A Few Good Men
There are none
In 2018, SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 after she accused Elon Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, touching her, and badgering her for sexual favors in exchange for a horse. Musk has denied the charges, claiming they’re “politically-motivated,” and demanded the woman he abused—who is bound by a non-disclosure agreement—to describe his penis in detail as proof that her story is true.
Like most sexual abuse allegations against powerful men, this one didn’t shock me. Of course Musk—who we’ve known is a rank misogynist for over a decade—pulled his dick out in front of an employee. I wasn’t even surprised that the woman Musk harassed had been previously encouraged by her employers to obtain massage training (on her own dime) so that she could give the SpaceX founder massages during flights. Abuse wouldn’t be so common if there weren’t people willing to enable it.
And so I was mostly numb reading the details of the allegations against Musk, and his subsequent weaseling responses. We’ve become so habituated to it all, even the most horrific crimes can start to feel like background noise.
Another man, another allegation. Another rape, another groping. Another vile comment or catcall. Another woman pushed out of a company, or an entire field. Another swarm of defenders ready to malign any woman who dares speak up.
Over and over, again and again.
Yes, we’ve made progress. Legislation has changed, women share their stories more than we used to, and we’ve changed the way we talk about consent. But one chilling fact remains the same: Men’s violence against women is still treated as a given.
We teach girls how to protect themselves from predators rather than raising boys who don’t grow to be them; sexual harassment policies are more concerned with teaching employees to avoid liability than being decent humans; and our social expectation for the way men treat women rarely rises above the very low bar of ‘try not to break the law’.
Everything we do presupposes that men will never, ever stop raping and abusing us.
And why would they? It’s not as if there are any consequences to their behavior. If anything, we reward the men who hurt women.
The last president of the United States was a serial rapist and abuser; two Supreme Court justices accused of sexual harassment and assault are currently gearing up strip American women of fundamental human rights; and the majority of men outed for sexual wrongdoing since #MeToo aren’t just surviving, but thriving. They’re out there winning fucking Grammys and interviewing billionaires like nothing ever happened.
What are women meant to take away from all this? Certainly not that anyone gives a shit about our safety or wellbeing. After Louis CK won a Grammy for a comedy special where he joked about his abuse of women, one of his victims told Variety, “Nobody cares. That’s the message it sends...That’s the truth.”
I disagree. People do care—they just don’t care about women. They care very much, however, about the men accused of hurting us.
Last month, for example, The New York Times noted that Democrats running against Republicans accused of sexual or domestic violence aren’t using the allegations to show their opponent is unfit for office. They know doing so would have the sickening effect of making voters feel bad for the abusive men, and allow these Republicans to paint themselves as victims of ‘cancel culture’.
It’s already clear that Musk will play a similar hand, insisting he’s been unfairly targeted. His followers will do the same, or—as CK’s fans did after the comedian admitted to exposing himself to unwilling women—claim the behavior itself isn’t that bad.
That’s what I worry about the most: Normalization. In the past, the common response to women’s complaints about sexual violence has been “not all men.” Which, while infuriating, at least acknowledges that sexual assault and harassment are bad. But as more and more men are accused—as it becomes clear that it’s actually quite a lot of men who hurt women—“not all men” has given way to “this is just how men are.”
There have always been those who claim feminist efforts to curb sexual violence are actually just attempts to criminalize ‘natural’ male desire. But recently it feels like something is shifting, and what was once an outlier argument is becoming the norm.
In the same way we’re watching male legislators insist that birth control is actually abortion, we’re listening to men tell us that whipping their hard dicks out in front of employees is actually just run-of-the-mill flirting. Just a few weeks ago, a Fox News host laughingly told his audience that he got his now-wife to date him by letting the air out of her tires: “She couldn’t go anywhere!” These men have lost all sense of shame, because it’s clear to them they don’t need to have any to get what they want.
I try to stay optimistic, I really do. But the longer this kind of shit goes on, the clearer it becomes to me that there is nothing a man can do to a woman that the world won’t find some way to excuse.
And then I think about what an absolute miracle it is that women don’t hate all men. Given all they’ve done to us, we sure as fuck have a right to.
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