Credit: Kayla Olow | Mustang News

Editor’s note: Eden-Rose Baker is a journalism junior and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

The week that Joseph Castro was hired to teach at Cal Poly, I had four shows as a KCPR news reporter. So, for three days, I repeatedly heard about how he had dismissed the sexual harassment complaints against Frank Lamas, an administrator at Fresno State. On my walk to campus, I saw a petition against Castro’s hiring hung up on a telephone pole. Every single time I heard or saw this man’s name, I felt a tug at my heartstrings.

In the following weeks, I have become hyper-aware of how women are treated throughout the community. 

Two weeks ago, I was walking to the Rec Center via Foothill and crossed paths with another girl. Some construction workers working on a house began to whistle and cheer until we were both out of sight. In October, I was walking on California Boulevard and saw men roll down their truck window to whistle at a woman.

I feel that being whistled at and degraded for just existing and having a body is incredibly dehumanizing. Picking out an outfit where you can see my legs does not mean that I am doing so to receive a man’s attention or that I owe a man my attention; it makes me feel like I have no control over my own body or how it is perceived. 

Although whistling or shouting may feel passive, passive allowance of male control over the female body creates a sense of entitlement that leads to aggression.

Within the past year, I have gone on dates with two Cal Poly students that directly took control of my body. One made me kiss him and took my clothes off after I said no and another shoved his hand under my clothes without asking. Even though I left before anything could progress, both times I felt used and helpless. 

In another instance, I passed out after being drugged by a Cal Poly student who I thought was a friend, only to remember having my pants taken off while I was barely conscious and don’t know what happened after that. 

Because of these instances, I am still questioning whether or not I can trust men because I live with this fear that my body is not my own because they can take control of it at any given time. My body should feel like my home, and because I have not been able to dictate everything that happens to it, I sometimes feel like a stranger to myself.

This is not just an issue that I have run into. Fall quarter of 2021, two rape cases that occurred two weeks apart were reported. I would also like to reiterate, that this is just what is reported; many people, myself included, do not feel comfortable reporting these cases.

From personal experience, I do feel like this is a phenomenon that is larger than Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo. 

Up until three months ago, I would sexualize myself and sleep with men — even if it didn’t feel right —because I wanted to be loved. For years, I have believed that the only way to get a man to love or notice me is through sex, and that I have no control over this. The situations I spoke about reinforced the belief that I am unlovable — if I am not sexually desirable.

Until Castro was fired, I blocked all of those thoughts out of my head. I did — and still do — wish to never see or speak to the men I mentioned earlier again; I stopped talking to them immediately and did my best to never think about it.

The week it was announced Castro was coming to Cal Poly, though, I had a complete breakdown; I missed school, stopped leaving my room and cried for days. Every single memory came flooding back in: how those men had treated me, how I had treated myself, how I believed that having sex was the only way to be loved.

To me, Cal Poly being required to add Castro to their staff represents another win for a society that has drilled the belief into my — and other people’s — heads that we are not in control of our bodies.