The worst thing about the Jeffrey Epstein case, without question, is the insult, the callous intrusion and ultimately the terrible damage that his pedophiliac behavior inflicted upon the dozens of young women and girls who were his victims, the targets of his methodical, malignant schemes. They were violated. If there were a first amendment of basic existence, it would be that we are, in our very bodies and minds that constitute our personhood, sacrosanct. Others may disparage us or honor us, take advantage of us for their own gain or support us as fellow human beings. But whatever their intent, be it magnanimous or selfish, the right of trespass stops no later than the shell of skin that encompasses our being.
Epstein, a narcissist at the very least, cared not a whit for the right of females not to be touched, coerced and violated. The satisfaction of his compulsions was all that mattered to him.
However, the second-worst thing about his saga of abuse, as it has unfolded in recent days, is how not unusual it is. It’s merely the latest in a cavalcade of episodes that should make men think about the fact that the women who seem to live alongside them in fact inhabit a different reality; theirs is a world in which, on some level, they are made to feel like prey.
For, before it was Epstein it was Larry Nassar, physician for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, imprisoned in 2018 for violating some 150 vulnerable young athletes whose paths to success led through his “examination” room and his determinative authority over their careers.
Before Nassar it was Roy Moore, a former federal judge whom the Republican Party in Alabama thought worthy of a seat in the United States Senate. There may have been no recent allegations against Moore, but a series of women accused him of stalking, harassing and in some cases attacking them when they were teenage girls and he was a young, but adult man in his 30s.
It’s important to state that sexuality lies upon a continuum. What excites some men doesn’t excite all men, but we have established laws and boundaries because some of the attractions upon that continuum, when acted upon, harm other people. We are responsible for staying within those boundaries. There’s no evidence that Moore even tried to do so, and decades later his default position is to accuse his accusers of lying. That stretches credulity. To the extent that their politics are known, those former girls — women now — are Alabama Republicans. Risking their reputations, and even their safety, they aired a truth they believed voters should know.
Moore lost that special election in 2017. Narcissistically, he’s planning to run again in 2020. If he does, he shouldn’t get a single vote. But he will get thousands.
The allegations tumble out like the contents of a foul piñata. A year ago it was Brett Kavanaugh seeking confirmation as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. He, too, faced credible accusations of sexually abusive behavior toward young women years earlier, which he denied with such self-righteous hostility that many legal scholars believed his intemperate conduct before the Senate Judiciary should disqualify him regardless of the truth or error of the accusations. One could imagine a different Kavanaugh apologizing, acknowledging his youthful misbehavior, perhaps proving himself worthy of the position he eventually attained anyway. But that would, indeed, be a different Kavanaugh.
And the toll keeps climbing: Roger Ailes; Bill O’Reilly; the unspeakable film producer Harvey Weinstein; Rob Porter, the president’s former staff secretary, forced to resign in February 2018 when it was revealed that both his former wives told police he had assaulted them; the president himself, whose denials of sexual harassment made by perhaps a dozen women are undercut by a recording of him bragging about the selfsame behavior. (He has dismissed the charges made against him by some women by saying, “She’s not my type,” implying that women who aren’t abused aren’t worthy of it.)
It’s a bipartisan scourge upon our nation’s women and girls; note Bill Clinton’s callousness toward women who exposed his malfeasance. How far back shall we go? Clarence Thomas? Earlier?
What men should ponder is that this is the female experience in our country. And that it is men, and men alone, who can end it by perceiving their own abusive or insensitive behavior, apologizing for it and ending it; by not condoning it by their friends, their peers, their coworkers, their candidates.
In other words, by being men, in a good way.