A 48-year-old man claims he was sexually assaulted at age 14 by Kevin Spacey, who was 22 at the time.   He told his story to New York magazine, which confirmed it with a number of others who know him, and who recall the man talking about it many years ago. Spacey denied it through a spokesman. I initially didn’t want to post this because it’s ugly stuff, but the details here about the relationship between an older man and a sexually (but not emotionally and psychologically) mature teenage boy are both disturbing and heartbreaking, when you think about how vulnerable young people are. The man talks about meeting Spacey for the first time as a gay 14-year-old. Excerpts:

Okay, so you are walking with Kevin.

Yeah, and we’re talking. He was kind of in high seduction mode and gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. He said, “I want to see you, and I want you to come to my apartment.” He said he’d always been really drawn to me at the acting classes, but had stayed away because I was 12. So I’m like [laughs] … now that I was 14. That was probably a 15-minute walk, and then I went back to be with my parents.

How did you feel?

I felt like I’d won the lottery. A little drunk with it and very delighted with the attention. I was like a cute, plump little kid who went through puberty really fast and came out the other side as somebody that grown-ups were looking at and saying was beautiful. If your father has never rubbed your head or patted you, and if you have suspected your whole life that he is actually repulsed by you or just bored by you [laughs], you’re hungry. And I had gone through puberty at 11. I had to make this happen. And I was terrified to do that with a boy of my own age. You could be beat up.

So he had an actor whose star was rising paying attention to him. The kid was especially vulnerable, because:

I had been sexually active for a year then, also with a person ten years my senior — a member of my family, my cousin. Throughout that period, I’m giving off very obvious signals about my relationship with my cousin. I’m wearing his clothes. I’m sleeping over at his house. And my parents are in what seems to me a very profound state of denial about what’s going on. They know I’m gay. I came out to my parents in the eighth grade, when I was 13.

It’s a shameful moment in the history of my family. But my cousin had sexually abused my older brother when my brother was 11 and he was 17 or 18. He was forgiven by my family and kind of invited back into the fold. My mother told him [to stay away from me]: “If you touch [him], I’ll kill you.” But then I start sleeping over at his house and wearing his clothes, and that goes on really for a year before anybody asks me any questions.

The man says that he was very flirty back then, and this complicates the stance he has now towards what happened:

Every time I’ve ever told the story, I am compelled to tell people how seductive I was towards these men. I’m compelled to tell people how much I wanted these things because some very deep part of me feels like it’s lying if I don’t say that. If I don’t describe how consensual it was. Some part of me takes a lot of work to understand that I can have been the victim of someone and not be a victim. So that’s all fu**ed up in my head.

My introductions to love were, You’re a thing. You’re a tasty thing. And if you didn’t have that, you would have no worth.

And:


How did you feel about him when you were 14?

I was obsessed with him.

And how do you feel about those feelings now?

You feel things full body, in a way, when you’re adolescent, right? And some people never learn, but in adolescence, you certainly don’t know yet that a very powerful sexual feeling is not love. You haven’t found that out yet, and some people don’t ever find that out. I was just full of this lust. And that’s why, one year later, even after he tried to rape me, some part of me wanted to see him again.

When did your thinking around what had happened start to change?

When do I start to think of him as a sexual predator?

Yeah. I assume you would call him that now.

I would call him that to his face. I would call him a pedophile and a sexual predator. When I turned 25, I looked at every 14-year-old boy I could see, to try to understand what those men had seen, because I still on some level thought I had been a tiny adult. That whole year I was 25, I tried to just see the ones who were like six-foot-two, and 200 pounds — they all looked like children. They all looked like somebody who was 10 years old four years ago. Nobody looks fu**able. Nobody … I couldn’t conjure it up. I couldn’t conjure up the desire. It was nauseating to think of having sex with them, and that was, I think, certainly when I understood, on a very deep level, these men were fu**ed up. Up until then, I just thought about him as somebody who had really done me wrong and tried to rape me, but not as somebody who had functioned as a predator. And then, if you’re interested in sexual predation, you start to read about it, and you realize all these patterns and techniques, and it all kind of falls within a set of practices.

Is that what you did? You read about it?

Yeah, like I would talk to psychologists. I know that pedophilia is a sexuality, like homosexuality. You can’t necessarily — you can’t be cured of it. It is in your brain. That’s one of the tragic things about it for those people. You can become someone who does not act on those impulses, but the understanding in the psychological community is … that’s your sexuality. That’s what you’re stuck with. You read and you realize, “Oh yeah, they do this thing.” My cousin had done it. They make themselves beloved. They’re charming and helpful and kind so that the community invites them deeper in. They make themselves indispensable, and that also is a double thing. So that when they are accused, people don’t believe it. “Not him. Mr. Wallace is so great, and he takes the kids camping.”

So in your view, this is who he is?

He is a pedophile. When you look at his statement, you realize also he’s profoundly narcissistic. He thinks this is about being caught that he’s gay. And then he is spinning it, right? “Oh, people like gays now. So I’ll throw them that. I’ll say I’m gay and I will betray my whole community and do something else that conflates pedophilia with male homosexuality.” That’s great. Thank you for that. And that was probably the thing that made me want to talk more than anything else. How repulsive that was.

Read the whole thing. Warning: parts of it are sexually graphic. It’s worth reading, not because it is titillating (it most certainly is not), but because this stuff is so tangled up with desire and need and exploitation. The man recognizes now that he was not capable of meaningful sexual consent when he was 14, but he concedes that he thought he was back then, and he came on to Spacey and other men. That absolutely does not absolve them of their crimes against this minor, but it does illuminate the darkness around this phenomenon.

Notice how this man had been sexually exploited by an older family member. That was his initiation into sex. His parents knew that the family member was a predator, but chose to dwell in denial. And this:

If your father has never rubbed your head or patted you, and if you have suspected your whole life that he is actually repulsed by you or just bored by you [laughs], you’re hungry.

… is beyond heartbreaking. People who sexually exploit the young are scum of the earth. And those who know what’s going on, but who remain silent, are no better.

The reader who sent me the link said:

I appreciate the victim speaking as honestly, frankly, and intelligently as he did in this interview. It is indeed all very complicated.The amount of confusion around the ‘new morality’ is enormous.

UPDATE: Reader Zippy had a similar experience as a teenager, but with an older woman. He doesn’t feel that he was taken advantage of at all:

I hesitated to add this comment, because I thought it might sound like bragging or confabulating (remember those Penthouse Forum stories “I never believed that x could happen until . . .”) . Or, worse, it would seem like an excuse for Mr. Spacey. But here goes.

I lost my virginity at the age of 16, with the mother of a high school friend of mine. She was in her late 30s or early 40s, with two kids, and divorced. Her wealthy ex-husband had married a (much) younger woman and moved to a different state. My friend and his sister were in mom’s custody during the school year, but they spent summers with their dad and their twenty-something stepmother.

I was on my high school swimming team and worked at a rec center as a lifeguard and swimming teacher. My friend’s mom — I’ll call her “Mrs. Robinson,” obviously not her real name — was a former college tennis star and she ran the rec center. She wasn’t my direct supervisor but she was my boss’s boss’s boss. She definitely had the authority to fire me.

Mrs Robinson and I had an affair that lasted the whole summer. It was pretty transactional: I was 16 and like nearly all young men that age I wanted sex. She had been divorced and left for a younger woman. She wanted sex, and also I think wanted to feel desired. And maybe a bit of psychic revenge on her ex. We both agreed it would be over when her kids returned home, and we certainly never contemplated running off together. We had a summer fling that we both knew would be a fling.

At the time, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Mrs. Robinson was a beautiful woman, and even if she wasn’t 22 any more, she played tennis and worked out — she was fit and trim and the very definition of a MILF. Not to be crude.

I guess I’m supposed to say that now, in hindsight, I realize I was a rape victim. An older woman, my boss no less, took sexual advantage of a slightly lonely underage adolescent boy! But, you know what? The very idea seems ludicrous. I did not feel like a victim then — I quite enjoyed it.

I don’t feel like a victim now and I haven’t felt that way in any of the intervening years. In fact, I look back on it fondly. Legally, she “raped” me. But I was a competitive swimmer and used to win bets with my friends on who could do the most one-armed chinups and pushups. I was a physically powerful young man, and while a grown man in a prison yard might have been able to rape me, Mrs. Robinson, while fit, could not do anything to me that I didn’t want done.

Nor did it leave me sexually warped or traumatized. Really! Even if I was underage and legally incapable of giving consent, I do believe that, in fact, I was able to give knowing and voluntary consent and that I did so.

I guess what I’m getting at is: it’s complicated. I don’t think she was a “pedophile” or “pederast.” I was as big then as I am now, fully mature physically, with pubic hair and whole bit. I may have been immature, but I’m still pretty immature now. Maybe she took advantage of my youth, or at least she took advantage of the fact that I wanted sex and wasn’t getting any.

I do think there are situations in which people under 18 engage in sex and give real consent. At the same time, I kind of agree that 14 or 15 is almost always too young.

And maybe we should recognize something that isn’t fashionable: boys and girls are different. I think if every detail was the same, except our genders were swapped, that my older lover would have taken something real and precious away from me, rather than giving me a precious gift. We don’t want to admit it, but, within some reason, a guy’s value increases as his number increases, while the opposite is true of females.

Likewise, I think we should recognize that there is a difference between consenting to straight sex and consenting to gay sex. I know that gays self-report knowing they were gay at very early ages, but we do have an ability to rewrite our own histories. Literally every gay man I’ve ever discussed it with has reported some form of early gay sex experience, and a part of me thinks that homosexual orientation may well be the result of early abuse. Whereas I’m 100% sure that Mrs. Robinson didn’t turn me straight.

Anyhow, one story and random thoughts. I do think that Spacey is a creep, though; I just worry about bright lines and broad brushes. And yeah, I know we need bright line rules for age of consent.