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September 26, 2018

Notes From A Former Boys Prep School Teacher: “It’s Not The Thing He Would Have Done” And Other Fallacies In The Defense Of Kavanaugh


It's the refrain we’re hearing from supporters of Brett Kavanaugh. But it’s a refrain without any merit because people cannot correctly conjecture whether someone is capable of perpetrating sexual violence any more than they can correctly conjecture the content of someone else’s sexual fantasies or the particulars of their sexual behavior in the bedroom (or wherever it is that people have sex).


When I ask the students in my classes on pornography literacy and healthy relationships whether they’d tell their parents if and when they’d seen porn, they usually offer the same responses: No way! I’d be too scared; I feel ashamed; I’ll get in trouble.


If we want to have more nuanced discussions and understandings of consent, sexual intimacy, and complaints of sexual assault, we need to do a better job of framing stories and asking the kind of questions that result in imaginative thinking.


We have a long ways to go—and there’s no better indication of this than the current conversation about a young woman, Grace, who published a story titled "I Went On a Date With Aziz Ansari. It Turned Into the Worst Night of My Life." In her account to Babe, Grace insists that she gave verbal and nonverbal cues to Ansari who either ignored or bypassed them. But both Ansari and Grace have different experiences of their time . . .


While I poured over my books and puzzled over math problems, I sometimes pictured her in a classroom, standing in front of a blackboard, chalk dust settling into the folds of her sari.


“Now that you are married woman, we can visit you.” Puzzled by the cultural laws that governed my parents’ choices, I didn’t say a word. When I’d been an unmarried student, my parents had never visited me in any of the places I’d lived: Toronto, Montreal, or Manhattan. But now that I was married and living in Brooklyn, they’d made the trip at last.


Hema Sarang-Sieminski’s “Amma” and Natasha Singh’s “Cut” are two of the bravest essays I’ve ever read in my life. They deal with the childhood abuses they survived with a stunning amount of compassion and awareness.


That day I had no papers to grade or classes to prepare for, so I busied myself with cleaning our apartment, mailing bills and exercising. It wasn’t until evening that I remembered my stomach, that I had not fed it. Just then the phone rang — my mother calling to remind me that it was . . .

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