Don’t Blame Us

Don’t Blame Us

It’s not women’s fault when men do bad things.

Here are the news stories I can’t stop thinking about:

  1. The arrest of alleged sex trafficker and child molester Jeffrey Epstein;
  2. The two Mississippi gubernatorial candidates who refuse to meet alone with women who aren’t their wives;
  3. And reports of a handful of New Jersey judges who don’t seem to believe rape is all that serious.

What do all these stories have in common? They all deal with situations in which women and girls are treated as objects instead of people.

I know it’s not as grievous to live by the so-called Billy Graham Rule as it is to rent young girls out for sex, but it all starts in the same place. It starts with the idea that females aren’t fully human. It starts with the notion that females are sexual objects, temptresses, baby making factories, wives, or whores. Women exist as a vessel for a man’s needs or desires. Women exist as a projection of a man’s fears. Women exist as a convenient place to lay blame. This idea is rampant in our current times.

Man pointing finger.
Point that finger somewhere else, Mister.

Look at the case of Judge John Russo Jr. of New Jersey. When a woman petitioned for a restraining order against the man who raped her, he asked: “do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” He went on to offer her some advice. “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?” This judge believed this woman was responsible for her own rape. It wasn’t the first time he’d made such an argument. In Russo’s courtroom, women aren’t victims; they are failures and liars. A woman who gets raped just didn’t try hard enough to stay un-raped. She’s to blame.

This attitude seems to be a staple of the New Jersey justice system. There’s Judge James Troiano who refused to try a 16-year-old rapist as an adult because he “came from a good family” and a conviction might hurt his chances to get into a good college. There are women-hating females like Judge Marcia Silva, also of New Jersey, who said a 16-year-old boy who raped a 12-year-old girl shouldn’t be tried as an adult because it was not “an especially heinous or cruel offense.” The girl, according to the judge, lost nothing but her virginity and that’s no big deal. (I have to wonder if Judge Silva was ever actually a girl herself. It seems unfathomable that anyone who was ever a 12-year-old girl could make these statements.)

These judges are variously under investigation, suspended, or have resigned, but they were allowed to dispense their peculiar views of justice for decades in the Garden State. And while these judges didn’t set up a sex ring and pimp out children, they helped create the world that made it possible.

So, too, did those Mississippi politicians who refuse to meet alone with women even in a professional environment. They insist that the only way they can behave is to keep the women out of their orbit. It’s sort of like a person on a diet who knows the only way he’ll be able to resist the temptation of ice cream is to avoid bringing ice cream into his home. But women are not ice cream. We’re not optional or frivolous or bad for your health. Women are like water. You actually need us to survive.

Epstein, of course, is the lowest of the low here. And even he puts forth arguments that he’s not the one to blame. At one point he said to writer Michael Wolff: “What can I say, I like young girls.” As if it were all beyond his control. As if he were a hungry man being presented with a gallon of ice cream. How is he supposed to resist? The implication, from him and from so many others, is that he isn’t expected to resist. Not really. Epstein paid big money to legal scumbags (Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz and others) to dig up dirt on his accusers, all in an effort to convince the judicial system that the girls were at fault or were not the sort of girls who warranted protection.

Epstein explains this by insisting that he is not a sexual predator, but merely a sexual offender. What he means, of course, is that he doesn’t believe he is preying on young girls; he believes he has the right to them. It’s not his fault if some pesky laws make his preferences inconvenient. And why wouldn’t he believe that? After all, his views were reinforced by men like former U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who signed off on Epstein’s incredibly lenient sentence in Florida a decade ago.

None of this is new. There are numerous examples of women taking the blame throughout history and mythology. Both Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, but Eve gets the bad rap. It’s enough.

If a man or boy rapes a woman or girl, he’s a rapist. It doesn’t matter what the girl was wearing or how she looked. It doesn’t matter if he’s a good student and she’s not. It’s not her fault. No one should ever tell a woman to “close her legs” to prevent a rape. The only person who can prevent a rape is the rapist. And no adult man should ever lurk on the social media pages of adolescent girls to find justification for the sick pervert who conscripted her into his sexual pyramid scheme. It’s not her fault that men like Jeffrey Epstein exist. And if a man cannot be alone with a woman who isn’t his wife for fear he might give into temptation, he should stay home with his wife. He doesn’t belong on the campaign trail or in any public office. It’s not some female reporter’s fault that he can’t be trusted.

Women have been on the hook for men’s sins for too long. It isn’t our fault that some men are rapists. It isn’t our fault that some men are jerks. It isn’t our fault that some boys blow their chances at a bright future when they rape a girl at some drunken high school party. Men and boys need to start taking full responsibility for their actions. No finger pointing. No blame shifting. No ridiculous explanations wrapped up in religious piety. If you’re the sort of man who can’t be trusted to do the right thing, then you should deal with the consequences. Leave the rest of us out of it.

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Tiffany Quay Tyson

THE PAST IS NEVER is the winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, the Mississippi Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, and the Mississippi Author Award for Adult Fiction (selected by the Mississippi Library Association). The novel is shortlisted for the prestigious Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. This southern gothic novel steeped in local lore was selected as an "Okra Pick" by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. 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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