College is starting soon. One of the big things everyone is talking about is sexual assault on campus or in college towns. I’ve talked about it with my two kids who are in college. Everyone has, at least everyone who is a decent parent.
So I get this call from Hodge Williams. Yes, that Hodge Williams. Everyone remembers him.
“Bart, how are you?” As soon as he spoke I wondered what he wanted.
“Hodge. Fine. Great. Life is good. What’s up?”
“I’m writing a story on the history of sexual harassment and violence at universities in the US. I tried to contact your sister but she wouldn’t return my calls.”
“Yes, Beth. She kind of got around so I was thinking she might have experienced first hand, you know, she was at risk.”
“What do you mean by at risk?”
“Oh come on, your sister was a slut. Everyone knew it.”
I sat there with the phone a bit stunned. He just called my sister a slut.
“Hodge, you’re an asshole. In fact you’ve always been an asshole.” I hung up the phone. What an asshole.
After sitting for a few minutes and collecting my thoughts I called my sister and told her about the conversation.
“What an asshole,” she said. “Sure I was sleeping with his best friend without the benefit of being his best friend’s official girlfriend. OK I also slept with another one of his friends but we were in college. We were young.”
“Did you ever sleep with Hodge?”
“No. Hell no. He was always making passes at me and grabbing me. Hodges had that Madonna/Whore things going on in his head. A girl was either a virgin until marriage or a whore. Plus we’re not like him, you know the religion thing, so he just assumed I was a whore.”
“But you didn’t have sex with him.”
“I know. That makes me a whore. He called any girl who wouldn’t have sex with him a whore.”
“What an asshole.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. I mean, if the guy had asked me to go see a movie or go for a walk or just spent time talking that would have been different but he was just all over me like…yuck. He really called you? I can’t believe he’d have the gall to do that. Asshole.”
After we got off the phone with the promise of a lunch date later in the week I got to thinking about my own kids.
I’d spoken with both my daughter and son about sexual predators. I’ve done the best to teach them not to be bully bait. I’ve taught them to stand up for themselves and for others.
From experience I knew that bullies never grow up and most don’t change.
Hodge never got the answer he wanted. Over the years Beth had a few close calls with sexual predators but she always ended up safe either by being with friends or using physical force to get out of it (exactly twice as she told me.) That didn’t include unwanted advances by guys like Hodge. And even though Hodge didn’t use force it still hurt emotionally that he’d think so little of her or of any girl.
I wanted to pound the crap out of him. Then I thought about how many other women out there who thought the guy was an asshole. That made me smile. Spread the word ladies, spread the word.
That evening after work I talked to my wife about it. She shook her head and said she’d had similar experiences. More anger surged through my brain, then sadness deep in my soul.
We all judge others. We all make assumptions. We all call names even if it isn’t out loud. We all talk behind the backs of others. Maybe we need to stop. It isn’t easy. It isn’t even practical.
Anyway, if you see Hodge Williams call him and an asshole and tell him that Beth and Bart say hello.