We Can All Do Better

We Can All Do Better

I believe Christine Blasey Ford

I was a teenager in the 1980s. Back then, girls were taught to fight off the advances of boys. Boys were taught to advance. Boys seemed to believe that it was their right to try and have sex with girls. They didn’t pursue this by having conversations or by building intimacy; they pursued sex by wearing you down, by pressing against you, by grabbing and groping, by begging and even crying. No one talked about consent. Yes meant yes. No meant keep trying. Girls who gave in were shamed and held accountable. Boys were lauded for their persistence.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, watch the teen movies of that era. Try Porky’s. Try Animal House. Try Revenge of the Nerds. Go have yourself a John Hughes film fest and then get back to me with your objections.

When I read Christine Blasey Ford’s account of her 1980s-era assault by Brett Kavanaugh, I believed every word. It was all so familiar. The only difference being that the boys I knew were more likely to someday appear before court than to preside over it. No matter the neighborhood, it was a time when many boys would try every conceivable thing to get what they wanted from a girl. Some tried the inconceivable. 

Ford’s story rings true because a lie would be so much easier. A good lie would be unambiguous and impervious to misinterpretation. The reason she’s kept this assault to herself for so many years is because she understands the consequences of telling such a story. 

She knows people will hear her story and say:

So what? Nothing really happened. You weren’t raped. Boys will be boys. 

She knows people will hear her story and blame her.

Why were you at a party with no adults? Why were you drinking? Why were you parading around in a bathing suit? What did you expect?

She knows people will hear her story and question her motives. 

Why now? It’s been more than three decades. Who put you up to this?

Maybe boys today still behave the way boys did in the past. I hope not, but I don’t know. What I do know is that a 17-year-old boy who, along with his friend, ambushes a 15-year-old girl, pins her down, tries to pull off her clothes, and puts his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming, should not be rewarded with increasingly more power as he moves forward through his life.

I know a lot of people are inclined to cast this incident as a youthful indiscretion, but at 17 Kavanaugh was old enough to enlist in the military and mere months away from being able to vote. At 15, Ford was still years away from those adult responsibilities and privileges. One of these people was on the cusp of adulthood. The other was just a year or less out of middle school. And do we really want to start giving a free pass to the teen rapists of the world?

If you find yourself defending Kavanaugh, I urge you to step back and think about how you’d feel if the exact same incident happened to your daughter or your wife or your mother or your sister. The truth is, something similar probably has happened to one or more of the women in your life. This kind of thing happens a lot, but just because something is common doesn’t make it acceptable. Just because something happened a long time ago doesn’t make it irrelevant. 

Surely, in all of America, we can find a qualified Supreme Court candidate who never attempted to rape anyone. 

Is that really too much to ask?

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Tiffany Quay Tyson

THE PAST IS NEVER, a southern gothic novel steeped in local lore, is available now. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance deemed it an Okra Pick. Tyson's debut novel THREE RIVERS was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and now lives, writes, and teaches in Denver, Colorado.
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