With the advent of the #MeToo movement, I fully expected men to begin publicizing their own sexual experiences with women. I’ve certainly recalled some of my experiences in the far distant past (I’m 68) and, when judging them by today’s standards, find that I’ve been sexually harassed and raped by women, not just once, but a number of times. I’m surely not alone, so where are the stories from men about their experiences?
Nowhere as far as I’ve found, so I write to tell a couple of my own.
I can recall but a single instance in my sexual life when a woman asked for my consent to do a certain thing. I was in my 40s, between marriages, and had an active sex life with a woman I’ll call M. At one point, she asked me if I’d be interested in her tying me up. I said I’d have to think that one over. Shortly thereafter, we went our separate ways and so I never had to decide.
The very first time I had sex, I was 16. I was visiting my older brother at college and a young woman of college age, probably about 20, took a shine to me. B was very attractive, slim and with thick, wavy blond hair. I was surprised and flattered when she made it clear that she wanted to have sex with me. We did.
I spent the night at her place and in the morning awoke to find her giving me oral sex. That was a problem for two reasons. First, I was hung over from the night before and second, I desperately needed to pee. But I said nothing and B climbed on top of me, inserted my penis into her vagina, gave herself an orgasm and dismounted. I did not have an orgasm. I was uncomfortable, only wanted her to stop and was relieved when she finally did.
Why didn’t I express my reluctance? It’s hard to describe. To do so would require a greater understanding and memory of my 16-year-old self than I can muster. But mostly, I figured that if this very attractive woman wanted sex with me, I wouldn’t jeopardize the “opportunity.” Also, I was so inexperienced that I didn’t know how to navigate the situation. I thought that if I expressed any hesitation, she would be offended and I didn’t want that. Finally, I didn’t understand that sex with a woman was not the rare gem of incalculable worth I imagined it to be. How was I to understand that, even if we didn’t have sex a second time, there’d be many other opportunities with different women later?
Was I raped?
By the standards of the time (1966), no. (I of course understand that I was a minor and she was an adult and that, according to the letter of the law at the time, she was a statutory rapist and I a victim thereof. I want to set that fact aside and focus on the incident apart from our disparate ages. Whatever the law may have assumed, I consider myself to have had agency sufficient to the situation. Plus, I doubt that any district attorney at the time would have prosecuted a college-age woman for having sex with a 16 year old.)
By the standards of today, unquestionably. B had neither asked for nor obtained from me any sign of consent and indeed, at the time, I didn’t consent, I acquiesced. She began oral sex when I was asleep and never asked if penile-vaginal sex was OK with me. She simply assumed it was. If she and I were college students today and the incident came before a college panel deciding cases of alleged sexual assault, she would be judged guilty. Certainly if the sexes were reversed, the man would be found at fault and expelled.
So what if B were to be nominated to serve in some governmental position requiring the approval of Congress – say, a federal judge? Should she be barred from that job based on her conduct with me over 50 years ago? Should I raise the issue in the first place? What if she ran for state legislator? Should voters deny her a seat due to her conduct toward me? Perhaps she’s a physician in a medical group practice. Can she be trusted to treat teenaged boys? Should she be ousted from the clinic altogether? If she’s a university professor, should she be stripped of tenure and fired?
My answer to all those questions is of course ‘no.’ What people do in sexual encounters and that falls outside the realm of the forcible or intentionally coercive simply has no bearing on their abilities or integrity in other areas of life. Besides, while my experience with B began pleasantly and ended less so, I was in no way traumatized by it. Perhaps B should have been more thoughtful; perhaps I should have been more assertive. But she wanted a second orgasm and figured I did too. Our failure was one of communication. She didn’t ask and I didn’t explain. Each of us could have, but neither of us did. It was a failure, but not an important one. Life is chock full of experiences that could have been better.
I could go on to recount the numerous butt-grabs and crotch fondlings, kisses and feel-ups over the years, all by women I either was or wasn’t attracted to, but won’t. Today they’d constitute sexual assault and/or sexual harassment. Then, it was just part of the sexual (or in some cases just playful) dance young adults took part in. None of it was harmful, none of it indicated personality flaws and none of it meant anything beyond the boundaries of the behavior itself and the relationship in which it occurred.
And that of course is one of the most important points that today’s debate about sexual behavior entirely misses – the difference between what matters and what doesn’t. Forcible rape matters; a tipsy kiss under the mistletoe at a company Christmas party doesn’t, or shouldn’t.
But today, we’re asked to believe that no aspect of men’s the sexual behavior should be free from minute examination and condemnation. Did powerhouse attorney William Voge “sext” with a woman he’d never met (and still hasn’t) during two nights while on a business trip? He did and she “sexted back,” and later said it was all consensual, but she still complained to his employer and he was still fired because of it. Did Steven Galloway have a consensual sexual affair with a woman many years his senior? He did, but the fair maid still complained and he was still fired because of it. Did Richard Ned Lebow make a silly joke in an elevator? He did, but a complete stranger complained and he was publicly humiliated and censured because of it.
The list goes on and on and it’ll become ever longer until men start to tell their own stories of how women behave sexually. Doing so would accomplish at least a couple of things. First, it would make clear what everyone already knows but no one says – that women rarely conform to the standard of behavior #MeToo demands of men. That would remove much of the power #MeToo has to damage careers and reputations. Second, when the same shoe that pinches men causes women pain, then gynocentrism may demand that we back off of the notion that any allegation, regardless of how trivial demands an instant finding of guilt and draconian punishment. After all, we can’t have women’s careers damaged because of some inconsiderate behavior decades ago, now can we.
In any case, guys, tell your stories. Who knows? A semblance of order and good sense may result.