Advent Calendar 6th December 2011: Refusing the sexual advances of grown men
We’re still in 1915, and still on page 71 in Michael Davidson’s autobiography The World, the Flesh and Myself. Stationed in Gosport, Davidson was a member of the Naval Club in Portsmouth. From there we get this story:
Very quickly I became aware of a podgy, twinkling Rear-Admiral with a furry beard like Cousin Mostyn’s: a ‘dug-out’ in some Dockyard job. He was always there, and began beaming at me over the top of his newspaper whisky; then he began smiling, and in a day or two asked me to have a drink. Before I knew where I was, I was asked to dine at his house; I felt terribly shy and puzzled, but didn’t dare refuse so grand a person as and Admiral.
I was puzzled again when at his neat little house full of nautical relics he didn’t dump my hat and coat (he opened the door himself) somewhere near the hall, but toddled upstairs with them on his little short legs and hid them in some room. I was introduced to a meek, silent sister; and given a lot of whisky. We had a solemn little dinner, and the admiral made me as tight as a lord; I remember popping in a dutiful ‘sir’ whenever I could.
It was time to depart: the little man bade me come upstairs to get my things – he’d put them in his bedroom. Once inside, he pushed me down on the bed and ‘attempted to commit a certain offence’. As politely as I could, deferentially calling him ‘sir’, I said I was sorry; and managed to skip unsteadily out of the house.
But I thought next day I’d behaved awfully badly, by failing to repay in the way he wanted his kindly hospitality; I feld I’d been so ungracious that I couldn’t show my face in the Naval Club again.
It wasn’t prudery that caused this breach of manners; it was simply that I’ve always flinched from merely thinking erotically about people older than myself. I even feel a certain private embarrassment when my adult friends discuss their sexual doings.
Then, while I was at Bovington, there was the nice, valetudinary aesthete who lived in the Weymouth sea-front hotel where I used to have dinner. He picked me up in the ‘palm court’, among the wicker chairs: some kind of semi-invalid, though quite young; a wan, hushed person in a brown velvet dinner jacket, whose sitting-room upstairs was softly dim and lush with sombre hangings and little dark drawings by, I imagined, disciples of Beardsley. There was a baby-grand; and after we’d dined and he’d given me a whopping balloon of brandy, taking for himself some barley-water, he would murmur: ‘Now I shall play you some purple music’; and I’d swig the brandy while he improvised a pot-pourri of diaphanous melodies.
Then he’d come and sit beside me, putting a hand on my knee. ‘Won’t you please be kind to me?’ he’d whisper, so touchingly; but brutally, I’d move his hand away, and thank him for giving me dinner. How often, since, have I played that sad man’s same role!