On one such occasion, I took advantage of the evening darkness and the jumble of bodies to grope the breast of a girl to whom I was attracted and in whose presence I felt intimidated, because of her beauty, intellect, and grace. It was a spontaneous, unpremeditated act — too public for me to have derived any sexual pleasure from it; too meaningful, because of who she was, for me to have targeted someone else. I think I did it because she seemed otherwise out of reach for me; perhaps such one-sided contact was all the intimacy I could ever hope to enjoy with her. And yet, with so many elbows, knees, hands, and feet flying about, I also recall making an instantaneous calculation: Maybe I can get away with this.
I don’t know whether she ever knew who groped her, but she immediately extricated herself from the pile, clearly upset, and promptly left without saying a word. I have never forgotten the look on her face: she seemed at once hurt, disappointed, indignant, and bewildered. Seeing her expression, I was seized with remorse for what I’d done, although I had not the courage to confess and apologize, then or later. But I was so ashamed that I’ve never done anything of the kind since then. I can imagine that in the early 1970s, my male friends (and perhaps men generally) would have regarded my action as relatively harmless, against the broad spectrum of sexual misconduct. For my own part, I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t realize how wrong it was until I saw the young woman’s reaction, and I’ve regretted it ever since.