August 16, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

Woman as aggressor

Western society tends to single out men as sexual predators, and while that's usually the case, the exceptions are rarely discussed.
By Mark Campbell
Published: 2017-07-24

s I pointed out in my last column, sexual assault and silence can make for a deadly cocktail. It may sound obvious, but sexual predators come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. Though most are male, women are not exempt, and their victims can be both male and female.

The idea that a woman can sexually abuse a man may sound incomprehensible to those who hold the misguided belief that men are always sexually receptive to women. Too often, female sexual aggressiveness is misunderstood, pigeonholed in the mythology of erotic tales. Worse, male victims rarely talk about incidents involving women. But while female predators may use slightly different methods, there's no double standard. Non-consensual and unwanted sex is sexual assault regardless of the gender of perpetrator or victim.

Sexual predators often use alcohol to soften up their intended targets. Get a woman drunk enough and she'll capitulate to sex, or so goes the folklore. Growing up in my Canadian village, so-called "loose women" fell prey to Lemon Gin, known as the "panty remover." Popular legend also suggested drunk men suffer from "whiskey dick," the inability to get an erection.

But legend is legend because it's not always true. Men often get erections whiled passed out or asleep.

Take my friend Enrique. A handsome guy with a naturally athletic build, he attracted men and women alike. One night after heavy partying he fell asleep drunk. His party mates (strangers to me) were still around when I dropped by the next day. Two women, still half-drunk, laughed hysterically while recounting how they'd sexually molested and mounted Enrique while he was unconscious.

Enrique looked shocked and confused. He refused to discuss the incident when I asked him about the incident privately. Enrique hadn't consented to what had happened and was clearly a victim of sexual assault, even if the perpetrators were women who hadn't resorted to traditional physical violence. Enrique couldn't know if the women had at least put a condom on him (doubtful). If they hadn't, he was potentially exposed to STDs.

Suggestive? Yes. But it's not always a male hand.

During the 1990s, so called "rape drugs" made for bleak headlines. In my 30s at the time, I was vacationing in Miami with my then- boyfriend. One late afternoon we were in a South Beach gay club drinking and laughing with a woman seated nearby. Later, our new "friend" invited us to a pool party. It struck me as odd that she'd be in a bar if she had a pool party to attend. She assured us the party was 10 minutes by cab so we agreed.

But we didn't end up at a pool party. Instead, we found ourselves in her apartment with the excuse that she needed to get something first. She invited us in, told us to sit on the sofa, and got each of us a beer.

In my youth, there were many times when I drank too much. I was very familiar with the effects of alcohol. This was different. Halfway through my beer I started feeling disoriented. I tried splashing cold water on my face, but it didn't help. Soon, my vision blurred and I could barely walk. My boyfriend was also in trouble.

I don't remember much after that. I do know I grabbed my boyfriend and we left in a hurry. I have no idea where or how we caught a taxi, but since I had my hotel card I assume the driver knew what to do. It wasn't even dark by the time we got back to the hotel. We both passed out.

The next day we tried reassembling the fragments what had happened. What was obvious was that we'd spoiled the woman's party plans. Whatever she had in mind, her behavior was potentially criminal.

As with Enrique, consent was ignored. It didn't matter that the perpetrator-in-the-making was a woman and the potential victims were two very naïve men. We were an inch from sexual assault, if only the world didn't limit its definition of predators and victims. Yet more than 20 years later it still does.

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