Is it me or is the next American Revolution about to be fought by two sides who differ only by their X and Y chromosomes? The spectacle, aka a hearing, between U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of attempting to rape her at a party when they were teenagers, has women screaming we should ‘BELIEVE WOMEN!’ and men screaming ‘DUE PROCESS!’ (Both sides are out of line: women don’t hold the exclusive rights to truth and Kavanaugh is not on trial for his life, liberty or happiness, clearly.)
“Are you saying my assault doesn’t matter?” Ms Ford said in the measured and flawless delivery of her argument. Argh. Of course it matters. EVERY woman’s story of assault matters because the only way things are going to get better is if men start realizing that trying to get laid by using force is NOT OK. (Is this really so difficult to understand, guys?) But assaults are legally prosecuted based upon evidence. It’s our putative right as Americans to not be convicted of assault without some very strong evidence of guilt. The fact is, we don’t have terribly compelling proof of Kavanaugh’s guilt. And I would never want to be on trial in the court of Public Opinion. Clearly this is a he said/she said shit show at the highest level.
We are not prosecuting Brett Kavanaugh for attempted rape. We are trying to determine if he’s fit for the Supreme Court. By all accounts he’s professionally qualified for the supreme court and his record places him to the left of the departed Antony Scalia. But that’s not what this has devolved into. I can’t help but think we could have avoided this absurdity had Kavenaugh simply said, “It’s possible, in a fog of alcohol, I was inappropriate with Ms Ford. If that’s what happened, then I’m very sorry.” Instead, his denial has now ignited indignation on both sides; women for being told, yet again, that they didn’t experience what they did, and men for claiming it’s too easy for a woman to falsely accuse.
Men are having a hard time even acknowledging that the vast majority of women say they’ve been abused physically or verbally by men. One statistic I read recently stated that 80% of women report having experienced coercive, aggressive or downright violent behavior from a man at least once. Does that imply that a majority of men are being abusive? This is where perspective and interpretation can get murky. If a man yells, ‘Fuck you!’ at a woman he’s dating, is that aggressive and violent? I suppose, yes. So if a woman does the same, shouldn’t we hold her to the same standard? Absolutely.
The building anger spawned by #MeToo has got to stay logical in order to be credible. We cannot blanketly decide to ‘believe’ every woman with blind indifference to the rights of the accused. My struggle is that I’m finding it hard to take sides. And because of that I’m feeling as though I’m standing on the sidelines of a coveted game of dodge-ball (I really do love hurling inflated orbs of rubber) and being told no one wants me on their team.
The women got to me first. A fellow writer on Facebook wrote that 30 years ago her much older, married boss “tried to seduce” her in his apartment. Now, I understand this sounds totally inappropriate and scary for a 20 year old (which I acknowledged straight up). But I simply asked if she could be more specific about his actions because “seduction” itself should not be vilified. She did go on to be more specific about what exactly transpired, but not before dressing me down, along with dozens of her followers, for belittling her experience. I wanted to make it clear to her that I believed her situation was inappropriate, but she blocked me and gave me no outlet for follow up. Blocking anyone, let alone another woman, who is simply trying to get clarity doesn’t help our cause.
Then the men came after me. When I posted my last article ‘What Do Men Want?’ I wrote in my Twitter feed that I wanted to hear men’s feelings about their long-term relationships in a way that they might be ‘afraid’ of saying publicly. Granted, I did solicit responses from the generally hostile ‘Manosphere’. What I got from several of them was that they’re not afraid of talking about their experience. They simply don’t want to because they’re sick of women in general. (And, based on their comments, they’d prefer to hole up with what’s left of their money after two divorces and fuck only the new breed of virtual reality sex dolls.)
My antidote to all this angst was to go shoot some pool and drink $2 Tecates with my friend Matt. Now, Matt (not his real name) is about the most gentle of gentle men I’ve ever known. He is self-employed in the arts, takes care of his son part time, and drives a Prius. When I first met him just over a year ago when #MeToo was building, he said he was ‘shutting down’ from engaging with women. I didn’t press him at the time, only thought that he and I would never sleep together because I’m too fond of (appropriately) aggressive men.
During our pool game he told me about dating a PhD university professor who had abruptly ended their burgeoning relationships because of all the ways he had ‘hurt’ her. When he compared her interpretation of events with his own, it was clear that they were on different planets. His attempts to make his shoulder more comfortable for her head was him pulling away. Her experience of painful sex, after admitting it had been a long time since she’d had a lover, was him ‘hurting’ her during sex, even though she took control of their position.
Seeing his reputation and livelihood suddenly threatened by a woman whose experience was far different than his own shocked him. And even though this is an anecdote in a sea teaming with otherwise very clear sexual misconduct, his story nonetheless makes clear that men are beating their own drum of righteous indignation over the bad behavior of a few.
I believe most men and women are generally good and conscientious. But what’s going on in America is herd mentality, a ‘You’re either with us or against us.’ attitude that leaves no room for dissent and paints equivocation as a lack of support. I support women who have been abused and traumatized. I support men who have been falsely accused. I hate it that politics and justice are being sullied by the kangaroo court of public opinion.
What should we do to keep this ire and distrust between men and women from turning us off of sex and love and all those nice things associated with getting close to a person we fancy? Communicate. A lot. Confirm that you understand each other. Be nice. Don’t get shit faced drunk. Whatever you do, don’t turn a night of bad consensual sex into a tool of retribution.
So, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’ll move on to less fraught topics. Like kissing. Kissing is lovely. I’m working on my kissing skills. You should, too.
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