Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day Memories (aka "The Butt Grab")

I've been trying to psych myself up to tell the tale of the French firefighter (see fact #3) for a few weeks now. It's just not that easy because it's a very different project than my usual erotic story. I have to deal with the fact that my sexual adventures of my early years were less about erotic joy than a poignant attempt to affirm my desirability. Young women are the main focus of society's lustful eye, and yet they seem the least equipped to enjoy their sexuality in a subjective way. But I do want to tackle this eventually.

Today is Bastille Day (although it's almost over in France) and that brought back another interesting memory of my summer in Avignon, not related to the firefighter directly, but all part of the same box of souvenirs.

A group of students from my French language program and I decided to go into Avignon for the fireworks on Bastille Day. I did a lot of things with the gang that I might not otherwise have done, because I tend to avoid crowds, but this seemed almost a necessary event for an American. The crowds were assembled around the famous Pont d'Avignon where the fireworks display would appear (speaking of fireworks displays, if you haven't read Emerald's fabulous story, go do it right now) and as the start time approached more and more people arrived until the crowd was pretty dense.

I remember standing there gazing up into the starry sky and probably humming "Sur le pont d'Avignon" to myself when suddenly wham! A body slammed into me from behind and a hand grabbed my buttock and squeezed roughly. The butt grabber was clearly experienced. He managed to get a handful, his fingers jammed fairly deep in my crack, so that the total effect was one of violation rather than just a casual pat on the rear. I heard a deep voice muttering something in French and then my molester evaporated into the crowd.

That was it, although the mildly painful sensation of his fingers pressing into my tender flesh lingered.

This had never happened to me in the US. Verbal assaults, yes, but I'd been fortunate enough to have escaped physical violation. Later that month, on the way to Italy, our Rome-bound train was stopped in a Marseilles train yard and my friends and I were gazing out the window at an apparently empty car next to us. Suddenly a male figure stepped out of the shadows . He dropped his trousers and started masturbating. We let out a collective "euw" and fortunately the train began to move on. Again I was in college and it was hardly traumatic, but what was the guy doing there anyway? Perhaps he greeted each train as it arrived? "Welcome to Marseilles, here's my penis"?

Now I have plenty of other memories of my first trip to Europe--the breakfasts of cafe au lait and tartines, a concert in the Pope's Palace, the oddly haunting hill towns of Provence that made me believe in reincarnation--but the storming of my Bastille will always be the first thing that comes to mind when July 14 rolls around.

How do you celebrate liberty, equality and fraternity?


neve black said...

Happy Bastille Day, Donna!

I'm nearly forgot all about this wonderful day.

Celebrate? Champagne of course, dah-ling. I'd love a bottle of Veueve Clicquot, but times are tight, so a cold Mexican beer will have to do. This has something to do with beggars and choosers, me thinks.

p.s. referenced your MBO today on my blog posting.

p.p.s my blog posting is a little crazy today. Saw a film about the inner working of the corporate food world. I was sick to my stomach, Donna.

Danielle said...

happy belated b-day...gosh..donna and neve i wish i could down some champagne with you girls..that would be a lot of fun i think..:-)

excuse me now..i have to hop over to neves house and check her crazy post..:-)

Donna said...

Veuve Cliquot is a favorite of mine, too. Also like Pol Roger--Winston Churchill's poison of choice. But cold beer is always good on a summer day. In spite of the two gentilhommes I mentioned, I've been getting all nostalgic for France--the couscous, the cafes, kir in the afternoon. It's all food related, no surprise. Maybe I should go have a salted caramel or something to celebrate.

Yes, Danielle, it would be quite lovely to sip champagne in the park with you and Neve. We could meet in Paris :-). I highly recommend her blog post. I do hope Food Inc has the same impact as Supersize Me. I mean not that it's everything, having salads and other "healthy" foods at McDonald's, but it's all due to that movie. Who says art can't change the world?

Alana Noel Voth said...


Quickly, just wanted to say, I can't wait to read your memoirs: an erotic memoir? I'm first i line to buy that book.


Danielle said...

i already read ..coment(somehow my coments are always under your coments..lady you are on top:-) on it and even made a side post on my blog over to neves blog because its a real important subject..:-)

oh meet me in paris..i would so love that..i wish you were as close as i am..i mean..for me..paris is only..let me think..4-5 hours by car...:-) ..one day..:-)

Craig Sorensen said...

Sacre bleu! Le jour de Bastille?

That's some wild time, getting so decisively felt up.

Celebrating with a cold beer sounds good.

Oh, and I read your earlier post, the eight items. I had to laugh at the white Zin comment. I'd have had a drink of your wine.

I like some white Zins too.

Isabel Kerr said...

Fascinating post Donna. How the other half (of the globe) lives. Being violated in this way really stays with you and hopefully it is releasing to talk about it. It lends new meaning to "man the barricades," breaking the barrier of propriety. These extremely uncomfortable introductions to sexuality can put people off for a long time. Fortunately you seem to have been able to see them for what they were, idiocy. But it does feel very creepy.

Santé, in any case, a day late!

Danielle said...

i still laugh about"Welcome to Marseilles, here's my penis"...:-)

i have been molasted in a much funnier way lately..when i was standing line in a ikea store to pay my candles i suddently felt a grab from behind..fingers grabbing my butt and then the edge of my pants..i turned around furiously and there he was..that little human beeing..maybe 5 years old..standing on one leg..one shoe in his hand..in the other hand my butt--sorry , he said, i had a stone in my shoe...

that was funny in a strange way..and i totally blushed ..lol

Donna said...

Yes, Isabel, the man in the barricades, indeed! Although I have to admit the experience didn't haunt me and ruin sex and all that the way regular abuse or full-out rape does. It just felt like a more intense version of the confusing attention I was getting or not getting. I could go on and on about this and just might!

Danielle, I love your molestation story. Quite the opposite of what one usually hears, lol.

Actually, Craig, I'd say it's a sign of the greatest wine sophistication to be comfortable with what you enjoy. I remember at the first wine appreciation class I took, the teacher informed us that some pink wines are actually quite acceptable--pink champagne (real champagne, the blancs de noir) and the roses from the south of France are just fine even by snobby standards. More to the point, you can find an enjoyable quaff in surprising places and that's part of the fun. Okay, now I'm really going on and on!

But I have to reply to Alana with a great big "thank you." As I approach this next novel, there will be some memories of the past and I realized when you expressed your interest in my memoirs--well, why the fuck shouldn't I make this one mostly autobiographical, too? Everyone knows the first novel is autobiographical, but you're supposed to move on with the second. But maybe not?!

Alana Noel Voth said...

Donna, you're welcome, and I'm serious. Your memoir will be fantastic. A

Emerald said...

"It just felt like a more intense version of the confusing attention I was getting or not getting. I could go on and on about this and just might!"

That seems compelling to me indeed, Donna. I cannot think of a time I have not appreciated your "going on and on." :)

Thank you so much for the mention of my fireworks story. Speaking of celebration, I love fireworks and have appreciated them in general for purposes of celebration! They're actually one of the main reason the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday, heh — and I also used to say that if I ever got married I wanted to do so on the Fourth of July so I could have fireworks at my wedding. ;)

Donna said...

Well, thank you, Emerald! Nice to know someone's up for the long haul. And I'm sure if you decide to do the marriage thing, there will definitely be fireworks ;-).

bath mate said...

most interesting posting. i liked it. :-)