Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Friendship, Perversity, etc.

When I was fourteen, I was approached. An older man came up to me in the park, paid me a strange compliment - "You have a sexy walk" - and continued to explain that he found me extremely attractive and wanted to know me in a much closer way.

In the next hour of our conversation we had an intense, powerful discussion about books, human relationships, nature of sex, and each other's likes and dislikes. We talked about Sexus. We talked about novels of Marquis De Sade (he suggested I should read some of his works to get better acquainted with and accept my own sensuality). He explained his own idea of women and their place in the world, describing them as "instruments of pleasure" for someone like himself. In the end, he suggested I should come over to his place so that he could give me some "hands-on" experience on the subject we were discussing.

Overwhelmed with information, attention, his eloquence and, most of all, his straight-forward manner, I sat on the park bench, trying to get my thoughts together. Finally, I managed to ask, "How old are you?" He said he was - I think - thirty seven. - "And do you have any children?" - "Yes, I have a daughter, she is fourteen." - "I am fourteen too... If some man approached your daughter like you had approached me, what would you have done?"
His tone changed. "I would have cut his nuts off... Probably." - "Ah," I said, "so it's all right for me to receive offers of this nature from a man like yourself, but for your daughter - that's another matter entirely?"
He gave me a look - quite different from the previous lusty glances I had caught from him during our conversation. Then, he got up. I heard him say - very quietly - "I'm sorry." Then, he walked away from me without looking back.

Later, from my discussions with teachers and my own parents, I learned that I should have been outraged and insulted. Yet, I was not; in fact, I was flattered in a strange way. Flattered not with being his choice of sexual attention, mind you; rather, it was that he chose me to have an open, intelligent conversation about a topic no one else dared to approach with me to such a detailed extent. I felt like someone finally saw me as an adult. I saw someone who - for whatever reason - was interested in me and wanted to know as much as possible about me. Fully aware of the outrageous nature of his proposition, I still appreciated all the consideration he gave me while conversing with me about the delicate subject of human intimacy: there was not a single dirty word in his description, not one insult to my ear. He was an eloquent, intelligent, educated man, and I appreciated that about him; his motives might have been perverse, but he was entirely open and honest about those, using no "romantic interludes" that often are so popular among seducers.

Going on with my life and learning more about mythology, I nicknamed that personal encounter "my Azazel," which I think was quite appropriate. In a strange way, I still feel him present in my life, - whenever I see a male "friend" cover up his lusty interests with fake vows of love and devotion, I seem to hear my Azazel's voice: "Don't you think that's cheap? If you are going to tell this woman a lie, at least come up with a good one - give her some credit for her intelligence!"

Sometimes, as I look at people, I cannot help but ask questions and remember him as well. I think of the persons who are, although consider themselves my friends, do not take time to teach me about themselves or let me learn about them. They profess their closeness to me, swear their love and friendship, yet they do not take time to avail themselves for a cup of coffee, a game of chess, an intelligent conversation, - let alone for any situation that requires actual help. In this case, I cannot help but conclude that a pervert on the street took more time and interest in finding out my dreams, hopes and desires than any of them, and his goal was simply to... nail me.
I think of him also when I think of the causes of rape and violence in our society. Granted, often a rapist wants to rape out of animalistic instinct; he refuses to accept the boundaries of societal structure, and his rape is an announcement: "I want it and it is mine, I do not care what anyone, including the victim, thinks of feels about it." But I feel that, quite often, the use of force of one person over another may be a scream for attention, a demand for being reckoned with. Indeed, if one lives in the society where acquiring possessions has become a priority over acquiring friends, then one's existence may seem- and become - meaningless. Surrounded by "friends" who do not have time for you - ever; thinking of love for another person as something eternal and greater than life, yet forced to reckon with it as something of an endless dating game, - the way it is pictured on TV shows and accepted by the majority; frustrated by the feeling of own insignificance, yet sensing that you are destined for more... What is left? If people around you do not want to take you seriously, you are left with the only option: to force them to take you seriously. You force your date to commit on your terms by doing something to her that you want to do, thus making her accept - artificially - yourself just the way you are. You force your co-workers to listen to your suggestions in an unfriendly atmosphere of a hold up - now, that you have a gun, they will accept them, since they never seemed to have time for you during regular meetings.... And only to think that, if your friends and co-workers took the time to listen to you, to pay attention to your words - for any, even the most despicable, reason of their own, - you would not have felt the need to impose yourself so violently on others.

As artificial intelligence and technology progress, connection among human beings seems to weaken... Yet, it is our connection to each other that helps us survive during the time of the most horrible crisis... When we forget the importance of that connection, we disintegrate and die.


  1. I like the way you made the statement in your blog post on how, after this "gentelman" made his proposition, your initial feelings were not of disgust, but of curiosity, the feeling that you needed to understand his train of thought, that you did not feel threatend but that you wished to understand why he said waht he said. It is extramly funny that after you asked what he would do if this was brought forward to his daughter by another man in this fashion, he would not be as understanding as he would hope you to be of his proposal. I do not think that most people think of what they are doing in relation to communication, I know I often say things, and then regret not fully thinking of what me responses should have been, but this is nothing in comparison to the blunders made and never reflected upon or regreted by others. People will often say things without thinking, I know this may not be the case in other countries where people take time to seriously consider their place in a conversation, but I have noticed here in the United States that people are so self centered, they expect others to accept their requests without comment or reservation, I think you are very much on track with this, and I would like to see where you go with it.

  2. Again, Katya, you demonstrate a deep level of reflection and an openness to others that is sorely lacking in most human conversations.

    Your attitude toward others, even strangers, reminds me of of John Woolman, the famous anti-slavery Quaker who went out to speak with warring Indians, not to lecture them, but to ask them to share that he might learn from them.

    If, for instance, Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle East would have such an attititude it would bring peace.

    And, of course, many a criminal might actually have a chance to change if he were treated with respect, despite his very wrong actions.

    So congrats on a very stimulating, thought-provoking reflection--


    while I deeply admire your compassionate/open/insightful listening, I would strongly
    disagree with your conclusion about the man who propositioned you.

    It has been many years since I read about the Marquis De Sade
    at university,
    but I remember enough to know that an adult who suggests to a 14 year old girl, who he meets in the park, that she should read the Marquis--such an adult is one sick, evil individual. After all it is not for no reason that the word 'sadism' was derived from the Marquis De Sade. Need I compare the tempter and the Marquis to some of the more famous henchmen of history?

    If you had been 24, and he had propositioned you, it would have been sick enough but to talk as he did, in my opinion,is despicable.

    I suppose, as I expressed earlier
    that not only is my being a father and a Friend and a teacher showing in my disgust toward the man, but also tragic memories of the young children and teens who have been destroyed by such humans.

    Maybe there was hope for the man who propositioned you however in that your insightful question about his own daughter awoke in him a glimmer of a conscience.

    I question, too, whether he was 'conversing with you about the delicate subject of human intimacy.'

    It seems rather that he was an expert at psychological manipulation, which is the very opposite of intimacy. Molesters are
    often geniuses at manipulation, and their seduction is all the more appealing because part of their personality is likable and sincere--thereby being all the more insidious because people find them so 'nice.'

    And, yes, it is a real tragedy of life that often strangers even persons of ill will show more realness in their conversing than co-workers, acquaintances, and sometimes friends.

    There are so many more significant points in your reflection that I would like to speak to, but I'll stop here for now at least and get back to my novel:-).



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