If you haven’t heard, you’ve been living under a rock. A hot mic recording of Trump bragging about grabbing a woman’s vagina was released last week to expected shock and furor. Then, in an ironic twist, Devin Faraci, notable film critic for Birth.Movies.Death and who was definitely considered an ally to the feminist movement, was accused of doing the same thing in a tweet from a woman he once associated with. I won’t quote the tweet but will tell you it ain’t hard to find on Google.
When news hit of Faraci’s behavior, my narcissistic first reaction was 1) glad i’m not in the public eye and 2) good thing i’ve never done something like that. And yet the more i thought about it, maybe i had.
As I keep hearing athletes say “not in my locker room” or suddenly become perfect beacons of good, I realized now is the time that men start having honest and frank discussions about this issue. This is why I write this.
I had just turned twenty and she was the first girlfriend that I had had sex with. I’ll keep our bio at that but would encourage anyone who who like to really understand our relationship and who I was then to watch the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For you nerds and millennial women out there, I felt like Angel.
Moving forward. Our relationship was very physical at first. To say sex was a revelation is to understate the boundless joy that sex brought to my hormone fueled youth. And man was she one to go along for the ride. And yet, as the relationship drew on, sex became less frequent, tho I only craved that one thing. If you judge me for it I can only say you have every right to. I was that dude, that boyfriend, who only cared about sex. And I can only honestly say I felt resentment at the fact that she became less interested in the activity. Now I have no blame nor feelings towards her or any women or man who happens to be in her position. Some people just realize earlier that sex isn’t everything. I certainly hadn’t realized at that point in time.
She lived a different town 20 minutes away from where I lived, and on weekends she would stay the night at my house. We slept in the same bed just as most couples do.
What comes next might be painful to read.
One night I felt horny, and tried to initiate sex. She wasn’t interested and turned on her side to sleep. Twenty or so minutes or so passed. I still felt horny. I reached over to her and felt on her butt and did so for a while. I then masturbated.
The next morning she was angry and asked me why I did this. I had no answer then and still don’t now. I was horny and I didn’t know how to control myself. And that isn’t excuse nor a cop out nor a defense. That’s just what went thru my mind.
It sounds bad and it is bad and honestly I felt like shit for a long time after that. We didn’t stay together much longer after that but sex definitely became more and more of a driving wedge between us. I definitely recognize that was mainly a problem on my part.
And yet I’ve long since put this behind me. This was a decade ago, coincidentally just the same amount of time since Faraci groped that woman and Trump bragged about doing the same. And while I would like to feel smug and say I’ve never done something like those two, I start to realize maybe i had. I certainly wouldn’t have called it sexual assault back then, no matter how bad i felt about it, but now, now I’m not so sure. I have no idea how this woman would answer if she was asked the very same question about this particular instance. I won’t speculate on her part, but now realize that doesn’t matter. I feel like it was.
When I first read the Faraci news, I wondered why he had never talked about this stuff before. He’s alluded to the fact that he used to be a nasty guy, going as so far as to compare his behavior to that of the gamergate crowd. So why not just air his closet? And yet this isn’t fair. I have no career, no following, no responsibility to the public eye. Frankly, I have less than a handful of friends to worry about losing. And the fact that they’ve remained close to me this long makes me realize I wouldn’t lose them over this.
There’s no consequence when I talk about my own past other than the public shame of the few random readers that will stumble across this post. And to be honest, I really don’t give a fuck what you think of me, though I do worry about how my own recounting such an incident does affect their own memories and thoughts on sexual assault.
Relationships definitely enter areas where behavior and dialogues that would be deemed inappropriate among strangers are in fact normalized and accepted. And yet this is clearly an instance where the woman who I was close with explicitly expressed anger and disappointment.
The irony of remembering this painful moment is the fact that this same girlfriend did something similar to me after we had broken up. It had been a few weeks after our separation when we met at a park near her college campus just to chat and see how things were going. We sat next to each other on a picnic table trading jokes when she reached over and grabbed my penis. It was a bizarre moment: she giggled and I stared in disbelief. No, I didn’t feel assaulted but I suddenly realized what must have been a similar reaction to her previous disgust at my behavior.
I don’t bring this up to absolve myself over my mistake but rather to point out this behavior isn’t isolated to a specific gender. Just as I felt privileged to overstep my boundaries, she had done the same thing. Neither of us were saints.
But as much as I would love to relish over the fact that both parties had failed to respect undeclared boundaries, what makes this so hard to grapple with is the sheer amount of testimony that women have come forward with. Yes, women can be just as guilty of the same misdeeds of men, and yet men are overwhelmingly guilty of doing so on a far more frequent behavior.
I don’t know what the answer to all of this is. It’s clear when someone explicitly tells you they weren’t comfortable with a certain behavior then that behavior should not be repeated. But where do we come to a point where that behavior should not be expected in the first place, regardless of the relationship?
When I felt my own crotch grabbed I felt disbelief and anger, but I can’t honestly say I felt assaulted. With that said, I definitely felt a clear line had been drawn in the sand, that we were no longer together and that physical contact was no longer allowed. We were back to being strangers. I never told her I felt violated.
And yet know the pain all too well of actually being in a relationship and feeling that disgust of being objectified.
He was the first man i had entered into an intimate and sexual relationship with, and was equally the first man to really show me what it felt like to be a piece meat to.
I’ll preface this by saying I have no ill will towards this man nor do I think he’s a bad person. The truth is he is the one of the most kindest and caring people I’ve ever associated with. He taught me to listen and to express my thoughts in a clear and coherent manner. But man was that dude horny.
He was an older gentleman, early 50s, and welcomed me into his home after I had been fired from my job in an HR department. He suggested I share his bed with him and being shamelessly opportunistic, I accepted his offer. We had engaged in prior sexual activities before but to say the least things heated up when I moved in.
He had a nice mattress, the memory foam type that must have cost two weeks of paychecks for me. I felt like a king, suddenly protected and cared for. He didn’t ask for anything, nor did I feel pressured into being a certain person. Our relationship was mutual.
The first few nights were fun. As anyone in a new relationship can attest to, the sparks flew and we were physical. And yet as the weeks drew on I began to feel isolated and withdrawn sexually. Just as I had been the dominant and instigating member of the relationship with my aforementioned ex-girlfriend, this man led the way.
I usually went to bed late, around 2, long after he had started to sleep. As I lay in that nimbustec mattress languishing in my safety, I would feel his hand reach out to me. He never did anything that I didn’t consent to, but night after night I started to feel less than a partner and more of an object. His large hands that once had felt warm and secure began to feel like tentacles latching onto me. It sounds cruel and an attempt to pass judgement, which I’m really am trying not to do, but there’s no other way to describe how I felt. I realized I was now a housewife and felt the fear and guilt of turning him down.
The relationship didn’t last long. I grew angry and resentful, and instead of clearly explaining how I felt, forced him into a position to kick me out of the house. I don’t blame him and I feel no resentment over the issue. I was free.
And yet I suddenly knew how it felt to have the tables turned. To be the wanted, desired, and lusted after, with all the joy and terror that brings. To feel helpless and afraid because I didn’t know what was appropriate and how to express my own dissatisfaction. There’s no simpler way to state it: I suddenly knew what it felt like to be a woman in the same position.
As I ponder my own sexual fuckups and interactions, I realize I’m in no position to judge Donald Trump or Devin Faraci. True, I had never groped a stranger or repeated behaviors that a person said no to, but can also state that I wasn’t always thinking or behaving in an appropriate manner. And as much as I would like to play dumb and ponder why that is, the answer is all too obvious. I and others have never been held accountable.
It’s a shame that we don’t have classes on basic human decency beyond kindergarten, because “adulting” sure as hell isn’t a good excuse for bad judgement. Nor is declaring personal relationships a gateway to unchecked sexual privileges. And while it may be hard to sort out when something is right or wrong, that isn’t an excuse or response to not having these discussions in the first place.
Sex can be fun and healthy, but it can also be hurtful and damaging. It’s ruined too many of my own relationships to deny this truth. I can’t imagine being groped by someone I wasn’t intimate with (other than one time a girl pinched my butt at a club, and believe me, that’s something that has never a recurring phenomena). As much as I want to say I feel for Trump’s and Faraci’s and my victims, that would be dishonest. I can’t empathize with their own pain because I’ve never felt it myself. I can only tell them I wish it never happened.
I can’t imagine being confronted by someone after this type of occurrence had happened and not having at the minimum the showmanship to say sorry. And yet I can’t say I’m ignorant or never encountered this behavior. That men happen to be the more frequent committers of these acts is a hard apple to swallow as a man, and yet I can’t use my own declared gender as a shield to this discussion. Yes, “not all men” do this, nor all human beings, but too many do. And this behavior isn’t developed in a vacuum. Trump and Faraci aren’t the only dudes guilty of this shit. Maybe many men and women haven’t gone to the lengths that these two individuals have, but too many more have allowed this culture to exist and thrive, and I’m certainly not excluded from that group.
I won’t pretend to state I don’t have any feelings towards Trump because I’ve heard enough from him to draw my own conclusions, and yet I’m torn by Faraci’s history. I’ve always found him to be too judgmental and at many times a bully, and yet he could also be a coherent voice of reason and logic. I never took feminism seriously until I saw a nerdbro like him be so comfortable talking about the subject. But I can’t say I was surprised by the revelations either, mainly because I’m no different than him. I’ve used my privilege of having a penis as a gateway to acting stupid and crossing lines that should have been recognized. To condemn him would only mean to condemn myself. And that’s not what I’m after. I’m not looking for forgiveness or atonement.
I’ve talked to the ex girlfriend once since we broke up, many years afterwards, a quick exchange on Facebook where we shared where we were in life. I have no idea how she feels towards me, tho i can guess, and honestly I don’t care. I know what I’ve done.
And I can’t say I was quick to change. I’ve had some other sexual relationships, one that especially comes to mind, tho I won’t recount because it’s just too painful to bring up and honestly wouldn’t be fair to discuss without the input of the woman involved. I can only say she hasn’t talked to me in 4 years. These incidents don’t haunt me anymore, tho Trump’s and Faraci’s own downfalls have pushed them to the forefront of my mind.
And honestly, if it had only been Trump guilty of the behavior, it wouldn’t have even rattled me. But Faraci, he was one of the good dudes. Just like I like to think I am one. And I have a sneaky feeling he is well aware of who he was, who he is now, and who we all can be. I know because I well am.