in any way.

I wasn't much for the princesses when I was a little girl. I also don't think that the princess concept was shoved down our throats the way it seems to be with girls these days. I'm talking about advertisers and toymakers and the media. Princess, princess, princess. Lord, I was just a fucking little girl with hair that was always a mess and a dirty face and hands from digging in the dirt. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that there's anything wrong with princess dress up play. It's just not something I entirely understand. I just didn't consider myself to be pretty enough to even imagine in that way.

Mostly, I played outside. But I also really enjoyed playing with dolls. The Strawberry Shortcake dolls were my absolute favorite. I had the garden house with these cute red hammocks that never stayed up. I made little families based on the scents (citrus, berries, etc), which was hard because there was only one boy. There were a lot of fatherless children and widows in my collection. It was all very normal play, though. When I started to play with Barbies, well...it got really weird.

I was really confused about a lot of things I think, which should come as no surprise to anyone. What weird things did I do with Barbies? For one, I had a Ken Doll that had crazy long black hair and instead of using him for his original purpose, which was like Midge's boyfriend or something, he was the designated rapist. I'm not even fucking kidding. He'd go around terrorizing all my Barbies, raping them and beating them up. What the fuck was wrong with me? Sometimes I made the dolls have normal sex with each other or whatever I thought that was. Like undress them and just have them lay next to each other. I got the basics down right for never having witnessed any kind of sex. I only had two Ken dolls. One was raping women, the other was fucking them then dumping them right after for the next pretty thing. The Barbies would all fight over the non-raping Ken. I'd dress them all up and do their hair in elaborate styles just to entice non-raping Ken. All of the Barbies wanted to be the lucky girl he picked to fuck after the party. In my world view at the time, when I grew up men were either going to rape me or fuck me. It wasn't so much Some Day My Prince Will Come as it was Some Day My Non-Raping Ken Will Come. Was I entirely wrong? In any case, what the fuck was wrong with me?***

I did a lot of other weird Barbie shit as I got older, some of which involved dressing them up like hookers to go turn tricks. Yes, raping Ken turned into Pimp Ken. He could slap a bitch, I give him that. I was still playing with Barbies at, like, 12 years old. I mean not just me, but some of my friends did too. I think girls of that age now would think that was so childish. Which stands to reason, since I look at modern pre-teen girls and early teenage girls and think that a lot of them look like little girls playing dress up as slutty women. It's creepy, to be frank. I'm not talking about all of them, obviously. I'm talking about the ones I see at the mall, all dead-eyed and skanked up in mini-skirts and fuck me boots with make up glittering all over their baby faces. That's one way of knowing a girl is too young for make-up. If she thinks putting gobs of glitter on her eye lids is a good thing, she shouldn't be allowed to wear fucking make-up. I'm not going to say it's their parents fault. Maybe they left the house wearing khakis with fresh-scrubbed faces. It's certainly possible.

I worked as a counselor at a group home for teenage girls for a few years when I was in my mid-20's. It was basically a step down home for girls that had been in juvie or were unruly in the foster care system. I started working there at 24 and honestly these kids knew more about shit than I did. I had never done a drug or drank a beer. I had never even had sex, any kind, not even oral. I was, like, this total innocent. And I was trying to shepherd these girls who knew more about the ways of the world than I did. Some of them had already been drug addicts, some had been abused, some had been raped. They were all sexually active. These 14 year old girls would talk about having sex with guys like it was nothing. We'd play gin rummy in the living room and they'd tease each other about giving blow jobs, or talk about getting a letter from their 20 year old boyfriend who was in jail but he was going to get out soon and they were going to totally, like, fuck all night long. And I'd just be wide-eyed and tentative. "I don't know about that Dominique. He sounds dangerous." And she'd smile at me all "oh Gwen, you silly little counselor. Aren't you cute?"

Dominique scared the piss out of me. I hated checking her chores or getting a urine sample from her. I just never knew when the pat on the head would turn into a bash to the head, you know? And I wouldn't blame her, not really, because my very presence in her life must have been unsettling. She probably thought, "Fucking sheltered white girl who probably never suffered a day in her whole life is going to tell me what the fuck to do? Going to watch me pee in a cup? Tell me the kitchen floor needs to be redone because it's still dirty? Fuck her."

Sometimes I wanted to bring some Barbies in for them to play with. Weird, right? I mean they were playing all right, just with their own lives, their own self-worth. They were so young and stupid and these...these little girls who didn't even realize how they were being used and abused by all the stupid boys and men in their lives. I wanted to be like, "Here act out all these wicked scenarios, these obsessions with things you do not fully understand, these partial truths, these fears of the opposite gender. Only stop treating your body as if it were a useless piece of bendy plastic." Poor little girls.

***You may be wondering how somehow so young who wasn't even allowed to watch the movie Big because Tom Hanks touched somebody's boob in it, was so savvy regarding all things rape and sex and prostitution. Well, you'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) how much rape and sex and prostitution occurs in that good book known as the Bible.


  1. I don't know how many girls' Barbie stories played out with rapists and hoes and pimps, but I know most if not all had some degree of sexualization. It's almost unavoidable between the body image she portrays and the clothing available.

  2. I don't think that's fucked up, necessarily. I always wanted to pretend I was saving someone. Everyone was my damsel in distress: my sisters, boys and girls in the neighborhood. My dog was a trusty sidekick, and I was the fucking hero, and I wanted everyone to love me and acknowledge that yes, I was special, and I made them better people.

    I wasn't a doll girl, but I did like to play dress up. More costume, really. Superhero, jockey, fortune teller. Kelly Kapowski. A cowgirl. And I would build things, and create horrible tasting concoctions in the kitchen and try to get people to drink them. Or I'd just ride my bike and wander around. And I sang all the time, like my life was a musical. And I fantasized about finding a boy who would love me instantly, even though I didn't do all the things other girls did, and I wasn't girly or sporty, but I was different from the rest of them.

    So really, not much has changed.

  3. I'm blown away by Raping Ken. Ken the rapist? That is awesome. And seriously fucked up. I wish you didn't have this horrible self-image. It's like you reinforced it young, and now it's a continuation of then. It makes me sad, and it makes me want to save you. I don't want you to think you're fucked up.

  4. Some of us have to survive some of Fucked Up Barbie's craptastic experiences for ourselves.

    The dangerous part is that, unlike those hard plastic bodies, our soft parts bleed. Sometimes more than we realize.

    But surviving is not the hard part. The real trick is to learn from the scars. To love them. To decide that you are more than just a broken toy.

  5. my Barbies were prostitutes too.

    It's how they afforded the stuff without the man.

    I never even thought that was weird until right now.

  6. I don't think I knew about rape when I got a Barbie. I just made my Barbies have mountain adventures. It sucked because of their pointy feet.

    Also deeply enjoying Rassles' transition from not fucked up, necessarily to "seriously fucked up!"

  7. Gorgeous writing, Gwen.

    I think, in some ways, we are spared some of life's harshest experiences because we are able to imagine them. Does that make sense? We learn about consequences when we engage our imaginations. Sometimes. Other times, we create fantasy worlds where nothing goes wrong and everything is normal, even though it's so tragically NOT normal.

    Interesting to think about . . .

  8. You must, MUST! read The Boys of My Youth. There's a great part in there about her Barbies having cocktails with Ken. It's wonderful.

    In my youth (and, honestly, today), almost all of my sexual fantasies included coercion bordering on force. That desire to relinquish control was bolstered by my mother's 70s historical bodice rippers, which I devoured. They almost had to include elements of force because, according to the mores of the day, good girls (heroines) couldn't possibly give up their maidenheads willingly. They must be cajoled, pressured, overwhelmed, swept away.

  9. "I'm not nor ever will be a princess or pretty in any way"

    you say things like this, and then you talk about how beautiful your sister is. And in all the pictures you have posted of the two of you, I can't really tell you two apart.

    You're blond and she's brunette. Right? Other than that, you look very, very similar.

    Do with that what you will.

  10. I'm just glad I'm not the only one who made my Barbies fuck.

  11. Sci Fi Dad - I'm sure you're right about girls and the sexualized play with their dolls. That is undoubtedly normal. I guess my raping/fucking Kens were just an extreme on a normal behavior. Which is not that surprising considering it's me.

    Rassles - so am I fucked up or not? I want to know!

    Zen Mom - beautifully put and really what I was trying to say here in my own fumbling, drawn out way.

    Lora - a girl's got to pay for her pink corvette somehow, right?

    Erin - My Barbies probably had mountain adventures too, they just would end up getting raped or fucked on the hike.

    Cheek of God - Thanks for the compliment. Especially as I've felt my writing has been in the toilet lately. You are right about imagined consequences being able to teach us. That makes complete sense and possibly that type of play prevented me from engaging in behaviors that would have hurt me emotionally or physically.

    Gypsy - Ummm....me too. I thought I was the only one who fantasized like that. Those men in those books...what I wouldn't do to be raped by one of them. But, of course, with his aim being to get me to accept the thing I do not think I want but actually do. That was the way those stories played out always. She resisted, he insisted, she cried, then she started to dig it, came, and thanked him after. Right? We're we reading the same books?

    Pos - I emailed you privately

    Domestic Goddess - Definitely not. They were whores, obviously.

  12. One thing I learned a lot about when I was a foster parent was how important dolls are to helping kids explain things they know and experience. Your idea about the girls in that camp using the dolls to act things out was right on track.

  13. I always used to put down my barbies in favor of pretend games. like Cats or Nail Salon or something. I did have them, and went through a definite doll phase. But I don't think my body image was ever effected by the barbies, because the barbies that played with were of a body type that was no longer popular when I got old enough to worry about my body. Does that make sense? You can see them now - barbies are different. They have belly buttons and long torsos and smaller boobs and hips whereas before they were like triangular hourglasses with no torso at all.

  14. Mongolian Girl - Yay! It feels good to have an appropriate instinct even if I didn't act on it. Now I know that and will be sure to encourage Liv to express her fears and thoughts through doll play.

    Geo - I liked pretend games, too. A lot of my play was quite innocent. The older I got the more dark the nature of my play became, which sort of makes sense considering the growing fears I had about my approaching adolescence. Barbies never made me feel bad about my body, weirdly enough. Considering my personality, that surprises me. I agree that the Barbies I had were fuller - bigger breasts and hips than the Barbies my daughter has. I guess the shapes of the Barbies reflects the beauty standard in the current culture? I don't know. Small breasted, small hipped women seem to get a lot of fucking attention. Which is kind of something I don't completely understand.

  15. I didn't get to have a male barbie forever because my mother was very odd about me having one. so for awhile, my barbie's were all about "girls gone wild" until I received a sunshine family set. Then all bets were off with the shorter dude with all the tall chicks. it kinda made me dislike shorter than me dudes to tell you the truth.

    anyway, my husband is an appraiser as well.

  16. I have it on good evidence that you're BEAUTIFUL. I think I played with my barbies well into 5th or 6th grade. My peers would probably have made fun of me, but by 6th grade, my barbies were humping each other like fiends, and it was far from innocent. My parents never knew, I'm sure. They'd have been horrified by my dirty mind.

    Also, I never wanted to be a princess. I wanted to be, in order: A jockey, a cowgirl, or an indian.

    I never thought about the bible as a reference point for raping, pillaging, and harems. My barbies were always harem sex toys.


    Now I have to go away and think about that.

  17. Gwen, you are totally fucked up. Completely, horribly fucked up. But not because your Ken is a rapist. It's because you've convinced yourself that Ken The Rapist is fucked up, and you must be fucked up as a consequence.

    Your actions aren't what make you fucked up: it's how you feel you're being judged for them.

    And, I love that about you.

  18. There is a post in my reader that has disappeared on your blog. I don't know why you took it down (maybe you felt you shouldn't justify mean-spirited comments with a response), but it was extraordinarily good. Really. And I couldn't agree with you more.

  19. So, I wasn't the only one making my barbies fuck? Cool.

    Don't think you're weird all the time. There are a million people out there who identify with everything about you.