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.