Jim Jefferies is one of my favorite comics and he has a show on Comedy Central on Tuesdays at 10:30pm. Last night he admitted to some self-reflection about sexual assault jokes after Mr. pussy-grabber won the election. He said he thought he was doing okay as a man for all the “non-rape” he was committing, but now he feels like he can do much more to be sensitive to women. Yes, we can all do better.
In thinking about the pervasive sexual assault problem it’s easy to think, “yeah but I’ve never done that.” And then that voice in the back of your head says “oh yeah you have, remember that time…” and it comes flooding back.
I started thinking about how I grabbed the naked buttocks of stripper at a bachelor party. Which is embarrassing. She turned and shot me a look. Her bouncer bodyguard came over and gave me a warning and I, me, had to sheepishly back away in shame while apologizing profusely and pleading that it won’t happen again.
Five minutes later the naked stripper was on top of my brother miming having sex with him, but nevermind, my lack of self-control in reaching out and touching her butt cheek makes me cringe about twice a year when I think of it. The rule was no touching and I broke the rule. And just because it was a naked stripper and I would never do that on a subway car isn’t exculpatory. I did it. It was wrong.
But thinking about that brought back memories of a much worse incident. It came back to me like a flood of shameful recovered memory.
When I was 11 or 12, in 6th grade, we had frequent Saturday night parties at each other’s houses. Lots of boys, lots of girls in the group. Up till that year, almost everything we did was separated by gender. The boys played sports and hung out together. The girls did whatever they did and hung out together. This year, these parties, were the first time for all of us that we were involved in co-ed activities, not separated by gender.
There would be kissing games, of course. But we also had a seance once and freaked a bunch of us out when we thought we brought back the spirit of John F. Kennedy. It was varied, it was fun and it was exciting to be that age and to finally have human relationships with girls.
At one party, an older boy showed up. He lived on my block and maybe, I can’t remember for certain, maybe I was responsible for him coming to the party. He was probably in junior high at the time, 13, maybe 14.
I remember the party devolving into the boys chasing the girls around in order to grab and expose their boobs. The older boy had a knife and tried to cut the girls bra straps. I don’t remember if he succeeded.
Things get fuzzy trying to remember that far back, it’s pretty far back indeed. I do know that the girls weren’t exactly happy with this. It’s not like they wanted this. However, I do know that there were no repercussions that I can recall. I am not certain if what happened that night essentially just went unspoken thereafter. I’m curious to reach out to people who were likely there that night and see if they have recollections of it, I don’t completely trust my own because I know memory is not reliable.
I do know that I ran into one of the girls at that “party” years later, as adults. I recognized her and stopped her, excited to see her. She seemed cold and uninterested in a reunion. I remember at the time wondering if that stupid night was the cause. Although I could swear that we had remained friends after that year, through junior high and high school, that meeting on the street felt like a cold shower along with her cold shoulder. I had liked her in school and I think maybe I had exposed her breast that night. Maybe the next day we went on about our lives as if it hadn’t happened. But maybe she really didn’t. Maybe only I did. To think that her memory of me from those days are that I assaulted her, not that I was a classmate and a friend, is pretty haunting.
In both of these instances I saw how my own best instincts could be completely disregarded in the bravery of the crowd. Oh it can happen to any woman and any man can do it under the right circumstances, I know it.