I believed Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Any woman who has been a victim of unwanted sexual advances knows that NO woman would go public, exposing herself to embarrassment and humiliation, unless the events had actually happened. And NO woman who has been a victim of sexual assault forgets who did it.
Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony, on the other hand, was aggressive, angry and defensive. And many answers to direct questions were outright evasive. A standard reaction from men in power, who are so accustomed to the protection white male privilege and the Old Boys’ Network generally afford.
But here is what puzzles me. Despite the consciousness raising efforts of the #MeToo movement and the dozens of powerful men (ex: Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Les Moonves, Heath Evans) who have been forced, finally, to answer for years of serial abuse — WHY is the default reaction to sexual assault, from so many men, STILL resistance, denial, and dismissiveness?
I can’t think of another crime of violence (except of course, domestic abuse, which is simply sexual assault in another guise) where the victim isn’t automatically believed, unless and until further investigation shows otherwise.
I’m afraid the answer to my question lies with deeply internalized societal, cultural, and biological differences between males and females. So deep that change is unlikely to occur. (Please, as I explain, forgive my gender binarism.)
First, review history. For thousands of years and in hundreds of wars, soldiers have consistently considered two types of spoils of war.
- The first is loot. Retreating armies generally feel entitled to steal as much property as they can manage to carry.
- The second, just as ubiquitous, rape of women, seen as an inherent reward for conquest.
As one example, in the 12th century, when the Mongols spread eastward across Asia, their war cry, feed the horses, was a signal to rape, murder, and plunder whatever defenseless population they happened to be conquering. Genghis Khan alone raped so many women that scientists have concluded that today he has roughly 16 million descendants.
From Human Rights News:
But while other abuses, such as murder and other forms of torture have long been denounced as war crimes, rape has been downplayed as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of sending men to war. It thus is ignored as a human rights abuse. Then when rape is reported and condemned, … the abuses are called unprecedented and unique in their scale. In fact, wartime rape has never been limited to a certain era or to a particular part of the world.
“Rape has been downplayed” is says. Well, I wonder who made that decision? Not the victims, I’m guessing.
Second, consider biology. In humans, science tells us testosterone is primarily responsible for sex drive in both men and women. But the normal range for testosterone in males is 280-1100 nanograms per deciliter; normal range for women is 15 – 70. So what is normal in males looks something like an overdose in females.
How might that difference play out? From Psychology Today:
“When a male’s T-levels rise beyond a certain point, he can hardly help but have sex on his mind virtually all the time… Very much like animals in heat, males ‘under the influence’ may have great difficulty in perceiving females other than one-dimensionally—as objects for lustful gratification.
Does that mean the effect of testosterone in males, at high levels, is so powerful that judgement is impaired and it becomes unimportant, or at least of secondary concern, whether the female is a willing partner?
Third, for a moment, look at some of our other gender-based societal norms:
- Among men, sexual conquests are still shared with peers, bragged about, and admired as a sign of prowess. Similar experiences are seen to diminish the value of women, who get labeled as cheap or slutty — the main reason most women keep their sexual history private.
- Other kinds of assertive behavior by boys in school often marks them as leaders. Assertive girls are considered loud, unfeminine, pushy and bossy.
- Forceful male executives are considered strong and decisive. Women with similar responsibility and attitude are called bitchy or ballbuster.
So, how does this relate to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process? Unfortunately, in our male dominated Congress, I think it means men simply don’t consider sexual assault, sexual harassment, and even rape as “that big a deal.”
After all, sex is something THEY want all the time. It feels good to THEM. Any violation is temporary and leaves no lasting physical damage. It’s certainly not serious enough to ruin a man’s career over, right? Besides, it’s something men have been entitled to force upon women for centuries. So, why all this fuss?
If I’m correct, changing such attitudes will be VERY difficult. And glacially slow. Because, when confronted with charges like those currently facing Brett Kavanaugh, the default for most men will always be to identify with the man. Because they all understand the power behind his sexual urges, because it’s easy to blame alcohol or youth for bad (aka criminal) behavior, and because so many of them need to see their own sexual misdeeds as harmless.
Now, isn’t THAT a damn good reason to elect more women!