A source rubbed his hand on my butt. “God, you’ve got a nice ass,” he said. I was 40-something.
That’s my contribution to the astonishing #notokay phenomenon igniting a soocial media national conversation about sexual assault.
Author Kelly Oxford started it Friday, the day of the release of a video of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s lewd, predatory talk about women. Oxford tweeted her first experiences with sexual assault and invited others to do the same. It went viral. Women posted tweets by the second with the #notokay hashtag.
My former colleague Kari Bland’s column today inspired me to join the conversation.
I met a source, a former elected official, for happy hour at a midtown Phoenix spot to discuss a project he wanted to write for The Arizona Republic. At the time, he was a former somebody from way back in the day, and he was trying to be somebody again. Alcohol abuse worked against his goal.
We talked a long while, enough time for him to maintain the buzz he had before I arrived. We were walking to our cars just after dusk when he rubbed his hand over my butt and offered an opinion about it.
Did he just do and say that? In public? I knew him to be an alcoholic, not a sexist.
What did I do? Nothing. I said goodnight, got in my car and went home. To stew.
It was #notokay, but I allowed it to not become a big deal. I had experienced greater threats than the lecherous acts of an aging alcoholic, like dealing with an angry, desperate, drug-addled man who threatened to kidnap my daughter and burn down my house.
My way of handling the lecher was to never meet him in person again. After that incident, I talked with him only occasionally by phone, more from professional obligation than courtesy.
Fast-forward a decade or so. I leave The Arizona Republic to do my own thing as an independent contractor. The lecher calls after hearing about my career move. He’s working on a big project. (He’s always working on a project that never seems to go anywhere.) He’s stuck and he thinks I can help. He needs someone to spend time with him at his home office, to listen to him, to light his fire.
“I need a muse,” he said.
Really? A muse? That’s what they call it now.
I politely declined. And then stewed.
I should have blasted him for what he probably didn’t remember doing years ago. I should have called him out on the services he really wanted from me.
I let it go. And I was wrong.
I know I’m wrong because my daughter tells me what happens when she and her friends go dancing at the clubs. She said it’s not unusual for guys, complete strangers, to cop a feel. It has happened to her. She did nothing.
(Illustration by Pixabay.)