Monday, January 8, 2018

My #MeToo Memories - Part 2

(Continued from the previous post.)

In high school and college, although I dated quite a bit, I managed to maintain my “chastity,” perhaps because I had an impossible crush on someone other than the person I was dating most of the time. I wouldn’t even kiss a guy good-night unless I really liked him. This was back in the 1950s, and the fellows I dated were all “honorable” sorts. Most didn’t take umbrage at my behavior, although a couple did. One date in college complained that he had paid all that money for a date to a dance, and I wouldn’t even kiss him goodnight. We never dated again after that. Needless to say, I didn’t date many guys for more than a few months.

During my junior college year in France, I dated a few Americans—a couple of fellow students and one American soldier who was stationed in Paris. However, for the last three or four months in Paris, I had a French boyfriend, Marcel, whom I liked very much. We were both virgins. He was eager to lose his virginity, but I was less eager to lose mine. Like most men, he was a decent person and didn’t try to force himself on me. 

One time, when I was walking home on a dark evening after classes, a man began to follow me from the train station. I kept walking as quickly as I could, but I could tell that the follower was gaining on me. He came up beside me, said “Madmoiselle, vous etes seule?[1] and put a hand on my arm, which I quickly withdrew. I was trying to figure out what to do next, when Marcel emerged from the shadow of a doorway and chased the man off. I was very glad to see him!

I didn’t even engage in heavy petting until my junior year in college, while I was dating a man I’d been in love with for almost four years. Just before he graduated, he finally persuaded me to “go all the way,” as it was called then. 

Then he left for a job in Chicago. I missed my next period. It finally came, about a week late, but that was one of the most terrifying weeks of my life. I vowed I wouldn’t have sex again until I was married. But his idea was that, since I had lost my virginity to him, he had the right to sex when we were together. He did use a condom after that. This was the late fifties, and other forms of birth control were not yet common, especially not for women who weren’t married.

Fortunately, we were apart most of that summer because we worked in different cities. Then he went off to graduate school in the fall, and I stayed in college for another year. So we didn’t see each other frequently. However, that year was stressful, and my fear of pregnancy began to erode my affection for him

The following summer, I met the man who became my first husband while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. We did become sexually active before we married, but he used a condom, and I also eventually managed to get a diaphragm from my gynecologist. Despite using birth control most of the time (except right around my period), I became pregnant shortly after we were married. But there was no coercion involved, and our daughter has always been a gift for which I’m grateful.

However, my husband did become more controlling in many ways, and I had problems with that. We eventually divorced, and I went back to graduate school in the mid-sixties, at a time when social mores were changing, and women were becoming sexually liberated. I took part in that sexual revolution and had “casual sex" with a few men I dated.
I certainly didn’t want to have sex with someone I didn’t really like and trust, though, so I was pretty selective about sexual partners. Probably the experience I had that was closest to rape was with a fellow I had only dated once or twice before. I probably had a glass or two of wine, and I let him get too close. He came on strong, but I told him I didn’t want to have sex with him, I tried to resist, but he was physically stronger than I was. I told him that, if he went through with it, I would never see him again. But he persisted and declared that I would really enjoy it. Subsequently, he called several times, wanting to get together again, but I refused to see him. He seemed surprised.
Perhaps the closest I ever came to physical danger from a man was an experience in a parking lot behind the Medical Sciences Building, while I was an anatomy graduate student in Syracuse, NY. Graduate students—at least in the sciences—work long hours, often into the night. Experiments may take hours and you need to be there to time experiments, process results, make sure all the equipment is working correctly, and record everything.

           One evening, after I emerged from the back of the science building into the parking lot and was walking toward my car, I realized that someone was following me. I turned around and noticed it was a man, and he was coming straight toward me. I ran to my car, managed to unlock the door, and, as I got in to sit behind the wheel, he reached his arm through the open door. I grabbed the door handle and pulled it closed with all the force I could muster, fully intending to crush his arm in the door if he left it there. A look of surprise came over his face.

He quickly pulled his arm away from the door as it slammed shut. Then I locked the door from the inside, turned on the ignition, backed out of my spot, and aimed the car directly at the potential perpetrator. Another look of surprise—and then fear—crossed his face as he backed up. He turned and ran as I drove after him down the parking lot. He jumped over the edge of the paved area and disappeared down the hill behind the lot. Then I backed up and drove home. I hope he never tried that on another woman.

          During my two years as a post-doctoral research fellow at Temple University in Philadelphia, I lived in a ghetto. I had no trouble with sleazy males the entire time I lived there. The closest I came was one evening, when I was walking alone along the sidewalk, not far from home, I could tell that someone was following me. I picked up my pace. It was late fall at the time, I believe, and I was wearing boots with short, hard, leather or rubber heels. I started clomping the heels heavily on the sidewalk as in a military walk, and whoever was following me turned aside. I don’t know if that was even a real threat, but I treated it as one. And I was prepared to confront the person if he caught up with me.

As an anatomist, I know the vulnerable parts of the human body. The easiest one, and probably the deadliest, is the part of the skull just above the nose. It’s called the cribriform plate, and this is where sensory nerve fibers for smell pass from the nose through the skull into the brain. A way to disable—and potentially kill—an attacker is to ram the heel of your hand upwards against the bottom part of his nose. Besides being extremely painful, the force can drive the main nasal bone (the vomer) up through the cribriform plate and into the brain. 

Another debilitating action is to drive the side of a stiffened hand in a “karate chop” against the larynx, which, in men, often protrudes at the front of the neck. This will seriously interfere with breathing and can also cause damage to major blood vessels in the neck. If the attacker has grabbed your hands and neither of these is an option, a swift knee to the groin is usually painful enough to stop a molester.

To be continued...

[1] “Young lady, are you alone?”