Lay Back and Enjoy It

by Jan 6, 2018

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” —Alyssa Milano

It has been a year since the release of my book, Kept in the Dark, where I shared not only my parents’ story regarding abuse but also confided that as a child, I was sexually abused. Immediately I was overwhelmed by the people that reached out to me to share their own stories. It was also when I heard “Me Too” in the context of sexual abuse as a friend told me something about their past. They confided that they had never felt brave enough to share their story but by me doing so, they now felt that they could add: “Me Too.”

Sexual abuse and harassment stories have been around forever and yet it seems that once accusations were brought against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, those that had been victimized in their past finally felt that if they came forward now that they would be heard and believed. As things snowballed, many powerful people found their lives altered because of their past actions. Yet, I feel for those victims that spoke out earlier and were not believed such as Anita Hill and the women that have accused powerful men including presidents past and present. I feel that their bravery helped to pave the way for the “Me Too” movement that is happening now.

I was sexually abused as a child within the walls of my Southern Baptist church and never spoke of it until this past year. But as an adult, I have also had unwanted sexual groping and suggestive comments come my way. Yes, I am a gay man but that does not mean that I’m sexually attracted to any male who pursues me. And I certainly have been made to feel uncomfortable from women (yes, plural) that would tell me that the only reason that I think I am gay is because I haven’t met the right woman – and then proceed to physically try and convince me. Was I scarred for life from these encounters? Maybe yes, maybe no, but regardless, 40-plus years later, I still remember them vividly.

As a 65-year-old man, I reflect back on my youth and realize that there were times that I, too, may have said something sexual, off-color or crude. It could have been in response to what someone else had said or I may have started the conversation. There could also have been times that I flirted shamelessly or let a hug linger a bit too long. Did I make someone uncomfortable? Has someone held on to a painful memory just as I have from those that made me feel awkward in the past? Would an apology now make a difference?

One of my father’s associates told a story about a professional relationship where he felt as if his client, in a business sense, was raping him but added: “If you’re being raped and you can’t do anything about it then you might as well lay back and enjoy it.” I was in my twenties at the time and even then felt it was a crass thing to say. Today it feels like a horrific and sickening thought – because I am now aware of the pain and suffering that many have endured at the hands of others.

I think what I am trying to say with my ramblings is that although sexual abuse and harassment accusations have always been out there, it is because of the brave men and women coming forward that the world is now more aware of right and wrong and hopefully will no longer pretend to just “lay back and enjoy it.”

J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.

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