I was a bisexual high school student when they cornered me. This is my #metoo story.

I remember trying to convince myself it didn’t matter that they were looking at me. I tried to tell myself it was about them and they were the ones who were uncomfortable, but it did not work.

I felt objectified, used, humiliated and scared. But, most of all, I felt helpless. I felt weak. It was as if my mouth couldn’t open and my brain stopped working.

I’m used to speaking my mind and talking without fear, so this feeling was unusual and foreign to me. I did not know what was happening or what to do.

I continued trying to ignore them as I sat down on one of the benches in the locker room and leaned over to tie the laces of my blue and gray Asics tennis shoes.

After tying my shoes, I lifted my head up and one of the boy’s pants were unzipped displaying his flaccid penis.

Both of the boys broke into laughter. I made a face of surprise, which made them laugh more.

I continued to ignore them. The boy who had shown me his penis quickly covered himself. He mumbled something about not meaning for me to see his penis.

His explanation did not mean anything to me. I did not believe him. He meant for me to see it. He was not changing.

I continued to get ready and some more of the boys’ friends came over to where we were. None of them did anything to make the two boys stop.

Instead, the boys who harassed me invited their friends to play a game. In it they would compare the length and girth of their penises. The one with the largest penis would win. Laughing hysterically, they invited me to play.

Finally, I found my voice.

“For me being the one who likes men, this is a pretty fucking gay thing to do,” I said.

I rushed out of the locker room before I could see their reaction. I was afraid of being further bullied verbally and, even more so, physically. For the rest of the year, I avoided those boys at school.

Once again, I decided not to file a report or talk to my coach. Besides sharing my experience with the ones closest to me, I barely talked about it. I mostly wanted it to disappear.

Boys will be boys better.

Unfortunately, it did not disappear and it never will. What those boys did will affect me forever. When deciding if I wanted to share my story, I looked at the examples of others’ stories and was overwhelmed by the strength of those who have experienced sexual misconduct.

I remember how weak I felt in that locker room. Seeing other survivors’ strength and resilience is what led me to finally share my experience. I want to be strong like the many who have come forward and shared their stories.

Although I can never forgive those young boys for what they did to me, I don’t want justice. I want change.

This has to be a cultural change. This is deeper than adolescent boys behaving immaturely in a locker room. It’s deeper than one story or one experience. Sexual misconduct affects all of us. To prevent it from happening, we have to change our culture as a whole.

My experience is a result of the current culture we live in — a patriarchal one. I was born into a society that values men more than women.

The first time I realized this was when I was in first grade. A girl constantly teased me by calling me “girly boy.” I remember being genuinely upset, but I didn’t understand why until later.

Why was being “girly” a bad thing? I had plenty of friends who were girls. I’d always looked up to my mother and my sisters. I wouldn’t have been upset if I had been called “manly boy.” I was upset because I was taught that being feminine was bad.

I’m not the only person who was taught patriarchal values. It’s instilled in many of us at an early age. We learn by example.

In every aspect of life — movies, books, marriage, parenting, toys, relationships, jobs, school — it’s clear how often women are shown to be inferior to men, specifically white men.

We are taught that men are smart, strong, financially responsible, stoic and in control, while women are believed to be weak, unintelligent, emotional and submissive. Being feminine is seen as being inferior.

These images are problematic because they fuel sexism, racism and homophobia. They also contribute to a culture that permits sexual misconduct.

Men are taught to be dominant and are allowed to take whatever they want. This is why sexual misconduct is predominantly performed by men.

It’s perceived as normal, as expected. People think it’s natural and OK for men to behave inappropriately.

The saying “boys will be boys” encompasses this view. There’s no equivalent viewpoint for women’s behavior. Women are expected to behave respectfully, as well as handle the burden of men’s behavior.

I am thought of as less of a man simply because I am a bisexual man. For some reason, because I’m attracted to men I am categorized as being too feminine.

This is why those boys thought the way they treated me in the locker room was acceptable and why it was accepted by bystanders.

But we need to change that.

This starts by continuing the conversation on sexual misconduct. The more we talk about it, the more our culture will change.

We also need to teach children to think differently, act differently and to respect all people. It’s not right to accept sexual misconduct or the culture that allows it, but only people within our society can change our culture.

Jake Taylor is a journalism student at Indiana University. This essay first appeared in the Indiana Daily Student and is reprinted with permission.

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