I’m postng this fast before I chicken out.
The me too thread has had me sick to my stomach all week. There’s a story I had been about to tell, about someone I still see at parties, someone I would rather never see at the kind of sex positive play parties that I go to, and because this happened so long ago (15 years) I felt I should let it rest. But my discomfort has been growing as more and more as these stories have come out.
When I first started to go to play parties and kink events in the early 2000s, I felt like I had to loosen up. Realize that my boundaries WERE going to get crossed sometimes and recognize that as part of the price of admission to being in these kinds of scenes. I was groped in a hot tub, followed around at Folsom, had gross creepy guys ogling me and masturbating at the old Black Sheets parties, and I shrugged it all off mostly. Back then it WAS the price of admission to this lifestyle, and I am sad to say it often still is. But the story I am about to tell goes well beyond that.
This dude, we’ll call him D, was a boyfriend of a friend, and we never liked each other one bit. When he met me he informed me that I would have to cut my hair if I wanted to play with him because he didn’t like women with long hair, and my response was, Well, I’m glad that’s settled ahead of time. But it wasn’t. Over the period of a year, I had three boundary crossing incidents with this guy: who is still a friend of friends, who I still have to encounter at parties, and sometimes play parties.
Incident one: I was at an event at the gate hanging out with some people and he was there. I was recovering from a cold and had lost my voice. When someone came up to the gate, D told him he had to take his dick out, and the dude gamely did, because that was the kind of world we lived in back in those edgy, anything-goes, still-early-Burning-Man communities. When the dick was out, D said, pointing at me, “Now she’s going to suck it!” Pointing at me. “It will heal your throat.” Obviously no consent was asked about this before, and he put me in the position of either “going along with the fun” or being a party pooper. I was invested at the time in my wild party girl persona, but not to that extent. The guy put his dick back in his pants and looked disgusted at D, and I walked away.
Incident 2: I was partying with a friend of mine and we were rolling on e, like you do. And she was D’s girlfriend so despite my antipathy and the prior incident, I was trying to give him a second chance. I was chattering away. And he asked if he could slap me. I should have said no, but I was high, and trying to be open to him, and everyone in the world seemed pretty rosy at that time, so I said yes. I was expecting a medium-hard sort of exhilarating slap, but he hit me so hard my ears rang and there was a handprint on my face. And I looked at his face as he hit me and realized with cold sober clarity, that he wasn’t hitting me in any kind of fun S and M way, he had taken advantage of my highness to hit me as hard as he could out of sheer hatred, and he was smirking that he had gotten away with it, because if anyone asked of course I would have to tell them that I had consented. It was an utterly chilling moment for me, humiliating and infuriating because I didn’t have the tools then to talk about the way my lack of sobriety and his lack of negotiation and horrible motivation had resulted in violation.
Incident 3: I was at a kink party and had made the dumb shit newbie mistake of dressing too obviously like a submissive woman. My boyfriend was around somewhere but anytime I left his side at the party people were grabbing me, manhandling me, and trying to dominate without checking with me if I was into it. This was unfortunately common at kink parties and maybe still is. D was there — it was actually his girlfriend’s birthday party, and he was rampaging around the party high on GHB, naked, with a giant hard on and trying to see how many women he could fuck. He grabbed me. I broke his hold and ran away from him, and ran to stand by my boyfriend at the time, who was kind of a clueless idiot, truthfully. But still, what more clear way to say no without words than that? At the time, saying no was still very difficult for me when someone didn’t ask.
D ran after me, grabbed me by the hair, and started tearing open a condom and I realized I was literally seconds away from being raped if I didn’t speak up and say something. I finally told him that this wasn’t going to happen and managed, after repeating it a few times, to get through his drug induced fog that I was saying no. I didn’t blame him at the time. I blamed myself for not saying no more clearly sooner. I have worked a lot since then on saying no and even now when people don’t ask and touch me without permission I have this feeling inside that it would be rude of me to let this person know his attentions are unwelcome.
Luckily, this person left my crowd of friends eventually and went into a different crowd, but I knew that he was out there, still in the scene, even organizing events, and I knew that certain spaces were denied to me because of him. Recently, I have been on the verge of telling an organizer of events that I go to, where I have seen D recently, about these experiences, and I had actually made overtures to do so when the Weinstein thing broke. I have been afraid though that if I speak up, I will get told that there’s a statute of limitations on these things, that it happened a long time ago, that this guy is too well connected and too much part of the scene to kick out, that I should go through some sort of mediation process and allow him to apologize. And if that happened, if it happens, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to those events anymore. And then I would have given up even more of the social world I want to be a part of in order to avoid someone who had violated me.
I felt, and still feel, that people will point to the fact that he asked before he hit me, that he stopped when I said no, to defend him and his continued presence in these spaces. I have worried that I will be considered too sensitive. I have worried that it happened too long ago and people will think I should get over it. That I should be open to mediation around these events.
I don’t want mediation. I have been watching men (mostly men) come out and say that they have violated boundaries and open themselves up to criticism and conversation, and I have had mixed feelings. I think that I would have been open to talking about this if I felt that this person erred in getting my consent because he was too enthusiastic, too excited by me and also impaired. But what I saw in these cases was a person who used the cover of different social norms provided by openly sexual and kinky play spaces to punish and dominate me because he did not like me, because he wanted power over me, because he wanted to put me in my place. In the end, even more than his grabbing my hair and attempting to rape me, it is the gloating, chilling look in his eyes after he slapped me that stays with me as the worst violation. And that to me is what has been horrifying and real about this wave of public sexual harassment stories, from our President to Harvey Weinstein, is the knowledge that men in power do these things specifically in order to feel powerful, to put women in their place. I have had men coming out and admitting that they crossed boundaries. I have had men cross boundaries because they were clueless, because they misread signs, because they didn’t understand enough about how consent really works. They are not the problem. The problem is men like Weinstein and Cosby and Trump who use their power to “put women in their place.” To feed their real lust, which is for power. Because they can. Because they fucking can.