A 25 year old candidate for congress from the ultra conservative region of western North Carolina (the same district where Trump’s Chief of Staff, former Congressman Mark Meadows is from) has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple young women. Briefly, Madison Cawthorn has been accused of repeatedly forcefully kissing young women who have said no, touching young women inappropriately, and pursuing uncomfortably intimate topics of conversation centering around the young women’s virginity and his own genitalia. The events reported have all occurred 5-7 years ago, when he was in his late teens.
This article, written by an alumna of my college who attended years after I did, is a great piece of investigative journalism from a conservative Christian publication. That this site would be willing to publish this article is such an encouraging turn of events, I almost just retweeted the link and went about my business.
But then I made the unfortunate decision to read the comment replies on her twitter account.
The comments were full of boys will be boys excuses: refrains of “he did stuff literally all teenage boys do at that age” and how else will a guy “get laid.” Accusations were made that female commenters were jealous young men didn’t similarly “put the moves on” them. And then excuses were made for Cawthorn that, since he is paraplegic, he couldn’t actually force himself on anyone.
There is just so much BAD going on here.
Is kissing a girl when she has asked you not to the same as rape? Absolutely not. Is it still wrong? 100% YES.
I can’t believe I have to say this, but the fact that grown ass adults on twitter are defending his actions as typical behavior from young men CLEARLY means everyone does not understand consent and autonomy.
No means no, all the time, every day, no matter what. If someone asks you not to hug them, touch them, sit too close to them, kiss them, WHATEVER – don’t do it. Their body is their domain and you have no right to infringe on it.
Women have autonomy over their bodies. Period. A man does not deserve to touch her, kiss her, or have sex with her.
When a young man ignores a no, gets away with it, and then excuses are made for him, he goes about his life assuming that what he wants, he is entitled to get. It is not a far stretch to assume that a young man who kisses a girl who says no would also do other things when told no.
Christians like to blame all the reports of sexual assault on an overly-sexualized culture and scantily clad women. And our culture may be overly-sexualized and women may like to wear revealing clothing, but the PROBLEM of sexual assault lies solely with the men who perpetrate them. (And also it is never the victim’s fault.)
Random rapes of strangers in dark alleys is generally not the sexual assault we are talking about when we say #MeToo (though they are no less horrifying). It is the assault by friends, boyfriends, pastors, teachers, bosses…people we see every day, people we are close to, people we trusted, people who don’t take no for an answer.
The fact that Cawthorn hardly apologized and has a pattern of inappropriate behavior shows he too does not understand that no means no.
If my daughter comes home and tells me some boy tried to kiss her repeatedly after she said no, you best believe there would be HELL. TO. PAY. I don’t care how much she flirted, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t kiss a girl who says no. WHY IS THIS EVEN UP FOR DISCUSSION?!
I am 30 years old and over half my life ago, during a fire drill (you know, when all of the students are stuck lined up outside) a boy at my school grabbed my butt repeatedly after I told him to stop. When I complained to the principal about it, I was told that this boy “would never do something like that” because he knows better and he is a good sort of boy, and I “must have misunderstood” the situation. And that was that.
Looking back, I can see how this event illustrated two things pervasive in conservative Christian culture: girls are not believable and boys are not held accountable for their actions. The next time a boy did something out of line, do you think I told anyone about it? Of course not.
I wonder what happened the next time that boy was told no.
Back to Mr. Cawthorn. He is 25 years old. Do I think other 25 year old young men have done things they probably aren’t proud of, even though it’s not rape? Yep. Do I think young men who have made such mistakes can apologize, learn from their wrongdoing, and truly change and never do it again? Sure. And honestly, truly, I hope Madison Cawthorn is one of them.
But do you want to send a 25 year old, gun toting, Trump loving boy who, as of today, doesn’t respect women to Congress? Yeah probably not.