Truthfully, I don’t know where I permanently stand in regard to all the recent sexual encounter allegations against Bill Cosby. On one hand, here is a man who was known to pursue relationships outside of his marriage. On the other hand, women are making allegations. Yes, I am concerned that some of the allegations are now over 40 years old and the real context in which things occurred have been colored by the passage of time. The fine line that separates consenting adult relationships of an aggressive/passive encounter versus predator/victim encounter is one whose lines blur for me in this situation, so blurred that it has left me bewildered and confused.
All of the recent controversy began with a little-known comic named, Hannibal Buress, whose short clip of a comedic routine calling Cosby a rapist went viral. Now in today’s world, “going viral” is easily accomplished. “Going viral” used to be something little known that people began to pass around on their own and then the media picked up on it. Now all one has to do is have a major news organization link to a video in their story and they make it viral by reporting on it.
Hollywood has always been about sex, drugs and booze. Hollywood is well known for the “casting couch” where, in exchange for sexual favors, female stars were born. Hollywood is also known, just like in the business world, as a place where “women can sleep their way to the top” to advance their careers.
So with that knowledge as my context, is it any wonder that I’m left to ponder the allegations. Are these women making a seduction into a drug-induced assault? In a sexual encounter, someone does have to be the one to make the first move. How do we define one from the other in this world where somebody always has to be the victim?
When I hear the women’s stories all sound so similar, I’m left to wonder one thing: How come those who were famous in their own right didn’t speak up or out to save their “sisters” from a serial abuser? Even if they were hesitant to name names, they still had the opportunity to stand up and publically say something like, “There is a very famous comedian who likes to offer women something to drink. Those drinks are drugged. Beware!”
Rather, what we now have are folks coming out the woodwork to make claims that cannot be substantiated. And that bothers me.
Whatever happened to the term “seducer?” As people take to the now current fine line between seducer and assailant, how can any of us watch a James Bond movie where he takes a woman into his arms and gives her a passionate kiss without thinking, “He’s a rapist!” Or the old Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin where sexual innuendo was the subtext to everything. Are women simply the “helpless victim” who can now claim that their subtext to events that are now decades old is the way in which something truthfully happened? I watched the most recent allegation by model Beverly Johnson. As she spoke about “being drugged,” I got to thinking, “Isn’t that what Hollywood has forever been about?”
Wasn’t the novel Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann all about sex, drugs and starlets who wanted fame and the price that fame cost? Weren’t the ’60s and ’70s about a sexual revolution where women were as free to have sex as men? Are these women telling the truth about sexual encounters with Cosby that may have been of a more consensual nature than non-consensual?
Whatever is playing out or will play out regarding Bill Cosby is one that, just like the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas debacle, will forever change the way we look at male/female sexual encounters.
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