Another day, another accusation of sexual harassment against a Hollywood player. Each one serious as a heart attack. The night before last, Kevin Spacey. This morning, Brett Ratner. Dustin Hoffman was also called out today. This is just a beginning. Every voracious hound in town will eventually go down. Those who crossed the lines, I mean.
Yesterday I mentioned to a couple of friends that I have a very slight inkling of what it’s like to be invaded or preyed upon. No one ever harassed or assaulted me, but between my mid teens and early 20s I endured several episodes in which I was lightly pawed and hit on by older gay guys. All except one could be described as annoyances. I wouldn’t begin to suggest they were anything similar to what scores of women who were assaulted or harassed by Harvey Weinstein or the others have described, but they were invasive and certainly unwelcome.
One incident happened in a workplace environment. I was working as a stock boy for Caldor, a department store located in Norwalk, Connecticut, when a floor manager, a bald-headed, now-deceased guy whose last name was Rice, suggested getting some whiskey and going to a motel. Uhm, no thanks. When I was 15 and 16 I was accosted a couple of times by light-fingered predators when I would surreptitiously visit Times Square on Saturday afternoons. (Which I used to do a lot.) I was slightly irked by this but hardly traumatized. I used to hitchhike a lot around Boston, and I can’t tell you how many gay guys would pull over and make a pitch.
The one seriously creepy incident happened in New Orleans when I was 19. I had gotten blind drunk with friends on a Satuday night, and had somehow lost them. I ran into a parking lot attendant the next day who said, “Man, you were so drunk you couldn’t see.” Earlier that morning around 5 am I woke up in a hotel room bed with — yup, this happened — a much older guy in his underwear. Balding, blubbery, smelling of alcohol. The instant I realized what was happening I bounded out of bed and got dressed in a hurry, going “jeez” and “good God” and mostly feeling icky rather than assaulted. For decades I never even told friends about this. Too embarassing. Now I’m figuring “what the hell, it happened.”
Again, these experiences were minor penny-ante stuff. Thank God nobody ever got rough. But taken together in the aggregate they at least gave me an idea of what it might feel like to cope with unwanted sexual attention. No more than that.