That’s What It’s Like

jello-pudding-pops-bill-cosbyI was listening to an exchange between CNN’s Don Lemon and Joan Tarshis, the latest in a dozen-plus women to come out and tell her story about being raped by Bill Cosby.  She says she was drugged and, as she came to, he was pulling off her panties; she was smart and quick-thinking in the moment (applause!) and said she had a disease, that if he had intercourse with her his wife would find out. So he made her give him a blow job instead.  And all Don wanted to know was why she didn’t bite his penis. (you can watch or read the full exchange here)

Translate: Why did you let that happen?

Translate: It’s your fault.

Being drugged and afraid and raped — by a powerful celebrity no less, an icon, The Cosby Show Dad, King of Jello Pudding — is not enough; you have to take the blame for it, too.

If you are a woman or a young girl listening to or reading this exchange, this is what you’ve learned:  If you are raped, your credibility and your inability to think on your feet — or think on your knees, as it were — will be questioned.  And boy doesn’t that sound like something you want to get into to ruin your already ruined life?

That’s what it’s like to be a woman, after being raped.

___________________

One of the last questions my mother asked me before she died was this:  Did any of the men in my life ever do anything to you?  I knew instantly what she meant, and she knew I knew.  She was in her hospice bed, with rails.  I remember she could not look at me.  I remember reaching through the cold rails and rubbing my hand up and down her arm as I said, “No, of course not.”  Which was the truth.

How devastating that this was something she was worried about, that this had obviously gnawed at her for years, and yet she never asked.  Until the very end.  Why?  Because she was terrified of the answer.  Why?  Because she could not die without knowing.  Why?  Maybe she knew she could not have lived with the answer.

That’s what it’s like to be the mother of a girl.

I’ll never know.  She died 6 days later, relieved.

And even if something had happened, which it didn’t, I would have lied to her in that moment.  I would have spared her that.

That’s what it’s like to be a girl with a mother.

_____________________

Today I read the words of a woman my age (50-ish), a former defense attorney, about what she thinks about making Consent a Law.  No means no, and all that.  She said it’s not that simple, and she’s right.

She said that when she was young she would say “no” even if she wanted to have sex, because saying “no” at first, even though she wanted to, meant that she was a good girl.  It proved something.  I knew exactly what she meant.  When I was a teen I knew I had to say no at first, because that proved I was talked into it, that I was, maybe, just stupid for agreeing.  If I’d said yes right off, that proved something completely different, that I was a slut or a whore or dirty or easy.  Saying “no” was a way of maintaining some weird semblance of virtue.  It was so much easier to be thought of as “stupid” than “easy.”

That’s what it’s like to be a young girl who wants to have sex with one person, her steady boyfriend of 3 years.

_____________________

I just listened to a prosecuting attorney discuss rape charges that were filed years ago against Bill Cosby.  (you can find it here)  He said he believed the accuser, but that she’d come forward too long after-the-fact and lacked physical evidence.  He said he interviewed Bill Cosby, who vowed innocence, and knew Cosby was lying.  He could not file charges because he knew, even though he thought the woman was telling the truth and her rapist was lying, there was not enough proof.

That’s what it’s like.

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16 thoughts on “That’s What It’s Like

  1. tdapra

    I’ve been mostly ignoring this story until this morning, because I didn’t want to think of Bill Cosby as a predator. I wanted to maintain my image of him as a father figure, a funny and sweet man. But then I read Ta-Nehisi Coates piece in The Atlantic, aptly titled “The Rape Accusations Against Bill Cosby Must Not Be Ignored”: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/the-cosby-show/382891/

    I already posted this on Facebook, so forgive the duplication, but it bears repeating here. Coates gives a fantastic metaphor to explain the shame rape victims carry, which is so misunderstood and misrepresented in public dialogue:

    “Rape constitutes the loss of your body, which is all you are, to someone else. I have never been raped. But I have, several times as a child, been punched/stomped/kicked/bumrushed while walking home from school, and thus lost my body. The worst part for me was not the experience, but the humiliation of being unable to protect my body, which is all I am, from predators. Even now as I sketch this out for you publicly, I am humiliated all again. And this happened when I was a child. If recounting a physical assault causes me humiliation, how might recounting a sexual assault feel? And what would cause me to willingly stand up and relive that humiliation before a national audience? And why would I fake my way through such a thing?”

    1. Teri Post author

      It’s interesting you say that Tara, about ignoring it all for awhile. I did the same, but just because I knew it would go nowhere. He’s Bill Cosby, after all, and too much time has passed.

      But today I saw the Don Lemon interview and I was so angry I could barely contain myself.

      1. Joe Ponepinto

        It will be very interesting to watch what happens in California, now that they’ve passed such a “yes means yes” law. On the plus side, perhaps it will give some women courage to say no, knowing that there is at least a legal (although future) power behind the word. On the minus side, some proponents of the law (such as Amanda Hess) say that body language plays a part in yes-or-no communications, and that’s going to render that law almost as ineffective as what came before.

        But frankly, the idea of government now regulating sexual activity in this way is beyond Orwell’s 1984. We rail at the government for hacking our cell phones, listening to conversations about where to have dinner, but we now invite them into the bedroom? Hardly anyone ever talks about educating both men and women to act as responsible adults. We don’t have to be the unthinking animals that this law assumes.

  2. daninstockholm

    I grew up with Cosby, and as with so many of us, it saddens me deeply to hear about this. I also wanted, as TDAPRA says above, I wanted to believe his image of the wholesome clever guy who was too gentle to hurt anyone. It points to a continuing problem, not just in my homeland, the US, but here in Sweden where it’s an even bigger problem,, that is that rape is still greatly misunderstood in the courts of law and by the investigating police. Until the laws and courts actually break away from the patriachal view of (non) consent and begin to see rape from the victims point of view, which by the way is the one being raped, then we’ll continue to have these crimes not only happening but continuing to be both unpunished but even worse unreported.

  3. donnaeve

    Ho boy.

    First off, like others, I didn’t want to believe that Cosby (Cosby for God’s sake!), was such a creep. Then again, we (girls/women) don’t ever want to believe that our fathers, brothers, uncles, male cousins, neighbor, or the stranger on the street really wants to harm us in that way. But, sometimes, they do. And then, the burden of proof takes over. And that burden mostly rests on the victims.

    I will never look at him the same way again. No matter the outcome.

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