Most respondents felt the number was suspect. Some felt that I was being duped; others that I was naïve about the impossibility of gathering meaningful hard data on what remains, for the most part, a “silent” crime. Yet others still, I sensed, felt something more: that my mere mention of the number, and the great progress for women that I read into it, was a slap in the face to rape victims, a denial of their suffering, a Katie Roiphe-like brush-off of the tragic reality of their experience.How could that response have surprised her? But it did. And she genuflects at length to those who gasped at her cheery citation of statistics.
But there isn't one word about what I thought separates us from the era of "Thelma and Louise":
What happened was that the Democratic President Bill Clinton got into trouble for sexual harassment, and those who had worked so hard for so many years to bring the subject of sexual violence and sexual harassment to the front of the national consciousness did a turnaround to preserve partisan power.Warner does see fit to bring up Clarence Thomas:
[T]here still is a consensus right now among people who track the statistics that rape and sexual assault are on the decline. Sexual harassment complaints to the EEOC spiked following the Clarence Thomas hearings and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which made it possible for plaintiffs bringing harassment suits to win compensatory and punitive damages in addition to back pay. Then the volume of claims flattened around the turn of the millennium and is now slightly in decline. Is this because of changed behavior, company crackdowns or fear of retaliation for complaining? The EEOC doesn’t have the data to say.Hmmm.... so complaints spiked because of the Clarence Thomas hearings, but then flattened and declined. Warner speculates that men got the message about what they can and can't get away with. Maybe so. But as long as you're bringing up Thomas, you'd better bring up that other figure in the history of sexual harassment, Bill Clinton. Speculate about the effect he had. Maybe women got a message too.
ADDED: I just noticed that the column Warner wrote just before her "Thelma and Louise" column was about Bill Clinton's sex life. She wrote about how it made Hillary look:
As for Hillary – contemplating the Sarkozys this summer drove home to me the gender-bending aspect of her own unfortunate personal history. A formidable woman of real power and prestige, she emerged from the Monica affair much more cuckold than cuckquean. Her husband’s perfidy did, in a sense, disturb the natural order of things; in the post-feminist age, women like Hillary are not supposed to be subject to such indignities.There are so many things wrong with that. I'll just point out the most obvious one: the Monica Lewinsky scandal increased Hillary's popularity.
Hillary has never been, as she herself once put it, “some little woman standing by my man.” Perhaps that’s what made the spectacle of her public humiliation so unique and so unsettling and, ultimately, so unforgivable for the many women who came away from it all despising her.
I think I now understand that particular aspect of the Clinton conundrum in a way I never did before. It comes down to this: nobody likes a cuckold.