Self reckoning

For the record, I was never a fan of Judge Kavanagh as a SCOTUS nominee; far too conservative for me. I also need to note that as a young man, I was once a volunteer at a women’s shelter and have a unique perspective on issues regarding sexual assault. As an English teacher, I am all about context – and transparency. That being said, this is my perspective, one I have thought about seriously before sharing. If you disagree, that is fine. I don’t wish to engage in a back-and-forth on this; it is simply a commentary.  I just want to share a different perspective.

Most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

Yes, I said and mean ‘most’.  I understand that many will see that as hyperbole, and I also understand that it is a broad brush to paint an entire generation with, but I also believe it. I stand by the statement above: most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

High school, college, in their twenties – most heterosexual men of my generation have, at some point in time, gone too far with a woman, physically or verbally. I am comfortable saying that most men of my generation have at some point pushed beyond whatever boundaries there may have been in place, with varying degrees of consequences (if any) for themselves.

Not so the females involved.

I can say this based on a variety of tangible and intangible factors including, but not limited to

  • Well documented, reliable statistics
  • The glorification of such male ‘exploits’ in popular culture (music, movies, television)
  • The personal experiences of most yes, (that word again) of the women I know who are roughly the same age and demographic, plus the experiences of many of the younger women I know
  • My own, personal experiences with girls and women

Statistically, even just scratching the surface the numbers are grim: one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, one in three women experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Nearly eighty-percent of women report getting catcalled, or whistled at, or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature.

When you break things down statistically, in all categories those numbers are much higher for women of color, and also those women on the lower ends of the socio-economic scale.

My personal experience with women I know would seem to roughly parallel those statistics, so I have little reason to doubt their veracity.  The scary thing is, that is just amongst women I know who have spoken (publicly or privately) about these issues.  I am quite certain that there are many women I know who have not shared their experiences with me.

The raw numbers alone are sobering.

Here is why I believe that most males of my generation have their judge Kavanagh moment: If I know this many victims, I must, percentage-wise, also know roughly this many perpetrators.

Myself included.

As men, if we are being honest with ourselves we must acknowledge our complicity in the problem here, how pervasive the ‘boys-will-be-boys’ mentality has influenced us. Gentlemen, who among us could, under oath, swear that we had never gone too far in some respect?  How many of us have never made a crude sexual comment or request directly to a girl or woman?  How many of us, in the heat of a moment, failed to heed the request of a to a girl or woman to ‘stop’ or ‘wait a minute’ or even ignored a flat-out ‘no’ – at least the first time such a protestation was made – even in the most seemingly benign of situations?

Looking back on my life as honestly as possible, I can certainly think of at least a few instances where I crossed some sort of line with coercion, ignoring signs or statements,  or simply not stopping something when asked the first time. And those are just scattered situations where I am thinking of.

People – women – who have known me at various stages in my life may have different takes.

I am just six years older than judge Kavanagh; it is reasonable to say that we are of the same generation. His testimony the other day about his youthful drinking habits did not shock me, as I believe that what he was describing was, while not necessarily typical behavior was certainly not an anomaly. Nor I would guess, was it seen so by most members of the senate committee (and the US. Senate as a whole) because they too had their youthful indiscretions in regards to a lot of things – beer, and drinking in general. Not uncommon.

They seem oblivious because they are; most of the committee members hail from a generation older than Judge Kavanaugh or myself.  News flash: wink-wink, boys-will-be-boys is learned behavior. Look at the people on that panel through that lens and all of this grotesque spectacle makes a lot more sense.

While there has been some rather pointed scorn, ridicule, and satire leveled on Kavanagh for all of his thirty-odd mentions of his like for beer, one thought keeps coming back to me in regards to the entire situation as most on both sides seem to agree: there was a lot of teenage partying and shenanigans going on…but little or no sexual stuff.

I call bullshit on that entire concept.

Somehow, I am expected to believe that a bunch of teenagers and college students, with their not-fully-developed prefrontal and frontal cortexes could regularly add copious amounts of alcohol to their social interactions, and yet still have the capacity to know where to draw the line in terms of sexual activity with any veracity at all?

Bullshit.

Men of my age, I have a question: how many of us have a story or two that we still tell (either humorously or as a cautionary tale) about some youthful indiscretion – sexual or otherwise?  How many of those incidents involve alcohol use (yours or by peers that sucked you into their orbit) and how many occurred stone-cold sober?  How many of your stories that involve youthful drinking would probably not have happened at all was it not for alcohol-fueled judgment?

Can’t break that down into percentages?  Try the math on this one: how many of those stories you know tell – gleefully or ruefully – were a direct result of you being an idiot teenager with a not fully developed brain? If you want to say ‘100%’ I’m good with that.

The fact that so many of the players in this drama (on all sides) are so blasé about the drinking culture that is being arduously rehashed over and over and won’t or don’t make the connection between the drinking and its links to other inappropriate behavior speaks to their privilege and their age; “Hey, it’s just we did back then.”

Thus, most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

Most females of my generation have their judge Kavanagh moment, but from a far different perspective – as victims. They unfortunately also have their Dr. Ford moment.  In many cases, multiple such moments.

Where does this leave me?  Having been a teenager of roughly the same vintage as Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, understanding the problematic nature of the pervasiveness of boys-will-be-boys culture, having shepherded three children of my own through their teen years and been an observer of multiple nieces and nephews spanning the same, plus ten years of teaching high school English, I say this with confidence:  to me, Dr. Ford’s accusations and recollections are credible and believable, Judge Kavanaugh’s denials about the incidents and chummy culture of his youthful times are not.

You want me to believe that teenaged drinking started and ended with just drinking?

Bullshit.

Overall, we need to look at the big picture here as a country, and address some hard issues: does youthful indiscretion preclude one from public service as an adult?  Hopefully not, or the candidate pool then becomes very small. The bigger question to me is, was this teenaged behavior something someone grows out of, or did it set a pattern that carried on into adulthood?  There has to be a distinction there.  Most crucial is this: can the accused person not see or acknowledge how their behavior impacted others, or how it may retroactively be seen in a different light?

To not see this all-in logical context – teenagers and drinking can, and often does, lead to other misbehavior – I think requires a special sort of denial. To think that a group of teens drinking excessively or on a regular basis always knew where to draw the line defies logic.

Most males of my generation have their Judge Kavanaugh moment.

The bottom line for me is Dr. Ford’s accusations and recollections are credible and believable, Judge Kavanaugh’s denials about the incidents and culture of his youthful times are not.

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One thought on “Self reckoning

  1. Woodhouses September 29, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Very well written Mark! Thanks for your view of human beings! So true!

    Like

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