I was flipping through the radio last week, trying to find something between the static and the mattress commercials. I stumbled upon Bubba the Love Sponge on 98 Rock. My two dogs, innocent mounds of fur nosing me from the back seat, jumped when I responded to just a few moments of the show with, “What the fuck?”
Bubba (Todd Clem is his given name) mentioned a listener who accused Bubba’s morning radio show of promoting rape. Bubba assured us — me, shaking in my seat, because I knew what was coming — that he isn’t pro-rape. Thank god. No, Bubba just thinks that a lot of women have consensual sex and then go back to their girlfriends, who shame them, and put out fake accusations of rape.
Again, what the fuck, Bubba?
I knew what Bubba was going to say because I’ve heard it before. Like many men before him, Bubba is a member of the “Well, actually,” club, a large, potentially vast group of men who think they know more than women. They correct women with a very specific form of mansplaining, one that always begins with, “Well, actually,” followed by their version of the truth.
You’ve seen the absolute barrage of allegations of sexual misconduct against men in Hollywood, and beyond, in the past couple of months. I don’t find the accusers’ stories hard to believe, maybe because I am a woman, maybe because I, like so many others, have my own “story.” What I find unconvincing are the muttered, whispered, clenched-teeth apologies, denials, and excuses: I have a hard time believing that men accused of sexual misconduct think they’ve done anything wrong.
It started, recently, of course, with Harvey Weinstein, who issued an official apology on Oct. 5. He said, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.” Well, actually, it’s not my fault.
Women across the country felt empowered after hearing stories from other women who suffered the same abuse they’d been through. And it isn’t just women — men, too have been harassed by other men in power, and now they’re sharing what happened to them. Anthony Rapp is the first of 15 accusers to come forward and accuse Kevin Spacey of attempted sexual misconduct. On Oct. 29 Spacey tweeted a response to Rapp’s accusations, “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.” Well, actually, is it even my fault? If anything happened, I was drunk.
Earlier this month it was Louis C.K. On Fri. Nov. 10 The New York Times printed his apology, “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was O.K. because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true.” Well, actually, I asked first, so, big deal.
There are the denials, too. Ed Westwick. Casey Affleck. Bill Cosby. When confronted with allegations of misconduct all three men have claimed innocence.
Excuses. Years ago a man turned to me as I lay half asleep, bleary-eyed and confused. He said, “You were supposed to hook up with me.” That was his excuse, that was my burden. Well, actually.
No, Bubba, women don’t run to their girlfriends, get shamed, and falsely accuse men of rape. No, Harvey, women don’t have to accept your culture of harassment. No Kevin, young men don’t forget attempted sexual misconduct by older, more powerful men. No, Louis C.K., women don’t have to listen to you ask them about your dick, let alone see it.
There’s no such thing as “Well, actually.” There’s the truth and there’s the pain. Don’t let a man accused of sexual misconduct have the last word.
Don’t accept a half-assed apology.
Don’t cower in the face of denial.
Don’t accept a society that excuses sexual harassment.
Our words are louder than their silence.
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