Given the way the Republican Senators and Donald Trump are treating the accusations of serious sexual misconduct by three women against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, can there be any American woman in her right mind voting for a Republican this November?
Before you answer that question, consider that a majority of white women voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election after 19 accusations of harassment or assault, plus countless tweets that denigrated women for their looks or sex.
Does that mean racism trumps sexism in the United States? Or that a large number of women buy into the idea of male privilege, the “boys will be boys” morality that forgives men but not women their transgressions—youthful or mature? Or perhaps many are so beaten down by their significant others that, like victims of the Stockholm syndrome, they have taken on the belief system of their oppressors.
The contrast between the claims of Anita Hill and the three—so far—women who have accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct sheds a light on just how serious the charges are against Trump’s choice to fill the open position on the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas was accused of making suggestive and degrading remarks to Anita Hill and several other female employees (who were not called to testify). Illegal because it constituted workplace harassment, but far less serious than what Kavanaugh’s accusers are saying: Attempted rape. Exposing oneself and thrusting one’s penis towards the victim’s face. Getting a girl drunk and participating in a gangbang of her.
We could theoretically explain away Thomas’ actions in certain circumstances—if it happened only during a short period of time when he was under pressure, if it were his first job and he were under 25 years of age, if it happened in high school or college, if he had issued a sincere apology that showed he had evolved.
But under no circumstances can we explain away, forgive or rationalize what Kavanaugh probably did. It is never right to force yourself on a woman or to whip it out in front of a woman without her permission. And multiple men having sex with a woman incapacitated by alcohol, drugs or mental illness—there are so many levels of immorality and sociopathy about that scenario that is hard to contain my anger and sense of shame thinking about it.
What unifies the probable actions of Thomas and Kavanaugh with those of Weinstein, Trump, Moonves, Cosby, Franken, et. al., is that it is never about sex. In Franken’s case, I’m convinced it was the sheer stupidity of a professional clown who thinks everything is funny. I still think Franken was right to resign because the fact he went over the line from horseplay to harassment several times in inexcusable, especially in a workplace setting. I’m still shocked that running in left-wing circles, Franken never encountered a woman who told him his cracks and horseplay were inappropriate, as happened to me when I told a few risqué puns in the very first college class I taught at the age of 22.
In every other case, it was an unalloyed power play. The men and teenaged boy wanted to exercise power over women or show how powerful they were by making a woman do something she didn’t really want to do. In many cases, as with a gangbang—or perhaps gang rape is more accurate—the men must have wanted to humiliate the women the way a powerful warrior often likes to humiliate his opponent. What could be more humiliating than having an unwanted penis thrust in your face or waking from an alcoholic stupor to find you have been violated by several men?
What still confuses me, even after being schooled by my life partner, daughter-in-law and others, is why these men feel the need to assert their power over women? By definition, all these men are powerful to begin with. You don’t see front-page headlines in the major media for days on end about John Schmuck in accounting.
Yet power is an aphrodisiac that many women find irresistible. None of these men should have had any problem attracting women of all ages, shapes and sizes for whatever sexual antics they had in mind (except the gang rape). Those with a large appetite for new conquests should have had little difficulty satisfying their needs. I was a single guy for many years, so the insistence of these men on harassing or assaulting women was at first truly befuddling to me. I never used those exact words, but I followed “no means no” and “yes means yes” practices with women all my life. If a woman didn’t want to go out with me or give me her phone number, I moved on. Yet I rarely lacked for consensual female companionship. My experience and that of my friends has always been that women like sex as much as men do, but only with men who attract them and respect them as equals.
When I gave my own experience to express my confusion over the actions of a Cosby or a Weinstein to the several women with whom I feel comfortable having such a conversation, they all said the same thing. “It’s not about the sex, it’s about the power.”
But these men already have power. Think about how truly depraved that makes them, whatever the underlying cause. Men so insecure about their self-worth even with the enormous power they possess. Men so drunk with power they must always exercise it. Men who feel sexually inadequate for any of the usual reasons—size or stamina. Men so drunk that they lose control over the inhibitions that prevent social chaos. Men brainwashed into believing they really do have special rights over women. Men so narcissistically self-centered that they don’t care what the other person wants. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in their mind’s deep recesses. They are all sick fucks whose sickness nonetheless doesn’t excuse their actions. They all deserve to lose their power and position.
And the elected officials who condone, forgive or justify their actions don’t deserve our vote. They are fellow travelers to an unofficial subversive party that seeks to undermine and oppress women. As it turns out, these fellow travelers are all Republicans, and an overwhelming number of them want to limit severely or end a woman’s right to have an abortion and many would also limit women’s access to birth control.
That should make the choice this November particularly easy for women, especially in those states electing U.S. Senators. The pink wave of women should lead to a blue wave that takes both the House and the Senate. We have reason to be hopeful until we remember that the pink wave among white women broke Trump’s way two years ago.