In an exclusive Salon interview, cultural critic Camille Paglia finds parallels between Cosby and Clinton. She said, “So I say there is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton–aside from their initials! Young feminists need to understand that this abusive behavior by powerful men signifies their sense that female power is much bigger than they are! These two people, Clinton and Cosby, are emotionally infantile–they’re engaged in a war with female power. It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power–and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of their sense of inadequacy.”
Is she really suggesting that Cosby’s criminal acts – drugging women into unconsciousness and then essentially raping them- is the same as consensual sex with a willing partner? Her criteria is based apparently on her rather unique definition of “abusive behavior.” I simply cannot understand how Clinton’s encounter with Monica Lewinsky and alleged trysts with other women in his past should be labeled abusive. Immoral, yes, since these exploits violated his marriage vows. However, Paglia seems to believe that because Clinton was in a position of power and that some of his affairs were with younger women, albeit of legal age, he acted abusively even though the sex was totally consensual. Cosby is a criminal, Clinton is an adulterer they are not equivalent.
Paglia seems to totally discount the fact that some women are attracted to so called powerful men and eagerly seek sexual relations with them regardless of the fact that they are married and in the public eye. In other words her implication is that women bear no responsibility for their sexual choices and that men totally control the decision to engage in sex. Yet she then contradicts herself with her stated belief that women really are powerful and their actions shape how masculinity is expressed.
I want to be clear that I strongly believe that a women saying no means no and that a women who is semi-conscious because of excessive use of alcohol or drugs cannot consent to having sex. However, women who knowingly put themselves in situations such as drinking heavily at a frat party or accepting a private dinner invitation in a celebrity’s hotel room are engaging in high risk behavior. Unfortunately, it seems that the onus for acting responsibly about sexual behavior seems to be placed entirely on men. Young women in addition to young men need to be schooled about appropriate behaviors that put them at risk.