I came over to hang out and watch TV after talking to him online for a week or so. “Always Sunny” is playing in the background while we talk. I had mentioned earlier that I loved watching sitcoms and cartoons with despicable characters.
He asks to kiss me within minutes of us sitting down. He has a swagger of someone not used to hearing no. That's at least the impression I got when I declined. “You want to touch your mouth on my mouth and I don’t really know you and we’re just talking,” I try to laugh it off.
Everyone knows that guy.
He’s sharp in both speech and dress. The kind of person that is on their toes with every response. We’re having a friendly conversation in his tiny living room while Dennis and Frank from "Always Sunny" concoct their latest scheme on the TV mounted to the wall. “It’s the best character of any script,” I tell him. “Think about it. Bender on ‘Futurama.’ Karen from ‘Will & Grace.’ Basically everyone on ‘Always Sunny.’ Totally irredeemable characters. But always the most entertaining to watch. I want to write a character like that.” Mostly so that I can torture them on the page.
He sparks at the idea that I might enjoy asshattry for asshattery sake. He’s misunderstood, and projecting. Now he’s telling me about the asshattery he was committing in order to deconstruct the burner philosophy of radical inclusion. Purposefully being offensive for the sake of offense.
This is what he choses to say to impress me on a first date? Do you know who I am? Did you even Google me??
He rambles on, bragging about what a huge asshole he is, and the story bends to a side-story.
There was a girl tripping on acid. He had given her a sniff or two of a research chemical that was supposed to pull her out of the bad trip. He explained how he just put a drop or two on her hand. The spot where someone might wipe their nose if they didn’t have a sleeve.
“But it was crazy. She started running through camp screaming that I had tried to date rape her.”
I am turning a small vile of veterinary meds he showed me, still sealed in the plastic over in my fingers. The kind with the dropper top. I wish there was a nonchalant way to take a picture of the label. I try to say the name, and butcher it.
He doesn’t say the name, but instead says, “It only takes a drop or two. But I wouldn’t want to give that to you.”
“Why not?” I almost admire the way he can turn a conversation in the direction he wants it to go. He never answers, but I don’t press. He tells me that a group of burners confronted him after hearing the woman, and he had to leave.
“Which burn was it?”
He doesn’t remember.
“Do you know ##$#$#@?”
“How about X##*$#*#?”
The name sounds familiar, but no.
He’s lying. “Well, burns are big and there are a lot of people,” I give him back the dropper bottle, and he returns it to his bedroom.
I am sitting in the living room with a possible rapist. As he continues to talk, about his job as a therapist (also a lie), and people he knows (all lies), I listen and make wry, pleasant responses. I want to leave, but my feet feel tangled. I wait to the end of the episode of ‘Always Sunny’ that is still playing in the background as we talk because - get this - I don’t want to be offensive or awkward. If I haven't crushed enough patriarchy to be able to just take the bottle and run screaming like the woman at the burn - if I still must make a graceful exit, going to do so as the cat, not the mouse.
“You know I’m a writer, right? This is what I do. I write about this stuff, and of course I use my own experiences.” It felt powerful to say I had a voice, and I wasn’t afraid to use it. Since he didn't google me, or read my profile closely, I made extra sure he understood who I was. It was only after I told him I write about affirmative consent, safer sex, kink with a feminist bent that I watched some of his confidence drain.
“Oh yeah, that’s great. I mean, don’t use my name but yeah.” His answer was nonchalant. But his body language changed. He stroked his hair, and adjusted himself in his seat. His answers became more guarded. And eventually he brought our attention back to Dennis and Dee, who were doing something unconscionable to the waitress.
Exit Stage Left
When the credits rolled, I told him I was heading out. “Drum jam is tonight. There’s a lot of people there.” I gave him an awkward hug, my arms making a wide arch around his shoulders.
I didn’t look up at his balcony as I made my way to my car. I’ve been around the Brock before. The same person who scoffed at adult sex education because “his daddy had that talk with him” is the same person with the lackadaisical attitude toward consent as long as to them. It’s only “20 minutes of action” because they don’t see themselves like the accused rapists we see being burned at the stake on the news.
I’m sitting in the car taking longer than I want to get the GPS to tell me how to leave. I start to ask the questions I see in the media. What am I doing to attract this? How can I be more clear? This keeps happening. I keep running into the nice guy who turns out to have some issue with the practical application of something he must know to be true. They must know that intoxication, or guilt trips, or manipulating someone’s vulnerabilities is not consent. The Brocks must know this - right?
Breed Out The Brocks
But they don’t know. Why isn’t Stanford University checking off sexuality education courses like they do science and english literature? Obama’s recent defunding of abstinence based sex education in public schools is an inch toward the miles we have to go before we have bred out all the Brocks from the planet. Even this article, written anonymously, stating that “rape culture begins in middle school” doesn’t go far enough. It is more than “teach your boys not to rape girls.” The problem is systematic.
There is a pervasive idea in most of the schools our children attend that we must keep males separate from females because males, especially of a certain age are bound to act on sexual impulse given the desire and opportunity. As if rape culture is something you grow out of. As if the twerps manipulating classmates into sending nudes on Snapchat don’t become the Brocks sitting in freshman orientation at the University positively glowing in their privilege. Their assurance that their life means more than someone else’s. That a lifetime of violent memories can be traded for 20 minutes of action. Not only should schools be responsible for teaching basic respect for body autonomy from day one in comprehensive sexuality education, legislators and judges should at the very least be implementing criminal sentencing that reflects the total lack of humanity inherent in the crime.
So yes. I get a little jumpy now when someone leans in too close when they’re drunk. Or accidently on-purpose touches my breast for the third time after I’ve tactically and verbally declined. Or when behaves as because I write about sex that I fuck everyone with genitals. Or when someone hands me a bottle of research drugs and tells me they were accused of date rape. It’s not just annoying out there anymore. It’s downright frightening. We need to start talking about the nice guy who doesn't know he's a rapist.