This author has chosen to remain anonymous.
I remember the first time I saw him—in English Lit 101. I was a freshman in college, still navigating the new and exciting waters of no curfews and dining halls and dorm life.
He was hot, to use my 18-year-old lingo. Distractingly so. I found myself meeting his gaze a few times across the lecture hall. I would feel myself blush, turn back to my notes, and steal another glance the next class. I was positive he had no idea who I was. He was a star hockey player. I was a nerdy political science major who frequented the gym on occasion after a night of too many fried cheese sticks at 2 a.m.
A month or two into our freshman year, I had gotten my feet wet, literally, by traversing across campus from class to class and keg party to keg party. And figuratively as well. I’d learned what got us free beer (bringing friends—girls only) and how to avoid the R.A.s. One night I stumbled into a dorm room where my friends and I had heard there was a party. He was there. My English Lit 101 crush. And he locked eyes on me.
I don’t remember how it happened so quickly, but within a few minutes, the room was empty. I guess he sent a message to his friends to clear out. And I assume my girlfriends, who’d heard me mention him (who hadn’t mentioned him?) saw my golden opportunity and got out of my way.
Suddenly I was alone with the best-looking guy I’d ever been alone with. He didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t know my name, although I knew his. He didn’t ask me to sit or if I’d like a drink or try to kiss me. Within 10 seconds of the room clearing, he grabbed my crotch and pulled me toward him.
I was shocked and scared. And I ran. And I am so grateful to this day that I did.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had stayed. It’s not fair to presume that this guy, this star athlete who was able to get any girl he wanted, was also someone who would have assaulted me. Maybe he would have respected me if I said no. But I’d never been grabbed with such force before, with such a lack of regard for me as a person, without making any other attempts to know me.
I was a piece of meat.
A few months later, I met another very good looking athlete—a soccer player this time. I felt another crush coming on. He, too, was 18, still learning to use his wings of independence at a place with no parents and a lot of alcohol and girls in short skirts. Like before, he and I made eye contact a few times and eventually found our way to each other at a party one night.
Only this time the room didn’t clear. In fact, it wasn’t until the 4th or 5th time I met up with him that we were even alone. It wasn’t until after he walked me home from a party one night, a walk that we spent talking about our families and siblings and majors and how much calculus sucked, that he even tried to kiss me for the first time.
This college freshman—an athlete bombarded with “locker room banter” of how women should be treated—was safe. And kind. And respectful. And he eventually became my husband.
“Boys will be boys,” you say? I say you are probably right. Some will justify their reprehensible behavior with that flippant phrase. But others will be good men who respect women. Some men will grab a woman by the crotch and brag about it. Others will walk her home and ask about her little brother’s basketball game.
I now have a son. Guess which man he will grow up to be?