A Tale For Our Times… From 35 Years Ago

I received the following anecdote from a person who, for reasons you will surely understand, wishes to remain anonymous. In case you missed it in the news, NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – a politician widely expected to win election as governor and then run for president – resigned after The New Yorker magazine made public the stories of several women who allege they had violent sexual encounters with Schneiderman.
Mr. Schneiderman, it must be noted, denies these allegations and has stated: “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
My correspondent relates the following:

   The recent Eric Schneiderman story immediately brought to my mind something that happened to me long ago.

   If you cringe at personal carnal details, you should stop reading now. I will present nothing crude, but it does get rather personal. I promise to present this in as tasteful a manner as I can.

   Back in the mid 1980s I attended a rent party held in a loft off 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. A most fascinating woman friend of mine, an artist, lived in the enormous space with several other people and, as happens with young people starting out in New York City life, they’d fallen behind in the rent. Rent parties happened all the time in the city back then – and the few bucks required to gain entry provided plenty of fun (and drink) all night long.

   Within 30 minutes of the doors opening, the party started cooking. Over 200 people had already arrived and more kept coming. Wine and liquor flowed. Music filled the loft. We all had a blast. I’d call the atmosphere one of joyous fun. People made friends. Whether we’d see each other again or not made no difference.

   At one point during the party I found myself talking with a couple of interesting young ladies. I don’t recall the details of our conversation (for reasons you will soon find obvious), but during our chat we all started laughing. And then another young woman crossed the loft and came over to us. Till that moment, I had not known of her attendance at the party. Oh, I knew her all right. We’d had a rather odd “relationship” a year or so earlier. She fancied herself a “free spirit,” meaning she thought it amusing to say and do things that upset people. Things like shoplifting in bodegas…

   When our laughter died down, the “free spirit” looked at the two women, pointed a thumb at me like a hitchhiker, and said, with a sunny, cheerful smile, “He’s a very funny guy. But he’s no good at all in bed.”

   This, naturally, drew startled looks from the women. But I had expected something like this from the “free spirit,” so I nonchalantly turned to the other women and said, “Well, the concept of ‘good’ in bed depends on the compatibility of the people involved. For example, this young lady found me extremely disappointing because I flatly refused to tie her up, gag her, and then beat the hell out of her while raping her.”

   You have no doubt heard the expression, “her jaw dropped.” Well, the “free spirit’s” mouth opened into as wide an “O” as her lower jaw mechanism could handle as it dropped down. Then tears came to her eyes and she cried, “I can’t believe you told them that!”
   I said, “Hey, you brought it up. I just wanted to explain what you meant.”
   And with that, the “free spirit” ran off and the rest of us continued our discussion. To this day I have no idea what we talked about.

To understand what happened that night, and why the “free-spirit” said what she said, we need to go back a year or so before the party.

I always liked this woman, the “free spirit,” who I will not identify here. We’d run into each other now and then and we got along well. She once gave me a few dollars when I needed it. Probably no more than $10 as I recall. Some months later, she needed money, about $300. So I gave it to her and told her this makes us even. She initially rejected the money and the idea that it makes us even, saying she had given me far less.
“It only matters,” I said, “that you gave me what I needed at the time I needed it, and now I want to give you the same thing: what you need when you need it. The amount doesn’t matter. This balances us out perfectly.” 
I happen to look at things that way. She accepted the money and soon after that, we started seeing more of each other. And then, well, if you cringe at personal carnal details you should heed my warning at the top.

   One night as we engaged in an intimate physical act for the first time together, she began shaking violently and then started crying. I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked her what happened. She hissed out, “I can’t!” then started crying again. After a moment, she added “I can’t do this without thinking -” and the dam burst. I held her as she heaved and cried. This went on for maybe a half hour. Any “romantic” thoughts I had harbored vanished in the face of a clearly uncontrollable emotional crisis. I held her till it started to ease for her.

    When she had settled down a bit, but still through tears, she said her reaction had nothing to do with me. It involved her father and I will not relate any more than that. But when she finished explaining, I understood her reaction completely. After a few minutes laying quietly side by side, she said, with an air of resignation, “I guess we should start over now,” and squished her face and eyes shut looking like someone preparing for something akin to a firing squad.

   I told her no, we will definitely not start over.

   “You have to,” she said in a pleading way as if she found it important. “I understand why,” she added. “I can take it. Just go ahead and do it.”  She squished her face again.
   “Why do I have to do anything?” I asked. She told me that she knew that if I didn’t continue… then I would probably die.
   “WHAT?!?” I shouted in spite of trying to remain calm. “I will die? How?”
   She blushed and said, “You know…” I told her no, I did not know.
   She whispered (why she whispered I never knew since we had nobody else with us) and she said to me, as though speaking to a moron, “Your BALLS will explode.”
   Before I realized it, I shouted, “Where the hell did you hear that?” I vividly remember seeing myself as Dave the astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey after HAL said he knew of the plot to disconnect him (“Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?”) and it occurred to me that some guy or guys had fed her the old “blue balls” malarkey as a way to force themselves on her. The sheer cruelty of their action showed in the scrunched up face she made as she prepared to sacrifice herself for the sake of my very life.

   So I said, “Oh shit,” told her not to believe that stuff, and suggested we get some sleep. Over the next weeks we grew closer and we had something of a physical relationship going when she hit me with her Big Idea: She told me that she could only really enjoy sex if she had no choice in the matter; she needed it to happen against her will. So she enthusiastically suggested that I tie her hands behind her back with my necktie, gag her, then pummel her (anywhere but the face) and rape her. Not act like I would rape her, but actually rape her. All this would happen with her consent, she assured me.

   As she described what she wanted me to do, I saw clearly that this went way beyond any consensual act of “bondage” or “role playing” with their pre-arranged safety checks. The whole thing went against my nature. I could not do it. I just cannot get into that. She kept telling me that she needed to submit to real force, that she could not act willingly, in order to enjoy herself. Knowing what I knew about her history, I could see why she felt that way. But I had no intention of taking any sort of advantage of that kind of misery.

   I told her no every damn way I could. She kept pleading, promising me a good time. Now, don’t think I present myself as Sir Galahad about this. My demurral had a practical side as well as a principled side. I knew that during the course of enacting this “game” I will have left behind all the criminal forensic calling cards of a whole portfolio of felonies. I pictured myself shuddering in a small cold room deep in the bowels of the local station-house, facing a glaring 1,000-watt light bulb as I endured the grilling of a horde of beefy, enraged cops, all of whom have young daughters at home:
“Just answer yes or no! Did you tie her up?”
   “Did you gag her?”
   “Did you beat her?”
   “Is this your tie?”
What could I say that wouldn’t have me digging my own grave?

   Aside from my personal revulsion at her suggested “game,” if this troubled woman later changed her mind about it, I knew I would have absolutely no way to prove it all happened consensually and upon her instigation. If I tried to explain what really happened, I would seem, at best, like a cad blaming the “victim.” And to back up my story I would have to reveal the horrific story the woman had told me about her past – with no way to prove a single word of it.

   Knowing what she had revealed to me about her childhood, I realized I could not take the chance that at some point in the future she won’t feel regret or disgust over this and use it as a weapon to hurt me. Hurt me with charges of Rape in the First Degree (Penal Code §130.35), Unlawful Imprisonment (§135.10), Menacing in the Third Degree (§120.15), Assault in the First Degree (§120.10). That right there added up to well over 100 years in prison and any competent Assistant District Attorney could find more charges, all of which I would have no power to convincingly deny. Here I had not yet reached the age of 30 and already I faced a life stretch up the river. And as I said, the whole charade struck me as repulsive anyway. I cannot do something like that either in reality or “in fun.” Violence just doesn’t turn me on.

   No matter how I looked at it, I did not consider that game worth the candle. The whole thing not only turned me off, it left me too vulnerable in the hands of a person with some serious and profound problems; problems that I did not wish to toy with. I had no intention of paying the price for what someone else had done to her. This boy had read too much James M. Caine not to see a potential set-up in the making. All “film noir” stories require a willing sap who falls into the machinations of an alluring but troubled dame. Not me, tootsie.

   So it never happened.

   Does this sound a touch paranoiac? We soon drifted apart and I didn’t see her again till that party, where she indeed used that proposed encounter as a weapon. For practical reasons, if not ethical reasons, I knew the moment she pulled that stunt at the rent party that my refusal may have disappointed a lady, but I had made the right choice.

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One Response to “A Tale For Our Times… From 35 Years Ago”

  1. scottross79 Says:

    God, what monsters parents make. That dame didn’t need sex – she needed intensive psychotherapy. And I’ll bet she never got it. Sounds like your friend wisely dodged a very dangerous bullet.

    And yeah, she asked for the remark he made. As Paddy Chayefsky noted in “Network,” the worst thing some women can think of to say to a man “is to impugn his cocksmanship.” That kind of thing should be grown out of by adulthood, like the impulse to compare genitals behind the barn. But when it isn’t… we should all have the sang-froid and the presence of mind to deflate it with an accurate statement.

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