The Genesis:3 Project
Being strongly drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly. Genesis 34:3
I am watching the Bill Cosby story unfold, and I am profoundly sad. I have no choice but to presume him innocent until proven guilty, but I must admit that it would be one of the greatest and cruelest pranks in human history if he is the victim of a collaborative hoax.
The offenses of which he stands accused are familiar to most straight teenage boys. We all dreamed of having Svengali-like power over the objects of our affection – fair young maidens who swoon in our arms and do our bidding. We are magnanimous in conquest and indeed bestow tender mercies upon those we have ravished. And then it’s time for homework or school.
When I think of my own courtship behavior, even as a young adult, I am embarrassed. I know now that I objectified my female peers and probably presumed an allure that was more terrifying than seductive. Though I laugh when my dear friend and college roommate speaks of double-dating with all my “future ex-girlfriends,” from the distance of more than forty years, I get it.
My dad had a business partner who lived the life of a confirmed bachelor in the 1950s. He told the story of noticing a girl sunbathing on the balcony of the apartment just below his who was struggling to keep herself modestly covered. She looked familiar. Then he realized that she was the centerfold in the magazine he was reading at the time. Ha ha.
It was a funnier story before I had teenage sister and then my own daughters. I have no less appreciation for the female form, but as I aged I gained a greater appreciation for the female substance. If substance is dependent on form, if form trumps substance, if dominance must precede esteem, then the man has never escaped his boyhood. But add power and maybe fame to that boy and he is dangerous.
And if (I must say if) Bill Cosby is guilty, then the playful man who brought me such joy at almost every stage of my life abused us all, not just the women who were drugged and raped. It doesn’t matter if he loved them after he violated them, the way that Shechem did after he raped Dinah. It doesn’t matter if he loved us as he told sweet stories of family life and pudding pops. If some lobe in his brain or some place lower in his body was saturated with ill-gotten pleasure, then every laugh requires a shower.
That makes me sad, as well as the knowledge that for all his extraordinary talent, Cosby is not so different than any of us, except he never looked at his beautiful daughters and said, “How can I do to another parent’s child what would make me homicidal were it done to mine?”
The sexual impulses that drive us all can be vehicles of deep pleasure and mutual satisfaction. As they assert themselves in underprepared teenagers, they may cloud common sense, even among the most well-raised of sons. What is the age of mutual consent? Debate that all you want. But when is consent not required from either party? Never. Even if the hormones are surging. Even if love floods the senses after the fact.
“No means no” is a valuable reminder for the inexperienced. But for anyone whose acne has cleared and whose voice has changed, that lesson should be embedded. You can’t drug it away. You can’t demand a different answer. Your fame doesn’t entitle you to grab.
If he loved the maiden, if he were drawn to her, he never would have raped her.