#MeToo and Sam Kriss
a guest Oct 17th, 2017 45,602 Never
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- CW: sexual harassment and sexual aggression
- I had hoped I would never have to write this account. But watching a man who repeatedly groped me, twisted my neck to forcibly kiss me, ignored any attempt I made to stop him, and refused to ‘let me’ drink non-alcohol, unashamedly attack feminists online, use misogynist language, singling out women for ridicule time and time again, means I’ve not really been able to forget. With the growing #metoo hashtag there is a context of growing urgency for ‘calling out’ men who sexually harass women. Men who see nothing wrong in sexual aggression, nothing wrong in breaking women’s boundaries, for who the pursuit of sexual contact is undertaken as some sort of mission to make a woman submit to them. This kind of confident, unbridled sexual aggression, founded on an absolute sexism and misogyny, is particularly dangerous. I can no longer bear watching this man behave with total impunity and I feel it’s a duty to warn women about him.
- I confided in close friends about what happened at the time, but really hoped to never have to publicly recount the humiliating and degrading experiences I was dealt by Sam Kriss.
- I met Sam ‘on Twitter’. I invited him to a talk at my alma mater. Unfortunately, tickets sold out too soon and Sam suggested instead we go for a drink. I chose a pub near where I was living at the time.
- There were a lot of warning signs on this ‘first date’. I hope to not have to recount them. Similarly, there were a few warnings signs when I bumped into him at a friend’s book launch. But it’s the third time I ever met Sam that I feel compelled to speak out about because this is when his behaviour escalated.
- I felt an odd sense of foreboding before I saw him again. I could tell already he felt a natural authority over me. I nearly cancelled, but felt obscene wasting theatre tickets.
- Once we were inside the packed theatre, Sam began forcing his tongue into my mouth. I said to him, jokingly, but also seriously, “I don’t think we should kiss here - we might make the old folk jealous of our youthful affections”. Sam replied, “Well, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, I say!” pressing his face on mine again. Someone directly behind us (it was tightly packed, the audience sat on school chairs, someone’s knees touching my back, shoulder-to-shoulder) said, “eurgh” and I pushed Sam away saying, “I’m not really a fan of PDAs”.
- Next, I felt Sam putting his arm round me. Phew, that’s better, some mild affection, not a mauling, I thought. Turns out he wasn’t putting his arm round me, but behind me, to place his hand on the back of my neck, so as to twist my head to face his, wherein, he again forcibly kissed me. This physically hurt. “Honestly, I don’t like PDAs. People can see”. Sam, considerately, then ceased until the next few moments when the lights went dark – ensuring no one could see – where he again somehow found my mouth with his during those few seconds of darkness before the play began. I was in a now silent theatre; I could either make a scene at the start of the play or stifle how this felt. Who the hell ‘makes out’ in a crowded theatre? I felt gross. Who twists someone’s neck to kiss them?
- Sam’s particular insistence on alcohol had been present during the two times I’d see him before, but at the theatre it went to a new level:
- During the break I said I was going across the road to Tesco to get a sandwich. The conversation went something like:
- “I’m going to the bar, what do you want to drink?” he asked.
- “Orange juice”
- “We’re at the theatre, I’m not buying you orange juice. What do you want that’s alcoholic?”
- “Actually, I’ve got a head ache and could really do with something non-alcoholic”.
- “What alcohol do you typically have with orange juice?”.
- “Uhh, vodka, but I really don’t want to drink…”
- “We’re at the theatre – I’m not buying you vodka. Wine. Wine is what you drink at the theatre. I’m buying you wine”.
- Back in our seats I didn’t touch the wine. Sam began flicking his finger against the glass, commanding, “drink” (flick), “drink (flick), “I bought you this drink. Drink it” (flick).
- “I really don’t want to. I didn’t want it”, I uttered these words alongside various other meagre protests. We watched the next act, Sam eventually drank ‘my’ wine himself.
- At this point I was planning my escape. How can I get away without pissing him off? Sam and I know lots of mutual people, we both exist on the Marxist far-Left. He’s a writer for Vice, the Guardian, various other outlets, he circulates around Momentum, and I didn’t want ‘any trouble’ then or later. Sam is, by his own words, from an incredibly wealthy, well-connected background, and therefore compared to me, very powerful. After the play finished he wanted to go ‘for a drink’. One drink, I thought, and then it’ll seem ‘normal’ to head off after. He won’t know how upset I am and I can forget how shit I feel about his neck-twisting, glass-flicking, general domineering behaviour.
- At the pub I headed straight to the bar to order drinks myself, so I could decide what I drank. Sam wasn’t going to let this happen. He started to tell the woman behind the bar I wanted “vodka in that orange juice”. So persistently and convincingly she checked with me twice whether I really did?
- “I really don’t”, I said.
- “She actually does”, he said, “just put it in”.
- I went to sit outside on the street, putting chairs on opposite sides of a table, hoping it would mean Sam kept his distance. It did, until we were told drinking outside was over and we had to head in. Once sat indoors, not across a table and within reach, Sam immediately began trying to kiss me again.
- “I really don’t want to do this here and now”.
- “But look, they’re doing it!” he said, pointing at a couple in the corner sucking-face like there was no tomorrow.
- “I guess they maybe feel out of view in the corner, or something”, at which point Sam grabbed my arm and led me over to seats at the side wall of the pub.
- There was more general grabbing, pressing his mouth against mine and even putting his hand on my breasts. I grimaced, put up with the kissing, but freaked out at the breast touching, pulling away. How is touching someone’s breasts in public normal?! Are women in pubs sex show fodder for onlookers?! I wish I’d caused a scene, but I was so embarrassed at this car crash of an evening and felt worried what Sam might do. I got up to go to the loo, Sam smacking my backside, hard, as I walked past. I felt as if trapped in some sort of hyper heterosexist hellscape.
- When I returned I sat away from him. Then the various manoeuvres to get me to go home with him began. I want to relay precisely how he first suggested this because it demonstrates a willingness to laud wealth (and thus power).
- Sam said, “so do you want to come back to mine to see my massive house?”
- “Don’t you mean your parents massive house?”
- “Yeah, but when they die I’ll inherit it”
- I told Sam I didn’t want to go back to his parent’s house. I told him I was actually seeing someone else, which was an excuse. I did not want to enrage a man who had made it very clear my own boundaries, choices and autonomy were entirely dismissible him.
- We talked for about an hour, with me trying to make it clear I wasn’t interested in going home with him. But this only caused Sam to go into overdrive. He bragged about getting ‘kicked out’ of a Frat House in America, but that it didn’t matter as, “18-year-old boys only join Frat Houses to procure alcohol and women, and I was 21, so I could procure my own alcohol and women”.
- After what I felt was a ‘normal’ amount of time to talk, so that he didn’t feel incensed at being dismissed etc. I said I was heading home.
- “Haha, but we’re in West London, you don’t know where you are! You’re stranded, you’ll have to come back to mine.”
- “Nope, the bus stop outside takes me to UCL and I can walk home from there.”
- Sam walked with me to the bus stop I intended to use, still trying to persuade me to go back to his house.
- “If you stay over I’ll buy you breakfast – I always buy them breakfast”
- “No thanks, honestly, I’m too tired”
- “We don’t have to have sex if you come to mine”.
- This went on for some time. There were a series of ploys to wear me down and get me to agree, “but I don’t care if you’re seeing someone else!”
- “You’ll regret it - I won’t be single forever!”
- After realising that I really wasn’t returning home with him, he began forcibly ‘snogging’ (I can hardly call it kissing given it was so aggressive) me at the bus stop. I turned my head away so it was out of reach, to which Sam started grabbing at my breasts with both hands. There were, rather mortifyingly, other people at the bus stop trying to ignore this scene. I felt so embarrassed, so I moved to the doorway behind the bus stop … this moving away was taken not as, ‘please leave me alone’, but as if I had gone to the doorway for us to have more privacy and thus intimacy. At this point Sam actually put his hands up underneath my top to touch my breasts. I protested with statements like, “Sam, seriously, can we not”, “we are outside on the street”, trying to remind him I was not ok with this, but not show any anger in case it escalated his behaviour.
- Thankfully, my bus soon arrived. The sense of relief! But as I walked towards the bus, Sam grabbed hold of me. I continued to move, or try to move in the direction of the bus, my jacket lifted up at the back and sides almost horizontally because he held onto it. I managed to tug away. Then, I got on the bus only to find Sam jumping on behind me, announcing, “Well, if you aren’t coming back to mine, I’m coming to yours!”
- At this, I told the driver, “he’s not serious”, gave him a hug goodbye and in doing so walked him backwards out the bus doors. I basically pushed him off the final step. “Go, go, drive”, I told the driver. Sam’s face of utter open mouthed astonishment at the bus stop was incredible – either astonished that he had basically been hug-shoved off a bus or that the insistent pressuring hadn’t worked.
- What was my response at the time? I sent Sam a ‘hope you got home ok’ message, hoping to smooth over the abrupt bus ending. I also stayed friends with him on FB and continue to Follow him on Twitter – I do not want to be in the dark about his whereabouts and hope to avoid any event he might be in attendance at.
- I really don’t understand why a man would believe a woman trying to ignore his advances, going limp, telling him she doesn’t like what he’s doing, wants him to continue. Well, I do; some men don’t care whether women desire or don’t desire sexual contact with them.
- It’s otherwise basic: being on a date doesn’t mean you can grab a woman’s breasts in public. Surely everyone knows it is not normal to grab women’s breasts in public? If a woman states she isn’t into public displays of affection, don’t twist her neck to forcibly kiss her. If she doesn’t want to go home with you, do not try to wear her down, either into submission through alcohol or hoping she’s ‘stranded’ so can’t get home. Don’t follow women onto buses, especially any that have stated they do not wish to go home with you.
- All the friends who I told what happened afterwards were shocked. I am no longer shocked when men who are misogynistic online manifest it in real life.
- In our society women are not thought to have sexual autonomy, or deserving of choices, bar those men give them. We have a choice of how to react to boundary-breaking men, who believe domination and subservience is the natural way of social relations between men and women. Well, I’m sick of shutting up about this insidious crap any longer.
- I could write of other incidents that occurred across the 3 times I met him, some could be considered worse, but I think detailing that one evening gives a clear picture.
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