Monday, October 1, 2018
Framing Ford's Fiasco
content warning: description of non-consensual sexual contact and related issues
when we were around 19 years old, a friend and I met two guys at a street fair where we were vending, and made plans to catch up with them later that evening at a local arcade. at some point that night, while killing a game of Black Knight, I started to feel sick and began to slump over the pinball machine, but I was racking up the high score, and didn't want to give up the game. eventually, I asked my friend to take over so I could go outside and get some air, yelling at her over my shoulder on my way to the door not to lose my ball, because I'd be Right Back to finish the game myself. after walking around the parking lot a bit to clear my head, I decided to go sit in my car and relax for a few more minutes before heading back in. the guy I had been hanging out with suddenly got in next to me, started touching and kissing me, making out with me, and I know I told him I came outside to breathe because I wasn't feeling well, and I'm sure there was a "No" or a "Stop" in there somewhere. he started to climb on top of me, and managed to lower my seat back to a reclining position (I was in the driver's seat). he started rubbing himself on me - took his penis out of his pants, and with his full weight on me, thrust himself between my breasts until he came all over my chest, at which point, he jumped out of the car, and was gone. I remember laying there in my car, thinking "what the hell just happened?" I don't remember finding something to clean myself off with, but I must have, because I Do remember walking back into the arcade, finding my friend, and telling her that we were leaving - Now. she was confused, and made some half-assed attempt at arguing, but the guy she was hanging out with wasn't all that interesting, and I was her ride, so off we went.
and that might have been the end of it, however inappropriate it was. I would have gone home, taken a shower, and moved on with my life without giving the incident too much conscious thought, though obviously, the experience has never left me. I hadn't been hit, bruised, beaten, threatened, held down, or hurt. I hadn't tried to scream or fight - mostly I remember being dizzy and confused, and wondering what was happening, what he was doing to my body, wondering why he was doing it. it was over just as quickly as it had started, and he took off like a shot, leaving me lying there, covered in his mess, not understanding why I let it happen in the first place. sure, I wasn't feeling well, I was dizzy and nauseous, and having to fend off an overzealous date wasn't something I thought was in the game plan for the evening, but I'm not a 'lay there and let it happen' kind of girl, so...why?
about 5 years or so later, I was living with a boyfriend, and in the cottage next door lived another couple we were friends with. one afternoon, my neighbor and I were hanging out and she was gushing about this new friend she'd made, telling me how awesome he was, how she had invited him over that evening, and that my boyfriend and I should come over, too, and we'd make a night of it. Sure, sure, no problem, we'd be there, can't wait to meet him. so the four of us (the two couples) are sitting in the living room of the cabin when the new guy arrives. the moment he stepped through the door, my blood turned to ice. yeah, it was That Guy...I stared him down while our friend made the introductions. The look of sheer terror on his face when she introduced us turned to shock as I smiled and reached my hand out to him. "Nice to meet you," I said, as we all settled in for a night of board games, adult refreshments, and camaraderie. my skin was on fire, or icy cold. my head was pounding. I found it hard to follow the conversation, speak, or make eye contact with anyone. I excused myself, and went back to my own apartment, shut off the lights, and lay in bed with my eyes burning holes in the bedroom wall, fists wrapped tight in the blankets, while my boyfriend, our neighbors, and their new friend, all had a grand old time together.
this asshole now became a part of our group. he was invited to all the parties. he came on all the hikes. he was brought to our special swimming spot (where he forged an inappropriate friendship with another one of our friend's girlfriends, go figure). he 'was in the neighborhood, so he just dropped by'. he came to my house, and expected to be let in to hang out with the rest of us. I think that must have been the point at which I finally said something to my boyfriend. I remember telling him that I didn't want that prick in my house, and I resented the fact that saying so would make me look like the asshole, because everyone just liked him so much. I don't remember how my boyfriend reacted, but I do remember words like 'long time ago', and 'different person now' floating around my brain, trying to connect with words like 'it would be weird if we suddenly stopped letting him come around, especially if we're all hanging out'...
here it is more than 25 years later, and I no longer know those neighbors. the old boyfriend is still around, less a friend of mine than a friend of a friend. I have no idea what happened to 'the asshole', but I wouldn't be surprised to hear he ran for congress or something, because that's where these fuckers seem to end up. I don't even remember his name (ok...wait, yeah I do.), but I can still recall the look on his face every time he spoke to me - it was like he was pretending to be sorry for doing something he knew was wrong, but also like he didn't get caught or called out for it, so he was smug about having 'gotten away with it'. I should have knocked his teeth out, or pushed him down my stairs, or told my girlfriends, or...Something. I shouldn't have just let him off the hook. especially after he and that chick at the swimming hole cheated together on her boyfriend - a good friend of mine to this day - and effectively ended their relationship (it's ok, my buddy married someone way better than that bitch). hell, my so-called boyfriend should have done All those things on my behalf as soon as I told him what happened! I don't recall whether or not I told anyone else.
while it certainly wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to anyone, if he did it to me, he may well have done it to others. others who aren't tough-as-nails like me, women who may have been devastated by less...or seriously damaged by more. how might he treat his wife, if he ever got married? his daughters, if he has any? and to be fair, my beef is not specifically with this one person, it's with All the people who use others as if they have some special privilege (there's that word, again) to walk through this world without the consequences of their poor behavior to hinder them in any way. he was neither the first, nor the last person who treated my body like it belonged to his personal desires rather than to me: there was the inappropriate babysitter I just learned about recently; there were incidents with my brother's friends who spent the night at our house; there was the 21 year old college basketball player I gave my virginity to when I was 15; the high school footballer who took me into the bathroom at a keg party and made me give him head for what felt like hours; the 'boyfriends' who only ever wanted to have sex and wouldn't hang out with me if I refused; the high school hockey dude who got me drunk at the drive-in, had sex with me, and took my underpants so he could bring them to school and yell down the hallway, "you left these in the backseat of my car the other night!". there was the random dude at some party where I must have been drugged because I still can't explain how I woke up in a strange bed, my neck black with hickeys.
do you want to know what I was wearing when these events took place? do you want to know why I chose to give up my virginity to a college dude who was 'home on break' that I hoped never to see again when I was so young? do you want to know what I was doing at keg parties while I was still in high school? do you want to know why I went out with guys who were only after what was in my pants? why I went to the drive-in and got drunk with that loser who stole my undies? why I was at a party where I didn't know who I was partying with? who cares? I was a teenager - a kid. and yeah, a pretty stupid one, at that. I hitchhiked around in mini-skirts and three inch heels (and mostly got picked up by little old ladies who were Very concerned about my welfare). it's called life. it's called learning. did I learn how alcohol works in my body, and decide that drinking wasn't really for me? yes I did. did I learn the mechanics and politics of sex? yes I did - and after many years (and several kind and patient lovers), I eventually learned how to enjoy it. did I learn that dating meat-head jocks was best left to some other chick? abso-fucking-lutely. did I learn to party responsibly, and only with people I know and trust? definitely. did I learn to recognize a dangerous situation and how to extricate myself from it? yup. did I spend years training in the martial arts? you betcha.
does my working through my issues excuse any one of those boys from treating me like an object to be used for my parts then tossed aside? No It Does Not. every one of the above experiences (barring the babysitter) happened when I was a teenager. less than 20 years old. by the time I was 21, I took no more shit from anyone, for any reason. and I'm in no way attempting to diminish my own irresponsibility in these instances, because I was most certainly irresponsible, but that doesn't in Any Way mean that a series of belligerent, entitled, white boys under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol had the right to use me like a sexual doormat. the weird thing is, given all I've written above, I am also guilty of not having believed one of my college roommates when she claimed she was raped. in the room next to ours...by one of the nicest, and most gentle human beings I have ever met. to this day, I believe she slept with my friend of her own free will, regretted it, and made up the rape story to pre-empt and redirect her boyfriend's anger from focusing on her, to the guy who supposedly violated her. I don't think he bought her story, either. my friend, on the other hand, locked himself in his room, stopped coming to meals and going to classes, lost a ton of weight, got sick, and eventually moved to another dorm. you'd think if the allegations against him were true, the school would have kicked him out rather than simply move him across the quad...
in retrospect, the other three of us roommates were kind of shitty to have looked at her askance, and thrown all the rote, misogynistic questions at her, making her go over it and over it for us so we could pick her apart, and still not believe her. the thing was (still is, I guess), I knew a girl who made up a rape story to cover a lie she told her boyfriend. I also knew a girl who made up a pregnancy story as a way to exact 'revenge money' from her ex, ostensibly for an abortion, with which she bought herself a pair of rather stylish and expensive boots. so learning that there were women with the same poor judgement skills as the idiots I had the misfortune to cut my sexual teeth on definitely contributed to my general skepticism, but knowing a person's character gives you a really good idea about who a person is, and how they may behave. in the case of my college roommate and my buddy, our neighbor, the differences in their characters told the story: she was a social climbing, party-girl who came to college to find herself an athletic husband, and a career that offered a flattering uniform; he was a shy, sensitive soul, an art major with a low, quiet voice, and a bit of a dark edge due to a certain depth of knowledge. who knows what happened? maybe, for all I know, he did it, and they gave my roommate that line about how it wasn't fair to ruin a young man's life, blah blah blah, and they moved him away from us, but nowhere she didn't have to still see him most days.
we have to be sure about these things. for instance, I can get behind the death penalty, but only in cases where the evidence proves beyond the shadow of any doubt, and all that. there are few upstanding and righteous individuals - most of whom are not students of the law - I would trust to judge delicate issues, such as the one I've mentioned above, and others of a similar, or even darker nature, because of their understanding of 'truth & justice'. what I've seen recently, in relation to current events, is one particular person looking to be appointed to the national committee we have in this country that oversees that sort of thing, but he's kind of just like that arcade-parking-lot-molester-type dude, and doesn't belong in that position. was it a long time ago? yes. could he be a different person now? yes. are his buddies asking me to be silent in my own house so they can have their little boys club that benefits them, and harms pretty much everyone else? YES. am I going to? NO. why?
because they're going down in flames, these assholes, and they know it. and they're grasping at every last straw of power they can get their mitts on before they go. and that means it's going to get a bit worse before it gets better. and that means a few more bodies on the fire before we manage to see this thing through. but we will see it through, we're closer than we've ever been. we have to build on the work that's been done before us, and smash all this nonsense that been going on around us with the words we've been holding in for too long. and (white) guys, I get it...so many of you who are good and decent people are getting a raw deal because of these assholes, but the truth is, you all have had the benefit of the doubt for way too long, now, and it's time to share the sandbox. that is all. and stop touching women in ways you wouldn't touch other men. or your mother. maybe this is a good place to talk about sex work, even, who knows? or a jumping-off point for that discussion, anyway. it's all related.
we shouldn't even need to be having this discussion. from what I saw on national television, the general consensus is that a certain party does not appear to be a model of impartiality, or an arbiter of justice, and we can do so much better.