Sixteen Candles, MTV, and Brett Kavanaugh: Did I Assault Someone Too? What I Thought Was Masculinity

I have no doubt that in fifty years, the current administration will appear in textbooks as a defining moment in American history. One that took all of our glaring problems in this country, and laid them out for all to see, bared to the harsh light of day like some stained shirt worn too often that it has become threadbare, but comfortable. Ripped, yet still fits. And in the warm light of nostalgia and comfort and habit, we kept wearing that shirt until we saw our reflection while outside in that unforgiving light and we’ve seen what we’ve become. That is perhaps the one saving grace to President Trump and his administration, they’ve laid it all out there and now we have to look at it. The question becomes what do we do about it.

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has brought forth some real issues even before this fiasco with the accusations, and the testimony of Dr. Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that we have so very far to go as a nation. Hell, as a species. And men have much, much to answer for. However the healing cannot start with accusations and who’s to blame, but by acceptance of who we are and acknowledge what we were. That is why I say I too was part of the problem, that I was fully accepting of the culture of misogyny and objectification of women and practiced it. Hell, everybody did, but that doesn’t make it right.

I grew up in the 80s, where our male idols were James Bond, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis. The quickest way to solve a problem was to kill it or blow it up, and the best way to win a woman’s heart or your way into her pants was to rip them off or blow something up. We had Hugh Hefner and his mansion and grotto, and music videos who all told us the same thing: Power, from either money or guns or muscles or fame, was all that mattered. Intelligence was fine, but without the other things you were nothing. Women were a prize to be won or to be protected once you had them, as they were clearly incapable of defending themselves. There were videos and books that taught us that any man, given the right tools and circumstances could get any girl. That’s why sometimes when you heard “no,” it really meant try harder, push harder until they say yes, because they needed you, a man. Hell, even us nerds had a chance, if you believed John Hughes and Micheal Anthony Hall, but every man alive knew the girls wanted Judd Nelson, the bad boy. And every girl alive knew the bad boys were really hurt boys and they just needed a good woman to fix them. Is it any wonder that men, when denied by women, would go totally apeshit? And thus is it any wonder why so many women fear men with this mentality lurking behind so many adult males today? Because we were told, in so many ways, that we are entitled to women.

I was totally immersed in that culture, I loved those movies and videos and tried so very hard to be that bad but good guy that women wanted. So why am I not a rapist? Why have I not sexually assaulted women? Who’s to say I’m not. The scary thing is I may have assaulted a woman and I never knew that I did it, because some actions were so commonplace I wouldn’t have thought twice. I remember once walking down the hallway at school and a female friend of mine was bent over picking something up off the floor, so of course I gave her ass a good smack. You saw it all the time, just a nice little how ya do to perk you up. I regretted it immediately because I knew it was wrong. I still carry that shame to this day because she deserved better, and if she’s reading this I hope she knows how sorry I am.

Another time, a few years later, I was partying at my fraternity house and though I never became a full brother, I still love those guys and would give a kidney for any of them. No, it was not a frat house like you may be thinking of. Sure, it smelled of men and cheap cologne and cheaper beer, but the brothers were all nearly as nerdy as me. And Jewish. Why did I, some dude named Christian, pledge a Jewish frat? Because it was filled with guys like me. A bunch of nerds and geeks and nice guys. Honestly, we were probably the least likely house for someone to get sexually assaulted in. Hell, I think a few of the brothers were taken advantage of by girls, not the other way around. Anyway, I was at a party there and late into the night (or early the next day) I found myself crashing on the floor, next to a girl crashing on the couch. She was in a compromising position and I reached for her, but I stopped. She woke up a little, smiled drunkenly and tried to pull me closer, but I didn’t let her. I got up and stumbled away. Why? Wasn’t I entitled to have a good time? Wasn’t she asking for it? Nope, on either count.

I don’t regret that decision at all (especially since she threw up gloriously a few minutes later), but yet some of my friends ragged on me for not doing it. Because that was, and still is the culture. That men want and need sex all the time. Yet if I had, what would that make me today? I’d still be a rapist, an abuser. Even if I lived the straight and narrow the rest of my life, it would never erase that moment, but people who commit acts like that rarely see it as a mistake and correct their course. They see that they can get away with it, that their God and MTV given rights to women have been fulfilled and they will continue to find ways to exert their power over them, usually in more and more terrible fashion.

I did not, and I have my parents to thank for that. I was hardly a paragon of righteous behavior, and there were many other instances where I danced along the border of sexual malfeasance, but for the most part I did my parents proud. My mother taught me how to treat a woman with respect, how working and cleaning around the house was not “helping the little lady” but part of my responsibility as a man. My father taught me how to provide for my family and to defend its honor. He taught me how to defend myself, but that real strength doesn’t come from fists or muscles, but being there even if sometimes you don’t want to be. To be there for my spouse, my family and my friends. So I was and still am one of the “good guys,” but I didn’t finish last. Maybe I didn’t give it up as early as many did, or have as many partners, but I don’t regret that either.

What I do regret is not coming to the defense of women more often, of not telling my friends and acquaintances that certain behaviors were not okay. I regret laughing at stories that I now realize were wrong, of encouraging behaviors that today I see echoed in our society and by this administration and it makes me sad that I wasn’t stronger. But like I said, I have to accept that the way it was. I cannot change that and nor should I, I should not try to bury the uncomfortable past but instead work to make sure it stays where it belongs, in the past.

We, as Americans, have a long history of looking the other way at our own behaviors and at the behavior of others that might be similar to our own. American men are especially guilty of this, in particular, White American Men. I think this is the reason that so many men seem upset by the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I think many men responded with anger and derision because many men have been in this position, whether they acted on it or only wanted to, and they are ashamed of what they did. Or hurt to think that their actions were not okay, because to them it was their right to do so. They were entitled to that woman, remember? Had Brett Kavanaugh admitted to what he did, I would have had more respect for him. Had his party not sought to discredit this woman so much, I would have had more respect for them, but they are weak. They are weak men and they know it but are still trying to act strong and are punishing her to make themselves feel stronger.

We, as men, must see that we have and are continuing to try and bring down women, to lessen them, to make them feel like less so we can feel stronger, because if it’s one thing the American Male cannot abide, is to feel weak, but what they do not understand is that to empower women, to empower other men, to empower African Americans and Latinos and anyone else who is “other” is the true test of strength. Anyone can tear something down and destroy it. A child can do it. It takes real strength to build someone up, to support them, and then admit when they don’t need you to anymore.

So far, all this administration has done was tear down the worth of others, blame others for their own failures, and sought to secure their own power. This is the action of hateful, vengeful children. What we need are strong men to pull back up the strong women that have been hurled down, and put them where they belong: not beneath us, or beside us, or even in front of us. They belong wherever they damn well please and it’s beyond time to get out of their way.

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