I’m currently sitting in Starbucks (duh) unwillingly staring at the bare butt cheeks of a girl whose oversized pink t-shirt says “I survived Kelsey’s 13th Birthday Party” in white puffy paint.

Based on the lack of cracks in the puffy paint, it’s safe to assume that shirt is less than one year old. And based on her baby face and the lack of dimples on her butt cheeks (information I wish I didn’t know), she was definitely an attendee, not the older sister/helper/apple juice bartender at the event.

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In what universe does a 13-year-old girl think that’s an acceptable way to leave the house? Yeah, men are responsible for their own eyeballs and should actively not be pervs. That’s definitely their very real, very distinct obligation. But I’m a considerably non-pervy female, and even I can’t help but stare. It’s like looking at a car wreck. I don’t want to see, but I can’t look away. So, yeah, if you don’t want your preteen daughter to be ogled at, maybe double check what she owns in her closet.

To anyone and everyone, age aside: Shorts should not show your butt cheeks. Ever. I don’t care how fashionable you think you are, or how loudly you claim that it’s a free world and you should be allowed to express yourself however your little tush desires. NO. Nobody wants to see that. If you think it has the same sexy effect as underboob, you’re wrong. I’ve never seen underbutt that evokes a reaction other than “well, this is wildly uncomfortable and horrible-looking.”

The more that grown women leave the house dressed like street walkers, the more that young girls are going to follow suit. Again, I’m not saying that skin is a bad thing, but there needs to be a line. Sure, we see butt cheeks on the beach, but that’s an environment where people are acquainted with all the exposure, so the shock value and subsequent attention is much less troublesome. Just like a bra and underwear is way more “personal” than a bikini, even though it’s the same amount of material, showing your butt cheeks in a coffee shop is stark overexposure.

I am not against feeling confident in your own skin. And I’m not against free will or self-expression. But I don’t understand why, when it comes to suggestive clothing, people make things black and white: Either you believe that women (and adolescents) should wear whatever they want without being sexualized, or you’re a close-minded, victim-blaming pervert who doesn’t believe in female empowerment.

I’m so confused, honestly. So, I don’t believe in female empowerment if I “believe” in biology, which shows that men are visually stimulated creatures? But wait, don’t “serious” women wear more conservative clothing so not to distract men in business meetings or whatever? Which one is it?? Am I supposed to think women should be half naked all the time to project their woman-ness, or are they supposed to keep clothes on to prove to men that they’re more than just sexual objects?

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I know, I know. “Both!!”

Nope. Sorry folks. In a perfect world, sure, women could sit in a business meeting in their bikinis, and the guys could focus on the topic at hand. But that’s just not how BIOLOGY works. Like I said, I’m a non-pervy, straight female, and even I get distracted by flailing boobs and butts. And you’re going to sit here and say that men are terrible people if they sexualize boobs and butts? What is that?? That’s ridiculous! Boobs and butts are sexual.

Again, not saying men have any right to do terrible things to women who show a lot of skin. Let me make that abundantly clear. But if you think that women are being “empowered” by exposing their bare bodies to the world, think again.

Someone explain this to me: What is so wrong with covering up your boobs and butt? I mean, guys cover up their hairy thighs. So why do we think wearing clothes that cover our private regions is a form of suppression? It’s a form of self-respect and basic awareness of how human organs work. We’re sexual beings. So yeah, we all know that if we show cleavage, it’s going to be arousing for men. And yet women claim that they’re just dressing how they want to dress…for themselves..?

No you’re not. You’re dressing that way because it’s fun to feel hot. You want to feel desirable– which is normal. Women are built with really awesome, curvy, interesting bodies. Of course we’re proud of them, and like when they garner attention and praise. But there needs to be a line– especially for the sake of young girls.

As adults, we can dress a certain way and [hopefully] recognize that our bodies have nothing to do with our worth. We [hopefully] recognize that our kindness, intelligence, and individuality hold far more weight than our sex appeal. But a 13-year-old girl in Starbucks? Her little brain is still developing, and there’s no possible way that her brain won’t be etched with ideas about showing off her body that get permanently entangled with how she sees herself as an adult.

This ability for preteens to follow fashion trends is new to the generation below me. When I was 13, all we had was Limited Too. Now, these girls have access to any kind of clothing they want. Plus, they see what older people are wearing. Before social media, tweens didn’t try to dress like sexy 21-year-olds who reached the age of exploring their sexuality, because they basically never saw those 21-year-olds. Now, they follow Instagram models and reality stars, and naturally want to imitate what they see. Even though they’re barely old enough to shave their armpits.

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I’m curious to how this generation of little girls who dress with their bums sticking out of their shorts in Starbucks will turn out, when they’re told that they can dress however they want, and it’s the boys’ fault for looking.

Yeah, a rapist is a rapist. A girl didn’t make him that way. But– again– that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about men staring at the backside of a 13-year-old girl because they can’t look away– just like I couldn’t. Me, a straight, married, non-pervy female adult.

And I’m talking about what it’ll do to these girls’ internal, psychological development. How will they view sex? If sexual body parts are no longer sacred, is sex? Will they have to deal with lots of confusion as to why they feel empty and violated, and yet they can’t put their finger on why, since they’ve been sharing their bodies with the world for so long? Will they even be able to recognize that the fear, anxiety, and dissatisfaction that plagues them has anything to do with the fact that their bodies are supposed to be sacred and respected? Will they ever know that their bodies can be a unique and wildly special part of being in love?

Is it that crazy to hope that boobs and butts don’t become major part of young girls’ identities until they’re old enough to understand the complications and joys that accompany sexual interaction?

I don’t know. There’s just so much to unpack about this issue. Like this little question: Is it just as bad for women to wear bikinis at the beach or in a pageant? I mean, I don’t think so, because I think environment has a lot to do with levels of stimulation. Like I said, if a guy walks onto the beach and sees women in bikinis, I’m sure it’s somewhat pleasing, but not nearly as exciting as walking into a bedroom and seeing a girl in her bra and underwear. Or if I see a woman in a pageant in her swimsuit, but then see a girl wearing a bikini in a pizza parlor, I’m going to be way more intrigued (and weirded out) by the half naked woman in a pizza parlor. Same amount of clothing– completely different reactions based on the environment.

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And then there’s the psychological and biological stuff, like at what age women are mentally developed enough to separate their bodies from their worth, or if men are being blamed for something that is in their wiring.

As I type this paragraph, at the end of my blog post, I just looked up to see another tween leaning over the Starbucks counter on her elbows with a flat back and pushed-out booty in tight, tiny, shorts that show her butt cheek crease. I mean, what am I supposed to look at?? These girls are beginning to sprout curves, so they look kind of like grown women, but they’re not. And yet they’re acting and drawing attention like they are. It’s seriously concerning to me.

Listen, this is not a black and white issue. It just isn’t. I want to support women not worrying about what men think in their clothing choices, but to reiterate what I mentioned earlier, women are wearing these kinds of outfits FOR the men to look at them like that. I’m not an idiot. When I’ve worn tight outfits that show off my curves (as a grown adult, for the record), I do so because it makes me feel hot and confident. Why does it make me feel hot and confident? Because I know I look “good.” To whom? To men.

Maybe I’m the only one willing to be honest about why I’ve worn revealing clothes, but I guarantee that I’m not alone. Perhaps I’m more self-aware..? Or maybe no one wants to admit that skimpy clothing is worn for the sake of being sexually attractive, because that seems cocky or narcissistic. But I’m not afraid to say what motivated some of my past clothing choices, because at the root of this issue, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to admit that you want to feel attractive. I think that, particularly for women, we are naturally inclined to want to be visually stimulating, so we play it up. But, please, just admit that that’s what you’re doing. And certainly don’t get mad at guys for reacting in the exact way you secretly want them to.

AGAIN, I REPEAT, this is NOT a go-ahead for men to act upon or say something crude about what they see. But can you really blame them for thinking it, or staring with their eyeballs? No, because that’s kind of what you want.

Since this whole subject is so complicated, I can only come up with this call to action: Ladies, if you are a grown adult, it’s your prerogative to dress however you please. But at least be self-aware enough to know why you’re dressing that way, in touch with biology enough to not hate men for naturally being pleased and distracted by what they see, and acutely aware of how you portray yourself to younger girls. Don’t be part of the reason that girls grow up with warped ideas of their bodies etched into their brains. Their development is so crucial to their happiness and success later in life, so if having a few less Instagram followers shields them from trying to imitate a grown women, take one for the team. Is having a bunch of middle and high school girls follow you really that much more important than letting the next generation hold on to some semblance of innocence?

Call me a granny or call me a prude, but sue me for never wanting to see a 13-year-old’s butt cheeks in Starbucks ever again. Or anyone’s, for that matter.

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