The pelican papers

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#MeToo & #IHave

Posted by Ron George on December 29, 2017

I went to college in the fall of 1965. Before I knew it, I was an object of sexual desire.

It was unwelcome, but I was conflicted about how to reject it. Homosexual men made clear that I was attractive to them and that I needed to shed my inhibitions and, at the very least, let them give me a blow job. I was conflicted because I liked these guys, even though I didn’t appreciate the sexual pressure and grooming. They were smart, clever and fun to be with. They invited me to parties – and to church.

There was something in it for all of us. I played hard to get while enjoying their hospitality, which in those days was mostly about free booze and off-campus gatherings where gay and straight people mingled and danced just within reach of each other.

I was 18, and it wasn’t the first time a homosexual man had expressed interest in me. (There was a ninth-grade teacher, but I was clueless; it went nowhere.) I was living away from home for the first time; and, frankly, I was making a hash of it – not enough time studying, too much time partying; and, of course, my hormones were raging out of control.

Finally, a graduate student took me to bed after plying me with alcohol for hours. I gave in, emotionally exhausted after months of resistance. There was no pleasure in it for me, though my seducer refused to believe that. I wept hysterically and wanted to go home – anywhere but where we were, in his room, in his bed.

I had been raped.

I was ashamed then, as I am now, that I was no more disciplined and had no more sense of myself than to let life get away from me in so many ways. I’d been had and humiliated by a man who said he loved me but only wanted sex. At least, that’s how it seemed at the time. He’s no longer alive – and, yes, I forgave him long ago.

Diary of a Seducer, by Arshile Gorky (1945)

I began to wonder what I’d done to make him think I was gay. Was I? He thought so and said so many times. All I needed to do, he said, was just “come out.” (My roommate did, and he too pressured me for sex, and often brought his dates to our room after the bars closed. That also went nowhere.)

My first homosexual experience was not my last. I experimented. I wondered whether I was bisexual, and wound up mistreating men and women alike. Guilt and shame accumulated as I struggled to live into, of all things, a Christian life. I seemed to have my sexual and spiritual wires crossed. Again and again I confessed to priests, counselors and shrinks.

Finally, I took a knife to myself in a suicide gesture. I wanted to go home, to get away from the ambiguity and personal ambivalence that seemed to be confounding my life. It didn’t work. Dad talked me into staying in college; meanwhile, most of my gay upperclassmen friends, including the man who seduced me the first time, had graduated and moved away from town.

Given that experience, one might conclude that I’d learned a valuable lesson about sexual exploitation, and that I’d not ever become that which so frightened me as a college freshman. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect the dots.

Later in life, I became the seducer, treating attractive women not as people but as opportunities for sex. I became the worst kind of religious minister. I didn’t become a priest in order to seduce women, but the very nature of pastoral ministry – the permission it gives to become part of people’s intimate lives – inevitably leads to temptation, and I did not have the moral courage to resist. (Click here for more on this subject.)

I also was susceptible to being seduced with all the ego-gratification that goes with that. Unfortunately, it ruined me and so many of my loved ones and friends, the details of which are too numerous to mention here. (Click here for some sense of it.) Suffice to say that my moral core was rotten. In many ways, to this day, I sense that emptiness, which often feels like utterly irredeemable pain.

It’s a kind of hell, and I deserve it. (Dante would have put me in the Inferno’s second circle.)

I could make the usual excuses about how times have changed, that it was, after all, the Sixties, when just about everyone was experimenting with new sexual mores (they weren’t), but that dog simply won’t hunt. Then there’s the customary, standard denial of sexual predators that, well, it was all consensual – which isn’t the point, at all. Sexual misconduct when there’s a power imbalance in the relationship is simply wrong and always has been.

It’s never been OK for someone with a “position” to use that position as an opportunity to seduce or sexually exploit or abuse someone else; and, it can be argued that, for millennia, women have been by definition in the powerless position anytime and everywhere. Fortunately, that seems to be changing, and it’s long overdue.

Men who support women’s right to confront sexual misconduct and abuse, and to demand that perpetrators be called to account, ought not be too smug about it. None of us is innocent of persistent sexism in America anymore than we can claim as a nation to be free of racism.

The way forward, I would submit, is to be honest about the prevalence of sexual misconduct and abuse while acknowledging the continuum of complexity that confounds our ability to deal with it.

It’s really not this simple, but perhaps it is a beginning: Men ought to repudiate bad behavior while women, somehow, find their way to forgiving it, case by case — but only after perpetrators are held accountable. (Ultimately, at least in my experience, only forgiveness brings healing and peace of mind.)

It will not be a quick fix, probably not in my lifetime; but, I do pray that my grandchildren, finally, will not have to deal with the sexually predatory assumptions of others.

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One Response to “#MeToo & #IHave”

  1. Patsy Durham said

    Hmmmmmmmmm. New Year’s Eve, and this is a HARD read for me. (Certainly not as difficult as it was to write, I’m sure). Definitely TMI – TOO MUCH INFORMATION. It will take me a while to work through this one and give a more thoughtful response.

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