Behind a cut for sexual coercion and general ickiness.
Ahoy there Cap’n,
I require some assistance please.
I have a male friend who I’ve known for about three years, after we met on a mutual friend’s birthday trip. We kept in contact after the holiday and in the last year since he moved back to our home country, we became much closer.
He’s been pretty awesome- he’s funny, generous and we usually have a great time when we see each other. We have always been strictly platonic and have never done anything to overstep boundaries. Once, about 9 months ago, while we were having a text conversation about our online dating disasters, he asked why we had never dated. I made it expressly clear that I cared for him as a friend but don’t see him in that way. He said that was cool, he respected that and changed the subject. I thought that was that.
He bought a new place in the last year, and I kept meaning to go see him/it. He invited me to his house and I was to stay the night just me and him (he lives out in the sticks and about drive 2 hours from my home town). Apart from our holiday, this was the first time an overnight stay was to occur. I have healthy platonic relationships with a lot of males and have stayed overnight in their homes alone and never thought twice about it. I didn’t this time either.
The night began well enough, good conversation and pleasantries. We then went to a few bars and he kept buying me drinks, even though I said I was way too wrecked already. Stupidly, I kept drinking them. In the taxi home, he put his arm around me and groped my boob. I told him, quite loudly, to stop and that it was inappropriate. He listened and moved away.
Got to his place and I decided to go to bed. He followed me upstairs to the spare room, which was meant to be my room for the night. He lay down on the bed next to me and when I got up, kept trying to pull me into bed. After repeatedly telling him to get out, he wouldn’t so I left the room. At one point I was trying to figure out if I could drive to a safe place (couldn’t, had drunk way too much). He got the hint eventually and pissed off to his own room after about 20 minutes. His behaviour had seriously creeped me out and, when he wouldn’t leave the room, I did panic a bit as I’m quite small and he’s not.
The next day was awkward as fuck. He wouldn’t talk to me properly and wasn’t making much eye contact. I was speaking to him normally, I think because I suspected talking about his behaviour the night before would turn into an argument and I didn’t really want to deal with it while I was a guest in his house. I was hanging like hell and he kept making out like I was in the way. His dog is quite big and gets excited with new people but only obeys his commands and when I asked him repeatedly to call the dog away, he wouldn’t. I stayed the shortest time possible and left to go home as soon as I was able. I didn’t mention anything about the night before.
I genuinely don’t know how to feel- the whole situation just makes me feel icky and upset. I’ve never before felt like someone was taking advantage of me. I thought he was a good friend of mine and someone I trusted. I wouldn’t treat someone like that. EVER. Others might think it was a such a small thing that happened (as opposed to rape or sexual assault, which I’m not negating in any way, please don’t think that), but it was a huge thing for me. I don’t allow people to touch me or lay in my fucking bed easily. I have to care and trust someone explicitly for that to happen and on my terms. My trust feels betrayed, and after talking to a few people, feel naive for going in the first place. I still feel slightly weepy and anxious as fuck thinking about it.
Some friends are like, he’s a guy, he was drunk, he tried it, failed, shit happens, like he stopped, didn’t he? He felt bad, that’s why he was ignoring me the next day.
Other friends say I was stupid to go and stay alone in the first place, and what did I expect? He’s male and obviously men can’t use their head once alcohol has hit their system (the one on their shoulders, not the one in their pants. That works, clearly). He asked me out once before so obviously wanted something more, and that my behaviour (staying overnight, drinking, trusting a male human being) was terribly naive on my part. Of course it’s my fault.
My problem is three-fold. One, we have very close mutual friends so will defo see each other again. Secondly, I hate not sticking up for myself, I keep thinking of things I should have said. Thirdly, I’m not sure if I’m overreacting. Is it worth losing his friendship over?
What scripts of wisdom can you give me to say to him? I have a feeling that he will get angry at me and say I’m making it bigger than it was and ask why I continued speaking to him the next day. He will probably stop speaking to me. I think I still need him to know that his behaviour wasn’t cool with me.
Please put me out of my misery- was I stupid to go see him alone, like the feeble, cock-teasing female that I am?
Or is having a drunk girl in your house just too good of an opportunity to miss?
Anxy as Fuck
Let’s talk about the thing with the dog and your friend’s behavior the next morning.
In the clear sober light of day, instead of apologizing for his behavior the night before, he gave you the silent treatment and let his big dog jump all over you. He let the dog at you even though he knew you were uncomfortable and scared and even when you specifically asked him to call it away. In other words, he punished you for not having sex with him the night before and made a point of showing you that he was willing to ignore your comfort and physical boundaries. Someone who thinks and acts that way is showing you that they are capable of anything. Of course you feel anxious as fuck – that kind of power play behavior is terrifying!
I’m so sorry this happened to you.
I am so sorry that your friendship is done, not because you did anything wrong or because there is any way you could react “incorrectly” in the aftermath, but because this dude decided to tear up the card marked “friendship” and then set it on fire. I’m sorry that this might ripple out through your social group and cause problems for you, even though you didn’t do a single thing wrong.
And I am so sorry that you are being blamed and wondering if you are to blame. Someone who gropes their friend and is told bluntly to stop, then gets into bed with that friend and won’t get out and pulls them into bed when they get out, and then sulks and lets his dog jump all over you should be the one worrying, “Will I lose all my friends because of this?” He should be falling all over himself to apologize to you and to make it right. But he didn’t and he isn’t, because our fucked up culture tells him that he made an “understandable”, “boys will be boys” “mistake” and tells you “what did you think would happen?”
There is actual a very simple way to find out if someone wants to have sex with you if you are unsure. It’s called “using words.” Your friend is well-aware of this, because he asked you, with words, how you felt about him, and you told him, “I don’t feel that way.”
Then months go by, and he doesn’t try using words, he tries giving you a ton of alcohol and then groping you in the cab. And you told him, “No.”
Then he stopped even trying to use words, which is how so many of these stories go. “But how was I supposed to know that she wasn’t into it? Poor confused me!” says every dude who tries it on with an unwilling or unresponsive acquaintance or friend or date. Sometimes I think dudes freak out about calls for explicit consent, verbal consent, enthusiastic consent, “yes means yes,” style consent because to be honest, they can think back to drunken escapades where they can’t be 100% sure that the other person wanted it because they never fucking bothered to ask (or, worse), and it makes them feel guilty as hell. “If that’s not okay, then that means I may have assaulted someone. That can’t be right!” Since no one likes feeling bad about themselves, they push back on the entire idea instead of, I dunno, listening to women? Or resolving to ask in the future or any measure that would help there be more good, non-coercive sex in the world. “Don’t be silly! I can’t possibly be expected to ask the person who is right in front of me with whom I am planning to do an extremely intimate and vulnerable thing! That would ruin the mood! I’m sure it would ruin something (like my sense of entitlement to sex when I want it)!”
Your friend stopped using words on purpose because he knew what the answer would be. He didn’t ask, “Hey, could the trip out to my house be a date-sort-of-thing?” because he knew that then you wouldn’t come. He didn’t ask before touching you in the cab. He wouldn’t get out of the bed and kept pulling you back even when you got out of it. He stopped short of raping you, thank heaven, but he used every single tactic that rapists use – isolating their victim, alcohol, not taking no for an answer, using size and strength and manipulation and bullying to get their way. What a fucking repulsive human being.
And of course you feel on edge. This person that you’d previously known to be lovely and trustworthy has done a complete about-face! You not only have to deal with the ick of the events themselves, you’ve been betrayed by someone you care about and have to grieve that friendship! What fans never seem to get about the victims of charismatic, charming, popular sexual predators is that their victims were giant fans, too. Nobody could possibly be sadder about it! Nobody!
Please, forgive yourself. To be clear, you haven’t done anything wrong and you have nothing to be forgiven for. Forgive yourself anyway. Forgive yourself for all the people who would put the blame on you, and for the little voice in your head that made you ask if you are overreacting. YOU ARE NOT OVERREACTING.
You had no way of knowing how he would behave. Forgive yourself for not being a mind-reader or a fortune-teller. Forgive yourself for wanting a fun night with a good friend. Forgive yourself for not knowing the perfect thing to say when a trusted person did a complete and sudden 180 into Full Dangerous Asshole Mode. Kick the “management consultant” who looks for ways it could have gone differently out of your head.
You have done nothing wrong or “stupid.” You have in fact done a great job of taking care of yourself by retreating into survival mode and getting out of his house with as little friction as possible the next day. But here you are, wondering how to “fix” everything, wondering how not to make him angry at you, wondering if this was your fault, wondering if a situation where you were groped and assaulted is somehow trivializing “real” assault (you’re not – being groped and grabbed and pulled into a bed is pretty effing real), wondering if you’re going to lose all your friends, and accepting their shame and blame for what he did as somehow yours to carry. So, write it down, say it, carve it on a picnic table at the local park, as long as you express it somewhere and somehow:
“I am not to blame. He is.”
If he contacts you, I hope that you will tell him that the way he treated you was unbelievably scary and wrong. Like, in those words: “What you did was incredibly scary and wrong. Leave me alone.”
Your friends who want to keep both of you in the social group will pressure you not to “make drama,” and he will use them as Storm Troopers to make & enforce “peace” between you. Your friends are wrong; you can and should expect that male friends will not grope and try to coerce you into sex especially when the question of “should we date?” was settled months ago when he asked you and you used your words to tell him explicitly that no, you should not.
Sadly, I have a prediction:
He, and/or some jerk in your friend group, will seize upon the fact that you stayed the night and try to hammer it. “Well, if you were so scared, why didn’t you call the police? Why did you stay? Why did you have tea with me the next morning?” Like, nobody can possibly be too drunk and tired to drive, stranded in an unfamiliar area, or have conflicting/hopeful feelings like “My friend will surely stop this pretty soon, right? Surely this isn’t really happening.” Everybody who calls the police is believed and treated well, screaming and fighting always work to deter a drunk person who is bigger than you, escalating a potentially violent situation always resolves it in the victim’s favor, and nobody ever gets through a traumatic situation any way they can only to have their real feelings of terror surface afterward, amirite? [/sarcasm]
Remind yourself (and them, if applicable): “I got through it the best way I could. I had a hard time believing it was happening. Now that I’m on safer ground, I realize how very scared I was.”
And keep track of who in your “friend” group says these blame-y kinds of things, and who suddenly turns into an armchair legal expert insisting on “reasonable doubt,” as if the legal standard for a criminal conviction is the only standard you can use in deciding whether to keep having happy hour with the entitled fuckface who assaulted your friend. Once again, I’m sorry, that you’ll now be mentally dividing people you know into “safe people who believe me and understand that what he did was wrong” and “unsafe people who think it’s okay to grope and assault their friends.” I’m sorry that you will be under social pressure to be “fair” to him and to forgive and forget, when really the right thing for your friend group to do is to say, “Sorry, buddy, you attacked our friend. Bye forever!”
Letter Writer, it’s ultimately your choice how you handle all of this, but please trust the recent experiences that tell you that this dude is not safe. It is okay if you expect and want your friends to support you in having nothing to do with him, and definitely okay to say “Hey, could you stop blaming me for ___’s creepy behavior and acting like I could have seen it coming? Thanks!”
Frankly, I would not be surprised if others have a story about him much like yours, but they’ve been too afraid to say something because they don’t want to mess up the whole social scene or they worry that nobody will believe them. Watch for those tight little silences among other women when his name comes up, and think of those women who have drifted away from the friend group after hanging out with him a lot. Those people are your sisters in a sad and powerful sisterhood that I wish with all my heart you didn’t have to be a part of.
Applicable Links & Resources: “The People You Meet When You Talk About Rape,” (The Pervocracy),”I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault” (Tumblr), “How To See The Charm That Everyone Else Sees In Their Harasser” (Reductress), and “She Didn’t Fight Back Because You Told Her Not To” (Harriet J, linked and excerpted at Shapely Prose), My Friends Won’t Stop Inviting Me & My Abusive Ex To The Same Parties (here), Don’t Be Friends With Rapists (Feministing), My Friend Group Has A Case of the Creepy Dude, How Do We Clear That Up? (here, 500 questions ago and yet these creepy dudes are still operating), Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture And What We Can Do About It (Kate Harding), Cockblocking Rapists Is a Moral Obligation, or, How To Stop Rape Right Now (Yes Means Yes Blog).
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