I'm sure many of you by now have heard about the Kickstarter, Above the Game (If not, here). It's basically funding a "how to assault and rape women" guide, and Kickstarter didn't pull it, or stop it. THANKS KICKSTARTER! They later offered an apology that, as far as corporate apologies go, was pretty good and threw a huge chunk at RAINN. I'm going to be watching them like a hawk in the future, but they get a pass, for now. However, that isn't what this post is about. This post is telling you guys a story about what actually happens when guys do this sort of thing. This is what it can feel like when men start taking the type of advice seduction manuals offer.
It was five years ago, I had written my last exam days ago, was days out of a long term relationship, and it was my friends birthday. I tend to have mostly dude friends, so going out to the bar with only women was new to me. That part of the night was fine, and many of the girls left early, so it was myself, the birthday girl, and one of our other classmates, still looking for adventure. We wandered around downtown, none of us having been in the city for too long by that point, and came across a pool hall. It was busy enough, but quiet. You could easily have a conversation. The type of place that under different circumstances, I probably would have gone back to at a later date.
There were a few groups of people shooting pool, mostly mixed, and one group of men right by the door. They perked up when they saw girls come in. I have still never done the "pick up a random dude at a bar" thing, and flirting with strange men in anything but a social situation always sort of freaks me out. Just never been how I operate, I guess? Being JUST OUT OF A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP and with two single and definitely on the prowl ladies, that was about to change.
"Mmmmmmmmmmm, him," said my one friend, pointing at a guy with a hat. I thought he was the cutest, too.
"I like him," said the birthday girl with a giggle, pointing at a large, muscular bald man. Having always preferred the nebbish, lanky, goofy type he was very much not up my alley. Apparently, I was very much up his. I would find out later he was an off-the-boat Russian accountant named Eugene who was 4-5 years older than we were. The guy in the hat wandered over to chat up my one friend, leaving the birthday girl and I alone with Eugene. She was half in the bag, I was not, and I was trying to wingman when I had no real idea how to do that. She kept trailing off and it fell on me to keep the conversation going. At one point, she decided to get up to go to the bathroom so he could watch her ass as she walked away (or so she told me later).
Which meant she was leaving me, a tiny little thing, alone with a strange, much bigger than me man. It took him about three seconds to out of fucking nowhere scoop me into his lap and plant a kiss on me. A very g-rated kiss, but still, fucker actually kissed me. I was stunned. What the ever living crap was happening? Was this normal? Was this just... what talking to dudes in bars was like? Had I missed this in our cultural narrative? He was grinning, looking pleased with himself even though I'm sure I looked absolutely horrified. It didn't take me long to get out of his lap. He grabbed my elbow, not hard, but held it.
"Come on," he said, that shit eating grin still in place, "relax. Have a seat."
"I already did, that was the problem," and with that I bolted, seeing my two friends frozen to the spot in shock and awe at leaving me alone for thirty seconds to come back to find me in a random dude's lap.
"Ihateyoubothsomuchletsgonowplease." Eugene left our table, going back to his friends, and like a startled cat that had just fallen in the pool my friends coaxed me back to our table and pitcher. Eventually, I calmed down and we went back to our game, and that was when he came back. I froze, terrified. There was no way he couldn't tell I was scared, and no way he could think I was interested, but he came back anyways. Not only did he not seek my consent to touch me in the first place, he was now ignoring a blatant "NO". My friend, the birthday girl, stood in his way and announced we were leaving. He tried to convince us to stay but we peddled a few feeble lies about having to be up in the morning. Things dissolved into idle chit chat as they often do, and out of no where he asked my (very drunk) friend if she liked puzzles as he pulled a metal ring puzzle out of his pocket.
When she took the half step forward, he was past her and on the other side of me. Did I mention I was terrified? Because I was terrified. There was no attempt to hide the fact he freaked me out. He was touching me the second he was past my friend, and I froze. In hindsight, this was probably why he was targeting me. I was naive and awkward and not nearly self-assured enough to do something like tell him to take a hike. He figured it would be easy enough to get past my "no". My friend set the puzzle down.
"We're leaving," she said, unlike past me more than willing to make a scene. She slammed the puzzle down on the table and grabbed my arm. He had the other. For a horrifying moment, I thought this was going to become tug-of-war with me as the rope, but when I stepped towards my friend, he let go.
I was down the stairs in seconds, and confused, glanced to see where my friend was. She had paused to look at him and his friends and say "Yeah, NOT going to happen" before sauntering down after me. She lived across the street from me, and spent the cab ride home giving me tips and advice on how to deal with guys like him. "Girls in bathrooms are always really nice. Just ask someone to tell him you're sick and they're taking you home. Girls in the bathroom will always help," she said soothingly.
When we got home we pulled out a bottle of wine and sat in her yard. "Are you okay?"
The answer was "Not even a little". I was scared, traumatized, and shaken. I felt violated. I had never had anything like that happen to me before. He kept pushing, even after I said no, and not pushing as in he kept talking to me, but he kept touching me. To this day, I am leery of strange men in bars, and it took years before I would feel safe in one without at least one guy in our group (I have never had a guy at the bar approach me when I was in a mixed group).
When I was assaulted on the bus back in the fall, I knew what rape and assault actually looked like. I had people around me who were willing to call it what it was--assault--before I was. Back then? I was young, I was naive, so were those around me. No one called it assault when I told the story (which I did, often for laughs because it sounds so over the top) it was met with "Creeps, amIrite?" instead of "A-are you okay?" No one bat an eye at it, so why should I? But it nagged at me, for years.
Reading "Above the Game" made my skin crawl, because it put me back into that pool hall, into that creep's lap, and made me relive those moments. It made me relive the discomfort, it made me realize that I've been assaulted twice, not just once, and has left me feeling sick and depressed. Consent matters, and declaring yourself "above the game" is like declaring yourself "above the law". You just aren't, and thinking you are is dangerous.