A friend has been pushing me lately to write my story. It’s a running theme in my life, actually. I have often had someone I know push me to write about my life. The excuse I used to use was that I didn’t have time. However, as I have saved up some money to take off work for a year to write a series of fiction books, I am told that I have no excuse for not also writing an autobiography.
This forced me to look harder at why I am always so against the idea of writing about me. As it turns out, it is because my story is fucked up. There are too many things in it that require long and boring justifications. It would be almost no action!
Really; my story would be a book of explanations for my behavior.
I agreed to give an example of this, and so this post will constitute as my example of why an autobiography written by me would be 90% excuses.
Here goes: When I was a teenager, my best friend was a pedophile.
Obviously I can’t just tell you that, and then launch into a description of our many adventures (though we did have a lot of great adventures.)
This is what I mean by “some things requiring a long explanation.”
You may think that no explanation could make it seem okay that I had a pedophile for a friend when I was in High School, but read on and tell me what you think at the end.
First, I want to tell you that my uncle Mike and his boyfriend Dale were wonderful people. They always hosted the white elephant at Christmas, and they made any party fun. Growing up in a family with openly gay members, I was taught that there is nothing at all wrong with men who like men. No one ever made it seem weird or unnatural, and I was told that anyone who thought gay people were bad is someone that I should not get to know. So for starters, I couldn’t fault Mick (my friend the pedophile) for liking men because I knew that wasn’t wrong.
Take one more step back, and let’s get a little more perspective.
Next, I want to tell you about where I was at the time (in my head). I was fourteen and my breasts had just grown in. I went from thinking the world was a nice place to hating it in the span of a single summer.
Once, I had enjoyed going out in public because people asked me how old I was, and what I wanted to be when I grew up, and what my favorite color was. I was treated like a tiny person, and I liked my fellow humans.
After I grew breasts, the world changed. I stopped being a person and became an object. An object, I might add, that men of all ages hit on.
Men where always leering at me and trying to find excuses to touch me. I got cat-called on the street and the men said such awful and embarrassing things to me. My dad’s friends somehow looked at me in a way that made me feel dirty when we were at pool parties. At my job as a waitress, old men would pinch my butt. If I complained, my boss would say “He’s just a nice old man. Remember you want a good tip, so smile and bear it.” Old women told me that this was just how life was. My female friends were all having the same experiences, and everyone told them it was normal too. And all this created an impression.
I hope women will understand this, although I know many men probably won’t. The transition from “girl” to “woman” seems to happen the moment you physically mature, long before you are legally or emotionally an adult.
The point is; I developed the impression that it was acceptable for old men to harass me (as a teenage girl) and think of me as an object of sexual desire. Everyone told me to get used to it. So, I got the impression that it must be okay, no matter how dirty it made me feel.
With my friend Mick, he liked boys my age. But unlike the old grandfathers who grabbed my ass at work, Mick was young. He was only 27. Plus he was very cool. He was a bartender, and he knew how to make so many wonderful drinks. He didn’t have wrinkles, and he wasn’t losing his hair. Plus, he wasn’t lewd. He was polite. If he liked a boy, he didn’t paw at them and make nasty comments about having sex with them like the old men did to me. Instead he was coy and shy and giggled like I did when I liked a boy. It seemed way less gross to me.
On top of that, you should remember that I was fourteen. My friends were drinking 211 Steel Reserve that they had to shoulder tap to get. But not me. My friend the pedophile brought me bottles of booze and turned them into wonderful things like Mudslides, Margaritas, and Tequila Sunrises. I had the classiest High School parties you can imagine.
But it wasn’t just the parties, and that Mick had a car. It was that he treated me like a person. I was being sexualized by all the men I met. And, I hadn’t learned to brush it off yet the way that older women do. It still hurt deep down somewhere every time I was cat-called or someone touched me in a creepy way, because I wanted to be seen as a person like before. I wanted people to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up or what my favorite color was. I didn’t want them to be fantasizing about fucking me.
And Mick was not fantasizing about fucking me. He did ask me questions and talk to me. He treated me like a person.
Looking back, I know that he was only my friend because I was a very attractive young girl. I know that he liked to be around me because of the endless parade of boys who wanted to be around me. But it is a grown-up mind that can see that. I couldn’t see it at the time. I was arrogant enough to think that Mick liked me as a person and enjoyed my conversation.
When I found out that he had been to jail for pedophilia, I was surprised.
He had been nineteen, and the boy had been thirteen. I considered the six year age difference, and I thought about the fifty-year-olds always hitting on me at work. I couldn’t see the problem, unless the boy had not consented. But, Mick assured me that he did consent. So of course, teenage me brushed it off.
After all, what is a six year ago difference really? Old men are all over the media and out in life with their young “trophy wives.”
Years later, Mick had taught me how to keep house, entertain company, and keep a conversation going. He taught me to make lots of different kinds of food, and how to bar tend. I was nineteen then (the same age he had been when he went to jail.) By then, I was starting to see the issue. The last five years had been like a lifetime to me. So, while fourteen-year-old me thought that a nineteen-year-old and a thirteen-year-old didn’t sound so bad, I had an uncomfortable feeling the older I got that it was that bad.
By the time I was twenty, I no longer spoke to Mick. I did decide that what he had done to go to jail was wrong, over time.
However, I had a simultaneous decision that everyone in my young life was equally shitty. My boss who told me to let old grandpas grab my ass was horrible. My mom who said I was being too sensitive was a bitch. My friend’s moms, who told us that getting cat-called made them feel sexy should have been ashamed. And the men themselves, who thought it was okay to talk to a fourteen-year-old girl about how they wanted to fuck her, should have been charged with some sort of crime.
I just thought: There is a clear legal precedent. Men who harass or fuck little girls go to jail. But men who harass or fuck girls who have breasts are forgiven. They are not charged, or if they are, they get light sentences. Society thinks it is okay. Society acts like it is okay. Once a girl grows breasts, she is no longer a person. She becomes a thing. And it is hardly a crime to violate a thing.
One moment sticks out in my mind from when I was young. A group of men were harassing me as I was walking home from work. I was probably sixteen at the time. One said “I’m not sure she looks legal.” Another chimed in with “If there’s grass on the field, you can play.” And a third chimed in with “If she’s old enough to bleed, then she’s old enough for me.”
It made it very clear to me that no matter how young a girl is, once she begins to look like a woman she becomes a target for sexual abuse. And yet somehow, little boys are always people. They never become objects.
So in the case of Mick, perhaps the thirteen-year-old boy was too young to consent. But if it had been a girl, I think people would have said that she probably asked for it. I think people would have said it wasn’t wrong of him to want to “get a piece.” I think that the way I was treated as a young girl taught me very clearly that men think of young women as sex objects, and that society is very permissive about this.
In the case of my friend, I think it was his preference for little boys that got him jail time. I think it was the sole contributing factor.
That’s the story. And you see that it requires a lot of explanation, as do most things in my life. If I wrote an autobiography, it would be nothing but a long litany of excuses and rationalizations. So, enough about me.
Let’s forget about how teenage girls have a rude awakening to sexual harassment. Let’s actually talk about older guys who like teenage boys.
Even if it had never been acceptable at any point in history anywhere in the world, and even if it had always been considered wrong, the genetic predisposition would still be there, wouldn’t it? I mean, I don’t believe that Mick had any control over who he was attracted to. I imagine he would have preferred to be attracted to women of his own age, so he could fit in and be normal.
So if we can accept that pedophiles are people, and that they are not in control of how they are, then I think we should be able to accept the idea that treatment would be more beneficial than punishment. Countries like Germany have started treatment programs that focus on keeping the person from acting on any desire that relates to underage people. Shouldn’t we do the same?
As with all things, I think it is safer once you bring it out of the shadows. It seemed like this story was a good excuse to make that point, as it is often on my mind. People often talk about men who like teenage boys as if they are animals. You hear people say that they should all be castrated or killed. But, I think Mick was a worthwhile member of society, and I think with people like him, it would be better to explore treatment options. It’s an unpopular view, but there, I said it.