The Tangerine Letter

by Sharon Rosen Leib November 27, 2017


letter P neon light full isolated on black background

The #MeToo movement began as a way for people who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to demonstrate the magnitude of these evils via social media.  Tales of bad behavior cascaded forth on Facebook and Twitter – an unprecedented avalanche of overturned rocks exposing reptilian creeps of all stripes. As these stories poured out, my worst #MeToo experience arose like Frankenstein from my liminal memory, where it had lain dormant for years.

In 1979, my parents sent naïve, 16-year-old-high-school-girl me to attend a Stanford University summer school session.  A lumbering, seven-foot tall, 21-year-old Stanford athlete befriended me and invited me to his dorm room to “help him with his medical school applications.”  Before I finished proofreading, he locked the door and told me I couldn’t leave until I “satisfied” him. I mustered the courage to remind him I was 16 and if he raped me he’d be committing a statutory crime.

Frankenstein considered this and stopped trying to undress me.  He did, however, make me do other things. I’ve mentally blocked what I did to “satisfy” him. After about 15 minutes, he unlocked the door and let me out. I managed to escape with my virginity intact. A year later, when he discovered I’d told someone what he’d done, he tracked down my phone number, called and threatened me. (One piece of good news – Frankenstein isn’t Jewish).

When the disgusting Hollywood sex predator stories kept breaking last month, I ruminated about Stanford Frankenstein and pondered what civilized society could do to address rampant predatory behavior.

After a week of angst, a flash of fantastical, feminist genius struck!  What if we branded sexual predators with a Tangerine P?  In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel “The Scarlet Letter,” the town council required adulteress Hester Prynne to wear a scarlet letter A on her bosom. The townspeople shunned her but allowed her to work, eke out a living and raise her child. If Hester had to wear a scarlet A for committing the non-violent offense of adultery, why not make people who’ve committed the more heinous crime of sexual assault wear a tangerine P (for predator) on their foreheads? Why tangerine? It reflects the orange-tinted hair and complexion of our predator-in-chief.

The challenge would be identifying predators early on, before they could commit a full-blown assault. By requiring them to wear Tangerine Ps, we could rest assured our inexperienced young daughters and sons would be able to spot and avoid these creepy monsters.

Like Hester, the Tangerine Ps could continue being productive members of society. Harvey Weinstein could still produce Academy Award winning movies and Kevin Spacey could keep acting – but we’d all know their true natures.

Likewise, Stanford Frankenstein could continue practicing medicine.  From what I’ve discovered online, he’s a highly regarded surgeon. I’m plagued with remorse wondering whether he’s ever assaulted another underage teen, vulnerable employee or anesthetized patient.  If a Tangerine P system had existed, I could’ve reported him. Unsuspecting women would know to avoid being alone with him.

Unfortunately, until a trusted mechanism for reporting sexual predators actually exists outside of my fantasy world, survivors like me must learn how to live with our memories and pray our monsters never victimize other people. However, if we do learn they’ve perpetrated subsequent assaults, we may step forward, provide corroborating testimony and protect the next generation from being exploited by these creepy, crawly creatures hidden beneath our stones of shame, silence and fear. Beware, you Tangerine Ps, your survivors know who you are – so watch yourselves and please don’t assault anyone ever again.Α


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