Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Actresses put their tongues in my mouth, a memory inspired by the charge against Al Franken

I was an actor in New York City for a year or so. I was awful, but I was young and, though I didn't really believe it at the time, fairly handsome, so I got a few jobs: a supporting role in an off-off-Broadway play, a bit part in a dreadful horror movie, and a few modeling gigs for romance magazines.

The first time I was directed to kiss an actress--I am deliberately using the more sexist form of the word to stress that I'm speaking of a female actor--I wasn't quite sure what we would do. Obviously, we were actors, so we would act out kissing. But what did that mean? I assumed it would be a mime show in which our mouths made contact but nothing happened between our lips, much like what very young children do when they pretend they are kissing romantically.

The actress's tongue gave me a different answer.

I don't remember if every actress who kissed me used her tongue, because it didn't seem like a big deal after the first time. It was a pleasant part of the job. I know more than one did. I was shy and insecure and strongly believed men should not force themselves upon women, so I never went further than putting my lips to an actress's. What happened next was always up to her.

Now, it may be that these actresses assumed they would use their tongues because the part called for passion, or maybe they thought I was cute and decided to add a bit more realism than they might provide for every actor they kissed. I will not claim that there was an expectation that romantic kisses would involve tongues. I will only say I stopped being surprised when actresses used theirs.

I don't know if Franken's accuser is accurately telling what happened. Maybe he was an opportunistic lech. I can say fairly objectively that I was handsomer than he, and my shy friendliness probably made me seem about as safe to kiss as any male actor could be. An actress who used her tongue with me might very well have chosen not to use her tongue with him.

But I do not doubt there were actresses who initiated tongue contact with him. He was funny and influential, and no one who didn't already dislike him would call him repulsive. That he remembers the kiss with his accuser differently than she does would not surprise me, even if he initiated the use of the tongue.

I'm not fond of the "times were different then" excuse for bad behavior because men forcing themselves on women has been considered bad behavior for thousands of years. But I'm now curious about whether the kisses I got were the exception or the rule for actors in the 1970s, and what's expected in a staged kiss today.