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NOVEMBER 11, 2011 4:22PM

Sexual Politics

Rate: 23 Flag


I would prefer to ignore Herman Cain, a buffoon who has stumbled into political prominence without the intelligence to excel in anything but pumping up the media. I’m bored with the obsessive coverage of Cain and Perry, and the endless dissection of their flubs and faults. They are both also-rans, neither having a chance to win in a general election. To compare them with Obama - intelligent, articulate, serious and wonky - is like comparing Adam Sandler to Albert Einstein. No contest. 

Cain’s current sexual harassment issues should have shoved him out of the race immediately, but as OldNewLefty points out in his post, Cain's disdain for women just amps up his support from the Tea Party because they agree with his misogyny. Of all of the responses to accusations of sexual abuse, Cains’ has been the most tone-deaf victim-blaming I’ve ever heard. 

It’s also the most typical among most men that I’ve encountered. Hatred, distrust and belittling of women is rampant (just read some comments on Joan Walsh’s Salon posts to get a bellyful) and not just by Tea Partiers.  We might say that it shouldn’t exist now, 40-some years after Women’s Lib opened up jobs and initiated broader rights for women. But a large percentage of the male population is still pissed, and if you think bemoaning the Confederacy 150 years later is holding a grudge, just get ready for the gender war. They were never happy about competing with women in the job market, and they are ready to take us down several notches and put us back in the kitchen, barefoot and endlessly pregnant. That is the ultimate goal of the war on reproductive rights. 

I have been around men like that all my life, including my father. When I told him I had an appointment with a lawyer to help me start a restaurant, my father accused me of sleeping with the lawyer. End of intelligent conversation. Women are, after all, nothing but fuck machines, holes with legs. Personally, I think that is an ingrained attitude in the male species, barely suppressed in our loved ones, but still evident just below the surface. Even my husband, whom I loved and lusted with, felt it was his right to feel me up at any moment of the night or day, no matter what I was doing at the time. His property, as it were, Lord and Master. 

I have been raped at gunpoint, nearly date-raped, stalked by ex-boyfriends, exposed to many, many strange penises, felt-up by strangers, forced to wear revealing clothing by bosses,*  forced to look at pornography by bosses,* called cunt and slut by strangers and co-workers, expected to sleep with classmates and co-workers, on and on and on. Women are constantly treated like this, so Cain’s attitude makes a certain horrendous sense. Most of these abusive acts are never mentioned, never punished, and the perpetrators feel like they have the freedom to commit them over and over. If women complain, they are accused of lying. All rape victims are treated as though we asked for it. Because the cops and most of the legal system are male too. Because we don’t own our bodies, the male population does and they make free with their impulses to use us. 

At least there is a contingent of men who pay lip service to women’s rights, and many do respect and love women enough to treat them as equals. There are some laws that preserve our rights, though they are at great risk. I don’t think this ongoing abuse of women will end til we fight back. I don’t envy Sharon Bialek, but I know exactly - precisely - what she experienced and if you are a woman, you do too. I hope she takes him to court and sues the pants off him. An even better result would be a jail sentence where he learns what it is really like to be the victim of sexual abuse. 

Do I really wish that for these men? Hell, yes. Women are far, far less likely to rape a man, or treat him like a dildo with legs. There is no chance that we can orchestrate an equal experience so that our abusers will get the message. Men make far better predators. Maybe Jerry Sandusky might not mind raping a middle-aged Tea Party politician for a change. 

(graphic borrowed from  


Update: I never seem to learn, dumb slut that I am, that some men on OS feel personally insulted when I write a post like this. I hope that you understand that it's not just me, it's your wife, your daughter, your sister, and even your mother and grandmother, who have these same experiences day after day. It colors our lives and relationships, and not for the better. Please just take it as information and don't make it about you. Thanks.  

*Update 2 - I  completely forgot to make this point. These bosses who treated me so poorly were my managers in the restaurant business, yes, Herman Cain's industry. I was a management trainee at Steak and Ale and was repeatedly sexually harassed by my superiors. 

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Hi, Ardee. Nice to see you on here again.

While I generally agree with what you've written here, I must confess to taking a certain amount of umbrage at being lumped in with those who pay lip service to equality. I'm not especially bright, but nowhere near stupid enough to think I'm The Redhead's equal in any way. I had that demonstrated to me well before we were married 29 years ago today.
Hear! Hear! I am with you totally. Although I haven't been exposed to any of your unfortunate experiences, I understand and support your ideas about Cain and his likes. I hope he doesn't get off Scott free.
Boanerges, you are the exception, and I knew that before I wrote the post. The Redhead knows how lucky she is, I'm sure.

I suspect I will need to give similar dispensations to most OS males as well, because you read our words, and appreciate what's between our ears and not just between our legs. OK hear that guys - you are all exceptions! (right?)

Thanks FusunA! I'm really glad that you haven't had to endure anything like that - either you have a very protective family or just met all the right men.
Concise, and pulling no punches Ardee.. I have had some of these experiences and many related with work or college, marriage too unfortunately. Many, many woman have..
I really like your image as a male relative just said chill out to me in that condescending way people do when they want you to shut up and go away, like when you are right.
Geez, Ardee, you've traveled quite the hard road with men during your life. I can't imagine what that's been like. And I can certainly see how Cain must stoke the frustration to a rolling boil.
I'm not sure prisoners getting raped in prison teaches them a lesson. It might just encourage them to become rapists themselves (if they weren't already).
Rita - Yes, exactly. ESPECIALLY when you're right.

Man Talk - The rolling boil occurred when I realized after being raped that I was a potential victim because I was female, period. There is no safe place for a woman, but I tested that by competing with men for jobs, daring to think I could do a job as well as them. That brought a lot of abuse with it. Cain doesn't piss me off, it's just deja vu all over again.

Noah, that would be an interesting study to find out if that is true. Maybe there needs to be a Scared Straight for repeat harassers like Cain, minus the actual rape, since he apparently didn't force the issue.
I've had several of your experiences- something about being tall, blond and female seemed to bring it out but with the life I led as a child I was used to fighting back. So now I'm less than wealthy and alone, but at least I get to choose the tv shows I watch. Among other things.

I like your posts. Someone needs to get the message out and you do it well.
i read this twice. i'd suggest that a man who feels personally insulted do the same. you clearly carve out a percentage of men who "respect and love women enough to treat them as equals." i might not go so far as to say that some of the worst behavior you note is "ingrained in the male species... barely suppressed in our loved ones," but i strongly agree that the condescending, baby-you're-cute-but-not-qualified-to-sit-at-the-partners-table is far, far more prevalent all these years past the 'sixties than the scoffers say it is. i've been there, too, and it's demeaning and revolting.

and herman cain? is fucking clueless, thinking this is all a joke, that it's funny, that he can aw-shucks-i-was-kidding it all away. and *that* is what so many who agree with him think. and what makes me nutz.
Phyllis, I'm sure that being tall and blond in no way diminishes the fact that you are smart, independent and capable, if they could only see it.

Candace, I have interacted with a subset of men who don't like women, clearly. Your comment reminded me of the fact that some of the worst abuse I went through was in the corporate restaurant business (I added a note above about that.) just like Cain's stomping ground. Some industries are worse than others, but I bet any business can harbor misogynists.
I'm sorry for all you've gone through.

Herman Cain worries me just in normal conversation the way he refers to women, calling Pelosi a Princess, making jokes about Anita Hill. One one late night t.v. show he made a joke about not wanting to buy a certain woman's services...heh heh heh.

It seems like there's this funny leap between something coming to the public attention (anita hill) and the public wanting to say that the issue is done and put away (post-feminist, post-racial, post-problemated society...). In fact, progress is slow and can easily shift back into reverse unless people are willing to pay attention.

thanks for this.
i was initially thinking you were just hanging out with the wrong crowd, but in fact, you were hanging out with americans. it might be worse in some countries, so perhaps the problem was hanging out with men.

cheer up! they are nearly obsolete, human cloning is here, and female cloning is easier. just convince the current generation of men they will never be supplanted by younger rivals if they support female cloning, and they will be eager.
Sadly, what you say is true. It looks like republicans may be willing to get some bigotry with their candidate. Or maybe some stupidity.

You know I am proud of you
where in this post did anyone suggest you were looking for eager men Ardee? In fact i would suggest just the opposite is being posited here.
You have had some nightmarish experiences, Ardee. I am dumbstruck by what your father said to you; what would possess a man to say something like that to his daughter - or any woman. I read the Salon article and watched the video and the thing that stood out most to me was when they showed that room of men, including Herman Cain, guffawing over Anita Hill. Al Sharpton commented on the arrogance, the way they completely missed the gravity of the situation. Whether Cain is guilty or not of what he's been accused of doing, it is not funny. It's no laughing matter and I hope that's not lost on anyone, male or female.

I do want to add, you call most of the men on OS exceptions, but that has not been my experience and I hope I'm not an exception among women. The men in my life have been good people who'd never do or support the kinds of things that have happened to you. My late husband was an employer for many years and he'd never tolerate the kinds of crap you've endured. I want to believe most men feel the same way and it's not just lip service.
Remember that Cain is not necessary guilty just because he has been accused and recall too that he has not raped someone but simply made, it is alleged, comments that some women - and since we don't know the comments, we can't even conclude all - find offensive.

I find it scary that accusations alone can sink a man and wonder if it would be true of a woman. There is a witch-hunting aspect to this that, to this woman, is very unsavory.

And recall too that Mr. Clinton, accused for more than Mr. Cain has been, is still a hero to a large number of feminists. Double standard? Duh.

And Kennedy, the "Lion of the Senate"? I'll wait for Cain to leave a woman dying in the water before I write him off.
Like too many women I relate to many of your experiences, this is NOt a thing of the past. There are still men and women out there who are only too happy to play blame the victim, as if harrassing or attacking is acceptable. Your father had an attitude like and some part of me finally got sick of hearing his trash.

Now I let loose on such people and it shuts them up. If they complain I tell them they told me it's acceptable, it's their own fault for being around me, they asked for it, and not to make such a big deal about it. Let them learn how to chill under the same circumstances.

Three men came to one of my posts where I referenced my past as a survivor of domestic abuse and put horrible blame the victim comments there for me. They were NOT conservative OS'ers. Only one male commenter said anything to them about their victim blaming comments.

I was sick inside for days, then I got mad and decided the same thing you did, it was time to fight back. I did another post with "experiential learning" giving them a serious taste of verbal abuse. I doubt they will say such things to a woman any time soon after the reaming I gave them. Hopefully any casual observers learned from it too.

Men who are jerks want women to be meek and sweet so they can keep being jerks but I'm not intereseted in pleasing jerks. I'm happy to be kind to people who are kind. I'm on board with kicking men like Cain and those who defend him to the curb. I'm okay with kicking them enough that they stay there.

I'm sorry for your experiences, I hope there comes a day when this is an aberration. Sometimes it feels like little has changed since the battle began. It makes me sad. Thank you for the post.
You really have been abused by men, and you experience is much worse than mine. What a nightmare!
delores - Your observation is exactly what I was trying to say. We aren't post anything, we are allowing these regressive behaviors to fester and grow. Thanks for your clear insight.

Al, I was groped several times in France, and followed by packs of hissing boys in the former Yugoslavia. I don't think it's a national thing, I think it's a gender thing. I'd be surprised if men allowed cloning to supplant the almighty sperm.

diana, it seems that Republicans are doing selective breeding to enhance stupidity and bigotry is just a bonus. (*hugs*)

Rita, the "eager" thing went right over my head too.

Margaret, you picked up on the same scenes of Cain dissing women that inspired this post. Whether or not he did the alleged deed, he has put forth an image of someone who could have done it. He is continuing to abuse women, even as he denies it.
I have said that most women are victims of some kind of sexual harassment or abuse during their lives, and that's based on the experiences of my friends, acquaintances and a period of time acting as a rape counselor. I don't wish it on anyone, but also, I think that women my age have been trained by society to accept a certain amount of suppression from men. My experiences occurred during the 70s and 80s when women were getting into male-dominated industries and I was one of the first. I think a lot of that was men trying to intimidate me to drop out and do the traditional role of mother and housewife. That role can be safer, but I didn't choose it. Some might say "you asked for it." Yeah, but I stuck with my choices.

Barbara, you seem to believe in Cain's protestations, while ignoring his statements that are insulting and demeaning to women. I think you missed my point, and likely on purpose. Thanks anyway.

Bleue, I so identify with your comment. I have backed away from OS, stomach in knots, after reading an abusive comment. I am subject to intimidation too - I threw that "dispensation" in when I realized that I might get more comments like that. "Waving the white flag, meek and submissive here."But I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who feels like she has to fight back. Thanks for sharing your experiences with me.

Kathy, luckily, most of those experiences are in the past, and like I said above, Cain's comments were deja vu. I'm glad to hear that you have avoided the worst. Thanks for reading!
Love the graphic.

Fits in well with the post.

The Cain sneer is a look I have seen too many times. The condescending remarks, the flippant retorts and the macho posturing -- all, I have battled for decades. Some men who are not that way have a hard time accepting the idea they might be indicted along with men like Cain, and I understand that. But they do exist, they do treat women the way you describe and they seem to think it is their birthright. It remains to be seen if Sharon Bialek is telling the truth or if she is being used in an equally vile way by some other man or men who are Cain's rivals. And, @Barbara Joanne, just for the record, I didn't condone the behavior of JFK or Bill Clinton either.

Thanks Nick.

Lezlie, I hear the weight of experience in your comment. Thanks for adding your voice.
I think of female anger at men in the same way I think of black anger at white people. It's like the Catholic concept of original sin. Black people carry a view of white people that is bred in the bone, and as a white person, I must accept that, and the legitimacy of that, and yet hope we can move forward to somewhere else, a connection based on mutual honesty and respect.

Many men understand this about their original sin. A man who is not a patriarchal misogynist must honor the fact that women of all ages have experienced such treatment from men, along a continuum that runs from trivialization and disrespect to rape, assault, and murder. Even if a man is not guilty of such action, he must not diminish female experience with his denial of the reality of the continuum. If he does, it means that he's on it.

One thing that such men do not seem to recognize is how fast women can hear their lip service. Cain seems utterly clueless as to why calling Nancy Pelosi a "princess" is only a few steps away from calling a black candidate for the highest office in the land the N word. Seriously dude. Put that shoe on the other foot.
Joan Walsh's Salon post today discusses this issue well, and the comments are also interesting. While most are consistent with all your comments, the Cain supporters show up in force on page 2:
"Honestly, Joan, if you look up the word "floozie" in the dictionary, you'll see Sharon Bialek's picture."
Greenheron, I am glad you commented on this subject with such clarity. It's hard to articulate an issue, when there are so many complicating factors. How do you distinguish normal sexuality from abuse? I think your description of that continuum was very good. Thanks!
Ardee, I have not been following details of this particular story but as you so clearly write in your 5th paragraph these crimes against women are happening all the time; every where, both covertly and overtly. All the more reason to expose these humiliations and crimes. Kudos to you for having such a strong voice when doing so. Hopefully dumb ass criminal politicians will be served the justice they deserve.

And ...what green heron said.
I missed Rachel's show on Thursday, so I missed her segment on Cain. It is very worth catching if you haven't, especially the last 7 minutes during the interview with Dahlia Lithwick.
Thanks for your comment Scarlett - I wasn't following this either, til something just snagged me in the media coverage. Luckily, several strong women are speaking up and I hope there are repercussions.
It's good for we men to read posts like this Ardee. Like most of my male counterparts here, I instinctively assume that none of this applies to me, rather, only to the bad apples we all know about. But that's akin to a home town decision so must be taken with a grain of salt. I remember quite a few years ago being struck by how many women I knew well (practically all of them) had suffered through some manner of sexual assault by the time they were in their 20s. It's a phenomenon basically foreign to men and is bound to color perceptions. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if cain is guilty as charged. Though there are plenty of other reasons to reject his candidacy.
Abrawang, it's so fantastic to have a man listen, and really hear what we're saying. You've already noticed our situation independently, so you are one of the few. What can I say other than Thank you, and to ask whether you would ever step in and break the gender bond to defend a woman who was being abused, verbally or physically? Bringing Penn State and Herman Cain together full circle, can men themselves break the chain of abuse by standing up for the victims? I don't know, what do you think?
Ardee, re stepping in, several years ago I called the cops around 2:00 a.m. about a quarreling couple in the ground floor apartment. After a short time of escalating recrimination and some muffled crashing, everything went silent as the woman was cut off in mid-shout. Everything went silent and I told my (now ex) wife that we had to call. The cops came, spoke to us first (to size up our credibility I guess) and then knocked downstairs. The guy was taken away and the next day the woman thanked us. Having the 911 option made it an easier decision. Had that not been available, I’ve wondered whether I’d have had the guts to knock myself. I like to think so as aside from it being the right thing to do, from a personal point of view it would also be one of those defining test cases as to what one’s character really was. But that’s just speculation.

Many men do take the attitude that you’d like to see. I know that many do not. As you note, a quick troll of the comments on any Cain article reveals plenty of unevolved mindsets. It’s a slow process but there has been progress. Look at how the casual, realistic sexism of the Mad Men workplace looks anachronistic to many nowadays. No doubt there’s a long way to go and I doubt that either of us will live to see the day when the behavior Cain is accused of ceases to exist. But combating this is a worthy cause and as I mentioned in my initial comment, it does us all good to be reminded how society looks very different from a woman’s perspective.
I'm glad you pointed out that sexual harassment isn't a "joke".

Every single girlfriend I've had was abused, nearly all of my female friends were as well. I've seen sexual harassment and I know the PTSD after abuse is very real. (and not always fun to deal with.. if you happen to be the partner of someone who suffers from it)

While I do feel offended, I can tell you all about growing up with a feminist mother who seemed to think everyone with a Y chromosome was a criminal, what that did to my mental state, etc.. etc.. etc... but I'm not going to defend the male race, or try and explain with various theories why things are messed up... suffice it to say that they are messed up (but I do think they're improving in some ways.. assuming the conservative mindset doesn't bring us back to the 1880's)

Sometimes anger is the best way to communicate, as you have just done here.

Nicely done.
TriviaC, thanks. My ex can certainly tell you about how fun it was to wake me up and have me start screaming, or to tolerate me sleeping with a knife under my pillow. (No, I never cut him, but I felt better with it there.) Victims are almost universally damaged in some way, no matter how severe the abuse. Thanks for your understanding, and for being one of the good guys.