Anyone who has ever been groped knows that it’s a power play. There are no doubt people in the world who get a specific rush from touching people in public, but the span of people who have touched me - and half of the women I know - inappropriately suggests that it’s not about pleasure as much as it is about selfishness and dominance, the idea that something looks nice and must therefore be for them. The way you squeeze an avocado or a melon at the grocery store. They’re both things, not people, so their wants don’t matter.
I read a quote from Jeff Flake recently that he doesn’t believe Brett Kavanaugh is “a serial sexual predator.” It boggles my mind how much this misses the point, and how much we are still missing the point despite all of our so-called “progress” over the last few decades. A rapist doesn’t have to be someone who repeatedly seeks out women under dark of night. It just has to be someone who thinks that other people exist for them - not with them, but for them. Or who did, at one point, even if they no longer do. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. This is what money and privilege give you - the reinforced belief that your needs are paramount, because no one else has the power to fight you back.
You would probably be shocked at the number of “nice boys” I’ve seen behave badly in exactly this way. Because they can, because no one has ever shown them any kind of consequence. Boys who were active in church, boys who held office. Literal choir boys. Nice nerdy boys and nice jock boys. Boys from good families. Boys with good grades. I have known them. All of us have, even if we chose not to look.
They were not all beyond repair - I have seen boys who changed their ways, who were repentant when confronted with the idea that a woman might have a different idea in mind. Boys who made a sincere effort to be kind and respectful and treat girls as equals, even if they had made mistakes before. That is not what we see here. Even if Brett Kavanaugh is somehow innocent - and if you ask me, I have my doubts - his rage, his dismissiveness, his tolerance of a pageant designed to make a woman feel like gum ground into the floor does not suggest that he is one of them.
In case it is not obvious, I am nearly inarticulate with rage at every aspect of this scandal. I just got back from Afghanistan, where I was working with a project that focuses on female empowerment, and the Afghan men I met on that team were more respectful of women and engaged in their progress than any of the men who disgraced themselves at yesterday’s hearing. I cannot believe that I have come back to see this. I do not want to believe that this is where we are as a country, and yet I have no choice. I am a woman. Of course I have no choice.
(And because I am having trouble stringing my thoughts together, what with the blinding fury and all, I suggest you go read Simcha Fisher’s take on this. As she says:
There is no sober, cautious examination of the facts, here, from his supporters. All of these arguments rush to the conclusion that he did do exactly what Christine Blasey Ford accuses him of doing. And they are okay with that. They’re willing to wave away the violent attempted rape of a 15-year-old girls as inconsequential. Why?
Because . . . she was just a girl, and that’s what girls are for.
Even if you don’t agree with her politics, it’s worth reading.)
When I think about these boys, I keep coming back to this very specific memory from my freshman year of college. A classmate I considered a friend - a churchgoing boy, a boy in the nice nerdy fraternity, a boy I’d known from an honors program - told me that girls like me were fine for dating, but that he wanted to marry a “nice girl.” At that point, I’d never had a real boyfriend, and my experiences with men were limited at best. I didn’t know then, and don’t know now, exactly what caused him to classify me like that; it might have been my outspokenness, or my use of profanity, or the fact that I went out and drank on some weekends, just like 80% of the rest of the student body (and 90% of his friends). It didn’t matter. He had made his judgment, and I was just there to live with it.
At the time, I was livid. But in retrospect, I am grateful to him for being explicit about his own biases. He said out loud what these honorable public men are trying to disguise behind their bloviating: that not all women were worthy of respect, especially not the inconvenient ones. Sometimes I wish they would just say what we can all see, that what women want doesn’t matter to them. But of course they won’t. That would assume that we deserve to hear the truth. And besides, it’s not nice.