A victimless crime

by Don Hartness

“You’re next buddy!” my friend said with a wicked grin.

I didn’t want to be next. Not now, not ever.  It was wrong and I knew it; not on a conscious, rational level, but at a deep-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach level. A nauseous, churning sensation combined with a fight-or-flight mechanism that was screaming for me to run away as fast as I could. And I would have, if I wasn’t still too drunk to drive.

“Dude, I can’t do it,” I said slowly, still working on the unutterable. “I just…”, I faltered, waiting for some rationale to come out. It was no use. “I can’t do it,” I repeated flatly. I then closed my mouth.

“Why not?!” my friend exclaimed in exasperation. With a heavy sigh, he knelt behind the back of the couch, placing his arms on the couch and looking me in the eye. “I thought we already settled this. You’re not doing anything wrong.” Once again, he ticked off the reasons on each finger.

“She wants it,” he started…

I recalled the first time I saw her at the party that night. She was all over some guy, sitting on his lap with her arms around his neck, all while grinding her hips in not so subtly suggestive ways. “Well they’re obviously an item,” I thought…until I saw her ten minutes later, doing the same thing with another guy. And then another. When she caught my eye, I looked away, muttering something about grabbing a smoke. I was the only one that night.

“She’s not drunk,” he continued…

True: a few drinks, a few drags off the bong, but neither in excess. I saw her when she took her first partner into the bedroom: she was practically dragging him, not the other way around. The grin on the second guy’s face matched the first grin twenty minutes earlier.

“…and she’s not passed out; I can vouch for that. So it’s not rape. And she’s not even charging for it!” he said with a laugh. “Bonus! Besides,” he added, while leveling a slightly condescending look at me, “you are way too uptight. You need to get laid.”

“Yea,” I said as my anxiety increased. It wasn’t like he was saying anything untrue. There was no crime being committed here. “I’m a man,” I thought.  “I’m healthy and young. I’m not religious. I know where the condoms are kept.  Why shouldn’t I?”

But I knew why, even though I couldn’t express it. Random images kept flashing through my mind, such as some point in the future where I’m explaining to a horrified and skeptical wife about why I participated in a group orgy on one girl, and that sex meant more to me than a mere gratuitous act for my self-pleasure.

And what about this girl? I couldn’t help but feel shame and pity for her. Why she would want to offer her body as a toy for the amusement and gratification of others was beyond me. Regardless of her thoughts and feelings that night, I couldn’t help but wonder how she would feel the next morning. Would she feel ashamed? Disgusted? Debased? Would she look in the mirror and see a whore? Would she rationalize what she did?

And then there were my friends. They weren’t bad guys. They would never tolerate rape; on the contrary, they would beat to a pulp anybody committing such a despicable act. If it was their sister in that bedroom, they would have been outraged. So why was it okay with a girl they hardly knew? Wasn’t that girl somebody’s sister?

Why was everybody thinking only of themselves and their own base desires, without a single thought for tomorrow, or for the damage this was going to do to some poor girl’s psyche, even if she wasn’t smart enough to see that damage for herself?

“Look, bro,” I said as I stood up, “I just can’t. I can’t explain to you why, but I just can’t.” As I pulled out a smoke and headed towards the back porch, he followed me.

“What are you, a goody-goody?” he said. What he wanted to say was “prude”, but that word wasn’t in his vocabulary. I could tell he wanted to say many things to me. He wanted to chide me, even insult me. Instead, he grabbed me by the arm and, to my horror, began to pull me towards the bedroom.

“I’m doing this for your own good,” he said with determination.

I wondered at that moment if he realized the lie he had just told to himself and I.  This wasn’t about me at all: this was about making sure that I was complicit in his deed, so that self-doubt and guilt were not given an audience. At that moment, I realized that all the reasons he had just ticked off  were just self-rationalization. He knew what he did was wrong, even if he couldn’t describe it any better. I ripped my arm from his grasp.

“I don’t care what you do,” I hissed, teeth and fists clenched. “I’m not going in there.”

A moment lasting far shorter than it seemed passed between us. As I stood in defiance, waiting to see what he would do, his gaze wavered. For a moment, I saw guilt, which he quickly hid by dropping his gaze. Throwing up his hands, he walked away from me.

“Whatever,” he said over his shoulder. “Just trying to help you.”

I left the party later that night. I never saw the girl again. Not that never appearing again was anything shocking. I kept waiting for a charge of rape, on one or all of us, but no charge ever came.

As for my friends, the wall of silence rendered self-deception unnecessary. Just another victimless crime, swept under the rug.

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