Posted by Thersites on  UTC 2016-10-22 09:30

Let's say I was ten years old. I don't remember the date it happened anymore. In a changing cubicle of the town swimming baths (effete 'pools' had not been invented then, certainly not in Yorkshire) a young man fiddled with my willy.

The cubicles were open-fronted and ran along each long side of the bath, women on one side, men on the other. Perhaps the fronts of the cubicles were closed off with a tarpaulin curtain, perhaps a partial door: I really don't remember. At busy times, which were quite frequent, it was an accepted practice to share a cubicle with someone of the same sex.

A young man came into my cubicle as I was getting out of my wet trunks. He complimented me on my development and asked my permission to inspect this wonderful appendage. Well, since you put it like that…

I realise now that I should have demanded at least sixpence from him for this privilege, but that is just later corruption talking: I ate the apple from that tree some time afterwards. I'm just too easy.

He was gentle and gentlemanly. He offered me a feel of his, but I was a simple lad, lacking in curiosity. I politely declined. I do regret that, actually – sexual knowledge was very difficult to come by in the 1950s and that would have got me some way along the road to enlightenment. Heaven knows what would have happened then, it might have got me a very long way along that road. After a few moments we went our ways and never saw each other again. He's probably dead by now. I wonder what kind of a life he had.

I remember the event, the cubicle (vaguely), the young man (hardly at all), but for some reason his compliments on my appendage have stayed comfortingly with me down the years. Strange that.

I remember the event only because it was unusual. I don't feel violated or abused – not in the slightest. There was neither force nor threat of force. After the initial surprise at the unexpected it may even have been fun, something that relieved the tedium of growing up in a small town in Yorkshire, but that may be just rhetoric: I really don't remember. I bear no animosity to the young gentleman and hope he found his happiness in life in that time of harsh legal constraints on homosexual activity.

Of course I didn't tell my parents. Children have an inner life and only share it with adults when they absolutely have to. I kept it to myself not out of shame but simply because it didn't belong in their world. I'm not sure I would have had the linguistic skills to put it into words: we didn't really have words for that stuff then. I don't think he had any fear that I would tell on him. The life of the loins was a very private life at that time.

Of course I'm not advocating the sexual molestation of children, or even vulnerable adults – of anyone, in fact. Perhaps I am arguing about coping with it should it ever happen. Am I wrong for not being worried in the least by what happened to me? For not having flashbacks and nightmares? Did it mentally scar me for life? No. Was I physically injured? No.

Of the bad things that have happened to me in my soundly heterosexual life so far, on a badness index of 0-10, this event rates 0.001, perhaps even a big fat 0. If a polite young gentleman admires my appendage, who am I to complain?

I have hardly thought of that moment since it happened. It only resurfaced with all this historical sex inquiry nonsense. Should I sue the Town Council for exposing me to sexual predators all those years ago behind the tarpaulins in the public baths? Better not – I'd be a terrible victim. I'd have to repeat in open court all the complimentary things he said and then to the papers and then to a bat-faced social worker running an inquiry and then to Holly Willoughby on TV – I'd really hate that.

Nothing I have written here can be fitted into the moral categories of the modern world. That world of 1950s Britain may have been in some ways closer to the Greek and Roman world than anything we have today.

I still should have charged him sixpence, though. A shilling was way beyond my feelings of self-esteem at the time, but might have been a good way to open the bargaining. I'm such a strumpet.

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