The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh highlight a deeper issue
On Sept. 27, Christine Blasey Ford testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about an alleged sexual assault. After Ford went public, two other women came forward with similar allegations. As a result of the accusations, Ford’s world has been turned upside down. It wasn’t long before Ford, a college professor living in California with her husband and two sons, started to receive death threats.
Victims of sexual violence face an immense amount of pressure when coming forward. The way they’re treated and oftentimes ridiculed is a clear indication that people don’t grasp how serious sexual violence truly is. The alleged assault took place 30 years ago, back when Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. But this story is still relevant today. Much of the blame is being placed on the fact that they were young and intoxicated, raising the notion that “boys will be boys,” which places teenage girls in a very despairing position. Present in this problematic societal norm is the concept that men can do what they want and women should succumb.
This notion is even rooted in every girl’s education; if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you. The idea that masculine violence is natural, and therefore should be excused, is a problematic idea that continues to exist even in adulthood. Boys become men, and women, whatever their age or social status, are still expected to accept and endure masculine violence as a sign of affection, as something they should be grateful for. Kavanaugh’s defenders have tried to downplay the severity of the accusations, implying that what happened in high school somehow matters less.
“Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed but no man seem [sic] to know any harasser?” tweeted singer Zara Larsson last year. This question in itself is an explanation for how our society operates. Women experiencing sexual violence in their everyday lives has become the norm.
Many men are raised with the idea of legitimate ownership over women and their bodies. This idea becomes even more apparent when men are in positions of power. On the other hand, women are taught to believe that their sexuality is frowned upon. Half of the world’s population is continually shamed for what they wear, how they talk, and whatever else is deemed inappropriate by society.
There’s an obvious problem when addressing how systems of power operate in the professional world. The conversation concerning sexual violence begins with consent. When discussing sexual violence and sexual harassment, there’s a lack of clarity in what constitutes the two.
Don’t get me wrong––both types of acts are horrific and must be condemned. But I’ve noticed that depending on a person’s circumstances, sexual harassment is often undermined because it really has to do with how something makes you feel. What constitutes as sexual harassment can be different for different people, which makes it harder to recognize and condemn it––what one person might feel is harassment might not be felt that way by someone else.
Ultimately, predatory behaviour can be hard to recognize, but even when it’s in our face, we feel hesitant in calling it out because of normalized behaviours and boundaries. As members of our society, we are all responsible for how we call out predatory behaviour. Unfortunately, as shown by the allegations against Kavanaugh, we’re still living in a time where survivors of sexual violence are not immediately believed and are doubted. When something of this nature happens to a survivor of sexual violence, they are reminded that they are not in control, which is extremely upsetting.
Oddly, sexual consent only comes up in conversation when it has already been violated. People’s actions during their adolescent years may not define who they become as adults, but they can permanently change the lives of others. We must remember that.
Graphic by @spooky_soda