In the US earlier this week, it came to light that in the 1990s, two different women accused Republican presidential candidate and current front-runner Herman Cain of sexual harassment when he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in 1999.
Herman Cain denies sexually harassing anyone.
Of course, denial is tactic men in power frequently use when accused of using, buying, harassing, and abusing women. Consider the DSK case, the Anthony Wiener case, Silvio Berlusconi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, (he’s got two!), Justice Thomas, and more. The list of male leaders involved in and denying sex scandals is exceptionally long. In all of these cases, we have examples of men who believe that they should, as a condition of their status as powerful males, be believed- even when they are lying. All of the above men denied their abusive behavior.
Do women also make public denials?
Women do not make public denials. This is because they are not given, as a condition of their status as women, the privilege of being believed. Women are not trusted when they report a rape. Women are not trusted to make decisions regarding their health. Women don’t have the luxury of denial, because no one trusts them anyway.
Why do men get involved in rape/sex scandals? Perhaps they believe that they, as men, are entitled to access women’s space, to receive women’s attention, and to violate women’s bodies. As powerful men, they are used to getting their own way. As this quote by Richard Weiss states,
“This [DSK] scandal again raises questions about why some men in powerful positions often live out a double life one public and one private that involves impulsive and compulsive sexual behavior.”
“Although a sense of strength and fearlessness and a near disregard of consequences can make for great, powerful leaders, problems come when these leaders do not acknowledge that they are human.”
“If their narcissism or egotism isn’t matched by a healthy dose of humility of what it means to be human…and they run on their intellect and don’t attend to their emotions on any level…then they are bound for trouble,” [Robert Weiss] added.
Weiss’ analysis gets several important points very wrong. The first is obvious: reckless, consequence-ignorant behavior is not a quality we want our leaders to have. It is a symptom of Antisocial Personality Disorder. But, moving away from the obvious, the scandal-prone men that Weiss discusses are not suffering from a lack of emotional self-care. Indeed– self-care for them means caring for their own desires at the expense of women. Their “needs” are what caused the abusive behavior in the first place. Finally, Weiss blames those who are “dependent on [powerful men] for employment and security” for not communicating to these men that raping, purchasing, and sexually harassing women is not acceptable behavior. By shifting the blame onto those around the powerful rapist men, Weiss avoids naming the agents of harm– that is, men, and men in power. Men are the reason that men rape, sexually harass, and abuse women.
Where are the female leaders involved in rape/sex scandals? Women are the victims in these scandals. They are not the perpetrators.
We see a similar pattern in sexual harassment statistics. A poll conducted by Louis Harris and Associates discovered that 31% of female workers claim to have been harassed at work, and 100% of those claims state that their harasser was a male. Men are the majority of people sexually harassing their coworkers. Only 7% of men reported having been sexually harassed at work. What do these statistics tell us about male behavior?
They tell us that men sexually harass women.
We see the same thing evidenced in rape statistics. The National Violence Against Women Survey found that in the US, 1 of every 6 women reports having been raped, as opposed to 1 out of 33 men. Of those rapes, 99% of the rapists are men (1).
This tells us that men rape women.
One of the women involved in the Herman Cain sexual harassment claim wants to come forward now with her side of the story. Her lawyer claims that Mr. Cain has violated the terms of the settlement by publicly discussing the case, and therefore his client should be able to tell her side of the story. Few details are known of the actual case. Cain claims that his “recollections are hazy”, but a source says that, “that the harassment occurred over months and was not an isolated comment or incident”.
So, Herman Cain. If the claims of sexual harassment are false, why not encourage the complainant tell her side of the story? We’re all very eager to hear it.
(1) Greenfeld, L. A. Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault, Washington, D. C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997.