Bizarre behavior in a male acquaintance left me wondering if he's dangerous. Am I overreacting?
December 2, 2009 12:53 AM   Subscribe

Bizarre behavior in a male acquaintance left me wondering if he's dangerous. Am I overreacting?

The other day, I approached an older male acquaintance after he gave a university lecture. When he saw I was about to speak to him, he "gallantly" took my hand and lifted it in the air (imagine an 18th century courtier leading his lady to the gavotte) and gently eased me WAY into his personal space while tilting his head toward me. He's extremely soft-spoken, so even though our toes were almost touching at right angles and he put his other hand in the small of my back, I thought it was eccentric and charming. Sexy, even. He held my hand as we put our heads together and whispered to each other for a minute. Nice, right?

Sure. Until I wanted my hand back, and he wouldn't let go.

When I tried to pull away, he suddenly dug his thumb into the hollow of my wrist joint on top of my hand and tightened his index finger around the back, pressing deep into the small hollow on the underside. I panicked a little--toppling back a step, tugging my hand back twice, and twisting in both directions. Nothing; his grip was perfectly positioned around the joint. When I looked at him, he seemed like he was in an honest-to-God trance: with glazed eyes and parted lips, he was staring straight down my sweater watching my breasts shake as I tried to free myself. WTF?

He didn't snap out of it till I said "Hey! Uh, here!" To which he looked up blandly and said "Huh? Oh..." released me, and kept talking for a few minutes like nothing happened. As I was about to leave, he gently clasped my hand and gave me a tender, dreamy, loving look and said he'd call me to talk about [insert academic subject here] and was greatly looking forward to it. Jekyll and Hyde much?

What's really terrifying is that if he ever tranced out on my throat and nobody was around to snap him out of it, I'd be dead. Not to mention the fact that I'm very strong for a woman: I can bench more than my bodyweight, and once when a big football player-type grabbed my wrists and tried to rape me, I was able to break his grip--and now I'm powerless to get away from someone because he's got me in some kind of goddamned ninja wristlock?

Question: what in the world happened? Is there any other plausible explanation for this besides "high-testosterone schizophrenic", "sadistic psychopath" "violent sex offender" or "serial killer"? What's the Occam's Razor explanation here? Would a frontotemporal dementia palmar grasp reflex account for the perfectly administered lock and trancelike leer? Should I write his adult son an anonymous letter suggesting that dear old dad needs a functional MRI? Is the horrible vibe I'm picking up here way out of line? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Obviously I can't be alone with him in private, but I'm seriously wondering how safe it is to be together in public. What would you do? And what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple? All advice welcome...thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Occam's Razor says he's a dick.

And the best way to deal in the future is to keep your distance and, if he touches you, loudly and firmly say, "Please let go of me", "Please don't do that", "Stop that," and/or "Please don't touch me," step back from him, and then continue talking about whatever you came to talk about.

And keep your ears open for any other women who may have had dealings with him. Decide whether/when/how you want to report him for sexual harassment.
posted by Ouisch at 1:10 AM on December 2, 2009 [16 favorites]

Holy crap. First off, I'm glad you're okay.

Unexpected martial prowess is one thing. One time a coworker snuck up on me and jokingly put me in a headlock, and I threw them across the room before I even had time to think about it. The fact that your incident was unprovoked, though, plus the leering and the Jekyll-and-Hyde stuff? Weird.

I'll save the psychology and human-relations aspects of this to folks who know the field better, but you are not overreacting. Your acquaintance crossed more than a few lines there.

And yeah, the haymaker, or a knee to the junk if you've still got your balance.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 1:18 AM on December 2, 2009

Focusing solely on the wristlock (IANANinja), I think that you shouldn't worry about it so much. You were in a lecture hall, which means that while you were trying to get away, you were also (at least subconsciously) trying not to make a scene, worrying whether you were overreacting, etc. I think that if you were ever truly in danger, that you'd have the wherewithal to break the grip.

Don't know enough about the other aspects of the question though. Good luck.
posted by cali59 at 1:24 AM on December 2, 2009

What's really terrifying is that if he ever tranced out on my throat and nobody was around to snap him out of it, I'd be dead

Whaaa? Where does your throat matter in all of this?

You may be over reacting in the sense that the guy may not have meant or done harm. But it was damn creepy and you're right to be wary of him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:36 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

you don't need permission to be squicked out. not ever, not about anything. if your alarm bells go off, no matter how trivial and how silly and how much you can rationalize it - you are allowed to remove yourself from company of someone. there will always be explanations and ways to convince yourself that you're over reacting, but when it comes to matters of personal safety - you don't have to have a reason.

caveat: if you find that it happens a lot with a lot of different people, then you might want to consult with a therapist, just to make sure your danger deduction radar isn't over sensitive.

now that that is out of the way - i would be totally and utterly freaked out by pretty much all of that.
posted by nadawi at 1:52 AM on December 2, 2009 [10 favorites]

In the context of the hand-taking, back touching, what he did does sound creepy.

Out of that context, it sounds like some kind of neurological episode. I don't mean a mental illness type of thing. Maybe some kind of seizure.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:58 AM on December 2, 2009

Oh, and I don't think sending an email to his son is a bad idea, on balance. Not a "your dad is a dirty old man" type of email but more just making him aware of what happened in a neutral way.

It could definitely be taken as rude and presumptuous BUT if he has some kind of serious issue that needs treatment, I think it's a risk worth taking.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:24 AM on December 2, 2009

Nothing; his grip was perfectly positioned around the joint. When I looked at him, he seemed like he was in an honest-to-God trance: with glazed eyes and parted lips, he was staring straight down my sweater watching my breasts shake as I tried to free myself... He didn't snap out of it till....

Might be a perv. But....

I've never done this, but I've come close when having sudden chest/back discomfort, orthostatic hypotension, or once, immediately before an episode of syncope. The glazed eyes and parted lips -- lack of focus, or more accurately, internal focus -- sounds like how I occasionally get if I'm feeling discomfort or pain, and am trying to asses my medical condition -- the "is this a burp, or did I just pull a muscle in my back, or serious cardiac pain?" pose.

Was he propping himself up on you or hanging off your arm, to keep his balance? If you feel like you're losing your balance or consciousness, there's a strong desire to grab on to something or someone.

When any of this does happen in front of people, I do just what this guy did -- I pretend that nothing happened, because it's embarrassing to explain.
posted by orthogonality at 2:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

What's really terrifying is that if he ever tranced out on my throat and nobody was around to snap him out of it, I'd be dead.

Uhhh, say what? The guy was holding your hand, something you even said was gallant, charming, even sexy. Then something weird happened, you snapped him out of it, and you got away.

And now you're somehow worried that, what, he would gallantly, charmingly grasp your throat, you wouldn't resist, and suddenly he'd have a ninja lock on it and would be choking you? Don't you think you're WAY overreacting?

Label him a creep, sure. But a potential killer? You're making wild assumptions and you're stacking incredibly unlikely scenarios on them. No, sorry, I just don't see it.
posted by splice at 3:53 AM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ouisch has it.

Google wrist lock pua. It seems to be one of the moves assholes in the "pick up artist" movement, who try to use behaviorist techniques to get casual sex, like to use.

Tell him to fuck off.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:55 AM on December 2, 2009 [16 favorites]

I'd think a barometer of how dangerous he is, is how willing he is to acknowledge and talk about what happened.

As nadawi put so well, you don't need permission to be squicked out. You don't need permission to ask him what was going on, either. If you have any interest in asking, that is. But perhaps finding out the truth is less important than establishing and maintaining your safety. So I can't advocate going all gung-ho with the questions w/o consideration.
posted by krilli at 4:26 AM on December 2, 2009

I don't think he's dangerous, but I do think he's a creep. Keep your distance. Don't interact with him- it doesn't sound like you work directly together so you should be able to avoid one-on-on conversations with him easily. I don't think you need to tell his son - sounds to me like a cheesy pick-up move gone wrong.
posted by emd3737 at 4:49 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Google wrist lock pua.

Oh, I wish I hadn't.

Tell him to fuck off.

Yes. And then kick him in the ballocks.
posted by col at 5:06 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wasn't there, so I can't comment on his intentions or danger. I will point out this, however: at first you seemed to like his move, calling it gallant/sexy. Then he grabbed your wrist and everything changed. You said that someone once tried to rape you by grabbing your wrists. Regardless of the intentions of your colleague, you should entertain the idea that this triggered a deep and terrifying memory for you.

Note, I am a rape victim and I am not saying his weird behavior is your fault or that you misinterpreted the situation. I'm just saying that crazy shit can trigger significant emotions. Considering you felt it prudent to mention that past event in this post, I would wager what he did is exactly that.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:17 AM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

In my experience, there's a high intersection of "college professor" and "creepy old man". It might be something about the insular world, or the fact that they spend decades with young women (and men) staring at them and paying them often-undue respect. While this is the first wrist-lock story I've heard, I know dozens of lecherous old creepy guy stories about profs.

Should I write his adult son an anonymous letter suggesting that...

I wouldn't, not after one confusing incident. After a second, perhaps. I think sickinthehead has a point: your own backstory might be coloring your memory and interpretation here.

Keep your eyes open for a second event, either with you or another student/colleague. Make sure it wasn't one freakish accident. Then do something.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Quite possibly the sort of emotionally stunted jackass that can't take no for an answer, but probably not the sort to hit you over the head with a pipe and pull you into a van.

He's a creep who wishes he had magic powers. Let him do it again, then shout really loudly "WHY ARE YOU REFUSING TO LET GO OF MY WRIST, CREEP?" which is the secret incantation necessary to negate his spell.

I don't know whether I'd rather be a woman, and thus a target of these sort of assholes; or a man, and thus guilty by gender-association with these sort of guys.
posted by paanta at 5:39 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

what if I told you he were a de Sade scholar who always referred to him as "the Divine Marquis"

Yeah, my confusion comes from why you'd think he touch your throat. Has he done so in the past? That's where my confusion lies, but it's not a big deal and not in any way meant to excuse his shitty behavior. Indeed, having read that he's into de Sade and Googled "wrist lock pua" I'm finding it difficult not to advise kicking him in the balls right then and there.

You post indicates there's some sort of relationship there, i.e. older male acquaintance and him wanting to call you later to talk about the lecture subject. You should probably put a bit of distant between the two of you and pointedly say "Don't you ever pull that wristlock shit on me again, period."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:48 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jesus christ -- he put you in a wrist-lock and thought it was sexy? You should report this creepy, "hey look at me I'm the Marquis de Sade!" motherfucker.

Also, that PUA Google Search is frightening. If that kind of thing happened more often to the women I know who train seriously in martial arts, I have a feeling there would be fewer such sleazeballs posting about it on the Internet.
posted by ellF at 5:52 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you considering reporting him to the school?

I get what other posters are saying about waiting and seeing, but think about all the times you hear, "if only I had said something..".

Trust your instincts.
posted by marimeko at 5:56 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

As stated by many earlier, don't doubt your gut instincts.

Your description, however, really does sound like some sort of seizure.

I was watching a movie with a cousin of mine who, during a mildly frightening scene, grabbed my hand, dug her nails in and made a creepy face. You know, eyes wide open, mouth agape. I laughed, said something like 'good one' and tried to carry on watching the movie but she didn't let go and I couldn't get my hand free. After a while she came out of it, we left the cinema and she completely denied anything strange having happened or having any recollection of it. (She said she wanted to leave because she felt ill.) Her mother admitted to me later that she had a mild form of epilepsy and that the episode sounded like the kind of seizures she had had in the past.

Just something to bear in mind or, possibly, to ease your mind.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 5:57 AM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Overreacting? Absolutely not, and a bland, annonymous e-mail to the adult son or some other kind of reaching out to the people around him personally - his secretary or assistant, might also be a not bad idea. You are likely not the first and flagging his behavior to those around him might be helpful at a later date.

I'd think a barometer of how dangerous he is, is how willing he is to acknowledge and talk about what happened. This is a brilliant point - it would also potentially put him back on his heels a bit if you did choose to address it with him and he was not ready/willing to. It could nudge him away from doing that to you again.

And don't be alone with him, for your own comfort.
that 'wrist lock PUA' thing is exceptionally creepy/just fucking wrong.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:59 AM on December 2, 2009

I'm guessing he's your professor from the description. Totally inappropriate from the moment he took your hand, unless you're leaving out part of the story. Keep your distance.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2009

I had a guy try a similar move on me once, several years ago. I extended my hand for a handshake, and instead he raised it up for one of those gallant kisses to my fingers.

I laughed, thinking he was just being a goof. Then he didn't let go.

I pulled. He held on.

I then informed him--loudly, amongst a bunch of friends and strangers--that if he didn't turn loose my hand at once, I would break his arm at the neck.

He let go. And exited the room as quickly as he was able.

In my experience, unexpected public embarrassment will stop a lot of men from pulling shit on a woman. Guys like this "Divine Marquis" (oh, puh-leeze) count on women being all demure and proper and what-not because other people are around, so they can try their weirdness on you.

Never, ever be afraid to say in your loudest voice "LET GO MY HAND, YOU CREEP!" and call his ass out. When you make it clear that you WILL draw attention to the fact that a man's making unwanted, frightening sexual advances at you, he'll back off fast.

Get vocal. Get LOUD. Let the room know that there's a pervert in your midst. He'll be the one that has to explain his behavior in that social setting, not you.

Also, what TheophileEscargot said. This guy was trying to make a move on you, probably to get a better view of your chest.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2009 [13 favorites]

I think you're actually rationalizing away how gross and invasive this was. Based on your description, I doubt anything about that encounter was charming or sexy. It sounds like he's probably a scum-sucking mouthbreather who breathlessly reads books about the "art of seduction" (read: sexual coercion) and blogs pseudonymously about his "exploits". My guess? He purposefully targeted you, approached you in a manner likely to make you unwilling or afraid to protest, then took a good long look. Sure, MAYBE he was having a seizure. Or maybe he wanted to maintain plausible deniability. If you are unwilling to report him to the school or the police, I would suggest minimizing your future contact with him.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:26 AM on December 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh, good lord. That was an exact description of the wrist lock "PUA" thing TheophileEscargot linked to. If I were you I'd never get within arm's distance of him again (if that near), and I wouldn't hesitate for even a split-second to say exactly why, and loudly. And often. And, yes, he might be dangerous; he used force to restrain you in a public place. There's no telling what he does with fewer eyes around.
posted by taz at 6:29 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I panicked a little...What's really terrifying...the horrible vibe I'm picking up here..."

Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" is pretty helpful with this sort of thing. Based on my understanding, I'd say the good news is that you've correctly assessed the threat, the bad news is that determining the plausible explanation may place you back in harm's way but then good news is that maintaining your safety wrt to the gent doesn't really require understanding him. I may be oversimplifying but I think the gist of de Becker's advice is: do not engage him again, do not engage him by way of his son, do not engage his son.
posted by klarck at 6:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think calling this "trancing out" and worrying that he'll do something by accident both gives him too much credit and points your concerns in the wrong direction. He physically restrained you on purpose. If he does anything like this again, he won't be accidentally injuring you, as your concern indicates, he'll be intentionally and consciously harming you. It's possible to be socially oblivious or to have a weird concept of personal space, but when you intentionally physically restrain another person who is trying to move away from you, there really isn't a way to explain that as an accident.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:42 AM on December 2, 2009

As I tell my kids, trust your instincts. Don't allow yourself to get that close to him again until you feel completely safe.

That said, when I read your account, my first thought was "seziure." I would choose "concern for his wellbeing" as the going in position and reserve the Jeckyll and Hyde hypothesis as a backup.

I am also a fan of open assertive communication. Talk to him privately in a public place (across the table from him at a crowded food court, e.g.) and recount your experience. Start with somethign affirmative about your relationship -- what you value about him. Then, state clearly your boundaries about future physical contact with him and relate your concerns about his trance-like appearance during the incident. There may indeed be something neurologically wrong with him.

I greatly value the people in my life who care enough to hurt my feelings for my own good. Especially if I'm being a dick. You can be one of those rare people in his life who care about him enough to call BS on his behavior while keeping your boundaries intact.
posted by cross_impact at 6:57 AM on December 2, 2009

I agree that the Venn Diagram for "Men who think they are 'gallant'" and "Men who have massive social blindspots" overlaps a great deal, but "Men who use the same martial arts techniques employed by law enforcement for restraining a dangerous suspect on unwary women of their casual acquaintance" probably has very little overlap with the other two.
posted by taz at 6:58 AM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd almost be willing to bet cash money that he'd taken one of those creepy-ass PUA/"speed seduction" courses and was trying out that move on purpose. You owe him nothing and should punch him in the dick if he gets into your personal space (grabbing and pulling you into his space counts) without your permission.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:59 AM on December 2, 2009

Looking back on a lot of sexual harassment and abuse I've experienced in my life, it's often started out with a harmless exchange. Or somebody says something witty, does something appealing, or catches my interest in some way. Then they take it beyond MY personal boundary and I'm all of the sudden feeling threatened and scared. This is such a jarring bait and switch, that sometimes it takes time to realize and process what has happened. Which is confusing, because it makes you question yourself and wish you had reacted differently. You wonder why you didn't react differently, if the behavior was so wrong at the time.

Don't doubt yourself. That guy displayed dominating, threatening behavior. Even if he was having a fucking seizure, a normal non-threatening person would at some point address the part where he had you in a trap and was 'accidentally' ogling you during his mental lapse. Especially if you called him on it with a "uh, up here dude." I can't believe some of the excuses that have been suggested here for this guy's behavior. Nothing can dismiss or excuse the way you feel. Even if those excuses weren't intended as such a thing, don't let that happen.

Oh, and also, when I read the part about the wrist lock, the FIRST thing I thought of was "Oh thank God it wasn't your neck!" I don't think you're overreacting one single bit. When someone lets you know of their physical dominance over you through unsolicited demonstration, you naturally wonder why they're doing this and what it is they really want to do to you, if conditions were perfect in their twisted mindfuck of a world.

I'm torn between what advice to give you. In situations like this, I've sometimes just laid low and stayed away. However, it can be really important to bring this to light. There may be someone else who isn't as bold as you, isn't as sure of the wrongness of the situation, and wouldn't come forward for fear of retaliation or a whole list of valid things to worry about. Now or in the future. They may (have) experience(d) something lesser, or god forbid, something worse than you.

I guess what I would do is NOT write the letter, but do talk to somebody you trust (who knows you) about this, and next steps to take. Personally, I would not confront him directly, and I would stay away from him. The way I see it, even if he turns out to be harmless, he's still not harmless to YOU, and that's what's important here. He represents a bad situation, a trigger, someone who turned something nice and sexy into something threatening and inescapable. You aren't required to co-exist or confront that if you don't want to. I do recommend dealing with the experience that's burned in your brain though; you can't get away from that part unfortunately. Also, I'm sorry that this has happened to you. It really sucks.

I can think of two semi-recent social gatherings that I attended that ended this way. Perfectly nice time...until a previously non-threatening male turned into somebody to avoid with his inappropriate behavior. It doesn't matter to me if he had a medical condition, a brain fart, or anything in between. My time was ruined and he will be somebody that causes me to hear warning bells, regardless of the reason or whether it would be warranted or felt similarly by others. Sucks for him too, and maybe I'm missing out on a wonderful person, but my safety and sense of well-being is way more important than easing someone else's confusion or hurt feelings. Period.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2009 [16 favorites]

The dude sounds creepy. I doubt he's got some brain diseases. I think you are right to be wary of the dude. Your fear of being choked however, does seem like an overreaction.
posted by chunking express at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2009

That sounds terrifying and totally fucking creepy. Ugh. I'm sorry you had to experience it. You did the right thing.

If you're comfortable doing so, make subtle inferences to other women in your social sphere that he is a creep. "Watch out for him, he has done some really creepy stuff". If they have experienced the same, they might talk about it. It's not your responsibility, so only if you're comfortable.
posted by kathrineg at 9:03 AM on December 2, 2009

Man grabs woman by wrist, won't let go when she clearly would like her wrist back, while starting at her chest....

I almost can't believe the responses suggesting that this is a seizure or a neurological problem. Wow. Just wow. Didn't we just have a big thread with women recounting their personal experiences with men violating their boundaries?

What's the Occam's Razor explanation here?

Creepy dude is violating your personal boundaries, will violate them further if he gets the chance.

You don't want to admit it because you probably think of him as a respected academic, and you would like to think that "university lecture" is a set that does not intersect with the set "creepy dude".

I would consider avoiding him, but I don't know him or you.

And what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple?

Find a class for this one, you're asking for something that cannot be conveyed in text, and will need to be practiced. We covered some of this in Tai Kwon Do, but I don't think it's part of the standard TKD instruction.
posted by yohko at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2009 [9 favorites]

I don't think you're overreacting about being choked, I think it's a normal fear reaction to being restrained by someone threatening who is a lot bigger than you and apparently sadistic/controlling.
posted by kathrineg at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Post some commentary on so that other women who have to deal with him have some fair warning. Professors get away with harassment only if there's no publicity. You may find a ton of similar warnings about him already.
posted by Mom at 9:47 AM on December 2, 2009 [11 favorites]

I'd give some consideration to Orthagonal's theory. If you're internally assessing something potentially very alarming like a possibly emergency physical problem (or anything, really) this is exactly what happens.

Creeper McCreeperson is Occam's answer, but why not ask him?

"What was up with you grabbing my wrist?" Either he has a satisfactory explanation and all is well, or not and you know he's a creeper AND he knows you know he's a creeper.
posted by cmoj at 9:49 AM on December 2, 2009

Well, my first instinct is that he's creepy and you should avoid him.

really does sound like some sort of seizure

but this comment made me think. Has he ever "gone-trance" any other times you've seen him? While he was giving a lecture, or talking with someone?
posted by scrutiny at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2009

And what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple?

Don't discount it; that is the best solution. This clearly wasn't like a gentle "hey can you hang on a sec" grab. He put you in a fucking wristlock. The response to a wristlock is to hit him as hard as you can, as fast as you can, as many times as you can. Anti-PUA/anti-creep defense strategies should be taught in every junior high, high-school, and college. The response to coercive physicality like this should be overwhelming violence.

I would not trust this man, and I would make it clear to him that you've got his number. The next time he tries this, put him on the ground.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:55 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

That sounds creepy as all get out, and it strikes me as some sort of strange power thing.

And what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple?

As magstheaxe said upthread, in a public place, making a loud scene where the guy has to explain himself is probably the easiest way.

To be effective, you have to practice things (and you probably want to find a qualified teacher who can show you these things in person), but basically, the standard way to break out of someone grabbing your wrist (which is pretty much in any standard karate curriculum) is to try to twist your arm/wrist so that you are putting pressure across where his fingers oppose the thumb, since that's where the weak point is. Since he (if I'm reading this correctly) had the arm up, you may have had very poor leverage (so it's not a purely strength thing), and may not have been able to escape this way.

One thing you could try before kicking him in the balls or haymakering him in the temple is to use your other hand to push at the thumb (so that it's going up and away from your wrist) while pulling your arm back (like you're bringing your elbow close to your side). Increasing in violence, you can grab one of his fingers and pry it backwards, which tends to make people loosen their grip.

Those are the things I'd try first, anyway, but I'm me and you're you, so YMMV.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Additionally, I know your first instinct is to pull away, but there is merit in going a little closer and stomping on his foot if you can. Especially if you're wearing heels. Practice on willing partners to get the move down. If anyone gives you shit about it or you feel the need to defend your actions, you lost your balance, oops.
posted by kathrineg at 11:06 AM on December 2, 2009

I really don't understand the throat thing, but whatever. The bottom line is he skeeves you out and gives you a horrible vibe. That alone is sufficient reason to avoid him, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about it. Add to this that he tried to physically restrain you against your will and it's a huge clanging five-alarm fire bell wrapped in giant red flags.

Stay far away from him and do not, under any circumstances, let yourself be alone with him. Ever.
posted by balls at 11:22 AM on December 2, 2009

I really don't think he had a seizure, because I had an awful boss whose eyes would glaze over in the same way. I worked as a gardener, and one day I was talking to him after work, when I pulled off my grubby sweatshirt and exposed two inches of my stomach. Ugh, I can barely type this because I am so disgusted- but anyway, he froze, mouth open, eyes riveted to where a moment before my stomach was visible, and then shuddered and said, uh, what? as I had continued talking. This was a boss that didn't like me at all, as I couldn't stand him and argued about all the dumb rules he made up. He was also a boss that would leave porn on his computer for our office manager, Barbara, to find when she turned off all the machines at the end of the day. So yeah, I'm not sure that this dude is dangerous, he is obviously uncaring about your discomfort and not interested in treating you as an equal, and a creep to boot.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Revisit this thread. You are not wrong to feel like he is acting like a creepy creepy man you should be wary of. Your alarm bells are appropriate. Do not discount them.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2009

I think that this would be something you could discuss with your university ombudsperson. Most universities have these and they can help you whether he is a professor or a student. They are on your side and many allow certain amounts of privacy. I would recommend documenting what happened to you, because it does not at all sound like a medical problem (unless pervert is a protected class now).
posted by fermezporte at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have no idea whether this was some kind of medical issue or a more sinister act. I do think that you need to let someone know about it. I don't know who, but I think there needs to be some kind of documentation of the incident.

For the sake of argument let's say he was having an 'episode'. This is the kind of thing that would seem to me to be rather serious. If I were zoning out or going into a trance for no apparent reason, I'd want my loved ones made aware of it. What if the next episode happens while he is behind the wheel of a car? These things can be dangerous.

If his during this 'episode' he actually was in full control, then that too should be documented. Even if it is to give some credit to the next young woman who calls him out. One girl crying inappropriate behavior by herself may be brushed off, but when there is evidence of past misdeeds there is more likely to be action taken. Sad, I know.

I don't know who you need to inform, but someone with authority needs to know about this.

In my opinion the guy was being creepy and abusive and I probably would have broken his pinkie getting that hand off my wrist, or I might have 'accidentally' kneed him in the junk.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Forget asking him anything ever. Stay the hell away from him. He intends to harm you. I guarantee it.
posted by Xoebe at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2009

I submit another vote for "blow up the nads". In my world, no one gets away with that crap.

And, as someone with an epileptic in the family, I can say with reasonable certainty that if he was having a petit mal seizure, he almost certainly wouldn't have been able to retain his balance if you tugged on his hand. People in a seizure state can't respond correctly to counterbalance forces applied against them. This effect subsides slowly after the seizure ends. Even if he can get his cognitive focus back quickly, it would take a few minutes to recollect everything physically. You'd notice that something was off about his movements immediately after.
posted by Citrus at 1:20 PM on December 2, 2009

Personally, I'd tell your story to everyone I ran across. End it with, "Isn't that bizarre?" if it helps difuse it.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:53 PM on December 2, 2009

That is so creepy that I'm having a fight-or-flight reaction just reading it.

The suggestion to tell somebody if you can figure out who to tell is a good one. Ombudsperson, sexual harassment point person, possibly the department chair if you have a sense that they are trustworthy, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2009

Good gravy, people. Kicking him in the balls? Just report him already. Take this to the authorities, immediately, absolutely. Surely your school has a sexual harassment policy and avenues to follow if someone breaches it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:15 PM on December 2, 2009

And what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple?

What you need here is called Aikido - a Japanese martial art that focuses on defending ones' self while trying to a) use the attacker's own force against themselves (rather than meeting it with separate force) and b) do them minimal harm in said course. Aikido uses various throws and joint locks, the latter of which you will want to focus on for exiting wrist locks like the one you so unpleasantly experienced.

As mentioned above, this can't really be effectively conveyed in text, and requires long study and regular practice, but exiting these kinds of locks will be one of the first things you learn if you can find a good Aikido school (or other martial art school that offers basic forms of Aikido as part of its technique - check out Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do, for example). Like most martial arts, you learn first the defensive moves rather than offensive ones - e.g. in Judo, the first thing you learn is proper falling.

If you can't get proper instruction for some reason, I would try to explain it to you this way: what you need to focus on is the weak point in the attacker's grip around your wrist. That weak point is almost always the gap at which his thumb-tip and the tips of the other fingers meet. Basically, you need to exploit that weak point by quickly and forcefully jerking your entire arm (not just your wrist, not just your forearm, but your entire arm, being driven by your shoulder) in the exact direction of that gap. So, if I were holding your wrist with my palm on top of your wrist, and my fingers meeting my thumb on the underside of your wrist, you would want to jerk your arm straight downwards. No matter how big someone is or how strong, if you learn this technique effectively, there is almost no grasp that you cannot escape on the first try.

That said, I've instructed women's self-defense courses and in your situation, a haymaker to the temple is perfectly reasonable, if not necessarily your best bet. Strike whatever is easiest for you to get to first. The bones in the feet are remarkably delicate, smashing down on them with your heel can work wonders. If he's got fingers within reach, grab one firmly and pull it back til it snaps. Knee to the balls. Fingernails to the eyeballs. Hit a delicate area as hard as you can.

(On preview, Ambrosia Voyeur, at what point does striking the balls become acceptable? What if this guy kept on grabbing her? In other places? Tearing at the clothes? Etc.? I think its perfectly reasonable for people to be answering OP's questions about escaping a potential rape situation with basic physical defense mechanisms.)
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:58 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

He's really attracted to you and did something dumb. I think you are making too much of this.
posted by xammerboy at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2009

I may be wrong. I was assuming he did this in public.
posted by xammerboy at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2009

He's really attracted to you and did something dumb. I think you are making too much of this.

This is a wrong answer. This answerby Comrade_robot and this answer by allkindsoftime are good answers. What xammerboy said is extremely bad advise, insensitive, and clueless.
posted by fuq at 11:35 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

xammerboy, your answer makes me angry.

Women need to make too much of things if it keeps them safe. I would rather offend a highly regarded old professor and face the embarrassment than be in a situation where my safety is in jeopardy. Women who don't listen to that little voice that tells them things are not right often become victims.

Even if the old dude was just being socially awkward, by holding her against her will he crossed the line. PERIOD. If he did get a knee to the groin he would have been taught a valuable lesson in manners.

Your attitude is why women are reluctant to report this kind of behavior.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:18 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's really attracted to you and did something dumb.

A man putting and holding a woman in a wrist lock and not letting her go, while staring at her breasts as she tries to break free is far beyond "dumb".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Unlawful restraint isn't "[doing] something dumb." It's a crime.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:08 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, physically restraining someone against their will is far beyond "something dumb" -- especially if the restrainer is someone like a senior academic (who has a lot of power over junior academics and students). Never ok.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:18 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I don't think the poster shouldn't physically defend herself, but that's advice for later, IF something bad happens again. Now, she should file a report on this behavior which obviously made her feel threatened at school. Without question. Yesterday. I was shocked so few answers advised this, and were instead kneejerking (pun intended) and advocating reciprocal violence.

And I inferred that she wanted to avoid violence, because of this:

> what's the best way to get out of this kind of wristlock short of a huge haymaker to the temple?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2009

For example, what if I told you he were a de Sade scholar who always referred to him as "the Divine Marquis"? And organized tour groups to the asylum at Charenton so people could appreciate where he spent thirteen years of his life? And collected de Sade memorabilia and had a little de Sade exhibit at his house? etc. etc. Of course that's not it, but it's something every bit as creepy and prejudicial.


Dangerous as hell.

You ran into a true monster. The moves he put on you (completely calculated and precisely executed) are more than enough to precipitate a Stockholm Syndrome-like reaction in any of the many susceptible-- women and men-- and if you were such a one, he would have pulled you down into a waking nightmare of torment, as he must have done to other young women any number of times.

Congratulations on your escape.
posted by jamjam at 10:16 PM on February 12, 2010

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