"Good Guys" Can Do "Bad Guy" Things
You can be both a good Christian man who treats women well and someone who in high school and college drank a lot of alcohol and was sexually inappropriate towards women.
These two identities are not mutually exclusive, yet many of us are guilty of observing the former and therefore rejecting the possibility of the latter.
I am sure that the many people (even the many women) who swear how great a person Brett Kavanaugh is are entirely accurate in their assessment. Absolutely.
I am sure that the (now three) women who recall him from high school/college as someone who drank too much and forced himself on women are also accurate in their assessment.
Our inability to accept that both these assessments can coexist in the same man reveals one of society’s fundamental flaws.
I know it’s scary—and there are lots of reasons why we resist it—but we have to accept this: “good guys” can 100% engage in behavior that is harmful to women, and—in a stunning twist of lopsided gender logic—still maintain their “good guy” standing.
I can immediately rattle off a dozen guys I went to school with (I’ll bet you can, too) that were adored by faculty, heralded by the adults as examples of fine young men, and went on to be wonderful family men who contribute to their community. In high school? They got drunk and were sexually inappropriate with girls.
(Quick note: I’ve twice used the phrase “sexually inappropriate.” This is not to diminish any accusation of sexual assault or lessen the severity of attempting to rape a girl. Rather, I want to hold space for a very wide variety of ways that men exert their power and their bodies over and against women. If we think that anything short of “assault” should be excusable, then we are gravely missing the point and will perpetuate the harms done in our toxic rape culture).
A man like Brett Kavanaugh can have decades of impeccable interactions with women (and very likely does). Women can swear up and down that he’s one of the good guys (and he probably is). All of that can be true… and he can have a past that involves forcing himself on to women in sexually aggressive and violating ways.
This doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a duplicitous psychopath who’s fooled everyone for years. Nor does it mean that he used to be a “bad” guy, but then had some radical reckoning along the way that woke him up and changed the way he behaved.
But those are the narratives many minds go to. We assume that:
1) He used to be “bad,” but then became “good.”
2) He has always been “good,” therefore the allegations must be wrong.
3) He was “bad” then and is still “bad” now (just really good at being bad).
What I’m suggesting to you is the very high probability that none of those narratives are what’s in play. Rather, my hunch is:
4) He was “good” then and is still “good” now.
Precisely because we have failed in raising boys to understood it is not good to use your body against another person’s body.
So many boys are raised in our country (by parents and schools and systems and sports) never having it told to them over and over and over again, “you do not get to use your body to invade the space of another person’s body.” We even normalize it and celebrate it. Which is how “good boys” can end up at parties gang raping women and not stop to consider how wrong it is, then show up to school on Monday and for all intents and purposes continue their standing as one of the “good” guys.
For example, little boys fight, hit, push, kick. We laugh and say “boys will be boys,” not stopping to consider how it normalizes and reinforces that it’s no big deal to use their body over and against another person’s. We should not be surprised when, over time, this forms patterns in their brains permitting them to use their body with force toward women later on without it violating their conscience.
If you think there’s no correlation between letting boys be violent with one another (whether in sports or at home or wherever) and the development of subconscious ideas about what they can and can’t do with their body to other people’s bodies, then your deluding yourself. And don’t do that thing where you roll your eyes and go, “oh please, plenty of boys grow up rough housing each other, playing violent sports and video games, and don’t turn in to violent sexual assaulters.” Sure. Of course that’s true. I’m not saying that if your boys were or are super physical with other kids that they will therefore grow up to sexually assault women.
But what I am saying, is that many (many) men do sexually assault women, and I think a primary reason is precisely because they never learned healthy and appropriate boundaries of how to respect another person’s body.
I think our culture’s grave underestimation of this connection is disturbing.
We have to do better.
We need a generation (or three) of parents who commit to raise their boys to not only be respectful of other people’s (especially women) bodies, but learn how to control their own body.
If we don’t (as we clearly haven’t) then we will continue to have “good boys” and “good men” acting in very un-good ways, and then collectively struggle to see how the two can so easily coexist in a person like Brett Kavanaugh.