Stories about sexual events, or lack thereof will undoubtedly turn on interpretative faculties and emotional responses, no matter the ordering of events or the causal chain of events. No one wants to hear a “justification” of bad behavior. At the same time, the content of that behavior can be clear or murky. Any random person might say any number of statements, in a certain context, must be suggestive: it cannot be any other way. You just can’t do that, or “give in”, as if that’s obviously what was going on: that what one was “giving in to” is a content that binds tweedledee to tweedledumb. Just like, and this is an analogy, it is also said there’s a “biological imperative” (highly contentious) for any number of arbitrarily defined actions or that “men and women cannot be friends”. There’s no sufficient reduction of the social to the biological, so it just doesn’t make sense, without alienating one’s self, to start calling on the biological imperative every which way. Such points or claims are themselves, I would say, not necessarily true, regardless of anybody’s ideology. I believe in truth, but I also believe in honesty, and “truth without honesty is a tree without leaves.” So in the interest of the effort to speak the truth as much as I wish to be honest, I will share a few events in my life which have raised questions about my moral integrity.
I met Ester on the street. She called out that I had “nice dreads” from atop a staircase adjacent to a hostel. She had matted hair a bit, light brown, somewhat ratty. She seemed like a train-hopper or crust punk based on her dress and demeanor. I immediately thought, “She seems like someone who’ll enjoy walking the city aimlessly until we pass out.” Earlier that day I thought to myself, “I want to fall a little further down with someone” and get lost in an experience, for the fact that nothing feels good and that I had nowhere to go or to be. I was lost spiritually, emotionally, after having heard of my first ex-girlfriend’s brutal murder. I felt the world had somehow figured out how to cheat itself. And so I walked the streets without direction or purpose for days, talking to almost no one, staring into shops, up and down hills, wasting away.
Ester and I shared a hostel one night, after having some fairly sparse conversations about ourselves. Somehow we decided to share a room, and I’m not even really sure whose idea it was. I think we had first decided that we would take an acid trip together. I’m pretty sure I lucked out as someone rewarded me for having dreadlocks, or looking like some guy who obviously needs acid. I don’t know. When I think back, sometimes I gather that it might have even been her acid. I just cannot recall. I certainly didn’t have much of a plan other than “trip and spend time together, whatever we come up with.” Of course, I fucked up and it didn’t pan out well. Somehow, again, somehow, we got in bed together. I didn’t coax her or push on her or lure her. It just seemed like a bunch of natural progressions. I usually don’t think to much or in advance most cases anyway. I’m a terrible planner. I always lose my notes, and when I write any lists down (almost never), I forget about them or they’re not prioritized, dated or really even meaningful. I usually just follow along, like I’m sure is recognizable to many fatherless and role model-less kids. We’re good at making it appear as if we’re leaders, and “faking it ’til we make it”. People tell me I have a great taste in music, but it’s really just a hodge-podge of picking up on lists of people I’ve followed on the internet and getting this or that recommendation. People tell me I’m “creative”, but I’m really just pilfering ideas and doing a glorified find-and-replace substitution “technique”, kind of like Comte de Lautréamont or I don’t even remember. So yes, we both decided to get into bed together, after taking tabs of acid. We started spooning in position, and most of the interaction was silent. It seems we were both less interested in communication, in general, but I’m going to hedge that that just means I had been doing something wrong anyway. I don’t know. I certainly did think that getting in the bed together meant that escalation was permissible, and that’s wrong. I slowly moved my hands to her hips and then into the front of her pants. Then I moved my hand closer to her private area before she moved my hand away: whether forcefully or not, I cannot recall, but she did move my hand away. It didn’t dawn on me that that mean “stop immediately” immediately, and yet almost as soon as I failed that understanding immediately I stopped. At the same time, I was feeling anxious and crushed by the acid, wanting to grab hold of anything but myself. Nothing excuses what I did. I’m almost positive everyone will say it’s assault. I agree that groping and rape are not different and anyone who says so, in the legal context, is misreading the law. After I pulled away and we both got out of bed, I thought kissing her would suffice as an apology — merely adding fuel to the fire. I left the room, and I never saw her again, except for, what I thought, was her desperately trying to avoid me on the street later that day. My only defense is that I don’t genuinely believe I was merely groping her, but that I made a terribly mistaken presumption about what she wanted. Am I trying to say “it was just an act that involved touching”? No, it was wrong primarily because the very “natural progression” that preceded every effort. There’s no grounds for escalation, but that is where I would say the difference matters, even if it doesn’t excuse the act: I made a mistake of escalating based on some naively understood interactions, and I also didn’t respect the obvious rejection. Why I didn’t I do not think involves the same mental frame as a man who gropes a woman on the subway or a man who lures a woman into his bedroom, or a guy who suddenly puts his hand on a woman’s thigh at a football game. The escalation is not warranted, but I’m at a loss for an analogy to point to: for me, it was uniquely wrong, for all that I had known then.
My actions were wrong. Not communicating and making presumptions of this kind were wrong. I do not wish to project the harm caused and felt, as I understand it goes beyond my imagination. If you see or feel yourself in this story, I apologize to you for the harm I’ve caused and what I’ve done.
Again, I met Brenna on the street, between a bar and a food shop. I was smoking a cigarette, cycling through various events of my life, including that of what happened with Ester. I didn’t want that again. I also didn’t want to know that my first ex-girlfriend had been murdered either. It had been two years, by then, that I kept cycling through the thought of it. I wanted nothing, really, but to empty my mind of everything through drugs, particularly MDMA. I don’t know why I thought that would work.
Brenna took a liking to me. Her first words? “You look like trouble.” Our first night was basically pleasant. We shared drinks, laughs and the like. We ended up back at my place where we fucked. That was also basically pleasant. As a black man, she was the first black woman to ever give me much attention, and I was pretty stoked about that. I had felt like I finally had done right by my race (it’s just good word for heritage, awareness of it, history, music, dietary habits, skin color, etc. ignoring the “essentialism”, biology or metaphysics of race debates, because this isn’t the time or the place for it; if you’re hung up on that I use the word at all, you probably have something else better you should be doing anyway than reading this, unless you’re just itching to do whatever it is you want to do anyway). I also couldn’t shake the fact that she had the name of my first ex, the one who had been murdered. At the same time, the two women were quite different in many respects. Yet I enjoyed both their company, as I tend to enjoy most people’s company, even if they’re being downright offensive to me or just wasting my time. I often cannot tell immediately. I miss the joke a lot.
The next time we met up, it was more of the same: drinking and sex. We started at the bar and then went back to my place. We did this and that, until she offered fellatio and asked me to sit atop her. I think her she might actually question that she intended that particular position, but that’s where we took the direction of our night. She did what she had offered for a bit until I reached orgasm. At that moment of orgasm, I pulled her head into me but lurched forward. I hadn’t really thought that’s how things should go, but I’m sure by now you’re shouting, ‘Asshole!’, as that’s what assholes do. I have no defense for it except some spooky feeling you wouldn’t care to hear about anyway. To say the least, it was a sudden, inexplicable feeling that I wanted but had not communicated. I don’t think it was out of a sense of domination, and even as I relayed the story to another woman, a friend, she recoiled, “Everybody does that! Women do that all the time!” I guess she just meant grabbing on hair or pushing someone in as they’re going down on them. I presume it’s almost properly communicated before women do it, right? Or is it presumed that guys can just handle it and, of course, a penis is metaphorically ingrained in public consciousness as a sword or a weapon for conquest. So I just don’t really know. I didn’t communicate and prepare her for what I was going to do. I didn’t communicate that’s how I respond during orgasm. It just wasn’t communicated, and so that’s the crux of the harm I caused. Afterwards she came out of the bathroom after spitting and asked if that had been weird, what occurred between us. I exclaimed, stupidly, “Why does it have to be weird!” and promptly passed out. As she was in the bathroom, I was both shocked, scared and bewildered with myself, and of course, experiencing that post-orgasm low feeling. I don’t know what she thought of me at that instant, trying probably to synthesize the experience from the night previous, after which I had bought her coffee and we had a cheerful if not awkward morning, and this incident, this apparent breach of trust or composure or whatever coolness I had seemingly possessed. I woke up the next morning, deathly afraid, and called her to apologize. She said it was, “OK” and that I should go on living my life. I suppose my whole way of talking gives people the impression that I become obsessed with things and simply cannot move on. And that’s probably true. I rarely move on from things and always get stuck in a rut, as it were, in my thoughts and the past.
Here my actions were wrong and indicative of a kind of self-delusion about what’s permissible. There was zero preparing or asking her about what to expect.
This story speaks to an inexcusable lack of control and impermissible harm. I apologize to you for my carelessness and the presumption that I thought myself to have the right to compromise your trust, your expectations and person.
I don’t think the next story is of the same thread.
Again, I meet Karrie on the street, but this time it’s digital. Her age wasn’t listed on her profile, but I think anyone would say, “Obviously.” At first I thought she was a bot, a catfishing Russian troll who managed to find some person’s photobucket archive and deploy some human-likes. I interacted with this person on that presumption at first, but primarily from a certain state of being. I gave backgrounds to the previous stories, so why not this one? I had been coaxed into working for food, to sleep on a sofa and for the “glory” of exposure and becoming some kind of shining light of “crypto”. Steve and I had both been lured in by Sven. Sven was an ex-con card scammer who basically had no meaningful vision but to tax cryptocurrency transactions in uncharted markets, promising to liberate people, so long as other people “collaborate” (“cooperate”)? He didn’t read my résumé. All he knew was that I was a “gangstageek.” Presumably because I’m black and I know something about computers. (Again, is this not a form of sexualization common to all black men? Gangsta is almost entirely implicative of sexual status, and if you don’t know that, you’re simply being dishonest, if you, also, want to nod approvingly to my use of “Obviously” above, anyway.) The project involved me stepping up to doing all sorts of tech work anyone, especially anyone, who would claim to know the tech industry as much as Sven did, would know is outside of the scope of my typical duties or knowledge. I push pixels for a living. Now I’m doing DevOps, SecurityOps, setting up protected Linux terminals for handling card readers and cryptocurrencies, and economic models for profiting from transactions, and not to mention backend dev, code review of “marketplace” code bases of the competition, participating in business phone calls with investors, ideation, planning, currency market analysis, research, and on and on. This guy had been running me like a little slave, and what was I getting out of it? Food and a sofa to sleep on. Not to seem the color of my skin every day throughout the ordeal and draw conclusions I think would itself be as insane as not to. I just don’t know anymore. At least, I didn’t know then. I started working up this idea that our planned trip to Russia, which is what this was all for, surely must involve some kind of vetting of the personnel. They bought me a laptop (which I suppose makes us even), but I thought it was rooted. In fact, I still do as I type on it now. I thought the router at his house in which I was staying was also pwned. The helicopters flying above freakishly regularly gave me the feeling of constantly being monitored. Every conversation, in fact, gave me that feeling to, not to mention that he had been lying about every contract he had to every potential investor, and expected me to play along with the lie to. He certainly wanted me to know that he could take a baseball bat to the head and live through it, as he had years prior after himself getting scammed and pummeled by someone else. His brother, Bear, was similarly menacing in demeanor but simultaneously cuddly as a bear. I’m sure they have their own vexxed problems with being considered “black” in Russia, despite the fact that their skin color is as olive yet pale as can be. All this plagued my mind the instant Karrie followed me. I had even started to think that the TV programmers were playing shows exactly to depict the circumstances I was in. And also, the family surrounding me almost never spoke English. I didn’t even enough energy to think about, “Where am I going to get my next fuck?” My entire day was wrapped up in paranoia about whether or not I was going to make it out of this situation alive, or whether or not I’ve actually just gone full-blown psychotic. Was I a slave? An indentured servant? No! I was just a part of the family! Of course, I had said some things about my own background to Sven that created this kind of co-dependency: he probably sympathized with me, but honestly, wasn’t that his plan anyway? “Whatever this guy says, we’ll absorb it, so long as he builds this software empire for us!” Who knows, really? I was the “gangstageek” after all, so it paid to make it seem as if I was leading the whole operational and technical structure and Sven merely supplied the “vision”. And, back to the point: I find this catfish, whom I immediately think is a Russian botmaster who had lucked out on a photobucket (probably of a deceased person). What was the point? To vet me morally before I take a step in Russia, particularly with a Russian-looking person. So I interacted with them on their timeline, or at least in their replies anyway. My first comment? “Pro eyebrows, lady”. Now, you’ll probably say, “You made up this whole story to prime the reader to interpret this statement in your favor.” You know what? I’m sorry for existing. I’m sorry for having a body and a language. I don’t know. What can I say? Am I surprised that anyone would feel compelled to take a first blush, face-value assessment of the interaction? No. Everybody does that. Everybody’s just a step-away from a “This you?” call-out about some matter beyond the interpretative dynamics of their usual content silo/stream. Nobody’s God, and of course playing it “safe” is just what you do. At the same time, I started spamming a “wikisext” bot with obvious euphemisms and more explicit replies even as I had not fully concluded that Karrie was not in fact a Russian botmaster. It’s not clear to me that anyone, reasonably, would think that such an activity obviously is a grooming attempt. I think such an assessment is a kind of shallow reach just to fulfill one’s already begged fantasy. The stuff I said to wikisext was sometimes downright dipshittery and memes. I honestly cannot imagine anyone of any age being able to make sense of it other than to think, “Well, that’s vulgar and stupid.” Elsewhere, I was basically pleasant to Karrie, sharing cryptic philosophical and mundane points, and yes, a non-sexual but nevertheless heartfelt image where I tried, albeit cryptically, to encourage her and a peer of hers to find love or something gushy and naive like that. The gist of it is that I said a bunch of rather goofy and contrived things, and I’m just not sure contrivance in and of itself means “suggestive”. I have to state that I was not flirting with this person, and that I was more interested in the fact that I felt I was being monitored day-in and day-out: Sven was semi-constantly checking up on me, and meanwhile, I couldn’t shake the idea that our trip to Russia involved severe implications about security and personal privacy. I felt like I was on a reality TV show where I was the host, attempting to catch the botmaster in their game. I could mention more, but I honestly don’t believe in Plato’s allegory of the cave: I don’t believe that all truths are relevant just because they exist. You’re going to condemn me based on appearances, and that’s that. But I do mean to say that if words matter, then words matter also in rightly describing the situation and what was happening, and I’m trying my best to honestly uphold that point. I already have a history of people telling me I’m just saying what they want to hear. Hell, every time I mention I have a degree, let alone in philosophy, it’s almost exactly that: furrowed brows and body language going awry, someone wrestling with the image of someone who looks as I do having studied in the Leftoid Brainwashing Tradition and actually making it out alive, while not also being financially well off. Niggas just cannot afford “wisdom” these days, especially if you run into them on the street. Not to mention that I had already felt like my “boyish” looks and the sexualization of black men (I can hear your blood boiling already) had ultimately betrayed me: I’m a gangstageek, and gangstageeks don’t get catfished. Yeah, doubtful.
Aside from these stories, I’m sure I’ve rubbed other people and women the wrong way, argued trivial things and made messes out of situations that didn’t need to be, or made unthinking, unwise decisions in whom I’ve dated. But these are the ones worth mentioning that I can recall. All I can do now is express my remorse for my actions and try to live according to what I’ve learned, given that now so many other people have been brave enough to share their own stories.
If your main contention is that “hormones did this” or that some kind of “biological imperative betrayed me”, I can only ask that I not be reduced to a “biological machine” for producing “events” so described. My actions have been a result of a mix of biological and social conditions. I don’t know if there’s a biological process for every social correlate or even vice versa. Am I just an opportunist trying to rationalize behavior? Am I actually concerned with the meaning of these incidents? I’ve thought on such questions for some time now, and I’m trying my best not to appeal to just what my family says or just what anybody says. I’m trying to understand. If the police and prison system is called to be abolished, then I don’t know what to do based on some presumption that those entities actually guarantee just outcomes. I wasn’t thinking statistical outcomes or zooming out to some social strategy throughout most of my life. I’ll admit I have privilege to an extent, but I’ll also have to admit that I lack certain privileges too. I’m not appealing to some nebulous “do nothing” response, but it’s just not clear that the means of seeking justice so far as I’ve understood them just come down to physical force or social force. I think meaning — what is this meaning of this — is the basis for going forward, and I don’t know what that entails in terms of restitution. Is vengeance warranted, and does it ensure that I understand myself? Maybe both are possible, but it’s not clear to me that my actions fit into some strictly biological pattern or a strictly sociological pattern, hierarchies aside. You’ll say, maybe, “it just isn’t that deep.” I don’t know if what I’m saying is “deep” or not, but certainly it seems pretty clear my actions in some cases have been bundled in a systemic problem that has multiple layers of interaction (being male, being “American”, being this or that). I don’t think “because it’s a systemic problem, that makes it right” or that “because other people do it that makes it right” or that “what I’ve done isn’t that bad” (because a majority of cases are not reported for reasons of the incidents causing survivors depression and depersonalization), but I do think the events in my life consist in meaning, which is a combination of biological and social conditions. I’m not just saying vaguely “we can all do better” either, but whatever the outcome, I think meaning will determine what we understand to have addressed when we think about my actions. I am also not appealing to the idea that “I have suffered from thinking about this”, I’m only trying to understanding the meaning of all these actions: do they just mean this or just mean that? I’m not trying to appeal to some nebulous notion of uniqueness either, as I think the understanding of meaning involves understanding the combination of the biological and the social, as two processes that are involved in understanding history and theory about my actions.
And let me also put another point I’ve just remembered about the arc of the third story. I had a friend John who went to Oxford and studied architecture. He’s a rather attractive guy, and incredibly quick-witted, affluent and the rest. I couldn’t really make sense of why he thought highly of me, aside from my ability to write code, which he, at the time, didn’t understand himself, thinking it some kind of mystic art, perhaps. He frequently brought up the game called Outside, and I never quite got the joke: attractive guys have to play downplay their self-esteem so as not to appear vain or conceited. He didn’t seem as such at all, but in the context of certain cultural constraints, it depends on the audience. I could tell that he perceived this as my situation too: constantly feeling the vibes of that potential for violence that radiant from other men, particularly when women are around. The idea is that you must always be a snake in waiting, so men are constantly seeking confirmation that you are indeed, “Checking her out.” I think James even relayed that grief to me over beers once. Surprise, surprise, sometimes “good men” are a commodity worth vibe-checking repeatedly. For my own sake, it becomes tiring, especially in the skin that I’m in, with the weight of that skin color always being present when men really want to know if you were checking her out. It’s exhausting, too, particularly if you have a toothache and the only thing on your mind is if you’ll re-read the same sentence in the book set before you another 30 times. So something that often comes up is the unattainability of white women: that’s what was going through my mind partly as I nearly broke down in that living room with Sven, dancing around in his speedo every time good fortune came to us. There was no desire in this story, but rather the totally upsetting realization that a series of events lead to me being nearly non-autonomous and cheated by my very existence. If you don’t understand, that’s probably good, because then you’d be as tired as I am, and I don’t wish that on anybody. Like the time I called a guy’s argument “fallacious” and he thought I meant “phalli-something”. Yeah, sure, James and I have just been dreaming these war-like intentions manifesting just so. Some folks sure do hate it when we’re just standing around, minding our own business.
Here’s the gist:
And the variation:
black men be basically pleasant bureaucrats toward women (or anybody, “obviously”) and anybody opportunistically be calling it simping
That was the point of the third story.
Years ago on the street elsewhere: don’t genuinely find her funny, boy, or you’ll get caught simping.
Let’s let James Baldwin give an interpretation of the last story, as brimming with underlying motivations as it is, coupled with a carceral-work-to-eat culture of impersonal social forces which condition psychological creations from non-black people to reinforce the “master dispersed throughout society” and the creation of “new chains” Frank B Wilderson III speaks of:
Granted this is an analogy, not unlike statistical evidence, but if statistical evidence and analogy is all that would interpret my story and its meaning is all that one could suggest, it’s no clearer to me that I should accept one or the other, unless it is assumed I’m reducible from being a complex being with a space of reasons to some biological imperative that makes me all too “human”. If you want to talk about justice, being “efficient” isn’t enough, specifically as it concerns the arc of violence as it relates to the production of a safer community. You can trust in statistical and analogical reasoning, or you can be moral with regard to the space of reasons, because no matter what, I’m going to still be black in the last instance.
So let’s look at the word “mundane” I used above. But first, backdrop: I want to bring to your attention the phenomenon of “phallo-see”-ing. I can be standing in front of a guy in a restaurant and literally say the words “that’s a fallacy” and I will be marked as trying to imply some sexual connotations to which I am to be “held accountable” to the dictates of respectability. How often is my life personally afflicted by this kind of marginalization through sexualization? Often. It manifests in almost everything I do or say: from the very pursuit of philosophy and talking about it, from talking about black history and black thought with peers, to almost any intellectual endeavor. I am always-already sexualized from the outset and my “audience” is always-already primed to interpret me as, in a word, basically indiscriminately signalling to groom the entire world so that I may eventually lay my seed. If you have any basic familiarity or engagement with anti-racist thought, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Here’s some textual evidence:
So back to the point. What were some of the “mundane” things I literally said, given that I was already driven down this pipeline through the “impersonal social forces” of a “dispersed master” of white supremacy and capitalism that landed me in a “prison with a smiling face”? What was I thinking about as I shot missives at this person whose ear I was speaking through to made a wider commentary toward my — oh you don’t accept that characterization at all because surely I would sooner want to liberate a society of absolute socio-sexual horror than think about how my always-already sexualized blackness has been used against me in a distributed “master” complicit in my demise: “my mother shops the same way at the grocery store”. That’s one. I’m not sure anyone would strike that up as grooming material, but why not. It’s all grooming material because it just is. I could have literally posted black history to this person and been called out using that as grooming material. If this apparent trend that anti-racist theorists and historians is right, and if my personal always-already biological imperative to “phallo-see” is indeed programmed, then everything I ever do is geared towards grooming everybody all the time no matter what.
To make the point again is that what I was saying was framed by trying to get Sven out of my head, get the destined trip to Russia out of my head and the idea that I might be getting vetted by some foreign intelligence, and also all the “prison with a smiling face” idea out of my head, along with the fact that people constantly would consider me a hacker when I would make it plainly clear through my résumé and online profiles that what I do is most typically CSS with light web development and nothing really beyond that. Why did I have all these projections pinned on me that I was some kind of sexy murder poet, for years? I wanted to synthesize all these projections and make a statement “through someone else’s ear” to whoever had been watching me, whether it was Russia, the helicopters frequenting overhead or the online ads which seemingly could anticipate my next thought. One message I sent to this person was about convergent encryption, which is about deduplicating files (as that was a project I had been working on in deduplicating massively large e-mail lists). Another message was a song titled “You Are The Sun, Your Eyes Are The Sun”. This message was about the fact that the sun reveals everything and is always beaming down on the earth. My messages to the wiki bot, though vulgar, were also a trajectory I was using to defraud myself and my identity and anyone watching, as I had been day-in-and-out finding myself being monitored by Sven, checked on by his brother, surrounded by a family I didn’t know, and stuck on repeat with the thought that I was in a happy carceral environment.