10/5/2018 – On Reframing After #METOO

During summer break in 2005 I worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Stadium of Fire concert, a 4th of July celebration that takes place in the football stadium at BYU. I had been organizing university-wide events for the student body, dances and awards ceremonies and a baby pageant (it is BYU after all), and I wanted to learn more about the behind-the-scenes that went into organizing larger events.

I spent a week in the underbelly of the football stadium, buying towels and toiletries for the talent trailers of Mandy Moore and Lonestar, doing the sort of fetching tasks and menial work one does when they are young and energetic and eager to prove what a great employee they would be. My supervisor didn’t need very much from me until later in the week and so she told me to help the talent manager with his tasks as well. He was somewhere around 50 years old, a solid 25+ years older than me. I had gained a lot of weight since graduating from high school and no guys my age were expressing interest in me and so I was flattered when this older man paid me a little extra attention.

He asked me to come with him to get something and he was one of the people in charge of my volunteer efforts so I went. I can’t remember what it was we were getting, but we took a golf cart to a deserted locker room. He kissed me and I didn’t tell him to stop, maybe I kissed him back. He reached to fondle my breasts, but I insisted that I didn’t do that kind of thing and he stopped. We drove back and I thought over and over “I kissed an old man. What just happened? Why did I do that?” Looking back now I am fairly certain that we didn’t retrieve anything from the locker room and the whole thing was a ruse to be alone with me.

We had a second encounter, in Mandy Moore’s trailer when I was dropping off soap or snacks or something else they had asked me to purchase for her. He kissed me again, but I don’t remember him pushing for anything more than that. I never saw or heard from him again after the concert. I have no idea if anyone else working that week knew what was happening and I’ve only told this story to a very small number of people because for a long time I was very ashamed or embarrassed or guilty or confused about the whole thing.

I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed or guilty anymore and that has opened up my ability to re-examine this experience in the wake of #metoo. I initially felt guilt or shame because I didn’t know how to categorize such actions within my Mormon framework. Kissing was a way to express affection or desire for someone who you wanted to marry, and that was the point of all of it, to get married. I wondered if I was supposed to confess a sin to my bishop because he had touched my breast.

It’s only recently that I’ve been revisiting that experience and realizing that I missed something very important. He should have known better. He was in a position of power over me, and I was very willing to do what he asked of me because I wondered if he might be someone who could connect me with opportunities in the future. My Mormon beliefs provided the gumption I needed to stand up for myself and cut him off in the locker room, but I was very lucky that I was having an encounter with someone who didn’t feel entitled to my body. This story easily could have gone the other way entirely.

I can’t describe how I provided consent, but I also can’t say this was done without my consent. This isn’t a story about assault. I wanted to write it out because if what it taught me about the tangled relationship between context and consent. He should have known better. He used his power to set up situations where he could corner me. This wasn’t anything like enthusiastic consent, it was something on the fringes of coercion.

If I saw him on the street I’m not sure I would recognize him. Maybe this thing I’ve thought a lot about has never crossed his mind again. Somehow I get to think of myself as lucky because he didn’t assault me, because he’s one of the #notallmen who knows to stop when a woman says no. Whoop-di-doo, that’s a pathetic bar to be able to clear. He really should have known better.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve not been able to share mine with more than a couple of people and it happened more than 25 years ago.

    My initial reaction though, is that this man isn’t one of “not all men” because while he did stop when you said no, he took advantage of his power over you and deliberately put you in a position where there would be no one else around to witness what he planned to do. And then he took advantage a second time!

    Slime

    Reply

    1. I hope you’ve felt supported when you did share. Thank you for supporting me after I shared mine.

      I don’t feel angry at this man. I feel sad that it took so many of us so long to realize that this behavior is wrong and we need to have dramatically different expectations around sexuality and consent.

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  2. I am remitting see you come to the determination that this was not your fault. Women and men are not at fault for the actions of predators.

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    1. Yes! It strikes me that it’s very important to drive this message home for the next generation. You are never responsible for the actions of another person.

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  3. I am one of the few women who has not had an experience. I am sure some of my LDS upbringing has influenced that. I also went to BYU, but I was not as good and I certainly kissed a lot and had my fun. However, I can think back to one experience when at work. I was closing for the night with one other coworker, a boy. He was a bit younger than me. We had apparently been flirting with each other that night. I knew that he had a girlfriend, and I wasn’t interested, but apparently, we were flirting. After all the customers had left he kissed me. It took me by surprise and I asked him to stop. He did, and he felt embarrassed. I think the real problem was that he assumed I wanted what he wanted, without ever really asking. I told my boss that I did not want to close the restaurant with him ever again. It was an awkward conversation, but I am thankful they listened and took me seriously. However, after #metoo, I have realized there were many, many times when things could have turned out differently. My own sister sadly, did not get as lucky as me. I worry about my own children constantly. Respecting each other shouldn’t be such a difficult concept to understand.

    Reply

    1. I also have thought about how my upbringing influenced the situations I was in and decreased the likelihood that I would be in situations where consent is blurry (often because of drugs or alcohol). For that I am grateful, and not quite sure how I’m going to handle things with my kids because I don’t plan to micromanage their decisions around substances. They’ll have a very different teenage/college experience than I did and they’ll take on a lot more risk because of it.

      I’m also thankful that your boss listened and took your claims seriously. Your comment reminded me that the most egregious #metoo violation I’ve ever personally witnessed was the elderly owner of a restaurant where I worked as a waitress. He roamed around the floor pinching or swatting at the female servers and making lewd comments. It was sexual harassment and it was laughed off and excused because he was an LDS grandpa and that’s just the way old men behave, right?

      Reply

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