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reaction revealed

21 september, 1993

The assignment:

Pick a specific event, time of day, or activity to write about - preferably one you are engaged in now at Swarthmore. Write a page in which you record this event from the perspective of yourself as the biological sex which are not (this may include different sexual preference). That is, if you are a man, write about the experience of the activity with yourself-as-a-woman (lesbian or straight or bisexual), If you are a woman, etc.

Follow this record with a brief paragraph in which you set out some of your impressions of doing this exercise.

Reaction Revealed

There's Bill, standing in the hall talking to Janet again. He has no shirt on, but she does. It's a hot day, I imagine that's why he took his shirt off. Does Bill have the right to do that? I guess so, because he just did it. What if I wanted to do that? I can't. What does he think he's doing? I don't want to have to look at that.

He looks over at me, leaning nonchalantly against the doorway of his room. "Rosa, can I borrow that tape from you?"

The bile rises in my throat. "Hey Bill, put a shirt on, will you?"

He frowns, "What for?"

I don't want to have to look at you like that, I think, "Because I want you to."

"What's wrong with this? It's natural!" He smiles and shrugs.

"Just put on a shirt." He disgusts me. His hairy pectorals staring me in the face disgust me. If he won't put on a shirt, I will leave.

"Wait, Rosa, let me get that tape," he cries to my closing door.

I respond, from inside my room, "Then put a shirt on."

A few moments pass, I am finally left with a quiet moment, roommate absent, to turn my attention to a letter to my friend. "I really am enjoying myself here at college." Except for when my obnoxious hallmate gets on my nerves. "The people here are really interesting and intelligent." Except for those who are rude.

I am pausing, to think to myself, "Wait, perhaps Bill isn't so bad, I shouldn't let his shirtlessness get on my nerves," when a knock on my door interrupts my quiet repose. "Come in," I call, from my chair.

I look at the clock as Bill's voice parts the calm, "Can I get that tape now?" And as I turn, I see a naked boy standing on my new T.J. Maxx rug. In the pause between his casual phrase and my outrage, I note the details: he is smiling, blushing even? and leaning up against the door enough to imply sight modesty. The sight of his hairy thighs makes me want to wretch even more than perhaps the sight of his naked pectorals did. "Oh God. Leave Bill, just get out." Why am I laughing? Is this funny? He was laughing. How do you deal with a naked boy in your room? Perhaps it is funny. But now he is gone, the sense within me is not that of laughter, but more of trespass. Trespass? Yes, violation, my quiet afternoon with a letter now has a naked pair of hairy flanks standing in the midst of it laughing. I can't concentrate.

Bill's back. I laugh with him again, am I acknowledging his humour? I don't want to do this. Take your tape, and your naked flanks hiding under that robe back into your room. But he remains standing in my memory, shirtless then, naked at my reasonable request, laughing like some proud buffoon.

I wrote this based on a personal experience I had the other day, where I was Bill (albeit with less body hair) and two of my female hallmates were Rosa and Janet. Somehow this popped into my mind as the perfect occurrence for this assignment, probably due to the fact that "Rosa" approached me a few hours later and told me of her feelings of violation and disgust. I still think that my appearing naked at her door should be considered little more than simple jest, but I thought it would be a useful exercise for me to try to understand a possible thought process that could have accompanied her reactions to my states of undress.

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