“Two teachers and a lawyer walk into a bar. A man offers to buy the trio some drinks. Security intervenes, accusing the women of being sex workers. Guess who were the only black people present at the establishment?”
This story, featured in New York Magazine, involves a friend of mine which is how I found myself reading it this morning. I didn’t expect that within the breadth of a second, I’d find myself transported back in time, almost exactly 10 years.
I was on a date with a beautiful woman in the lounge at 60 Thompson Hotel – back when it was the place to be. Over the course of roughly two hours, we probably turned down three or four rounds of drinks sent over by men. I didn’t want to accept the drinks because I didn’t want to engage in the obligatory conversation that would come with the acceptance. Furthermore, I had my own money. I didn’t need anyone to buy me anything. I used to book a room in that hotel when I needed a nap in between classes in PhD school. In the credit card equivalent of rock-paper-scissors, my titanium could cover those silly men’s platinum. And apparently, that really pissed them off.
I’ll call her Elina – we were deep in conversation, trying to figure out where to go next – when a man the size of a wall tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to follow him. Stunned, I asked him who he was and he informed me that he was hotel security. Elina, a little drunk, began mouthing off to the wall of testosterone, to which I responded, “We’ll sort this out outside – don’t worry about it.”
In the lobby of the hotel, the security officer informed me that we were being asked to leave because we were causing a ruckus among the men. He didn’t use the word prostitute, but his implication was clear and it left me feeling dirty. Infuriated, I called my then publicist who, in coming years, would have her own show on MTV. She asked to speak with the security guard and when he handed the phone back to me she said, “there’s nothing to be done. It was the owner who asked to have you removed. I’ll speak with him tomorrow.”
In coming days, I would disclose my humiliating experience to friends, and it would be determined that if I had had a man with me on that date, I would have been insulated from that degradation. Up went an ad on Craigslist for personal security and within a few days, Victor walked into my life, accompanying me on virtually every date from that point forward.
Victor had a smooth style. He spoke guy, never embarrassing the men who attempted to weasel their way into a 3-way with me and whoever I was on a date with. Often Victor would buy the man a drink, talk sports or politics, and then redirect him to the masses of available straight women. He did it with class, and I never had that experience again.
That any woman needs the protection of a man in order to avoid being accused (overtly or otherwise) of being a sex worker – or to go out with the assurance that she’s not going to have her personal space invaded by horny men – speaks to the civility (or lack thereof) of our society. This needs to be discussed. It needs to be exposed. I have no doubt that what happened to my friend was likely fueled by racial profiling, but I contend that there may be another issue as well. Because her story reminded me of my own – and for me, it was sexism. It was hostility directed towards a woman who didn’t need or want the attention of men. And what about these disgusting fucking venues in New York City that dare to treat women this way? I wonder how successful they’d be if the women of New York decided to boycott them. What do you think?