cosby2Hey, hey, Hey!  Fat Albert must be doing back flips in his video grave.  America’s 1980’s safe Black man, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, has turned out to be the creep that women have to fear. Finally, Bill Cosby’s sworn testimony that he drugged women to have sex with (Rape) them has been released.

That’s the inconvenient thing about heroes and celebrities; they’re just people. Some of them are mean spirited; some unethical; some vindictive; some violent; some also victimizers, in about the same numbers that we in the rest of the population are. They are also subject to the same misogynist, sexually oppressive training almost all of us get.

Growing up as a pre-teen in the Cudell neighborhood of Cleveland half a century ago I used to hang at the corner sometimes with the older boys.  There I heard the legends about Spanish Fly from these fourteen to sixteen year olds.  It was considered the magic bullet for achieving sexual success. Though nobody that any of us actually knew seemed to know anyone who had utilized it themselves in their efforts to “get some,” there were always the stories of some girl, after drinking a coke secretly dosed with fly, getting so excited that she hurt herself on a gear shift knob.  Really.  This is what they talked about.

The lesson I learned as a ten year old was that I was supposed to use any way I could to get a girl to have sex. Of course without online video pornography available, I wasn’t exactly clear what having sex actually was. Nevertheless, the initiation into manhood was successfully “scoring,” even if that meant using a prostitute. Women were seemingly a foreign species that wanted us to overcome their defenses. The theory was that girls really wanted the sex, but had to act like they didn’t. “No” really meant “please try harder.” I imagine Bill Cosby received similar training, including the fantastic tales of Spanish Fly.

As I grew older and overcame the misinformation, gradually learned more about my sisters, life, and the meaning of consent, like many males, I reduced my abusive male behaviors.  Bill Cosby became a thoughtful humorist, and, evidently, a serial rapist like many other men of various backgrounds, committing repeated crimes against women. Due to statute of limitations provisions, he cannot be held criminally responsible. He is just one more of the countless acquaintance rapists who goes unpunished under the law.

In my twenty-plus years as a psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress, I have heard many stories of rape and sexual assault, and witnessed the life altering wounds. I also have heard dozens of stories of men coercing partners into sex, and women on dates being pressured into sexual situations.  As recently as the 1990’s I saw studies that showed that 40% of college aged men approved of “rape behaviors” as long as they weren’t labeled “rape.”  Nicholas Syrett documents in his new book, The Company He Keeps, how fraternity culture presently promotes rape attitudes among their members. Of the scores of men I worked with in batterers groups in recent years, a substantial minority believed it was their partner’s duty to have sex with them. It’s only been about twenty-five years since Ohio finally changed the law so that a man can be charged with the rape of his wife. Until then, a man physically forcing sex on his wife was not considered a criminal.

Over the last three decades violent crime rates have steadily declined in all categories except rape and battering. Our culture is only now beginning to face the epidemic of campus rapes.

We know the cause of this scourge. It’s not about some unique male monsters. Many people have named it. It’s male training. Unfortunately, that training is shaped by the sexist, woman hating, toxic, patriarchal culture in which we live. In this culture where men dominate the politics, the financial marketplace, the education system, the media, and the arts, it is a dysfunctional male structured vision that defines the function and focus of manhood. That includes the accepted attitudes toward women. This also causes many women to suffer from an internalized oppression which trains them to accept these conditions.

So, when we suggest that male training must be changed to stop this violence against women, we must ask ourselves how we will help our communities to do the extraordinary work to raise their consciousness and awareness enough to transform oppression into liberation. Only then will we change masculinity in the fundamental ways needed to really stop this male insanity.

No more rape. No more battering. No more intimidation. Let’s try living in a free world.

River Smith is a psychologist, social justice educator, former co-chair of The National Organization for Men Against Sexism, and author of A Conspiracy to Love: Living A Life of Joy, Generosity, and Power (revised edition), 2012, Satyagraha Publishing Collective, Cleveland, OH.cosby2