Pussy-grabbing: A National Pastime

Soon after my sister moved to Vegas, we went out to explore her new city. We scored new-and-well-discounted dresses (We were raised in a thrifty family and both still get a small high from finding a good deal.), and we spent a little time getting made up and arranged. Then, not knowing what to fully expect, we plunged into the churning waters of the Las Vegas Strip for a night of fun. We started with dinner (Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante in The Venetian) and moved on to dancing. We first went to Tao because it was near the restaurant we chose, but it was nearly empty and had no deejay. At the recommendation of Nick the bouncer, we moved on to Jet at the Mirage.

The line in the lobby was long: a winding path of ropes and stilettos and hair product. I spotted 3 middle-aged guys in expensive suits making their way to the front (likely by leaving a trail of big bills in employee palms along the way), and as they passed us, I quickly asked if we could join them. We were in.

The club was electric: An amalgam of loud music and techno lights and sweaty bodies and bad cologne and spilled booze. (Basically, the fragrance of Vegas, with only the stench of urine missing.) Our new friends were kind and very protective of us on the dance floor, creating and maintaining a space for us to dance without being bothered by frotterers and over-embibers. They bought us a glass of champagne, and we later insisted on doing the same for them, against their protests, as they had been so kind and caring—from getting us inside on their jacket-tails to bodyguarding us. (After post-game deduction and discussion, my sister and I decided that 2 of the suits were the protective detail of the third gentlemen. He was older than the other 2 and obviously the ringleader of the group, and to this day, we are 99% certain he was a higher up in the Chicago-area mafia.)

So we headed to the bar, without our protective detail. It was a trek to get there, clawing our way through the crowd, and when we arrived, it was stacked deep in drink-desirers. As we waited our turn (AKA, moved forward with the wave as the crush of those behind us dictated) and then awaited our drinks, we engaged in some light banter (AKA, screamed casual pleasantries back at those near us and tried to chat with each other). My sister finally handed me our drinks, and as she turned back to the bar to get those for the suits,  I felt something unusual. It was like a small animal was crawling up my leg. Then onto my panties. My belly. I pivoted my head downward in what seems like slow motion, and I saw the skirt of my dress was up, exposing me from the waist down, and the hand of the asshole next to me was on my left breast.

Even writing this now, almost 10 years later, makes my stomach turn. I can still feel his hands on me, see the giddy, look-what-I-did-ma expression on his cocky, entitled face. He was smiling, laughing. He was unashamed.

I, on the other hand, am. I still carry shame from this night, from this groping, from this assault on my body. But not for the reason you may think. I am ashamed because of how I responded. Actually, of how I didn’t. In that moment that felt like minutes, I was betrayed by my brain and my body. I—a confident, outspoken, seemingly fearless woman who regularly and even professionally advocated for others—did not do the same for myself.

I wish I would have punched him, thrown my overpriced drink in his face, kneed him in the groin, slapped him, bent his hand backward until the bones broke, screamed curse words at him…anything other than what I did. Which was nothing. I recall giggling nervously and then swimming upstream with my sister to the safety of our newly adopted posse. I may have told one of the bodyguards (as my sister and I still call them) once we returned, but I likely couldn’t have pointed out the offender in the sea of twenty-to-forty-somethings even if I had wanted to. I am fairly certain I told my sister, but truly, I cannot fully remember. Not because I was drunk: I was one drink in and plenty sober. But because of shame. Because I failed myself and my sisterhood for not making a scene, for not reporting him to the bouncers and getting his pussy-grabbing ass thrown out. For not bringing consequences for his behavior in a way that would at least make him thing twice before, if not keep him from, doing it again.

I am sure he has. I am sure he has gotten away with it more than I care to imagine. And he probably talked about what he did to me in a locker room or 2. What scares me most, and adds to my own burden, is there is a chance his breast-and-pussy-grabbing—going unchecked by me and maybe others—escalated to greater heights. Or depths, more like it. Depths of deplorability and dehumanizing that are more violent and violating.

I am still ashamed. It is not a typically salient shame I carry. I had not thought of this incident in a long while, but the events and discourse of last several days have brought it to the surface once again, leaving me with the realization that I am still ashamed. I still wish I would have reacted differently, done more, said something—anything other than nothing. Additionally, I am sickeningly saddened, not only because this story is not just my story (nor is it my only story: the first is from when I was 6 years old and an elderly man, whom I was helping with housework, dropped his crutches to force himself on me, groping me and kissing me while his middle-aged male friend laughed about it in the next room), for it is one that could be told by most, if not all, women. But because the description of this type of behavior is being laughed off as “locker room talk” in a televised presidential debate. For the message that is being sent to boys and men, girls and women—a message that seeks to normalize what should not be normalized. Furthermore, that, regardless of such rape-culture speech and even recorded admissions of sexually assaulting women because “when you are a star…you can do anything”, this man is still being considered for the office of president. Of the United States. Of our United States. He is still being supported by men and women across this beautiful country. And he is still being lauded and applauded and…well, that makes it seem as if his behavior is being condoned instead of condemned, excused instead of rebuked—not by what is being said but by what is not being said. The silence speaks louder than words ever could.

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3 thoughts on “Pussy-grabbing: A National Pastime

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. The shame is on him. I had my genitalia grabbed hard at a party at my cousins home while walking through a crowded room. I was pretty buzzed and reacted immediately by lashing out and hitting the guy who was sickly smiling at me, people didn’t know me and thought I had gone crazy. He denied it. Many didn’t believe me. I felt so alone and ashamed…we are not alone. Shame on them. #Notokay

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