By: Gregory McGrath-Goudie, Orillia Bureau Chief
On January 1st, 2017, I went to the local bar in my hometown to have a drink with my grandfather and shoot a few games of pool. Whenever I visit him, this is one of our favourite pastimes, and I naturally expected to have the same good time that we usually have together. Good times, indeed, were had, until a local gay man crossed several lines and sexually harassed me. What follows is an account of my memories from the evening, as well as a deconstruction of the events and the shift in perception that the experience has wrought in me.
When we arrived at the bar, an acquaintance of ours began talking to us. He was a middle-aged, tall and slender fellow, someone we have both played a game of pool with before. Although he was fairly drunk upon our arrival, I always thought of him as a decent guy, so we racked up the balls and began playing the game. Upon finishing our game, which he surprisingly won in his inebriated state, we both ventured outside to quell our pressing nicotine addictions. This is when the first interesting exchange between myself and the middle-aged gay man, whom I will refer to as John, occurred. Somewhere in our conversation, John cautiously conceded that he was gay, and I replied with something to the effect of this:
“Oh, that’s totally fine, man. I have a gay cousin. It doesn’t bother me. We can still shoot pool together.”
We finished our cigarettes, and went back to the pool table. The night continued on in an orderly fashion for a while—laughs, a couple beers, a few comedy-hearted insults thrown either way. After we’d had enough of the pool table, we sat at a regular table together, while my grandfather was off talking to the bartender. This is when John gave me his phone number.
“Oh, uh, alright man, I’m not in town often, but if you want to play pool sometime again we can do that.”
“Or you could come over to my place sometime.”
“Or we could just play pool?”
At this point, I realized what his intentions were, but since his gestures had seemed innocent enough so far, I did not want to outright tell him I am not gay and to not pursue me. Having never been outright hit on by a man before, I did not know how to react, and I thought my subtle hint would be enough to let him down easily. We continued drinking our beers together, when I caught him staring at me.
“I’m looking right into your eyes, man,” said John.
“Umm, yep. Green,” I awkwardly replied.
At this point, my 75-year-old grandfather was ready to head home. He had long finished his daily conversation and beer; I was close to finishing my second. My grandfather, being the eternally kind man that he is, offered John a ride home, as he was aware that John didn’t own a car. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to walk across the northern city of Elliot Lake in January, but it’s a pretty bad time for all involved. From the bar, my grandfather told us to finish our beers so that we could all leave. I downed the remainder of mine, and soon told John that he should finish his as well—he was drunk and sort of lollygagging at this point.
“I can’t swallow beer, but I can swallow.”
I did not reply to this. I was not equipped to reply to this. I got up and ventured towards my grandfather, at which point John proved that he could, indeed, swallow beer. We all went out to my grandfather’s van together, and John sat in the back seat, while I took shotgun next to my grandfather.
“You know your seat slides back, eh, Greg?”
Neither my grandfather nor I replied to this. As he didn’t have the context of the earlier events, I don’t think my grandfather perceived that I was being aggressively hit on. The ride to John’s apartment complex continued on silently, until he set his trap:
“Greg, what size shoes are you, man?”
“Oh, perfect. I actually have a new pair of Bauer skates that will fit you. I don’t play hockey anymore. Why don’t you come up to my apartment and you can have them?”
“Uh, that’s really nice, man. You don’t have to do that, but okay.”
I had a suspicion that this was a trap. I did not particularly want these hypothetical skates. Nor did I particularly want to tell him to stop what he was doing, and that I was clearly not interested. I think I was trying to keep his emotional wellbeing intact, so I ventured into his apartment complex with him. In the staircase, finally away from the protection my grandfather offered, he bombarded me with creepy statements.
“I think you’re so hot.”
“I want to fuck you.”
“I want to do x number of things to you and have them done to me by you.”
So on, so forth.
I realized that I had to draw a distinct line here. What began as an innocent interest had grown into full-blown creepiness.
“Listen John, I’m not gay. Straight as an arrow. We can actually shoot pool together again, but I’m just not into this.”
He kept saying creepy things, but I can’t remember each one of them at this point, as I started to get both pissed off and worried simultaneously.
“John, man. Gay dudes have tried to turn me before (this was a lie, and was framed kind of problematically, but it was what I said). It didn’t work out for them. Stop it.”
“Trying to turn you? Man, it’s not about trying to turn you. It’s about if we’re going to fuck or not.”
I don’t know why I kept walking beside him, but we were in the door to his apartment at this point. I repeated that I was not interested in the least. He seemed to momentarily get what I was saying, reached into his closet, and actually pulled out a new pair of Bauer skates for me, which were tied together by the laces. He stepped close to me, threw the tied laces over my neck, dropped the skates so that they were dangling around my neck, then grabbed my face and kissed the area of my lips that he could access, as I was actively turning my head to the side. It all happened in a relatively fluid motion. I was caught off guard. Sure, it was only a kiss, but that was beside the point—I had repeatedly told him no, and that was supposed to mean something. I cringed. A lesser man would have knocked him out, but what happened to me next is something I still find surprising.
I got totally disoriented and panicked. I remember turning to walk away. I remember his apartment door closing. I remember hearing a loud bang from inside of his apartment. I spent about five minutes trying to find my way out of this apartment complex, going to the wrong floors, venturing down the wrong hallways. I almost knocked on a door to ask a stranger for help, but I regained my resolve and found the apartment’s exit. I hopped back into my grandfather’s idling van, with the most expensive pair of skates I have ever owned. I quickly blurted the story out to him.
As a journalist, I naturally called all of the people I consider to be family or friend, and immediately recounted the story to all of them. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these people initially laughed when I told them that I had been sexually harassed by a 50-something gay dude.
I’m Gregory McGrath-Goudie. I’m over six feet tall, and I usually weigh over 200 pounds. I once swung a hammer in the oilfield for 56 consecutive days of work. I played rep hockey all through my childhood, and I was often that big defenseman that every team hated to come up against. For me to get sexually harassed is inconceivable—or, at least, that was what I thought and took for granted until January 1st, 2017.
I was not and am not mad at the people I shared this story with. The conventional belief regarding male sexual assault is that it simply does not happen. Thankfully, being the good friends and family that they all are, they were quick to acknowledge that I had, indeed, been sexually harassed, and that they were all sorry for reacting in the way they did. I think they all grew a little after hearing my story, and that is one of the major reasons that I chose to write this article. Maybe you can grow a little too.
I also began to think about why this happened to me. I’ve concluded that, for a lot of men, the social experience of having sex is deemed superior to the actual relationship that leads to it. As mentioned, I grew up as a hockey player. I remember conversations in the dressing room, where we occasionally assessed one another’s worth based on how many “kills” we had racked up. Sex was framed as something to be extracted from someone else (generally a woman) by any means necessary. Once you got what you wanted, you could return to the dressing room with a funny story, and receive congratulations from your supposed friends. If you did not bring any of these stories back, you were obviously an inferior specimen of a man. I remember these times vividly. I was an incredibly shy teenager, and I was a virgin until 19, but I felt immense pressure to live up to these expectations. I engaged in the same rhetoric as my peers, and I shielded my virgin status at all costs.
After growing into a better man myself, I started to see this phenomenon taking place everywhere. I remember going to a house party last year – you know, one of those out-of-control ragers generally thrown by second year students that have finally escaped the coddling grasp of residence life. I remember a guy screaming at his friend, over ludicrously loud music, about how some “bitch was just all over [him].” My girlfriend and I exchanged a solemn look and went directly home. Guess what happened at home? We talked to each other about things we both care about. We made each other laugh. Maybe, just maybe, our mutually positive relationship led to something physical. Something that we were able to enjoy together, due to the fact that we enjoy each other.
So, young men, here is my advice to you. The next time someone tries to determine your worth based on how many people you have slept with, share this story with them. Better yet, tell them to shut the fuck up. They are the ones who should feel shitty—not you. Not ever. Men like this are actively supporting rape culture when they tie the amount of sex they’ve had to their worth as men. Sex is not a conquest, and women are not objects to extract it from (and neither are men). Sex is meant to be had between two willing parties who care enough about one another to share it—yes, that can include one night stands, but immediate connections like that are uncommon. Forget about getting laid for its own sake. What are you into – sports, gardening, Dungeons & Dragons, reading, writing, painting, working out? There are plenty of girls and guys who are into that stuff too, and I’m sure you can find one to hang out with and engage in those activities with. Hell, you both might end up having such a great time together that you both want to have consensual sex. Imagine that.
If anyone would like to discuss this topic further, I’d love to go skating with you and have a chat. I’d also like to take this opportunity to apologize to women as a whole—I don’t know how you deal with this on a regular basis. I am truly sorry that a lot of us behave in the ways that we do. All of you ladies actually rock. I hope this article can change the attitude of at least one man, so that the world can be a marginally better place for you all to live in.
Thank you for reading.