The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Dear Masturbating Man, Please Stop

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Josh Kuckens
Lake Andrews and the Olin Arts Center.

Please be advised that the following story has references to sexual harassment.

When I work in the pottery studio at night, I keep the shades open to watch the people passing by. Sometimes there are dog walkers, sometimes there are runners, sometimes there are groups of friends having a jolly good time. 

But on the night of Jan. 11, I look up from my pot to see a man with his hood on and a blue medical face mask. I don’t think anything of it until he meets my gaze and begins to walk towards the doors closer to the kiln room. 

I am almost positive those doors are locked, but my gut tells me to check so I lean towards the window to see where he went. My two friends continue on their wheels, oblivious to what was about to happen. I see a sliver of the man pressed up against the brick wall right where the window began.

Then, his penis appears, and I scream, stand up from my wheel, and turn around. All I can do is stand there, frozen, until one of them also screams and snaps me out of it. We hurry to an area behind the shelves, and I switch off the studio lights so he can’t see us. 

The man continues to jerk himself off to a dark room while the only one of us with hands not covered in clay dials Campus Security. I didn’t have time to turn off the music on my phone, so Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion plays while we huddle behind the shelf and explain where we are. 

By the time we hang up, the man and his penis are gone and all that remains is a splotch of his ejaculation on the window. To my knowledge, Campus Security didn’t end up finding this man.

This incident will likely not be the last of its kind, and it certainly wasn’t the first. This academic year, there have been three reports of similar situations to Campus Safety.

I believe in the goodness and integrity of humankind. I walk around on this campus at night all the time, and I’ve felt safe doing it. Maybe it was an invincibility complex, or my singular hour of Girl Scouts self-defense training, or because nobody has ever pulled their penis out and masturbated in front of me until a couple days ago, but I never felt scared of this world. On January 11, 2024, this man took that away from me.

For the first few days after the incident, it was funny. I laughed at the absurdity of it. In the mornings, I heard my alarm and thought, “man, I hope nobody masturbates in front of me today.” 

Unfortunately, it is no longer funny. I have to keep the shades down in the studio at night. Every so often, even during the day, I glance up to make sure that man isn’t standing in the same spot with his penis in his hand. I flinch sometimes when people that are shaped like him round corners. 

My existence as a woman isn’t an invitation for public masturbation. I never intended to be the subject of a strange man’s nighttime jerk off. His desires were enacted upon me and all I could do was watch. I guess that is exactly what he wanted. There’s a part of me that still feels like it was my fault. Something about the way I present created sex appeal, and it sickens me. Now, I fear anyone could interpret me as a sex object whenever they want, and I am powerless in choosing when and who I want to see me in intimate settings. This incident has made me want to rip off all my feminine extremities and exist as a shape-less, face-less, word-less blob.

I don’t know what the solution is. I know that I am really, really angry. Here’s what else I know: 

  • There is a concentration of registered sex offenders around this college. 
  • This issue especially affects the women/feminine-presenting community on campus, and people continue to get away with sexually harassing us.
    • I acknowledge that gender/gender presentation does not firmly define who is harmed and who gets harmed. 
  • These incidents tend to happen around the outskirts of campus in dimly lit areas.
  • Campus Safety’s email to inform/warn the student body of this incident was sent two hours after it occurred – arguably too late. 
  • You’re only hearing about this because this man jerked off in front of someone who has the capacity to write about it and publish it on the internet. Similar situations are consistently forced upon individuals all over who don’t happen to be part of their college’s school newspaper.

This doesn’t need to keep happening. Catch the guy, stigmatize public masturbation, install more street lights, deconstruct the patriarchy, splurge on more security cameras. Do something

I have never felt the burdens of womanhood as heavily as I do now.

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About the Contributor
Catalina Passino
Catalina Passino, Managing Features Editor
Catalina is a sophomore from Leesburg, Virginia. She plans to major in Psychology and minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Outside of her studies, Catalina dabbles in baking, basketball, and frolicking. During her freshman year, Catalina began as a contributing writer and later became a staff writer for the Bates Student. Though she is now in features, she also enjoys the news and forum sections.
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    Su LangdonFeb 1, 2024 at 4:42 PM

    Thank you for sharing

    Reply