Hi y’all, it’s been quiet around here because the creative section of my brain has been a bit of a wasteland lately. Sometimes I’ll try to draw on news that catches my eye when I’m running low on topics to write about, but the news the past few months has been horrible in a pretty overwhelming way, plus there’s been so much written about GooberGoat etc. that I haven’t felt like I have much to contribute beyond growling and angry handwaving, which doesn’t make for exciting reading.
But! There’s nothing like Dudes Being Terrible About Rape to get the ol’ rage gland working overtime, so here I am.
So it’s been pretty clearly established at this point that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. I haven’t been following this too closely because the moment famous folks get accused of rape then the victim-blaming and smear campaigns start, and I have limited mental resources to deal with that, but I have no problem saying that I 100% believe he has raped many people and is a deeply shitty dude.
This morning I read that some douchebag on CNN named Don Lemon decided to ask Joan Tarshis, one of the women he assaulted, why she didn’t think to chomp down on his dick while he forced her to perform oral sex. First off, can you even believe how fucking terrifying it must be just to come forward about an assault perpetrated by a man beloved by most of America, and answer questions about it on national television? That would be a huge and stressful undertaking even with the sweetest, most supportive interviewer ever, and instead she got this asshole. Can we as a nation send her a fruit basket or something?
But beyond the basic respect and decency that should stop someone from asking an interview subject why she didn’t do something in particular to prevent her own rape, this betrays a complete lack of understanding of rape and how rapists operate.
Rapists can use physical force, sure, but often they will rely more heavily on intimidation, coercion, or their own power and reputation to keep victims from fighting back. What does Lemon think would have happened if Tarshis had bitten Cosby during that incident? That he’d say “oh golly, the pain has made me realize I’m a shithead of a rapist and I’ll let you go now, no hard feelings” and that would be the end of it? Is he that fucking clueless? People love to pull the “why didn’t you fight back” line all the time, but fighting can put someone at even greater risk, especially if they’re physically or mentally impaired or their rapist is much larger or stronger.
Plus, in sexual assault situations it’s very common for folks to freeze up in shock, or confusion, or as a defense mechanism out of hope that things will be over quickly. It’s super easy for me, or Lemon, or anyone else to say “this is how you should have handled it. Here’s what I’d do. Why didn’t you just do this?” when in fact no one can know how they’d react to that sort of situation until they’re in it. Hell, maybe in the moment you’re so surprised that by the time you are able to make a plan, it’s too late to act at all.
When someone discloses their rape to you, you don’t ask why they didn’t react the way you think they should. You say “I’m sorry that happened to you.” You say “it isn’t your fault.” You ask “how can I support you right now?”
Setting all this aside, though, this wasn’t even “just” a case of a famous person coercing someone into sex. This was an instance of a man DRUGGING HIS TARGET. I’m not sure how anyone can make a case that a woozy, disoriented person should have an active hand of fighting off or dissuading someone bent on rape. And in a case like this, there’s no ambiguity about his intentions to rape her. Why the fuck else would he drug her drink?
And folks wring their hands and wonder why people don’t report rapes more. Famous people or not, this is what happens. We worry about “ruining the life” of the guilty party and pick apart the survivor’s story, looking for mistakes.
PS: Lemon made this sorry-ass statement today:
As I am a victim myself I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape. If my question to her struck anyone as insensitive, I am sorry as that is certainly, was not, my intention.
It’s the classic “if I did this [not saying I did], I didn’t mean to hurt anyone by it [because I have no duty to consider the impact of my word choice haha]” non-pology! A textbook example showing no understanding of the situation or intent to do better. Well done.