You are at the grocery store. You are proud of yourself, a little bit; it was not easy to venture out from the temperature-controlled oasis of social media and streaming television, down three or four flights of stairs and through the questionable smells of neighbors cooking, past the piles of dog shit and enduring whatever awful weather your region is producing at this time of year. Rain. That foggy drizzle that makes you sweaty and frizz. Snow. Smothering humidity. The artificial chill that blasts you as you enter the produce section raises the hairs on your arm regardless.
You're debating whether $2.99 is too much to spend on an avocado, the organic variety being acceptably ripe while the simply "from Mexico" sit hard and green and undentable in their giant pile, when, suddenly, a glob. On the back of your neck, or the side of your calf, or partially on your tricep and partially on the bottom of the sleeve of your second-favorite T-shirt, stolen from an ex-boyfriend or procured for too much money on eBay. You look up, as if the substance could have come with such force at such an angle from the ceiling. A strange drip? The hairs on your arm have receded and you become hot. You touch the fluid, milky and viscous, cautiously, with your index finger. You know immediately that what has recently come into contact with your body is a strange drip indeed.
This was the experience, I imagine, of a number of women in the Portland area who were victims of a recent semen-tossing spree. Following a string of similar incidents in which women reported being hit with man product as the culprit fled the scene, yesterday afternoon police arrested 47-year-old Manuel Banuelos-Alcala of Beaverton, Oregon, in the parking lot of a Safeway where it is suspected, according to a Portland Police Bureau press release, "that he likely committed another lewd act of throwing semen on an unsuspecting female customer." According to reports from the local KATU news station, incidents of women reporting a man throwing semen on them in or around grocery stores in the area began in January 2016 and increased this spring. One women told the outlet it happened to her twice. "Ever since it happened the first time, you're always on high alert that something's going to happen," she said, "but I did not expect it a second time."
And who would? Before encountering this story I was blissfully unaware of semen flingers beyond that scene in Silence of the Lambs. They did not seem to be a thing I needed to worry about. Yet now I realize that, in the senseless and absurd world we live in, such occurrences are not unheard-of. In January 2015, Michael Iscenko, a veteran NYPD sergeant, was accused of throwing semen on another NYPD employee (on whom, it was alleged, he had a crush) in an elevator. Police tests revealed the substance to be semen; months later, he was charged with third-degree sexual abuse. In 2013, another man was arrested after admitting to throwing semen—which he initially claimed was accidental snot—on a "hot" woman at a Delaware Walmart.
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In 2011, as part of what the Brown Daily Herald called an "inexplicable months-long masturbation spree," the Providence area suffered its own bout of semen-related issues, one target, Anita*, told me. Anita was walking home from a college event when a man in a white sedan appearing to be in his 20s drove up beside her to ask directions at around 9 PM. "I really couldn't see much into the car, so I didn't know that while I was giving him directions, he was jerking off," Anita said. "By the time I finished giving him directions and started to walk away, he flung something at me. I had my hands full, but kind of hid my face behind the box; my reflexes were not fast enough and some of it got on my leg.
"Almost immediately after he drove away, I was just like: What the fuck did he fling at me?" she continued. When Anita looked at the substance, she says she "wanted to gag and die. At first I sort of started wiping it off with some papers I had, but then I thought maybe I should save it for the cops. They didn't even care about it." Anita said the suspect was eventually apprehended after he tried to fling semen at her a second time in broad daylight. She took a photo of his license plate and reported it to the police.
In the Portland case, Banuelos-Alcala was apprehended thanks to security-camera footage that linked him to January 2016 reports of a man who followed a 27-year-old woman and her two children into a Kmart, flung semen from a cup at her, and fled. He will be booked on two counts of sex abuse in the third degree, according to the Portland Police Bureau's statement. The Portland Police Bureau did not immediately return Broadly's request for comment.