A Rough Horseplay

Jia Tolentino shares her own account of an incident happened to her when she was in high school. It is such a powerful story that I am going quote in length. She writes in the New Yorker:

Like Ford and Kavanaugh, I went to a private high school where excess and entitlement abounded. Reading the details of Ford’s account, and listening to Kavanaugh’s defenders since, I have found myself thinking about something I’d almost forgotten: a night when I was home from college for the summer, at a house party, where a group of friends drained a couple of bottles of tequila and bourbon. Late in the evening, one guy at the party asked me to come upstairs and tuck him in. I did, wasted and giggling, and then he pulled me onto the bed, briefly trapping me, kissing me, saying all sorts of things. I struggled against him, and after a fierce, alarming tussle—“rough horseplay”—I wrenched myself free. This did not traumatize me, but the feeling was unmistakable. He was trying to establish that he could make me do whatever he wanted—an essentially violent impulse, familiar to anyone who has ever been forced into an encounter she cannot control.

While writing this, I went back to my diary, to see how I described, at the time, what occurred. “That’s where I went wrong, agreeing to tuck him in,” I wrote. “But tucking people in is so adorable. I wish I could be tucked in, you know? . . .He pulled me on the bed and kissed me, and I had no idea what to do. I see him every night, even though we just met this summer. He’s a good guy. I couldn’t, like, slap him.” A few paragraphs later, I wrote, “Fuck. I kept trying to leave! He kept fucking pulling me on him. I finally got out. I keep asking myself how I could have handled it . . .I was afraid to be rude.” I decided that I was “an enormous idiot, and I feel taken advantage of. That’s what they call it, isn’t it? Unwanted sexual advances? I wish there was an absolute jury, to tell me how much is my fault. Because I feel so guilty that I feel like that’s a sign that it was my fault.” I continued to berate myself, even after writing that there was “no acquiescence. It was someone kissing me, and me trying to get away.”

Men are so afraid, in this moment, that they will suddenly be held accountable for things they always thought they could get away with. But look at how profoundly inertia is on their side. After this party, which took place not even a decade and a half ago, I told one friend and my boyfriend, about what happened. I didn’t tell anyone else. I knew, without anyone having to explain it to me, that this was a common and unremarkable incident—that everyone, including me, had been shaped by the disgraceful understanding that he had the right to make me uncomfortable but that I did not have the right to make him uncomfortable by telling them what he did. I think of Ford not telling anyone—“in any detail,” the Post reported—about what happened to her until 2012. Why would you tell someone about a stupid high-school party where some stupid kid pushed you down on a bed and groped you when you can summon a hundred voices reminding you that tons of guys do this, that it’s no big deal? I am certain that the boy who pulled me onto the bed has no memory of it now. I hope, sincerely, that he has a good life. But I wouldn’t put him on the Supreme Court.

Thank you for sharing such a painful past. I believe Dr. Ford as well.