Back in junior high school gym class, a theft had occurred in the locker room. Somebody had stolen a watch. The gym coach was a nice guy, but this tested his patience. He had us all wait at the end of the period, as he walked down through the rows of lockers, opening and searching through each one. He came to my locker, skipped it, and searched through the next one.
“Oh,” I said, “you didn’t search mine.”
Slightly annoyed, the coach opened my locker, performed a perfunctory search, and moved on to the next one.
Of course, in retrospect I feel like an ass. The coach was having a rough morning, and my fair-minded piety was something without which he could easily have done.
* * *
As to sexual violence, it is a kind of poison, but I don’t spend much time thinking about rape. By the time the poison introduced by an act of sexual violence has worked its way through society and reached me, it has traveled well beyond its introductory point.
But I thought I’d mention what many women have probably already intuited: I am not “suppressing” a desire to rape. To that statement, I imagine most women would react with puzzlement. “We didn’t really think you were, but thanks for the reassurance.”
Let me explain further by way of an absurd hypothetical: If I were subjected to a lobotomy at the hands of a particularly incompetent neurosurgeon, and the frontal lobe damage destroyed completely my ability to control my impulses, would my behavior toward women be inappropriate? (And I mean no impulse control. Completely hypothetical.) Yes, it would be, but I would not rape.
What am I “suppressing?” I will see a woman and feel an impulse to put my arms around her, to kiss her, or to squeeze her bottom. Do I “struggle” to suppress these impulses? No. Did I “struggle” to suppress them at nineteen? No, it isn’t hard to control wildly inappropriate behavior. But with complete loss of control I might well do these things and have to be chaperoned by some sort of rehabilitative social worker.
Have I ever had an “uncontrollable impulse” with my frontal lobes intact? At fourteen I went through a period in which I tried not to masturbate. Couldn’t do it. So that’s an “uncontrollable impulse,” or was at fourteen. But even with zero impulse control, I wouldn’t rape, because I am no more “suppressing” my desire to rape than I am “suppressing” my desire to drink drain cleaner.
* * *
A certain loneliness: I stand by myself in the locker room. Everyone has gone, the coach has long since retired, and the lights have dimmed. I gesture toward my open locker and say to nobody in particular, “Look all you want. Open my bags if you want. I didn’t do it. I didn’t steal anything. I’m innocent, and I can prove it!”