When I was about eighteen, a friend of my father’s got married and I was invited to the wedding. My father became friends with Pierre (not his real name) after my parents divorced and my father moved into the same apartment building as Pierre and his partner at the time. It was a sad situation. I think I only met her and her children once or twice before she died of cancer. The children moved back in with their father and Pierre leaned on my father to cope with not only the loss of his partner, but also her two children who he had grown to love. I tell you this not to elicit sympathy for him—but instead to relate how three years later I got invited to his wedding.
In the beginning of their relationship, my father was single (because of the divorce) and Pierre as well (as explained above). I suspect that they drowned their sorrows together and I know that they acted as “wingmen” in their quest for new relationships to forget about the old ones. My father’s current partner was a nurse at a nearby hospital, and I know he was introduced to her by Pierre, who was rather fond of nurses.
I was not fond of Pierre. He always struck me as kind of seedy. In the three years that I knew him, he blew through several new “entrepreneurial” jobs, never settling long enough to see if he could make one work. As far as I was concerned, my father didn’t need any encouragement on the alcohol side (he is a functioning alcoholic), and Pierre seemed to bring out the behavior that one doesn’t want to see in one’s parent.
The friendship survived as they both eventually met new women. My father settled in with his partner in her home and eventually they moved into their own home. And over a year after that, Pierre announced he was getting married.
His fiance was actually a very nice, down-to-earth woman who was only about ten years older than I was. The two couples continued to meet socially, and although I only saw my father every two weeks, I got to see Pierre and his girlfriend regularly. When the wedding was announced, while he had only a small family, she had a large ethnic family, which meant that they had to beef up his side of the church and as a result, I was invited. I wasn’t extremely happy about it. I was in my first year of university, I was working part-time, and I didn’t have a steady boyfriend (which was I guess OK because I wasn’t given a plus one anyway).
But given my social anxieties and the fact that the only four people I knew at the wedding were my father and his partner and the bride and groom, I was not anticipating having a good time at the event. As we went down the receiving line, it was somehow disclosed or known that my eighteenth birthday had just passed. Pierre told me that he “owed me a kiss”. I demurred, shook his hand and ducked over to hug his new wife. There was no way he could not have understood I wasn’t interested in what he “owed me”. He laughed it off and said that he would get me later. I assumed that he was joking, or at least that he would be to busy later to worry about. It was a beautiful reception, the food was wonderful, and the booze was flowing from the bar. I (not legal yet at the time) was not partaking, and generally kept to myself at the table, getting up once to dance with my father, and another time to dance with one of the brides relatives (who I suspect had been told to ask me to dance). otherwise, I sat at the table and did my best impression of a wallflower, not partaking but for the most part enjoying the people watching.
[tweetthis]I sat at the table and did my best impression of a wallflower, enjoying the people watching.[/tweetthis]
The bride and groom were making their rounds of the room, and as we were near the back of the hall (because the front was all the bride’s family), the groom had had quite a few drinks before they made their way to our table. Pierre sat down beside my father, resting briefly and talking about what a great evening it had been. He said again that he “owed me a kiss.” I responded, “No, I’m alright thanks,” or something like it. He got up, presumably to move on to the next table but instead leaned down, holding me, pushing his fingers into the back of my head because I was trying to turn it. Before I could say a word gave me a sloppy, open-mouthed, alcohol-infused kiss.
I was stunned. There wasn’t even time for me to realize what was happening and refuse. He finished, grabbed his bride’s hand and moved on. She was a little slack-jawed—she knew he was out of line, but I’m sure didn’t mention it because she wanted to enjoy her wedding day.
I pushed up from the table and headed to the washroom, very upset. When I returned, I insisted on leaving, and after that I ensured that I was never in his presence again.
Here’s the thing though—there were several people who witnessed the act, who knew I was upset, and who never said a word about it. Not before, when it could have been prevented, not during, and certainly not after.
You may also look at it as a nothing occurrence. You may write it off as a drunken folly. Perhaps you might think that he was entitled to a kiss because I was the daughter of a friend that he knew very well.
Here’s the thing though. He forced himself on me. He was drunk and he forced me to comply with his will—even though I’d clearly indicated I was not interested. He did not have my consent. He felt he was entitled to have what he wanted, and if I wasn’t willing to give it, he was going to take it.
And this—which Jody Allard so eloquently wrote about in the Chicago Tribune recently—is what rape culture is all about. People standing by, accepting the unacceptable in the name of not hurting any feelings. And it struck me this morning as I read the article that nothing has changed since then. And it’s deplorable. And I don’t know how to fix it. But I’m going to talk about with my children. And if I EVER see anything like this happen to someone else (especially my children), I will speak up. And certainly if it were to ever happen to me again, I would speak up. Because by staying silent, we are promoting a culture which devalues women and their opinions and their rights to their own bodies.
And that’s not right.
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First off, I have to fix your RSS feed on my site because the last post is still showing your piece on how relationships are like buying a house! UGH! Sorry…I thought you hadn’t written in a while, what with the new job and all…
More importantly, though, I’m sorry for your experience and the unfavorable memories that exist. As someone who was raped at sixteen, I can relate to your feelings of being ignored and victimized and am fully on board with you about a person’s (male or female) right to have their “no” honored.. Thank you for opening this dialogue to such an important topic.
I am not familiar with “Transforming a Rape Culture,” but what I am aware of is how many things have changed since that day in my life. Many universities nationwide are taking a hard stance and a “Zero tolerance” on any sort of sexual harassment, discrimination, or “abuse.” This past winter I heard of one college who is handing out “consent forms” that people are encouraged to use before ANY form sexual activity takes place. And we’re not just talking intercourse. ANY form of sexual activity, that includes kissing and “petting.”.
Even as someone who was victimized, I feel the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction. There is a long list of protocols that constitute “consent,” which include, Sober, not coerced, consent is “active, not passive,” is verbal in action or words (rather ambiguous), and mutual, among other terms as set forth by different universities. And there have been reported cases where a “yes” has been given, only after the fact to be retracted. People, mostly young men, have been found guilty of “sexual misconduct” or worse, and have had their lives forever altered in the latter types of cases.
There has got to be a better way. I don’t have the solutions to offer or suggestions to put on the table; I am happy that we aren’t in the days of old where women were blamed and told to cover up their stories, but surely there’s got to be a better way than what is happening right now…
Again, this is such an important topic. Thank you for breaching the subject, for teaching your children that they have the right to say ‘no’ and have it honored, and for letting them (and others) know that you will advocate that for them! It’s such an important message to our next generations, to know they are supported.
So happy to find you still writing with your usual flair! 🙂
I offer this article as an example of what is happening in our universities. . http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/02/drunk_sex_on_campus_universities_are_struggling_to_determine_when_intoxicated.html
I don’t know that there is a solution to that issue. I just wish there was a way to get away from perpetuating the idea that a girl might resist if she likes you. If a girl resists, she deserves to be respected. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Annah! They’re always welcome.
I think we keep doing what you and I and so many others are doing for our daughters, sending the message that they have the right to say ‘no’ and have that affirmation honored. We are creating stronger, more confident women and hopefully those teachings will only continue to grow and be nurtured as our future generations come and go. <3
I hope we’re also teaching our sons about respect and boundaries. It feels like we’ve got a ways to go some days.
Absolutely. Agreed 110%. ❤️
Sick. Absolutely sick. How could this not be addressed? And his new wife letting that go? WOW. Just WOW. And for others to watch and not say anything, do anything- appalls me. This story is the perfect example of the rape culture if there ever was one. I’m so sorry this happened to you, sweetie. And this kind of ‘acceptance’ is EVERYWHERE.
Thank you for sharing this, and for taking a stand in making a difference to CHANGE the twisted views society seems to nurture. It MUST change.
Yes, it was just wrong. In so many ways. But it was definitely a learning moment.
It must change indeed.
Gross and pervy, and so disappointing that nobody stepped in and told him he was way out of line.
I’ve been teaching my Offspring from the time she was tiny that she has the right to bestow hugs and kisses on friends and relatives at her discretion. If someone tries to force it I let them know that it’s her body, her choice. Some people are offended, but I don’t give a rat’s ass. I had to fight off attempted rape by someone I went to school with as a teen. I never reported it. Now as a mom to a daughter I’m going to always err on the side of caution. I’ve told her a number of times that monsters are real, they don’t live under our beds, they walk among us and look like ordinary people.
They are real. And it makes me sad that we have to tell our daughters that. It feels like we’re robbing them of their innocence.
UGH UGH UGH, what an a$$hole! I’m so sorry that happened to you, Liv, and I’m so angry that yes, it’s still the same way today. I’ve been giving my daughters messages about ownership of their bodies for years…I hope at least having some words for it, language for it, will strengthen them in times like this. To know their voices and opinions and thoughts matter. To know this is unacceptable.
Thank you for writing this incredibly moving post. Poop on Pierre!
It is so important that we teach our daughters that their bodies are their own and no one else’s. What a world we live in…
He deserved nothing except perhaps for his new wife to smack him for that.
He was very lucky not to have gotten that response from me. If it hadn’t happened so quickly I might have.
So gross. And I’m glad you knew it was inappropriate. Some girls aren’t even taught that much. 🙁 My husband always tells me (when I can’t make up my mind) that if I don’t make a choice, that’s a choice. By using the same idea, not saying anything is still saying something. And you’re right. Speaking up is so important! I was once at a wedding (a few months pregnant and my boobs were sore and hurting), and my drunk aunt (we all have one, right?) came over and loudly proclaimed how big my boobs were and then proceeded to honk them in front of everyone. I was sooooo angry. But like you, I said nothing. And no one else did either. Not that it’s the same thing you experienced (because my aunt wasn’t making a pass at me). But still, I should have said something because, even though we think people should know what is and is not appropriate, sometimes, they just don’t.
You’re absolutely right. I try to teach my kids to speak their mind. And you’re right – sometimes people just don’t know what’s inappropriate.
The editor of the first magazine I wrote for stuck his tongue down my throat as he handed me my paycheck. I was 22, shocked, not sure what to do… All I said was “Shame on you.” At least I said something, so I’m not beating myself up too much about that. You didn’t even have the opportunity to reply with anything. Brenda
No, I didn’t. But good for you for saying something. That’s gross.
He sounds like a super creep. I’d be interested to know if his marriage lasted. Ugh!
Funny…I looked him up while I was writing and couldn’t find him – so I don’t know. But I wondered too. 😉
Well said. The awful thing is that this level – the unwanted kisses and touches – have been experienced by so many women. I’ve had it happen and, as you say, it is so ignored and dismissed as unimportant. But it is important because it is saying we do not have the right and autonomy to be the ones to decide if we want to be kissed or touched.
Yes – it’s the dismissal of it as something that can happen that bothered me the most. We should have the right to say no.
I certainly don’t think anything was owed, and I wouldn’t want to know anyone who does.
Totally disgusting! I’m so glad you never saw him again. Right? I wonder if they stayed married? Poor bride.
I wondered the same thing – I tried to look him up but couldn’t find him. Hopefully he’s fallen off the face of the planet.
Eeeewwww, that is disgusting, Liv. What a jerk!! Your father must have missed the moment or else I’m sure he would have pummeled his ‘friend’. Your’e right that your experience is an example of the see no evil mentality that only feeds these violations and make them acceptable. NO. Not acceptable. Great piece, Liv. Thanks for sharing this.
No…that was just my dad. Unfortunate. But yes – it was not acceptable at all. Thanks Lisa.
UGH! UGH! UGH! I can understand no-one jumping to your defence in the immediate – it must have been very shocking to see a teenager who had clearly resisted leery advances suddenly kissed by a disgusting old lech – I think I would have been frozen, but for no-one to do anything afterwards? UGH! That’s awful and I’m so sorry it happened to you. YUCK!
Makes me really angry 🙁
And at his wedding no less. Just a shame. Glad I never had to see him again.