Years ago I broke the cardinal rule of the comedy community – which is never, ever, ever date a fellow comedian. There’s actually a fun term for it, a “chuckle f*cker.” A female comedian can quickly be relegated to “groupie status” if she consents to getting physical with any of her counterparts.
Despite the fact that we kept it quiet, and that our relationship was based on friendship, mutual respect and sense of humor, I apparently developed a reputation among my group of comics of being one of the “willing women.” Keep trying, fellas. It worked for that one dude, remember? It might just work for you.
So, when, a couple years later, another comedian who was a mutual friend assaulted me in my car, I wish I could say I was shocked, but I wasn’t. I actually found myself not completely blaming him for trying to feel me up without my consent. After all, I had already said “yes” one time to another guy in our community, so why not him, right?
A gray area.
When he offered to walk me to my car late at night after a comedy show we attended together, I accepted. I trusted him. We were not on a date. We were friends and I appreciated that he was looking out for my safety. He got in the car with me and I was a little hesitant. But, hey, we had often talked as buds and it was cold outside. So, sure, come on in.
We talked for a few minutes. I popped a piece of gum because I had a beer earlier in the night and my breath was rancid. I offered him some and he said he had a severe allergy to gum. I joked, “Well it’s not like we’re making out,” and popped a few more. He laughed. I trusted him.
Then his hands were on my body in places I only allowed boyfriends (and previous Tinder-based hookups that were for my own mental health and none-of-your-business thank-you-very-much) to touch. I laughed. I didn’t understand what was happening. We hadn’t been flirting. There was no hand holding. No lingering stares. No playful physical touching. No signals. No nothing. And now this.
But, I guess since he was a male friend I hung out with all night who was now sitting in my car, we were suddenly in a gray area. I laughed because I was surprised and confused. I laugh to cope. I laugh to heal. I laugh to diffuse tensions. I do comedy – I laugh a lot.
He kept going. Understandably, my laughing and yelling, “What the hell are you doing?,” wasn’t exactly the “HELL NO” most assaulters believe they have to hear before they stop. It wasn’t until I physically pushed him off of me and shouted, “NO. STOP. DON’T DO THAT,” that he got the hint, if you can even call it a hint at that point. Strangely, I felt lucky that he stopped at all. And in my relief that he stopped, the whole thing felt, at that moment, forgivable.
He stayed in the car. We laughed it off. I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do.