We Always Thought My Sexual Assault Was the Funniest Thing
The hot tub was warm I remember that and the man in the warm tub said had I ever thought about being a model. I had thought about that to be honest because I had just done a fashion show at the mall with my friend whose mother worked at the hair salon there and so we walked on a runway with our bouncing nineties hair and felt pretty cool about that at the time as you can probably imagine.
It was at the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney World, the tub in question, which I remember seeming like the fanciest place in the world owing to the fact that I was seventeen and I’d probably visited three states in my life until that point. We’d driven all the way there from Massachusetts in my friend’s parents’ van and I was just ecstatic to be anywhere besides the mall where I had done that modeling gig I mentioned before. They don’t have many stores at the mall anymore it’s mostly bowling alleys and such and I saw recently that Soul Asylum was playing at the bowling alley there which made me pretty sad to think about. When you’re in a band you’re supposed to say things like a gig is a gig but I never believed that type of horse shit which is probably why none of my bands ever made it very far. One time I saw a guy who was on Baywatch there going to the movies and he was the most in-shape guy I’ve ever seen in my life.
A couple years before that I had sex for the first time at the same haircut friend’s house. It was at a party and I didn’t want to do it but she was older and I was fifteen and it was the first time someone had ever seemed like they really wanted me and that is what you do when someone wants you you let them have you. I don’t remember her name any more but I remember worrying for a while after that I had gotten AIDs from it because I was a child and children are fucking stupid when it comes to knowing about things like sex and AIDs.
I don’t know how well regarded the Grand Floridian is today vis a vis hotels at Disney World or anything about Disney World. My high school friends go there all the time with their children but I don’t have any children and as a result of that no real pressing need to get back to Disney World in any sort of hurry. Another time I went there with my own family when I was around thirteen and I had an Appetite for Destruction t-shirt on in the pictures I don’t have access to anymore but comprise the bulk of my memory regarding that particular trip which I remember feeling pretty cool about at the time. In my memory I’m a fat little mess.
One of the main jobs you can get in modeling as everyone knows is when you have to pose in your underwear so we had better go get a look at you in your underwear inside there in the bathroom the man told me which seemed to make sense so we got out of the tub and went to go take care of that one last formality before my modeling career was about to take off. I don’t remember what the man looked like but I remember the layout of the bathroom vividly. I could probably draw a blueprint of the bathroom if I had a big drafting table and one of those visors that architects wear in movies when they’re doing architecture stuff in the role of, like, Jennifer Anniston’s boyfriend the handsome architect.
There’s a song that I would have been listening to a lot back then that used to make me cry and it’s about a young addict who is being abused by her boyfriend and she says something like she’s never been in love she don’t know what it is she only knows if someone wants her and I just looked up the lyrics and the next line is “I want ‘em if they want me” but I’ve spent the last twenty five years thinking it was “I wonder if they want me?” which seems a lot sadder and is also a question I think every time I meet someone. I’ve only really ever been any good at two things in my life which are writing and making people want me because when someone wants you that is how you know you are good.
The song is just two chords over and over incidentally. G A G A G A G and it just goes back and forth like that forever.
One other modeling insider tip I can share with you is that a lot of times the guys when they pose in their underwear in the magazines and such they need to have a bit of a bulge going on down there and one way to do that is to rub yourself a little bit so it shows off better so why don’t we do that and see what happens.
I am trying very hard to remember what happened after that but I don’t remember. I do not remember. I don’t really remember a single thing else that happened on that trip besides one thing, which is what my friend the big time modeling agent told me and that is that I had potential but I would have to work on tightening up my abs a little bit and there are two reasons I remember that because it is something I have thought about every minute of my life since then, how I need to tighten up my abs a little bit, and also because it became a funny little joke among me and my friends who I was there with at Disney World because we didn’t know how to talk about what had happened to me in any other way besides joking because young men are fucking stupid when it comes to knowing about things like sexual assault. I guess adult men are stupid about that too because I still don’t really know if this counts as sexual assault. What is it called when an adult brings a teenager into a bathroom and convinces them to touch themselves in front of them and maybe touches them a little bit too but you don’t remember because you blacked out?
In any case we decided to all treat it like a joke because we didn’t know what else to do or how to talk about anything due to having the brain damage of being young men.
I asked my two friends who were there and our other friend who we would talk about everything with back then what they remember about that night.
“I remember you started the story by saying, ‘Something really weird happened...’” my friend Mike told me the other day.
“I believe when you first told us it happened, you just said the guys asked to see you naked. It was late 90's, right? So I think we were all still in the mode where it was silly that gay men asked to see your stuff,” my friend Nick said. “It was basically another chapter in a book you were writing that had life experiences the rest of us, in this clique, would never imagine happening to us. I actually never thought of you as a victim at all, until the last few weeks.”
If I had to guess what my friends back then thought about me it would be something like that. I was somewhat more advanced in terms of life experiences because when people want you you get all sorts of opportunities that other people don’t such as modeling contracts.
“I remember you talking about it pretty nonchalantly,” my friend Chris said. “I think that's why I took it as a goof of sorts. You also were one of my friends where it seemed like weird, odd, funny things happened to way more than me so I chalked it up to ‘Luke being Luke.’ I couldn't imagine being in that situation, but I could see Luke having it happen to him.”
“We definitely thought it was funny, and every remembrance of it in the last twenty years was framed in humor,” Nick said. He mentioned once that he had assumed I had liked it owing to me being the type of person who liked getting attention.
“I don't know if I thought you liked it, but at the time I definitely thought, ‘Nobody would do that if they didn't want to do that.’ I think a key thing is that I believe it was years later that you admitted one or both of them touched you...or did they? My memory tells me you told us they asked to touch it, but you didn't want to and just showed it to them. But am I remembering right now that they actually touched you?”
I don’t remember.
“I know from day one I thought it was all fucked up. Every piece of it was odd, and strange, and crazy, but it didn't surprise me that you were in that situation,” Nick said. “To this day, I cannot imagine how that situation evolved. Having spent more time in Disney World than any other person I actually know, I can say with 100% certainty that nothing remotely like that has happened to me, and I would wager in my nearly fifty trips to Disney World, probably forty five or so since that event happened, I think about it every time I'm there. I always find this situation fucked up, but I don't know if I ever knew, or actually know now, the whole truth about what happened.”
“We would definitely bring it up as a joke, but it also seemed more odd and inappropriate than funny,” Mike said. “I don't think we ever conceived of it as a violation, which it clearly was. Maybe it's outrageousness made us laugh.”
Chris said he had wondered sometimes if I’d just made it up as a funny story.
“I don’t know if I fully believed you made it up, but more it was my own defense mechanism of it couldn't have really happened. Especially at Disney World. I may have thought you might have embellished for the story afterwards, like it happened, but maybe you were more of a willing participant going back to how you would strip and be naked for laughs with us.”
Being naked among your guy friends out of nowhere is a very reliable form of comedy when you are young and don’t really know what else to do.
“Did we assume men couldn’t get assaulted in that way?” Mike asked. “No way we would have the same reaction if you were a girl.”
I kind of wish I hadn’t brought this up all of a sudden but I guess it’s too late now. I feel like my experience pales in comparison to what other people have gone through, especially women, and that maybe it doesn’t even count? A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how my high school football coach had been charged with molesting a thirteen year old girl in his class and I just read in the news that the school knew about it for three months and didn’t report it to police and they sent the girl back into class with him and he ended up touching her again during that time.
I was a big strapping teenager after all I probably could have fought the guy off if I wanted to and besides he wasn’t forcing me to do anything so maybe I was sexually assaulting myself and there just happened to be someone there to watch? Now that I think of it it was in June which means I had probably just turned eighteen a couple of weeks before. That’s the sort of thing they make a whole production out of in porn when the girl has just turned eighteen because it’s supposed to be exciting that you would go to jail for having sex with her a few days before but now you won’t. And then once she’s there in porn there are two types of roles they make her play which is one where she really wants to have sex with the guy a lot more than you might expert her to due to the guy is always a lot older and then there is the kind where she doesn’t want to and he has to sort of convince her and eventually she gives in.
One thing my therapist told me the other day is that when young people are taken advantage of they might experience a particularly insidious type of shame because sometimes while knowing instinctively that what is happening is wrong they also inadvertently can get pleasure out of it in some cases and that really fucks them up pretty bad.
I wrote last year about a thing I have in my brain called exercise bulimia which means I compulsively exercise to the point of self harm so I won’t get fat and I wrote at the time if I didn’t get it under control I would probably end up doing some permanent damage to my body which happened not too long after the piece came out as it turns out haha. But everyone told me I was good and brave for writing it and tons of people wrote to me saying it’s important for people to talk about stuff like this and thank you for doing it Luke you are good and making a difference which is nice to hear but also probably a bunch of bullshit. I’m writing a piece now for Teen Vogue where I have had to talk to about ten young men about their experiences being body shamed when they were young and all the fucked up things that has done to them throughout their lives in terms of hating themselves and having depression and anorexia and sometimes I worry that I’m not the right person to be talking about all this shit publicly because I have not gotten better and no amount of talking about it has helped me make any changes in my life like I write about in all the articles people tell me I’m good for doing. I’m certainly no role model. I’ve done my share of disreputable shit in the pursuit of being wanted, being reckless and promiscuous and unfaithful at times in my life.
The past year I haven’t been able to run or lift weights because my back and the entire right side of my abdominals went to shit and I worry that that means no one is ever going to want me ever again. Instead I started swimming every day to try to get back into shape and every day after I get out of the pool I go and stand there naked in the locker room and stare at myself in the mirror for a few minutes while people are trying to get shit out of their lockers and dry themselves off and putting their bathing suits in that little bathing suit machine that sucks all the water out of it and sounds like a lawn mower and I think sometimes I look ok and sometimes I think I am disgusting but one thing I think every single time is that I’d be a lot better off if I could just tighten up my abs a little bit.