Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Cosby Show

It surely looks like the cultural icon is a serial rapist. At least I can't see any plausible alternative explanation for the combination of the long string of accusations against him and his response to them.

It disappoints us, but it shouldn't surprise us. The examples of men, and yes, a few women, abusing their power for sexual aggression continue to accumulate: Priests, rabbis, teachers, coaches, entertainers, athletes, executives. At lehree recent US Presidents have been accused of rape, not to mention numerous foreign leaders.

In some ways these victims are victims not just of their predators but of pervasive myths that our society has persuaded itself of - myths that were generated in order to redress some old grievances. Not so many generations ago it was widely assumed that women alone in a world of men were chickens in a fox coop - or goldfish in the piranha tank - and that a woman alone needed a chaperone. Feminists quite rightly complained that such rules were used to oppress women and deny them opportunities, but they also seem to have assumed quite wrongly that complaining about men behaving badly would be an effective deterrent to the sorts of bad behavior that the old system aimed to prevent.

I don't buy the extreme notion that all men are rapists just waiting for an unsuspecting victim, but history and crime statistics show that a very significant percentage are. It's not implausible that men drawn to aggressive and dominant behavior - athletes, soldiers, politicians - are more likely perps, but there are plenty of priests and teachers on the prowl too.

Women in the military are very likely to be raped or molested. This was a predictable (and predicted) consequence of the extensive integration of women into more forward elements of the military. Once again, these victims are victims not just of their predators but also of magical thinking - the assumption that just because some rearrangement of society looks more just, things can be arranged that way.

I think that the "blank slate" view of human nature is also at fault here - the assumption that people can be molded to behave according to some ideal that someone has. Human nature is powerfully and extensively shaped by our genes. Refusal to acknowledge that has real consequences - though it does give feminists plenty of things to whine about.