That New York Magazine Cover

So, that’s a hell of a magazine cover. As of this writing the New York magazine site itself is down because of a hacker attack; the hacker in question alleges this has nothing to do with Bill Cosby. Interesting timing nonetheless. Here’s the link to the story package when it goes back up. You should read it. If it’s still down, Vox has a write-up on it.

A friend of mine tweeted a comment last night that said “power corrupts” and I tweeted back something snarky about that; turns out she was tweeting about Bill Cosby and I missed the context, so I apologized and deleted my tweet. Turns out I am just as susceptible to the failure mode of clever as anyone else.

But I had additional thoughts on her comment. I think it’s true that power corrupts, or that it can. I also think it’s true that power reveals — which is to say, that with some men and women, it’s not that having power weakens their will or leads them into temptation, but rather that power allows them to indulge in the things that they’ve always wanted to do. They didn’t need to be corrupted. They needed only the means to do what they willed, which power provided.

Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter if power corrupted or revealed Bill Cosby’s nature. I don’t imagine it matters to the women who were sexually assaulted whether Cosby gave into temptation or indulged in his will, or both. At the end of the day they were still raped by him. And at the end of the day, for decades, they were told there was no point in telling anyone about it because no one would believe them. Corrupted or revealed, Bill Cosby’s power protected him, until it didn’t. I am absolutely sure that the irony of what kicked the Fall of Cosby into high gear was Hannibal Buress, another man, calling Bill Cosby out on stage was not lost on these women, or women in general. The information was out there; women had been saying these things for years. They still needed a man to say it in order to have the world pay attention.

I’m not sad for Bill Cosby. He raped women, he did it for decades, and now everyone knows he did it. He deserves condemnation for it, and he deserves to see his reputation destroyed (he also deserves jail time, which at this point he is unlikely to receive. But I think for a person like Bill Cosby, the destruction of his reputation is probably no less painful than time in a cell). The man was and is a genius, and his comedy mattered to me; I remember being a kid listening to his comedy albums at the West Covina public library and trying (and failing) not to laugh out loud in a place where you weren’t supposed to make a lot of noise. Bill Cosby: Himself was one of my favorite comedy concert films. And by the time Himself was released, Cosby had assaulted 22 of the 35 women featured on that New York cover. Bill Cosby is a genius; Bill Cosby is a rapist of women. The former does not excuse the latter and never should have.

I am sad we are still in a place where women aren’t believed when they come forward about sexual assault, and that it’s such a matter of fact of our culture that The Onion can satirize it. I’m sad and sorry for the women who had to wait until a man came forward to call out Cosby in order for the cultural tiller to shift in their direction. Anita Sarkeesian — who knows something about the bullshit women have to put up with in order to speak — and others have said that one the most radical things you can do is believe women when they talk about their experiences. It seems like a dramatic statement until you take a hard look at that New York magazine cover, and the thirty five women there, bearing witness to sexual assaults over four decades, finally being believed in some cases fifty years later. You realize it’s not dramatic at all.

123 Comments on “That New York Magazine Cover”

  1. Notes:

    1. Mallet is out, obviously. Please behave and be polite to each other. I will naturally be especially attentive to comments I deem sexist. If you need it, here is the site comment policy.

    2. For the lawsplainer who is going to come along and nitpick “alleged rape,” yes, the women are making allegations. However, I believe the allegations, and in my opinion Bill Cosby raped and sexually assaulted dozens of women. I think he’s a rapist.

    3. This is also not the thread to launch into an apologia about Cosby, or to trot out MRA talking points about false rape accusations, etc. I’ll Mallet those pretty damn quickly.

    4. Likewise, let’s try to keep “but it was a different time!” nonsense out of it. Drugging women in order to have sex with them without their consent has never been anything other than straight-up sexual assault, and also, whether sexism/racism, etc were glossed over in the past doesn’t mean we can’t criticize it today.

    5. Basically, if you’re going to try to make any sort of argument that what Cosby was doing was anything other than sexual assault, you’re gonna have a bad time here. It’s a given in this discussion.

    6. Also: Having invoked Anita Sarkeesian, I’m sure at least some of her haters might try to leave their spoor here. My response to this is: Son, just, don’t.

  2. Until I clicked on the link, I thought you meant Vox day had a comment on it and that couldn’t be good.

    Nice write up.

  3. It is one of the great shames of the information age that we can instantly devalue decades of good service by a politician who is also a woman by posting a picture of her dress being pressed tight against her legs by the wind, yet people can still hide genuine wrongdoing.

  4. I think you meant “men and women” not “men in women” which is a whole different thing ;).

  5. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
    — Abraham Lincoln

  6. Greg:

    As a general rule, you may assume that I’m not linking to Vox Day. I prefer not to actively expose my readers to that particular brand of bigoted stupidity.

    Jennifer Willis:

    I didn’t say it first. I’m just quoting it for truth.

  7. Reading this comment makes me aware of the apparent differences between the UK and the USA. The definitive statement that X did Y could (and does) land people into trouble over here. In the UK a statement of ‘fact’ has to proved and not disproved.

    Basically this is my way of saying I am wincing at the line that says he raped people for decades. Absent a conviction I’d avoid saying things like that over the pond or joking about blowing stuff up.

    Which leads me to ask what do people think is the better system: People need to prove what they say or others need to prove them wrong?

  8. Gregory:

    Actually, your question leads well away from the discussion of sexual assault into chatting about language and law. There are other places and times for that, so let’s not, in fact, follow that up here, now. Whether you intended it or not, it’s an attempt to derail the discussion of something serious into something more comfortable and easily abstracted. I don’t want that here, right now.

    In the US, where I live and where I work and where this site is based, I can say, of a public figure, that I think he’s raped and sexually assaulted women. Cosby is of course welcome to sue me for libel if he would like. He would lose. If for some reason you don’t believe you can participate in this discussion because of your own local libel laws, I would naturally advise you not to.

    However, libel law is not the topic of the discussion here, so let’s not try to make it so.

  9. You didn’t say it first, but you still said it. As you send a daughter into the world, and as you continue to engage readers with your stories, your words carry weight. It’s not lost on me either that here I am, a woman, thanking a man for encouraging others to hear the women in their lives. But it does take *everybody* to stop gender violence and to heal.

  10. The FBI has reported that about 8% of rape accusations are false. This aligns with other reported crimes, where about 3-8% are false reports. This means that the odds that each of those women lied are about 8%. Coincidentally, those are roughly the same odds as pulling an ace out of a regular deck of cards. Small odds, but definitely nonzero, which is good if you are trying to wriggle out of a rape accusation.

    But the thing about a rape, is that you only have to do it once, and you’re a rapist. It’s not an accumulated effect. So in order for Bill Cosby not to be a rapist, they would ALL have to be lying. In other words, he’d have to pull the ace out of a deck of cards FORTY TIMES in a row. Those are really, really small odds.

    Believing Cosby’s accusers isn’t, or shouldn’t be, radical. It’s ludicrous to do anything else.

  11. Thank you for such an on-point post. There is a cached copy of the story, until the site returns, here:

    “Bill Cosby is a genius; Bill Cosby is a rapist of women. The former does not excuse the latter and never should have.”

    This is a part of the good guy/bad guy system of American beliefs. That only bad guys rape, and that bad guys are monsters who never do anything worthwhile. A person who volunteers at his local soup kitchen, attends church every Sunday, and rescues injured animals on busy highways CAN STILL BE A RAPIST, if he has sex with someone without their consent. The one NEVER disproved the other, except in the minds of the people who’d just rather not know. After all, if we have bad-guy friends, what does that say about us?

  12. Wow. Thats quite a powerful cover image. Is the empty chair for someone specific? Or just for potential new victims coming forward.

    As for power corrupts thing, the Gyges ring story originated in ancient Greece, I believe. And while I dont believe it is true that power corrupts everyone, I think the people who resist the Gyges ring are the ones who want to cast it into Mt Doom so it doesnt tempt others.

  13. I’m not totally clear on the interaction of gender, misogyny, and belief bias. I note that men who are assaulted are also often ignored, at best. Men who report being assaulted *by women* are typically dismissed, and often attacked for it. And of course, the tendency to decide that a person has to be a victim exclusively-and-always or an aggressor exclusively-and-always makes it worse. A guy reported being sexually harassed by Zoe Quinn, who was being attacked by a lot of assholes; net result, he got harassed and attacked and abused by lots of other people, and deleted the comments. None of this gives any evidence that what he said wasn’t *true*, just that people were uninclined to tolerate an attack on a person already-being-attacked.

    And yes, I would agree, power reveals existing corruption.

  14. I’ve said it elsewhere, but this should be (but WON’T be) a teachable moment. Not because of a fallen idol, but because of what it says about rape.

    Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. He’s raped dozens of women over his life. And at the center of that, by his own words? Bill Cosby doesn’t think he raped anyone.

    We persist, in America, to think of rape as strangers in bushes with knives or guns. But Bill Cosby is the face of the most common rape in America — someone you know, armed only with pressure tactics and some sedatives (booze is a common choice). A guy who believes, until the end, that he just talked you into it. That he ‘set the mood’. That he did nothing wrong.

    That’s the culture, the beliefs that feed into the most common forms of rape. The fact that he used pills rather than booze, that he was ‘famous’ and ‘connected’ somehow makes it easier to see than if he was just a guy you were on a date with, who kept pushing drinks on you and wouldn’t leave until you gave in.

    Bill Cosby is the face of rape culture. A woman who was raped, and a man who thinks he didn’t do anything wrong.

    And good lord, how do you stop THAT? If the criminal literally never thinks what he’s doing is a crime — what reason does he have to stop?

  15. For me, power is like the super soldier serum in Captain America, it magnifies the underlying person’s ethos. It can be an ugly amplification, indeed.

  16. Of all the people out there bill cosby is the last person i wouldthink would be a rapist. I dont trust anyone anymore. For all iknow anyone i talk to is a rapist, murderer, pervert, or some form of criminal. Gives me the urge to require anyone i talk tosubmit to a polygraph.

  17. Seebs:

    “I’m not totally clear on the interaction of gender, misogyny, and belief bias.”

    I’m not sure this is the place to have a 101 discussion on those, however. Whether rape victims other than cis-gendered women are believed is a separate discussion than the one we’re having here, right now, and that discussion does not affect the fact that women of all sorts have an uphill climb being believed when they make rape allegations, particularly against the powerful, and why that is.

    Let’s focus on the discussion at hand rather than trying to pull the discussion away to a related but separate topic, please.


    I’m guessing you typed that on your phone. Typing on your phone means you need to pay more attention to good formatting, not less.

  18. Genius does not automatically equate to “good person.” We know that, but when the particular form of genius relates to creativity that deeply touches our humanity, engages us and involves us in exploring the vulnerabilities of our own condition, we have a hard time connecting THAT kind of genius with “shitheel.”

    Rape is fundamentally a crime of rage, even if it is carried out with manipulative or chemical coercion rather than violently (or with a mix of all of them, as in Cosby’s case.) Rage is anger, anger has pain at the root of it. So on some level, I can make the connection between “Cosby, the comedic genius who made me laugh and think and see and love,” and “Cosby, the creepy rapist who saw no impediment to venting his pain and rage on women.”

    I don’t *like* seeing that connection, but it’s there. It’s not a defense.

    Plenty of us live with pain, and that pain channels into anger, and we don’t use the accidents of power and position to pay the pain forward to others and expand and perpetuate it among humans. Many who suffer the same kind of relationship between pain and making other people laugh– even to the level of genius– manage to live and even die with their pain, in cycles of healing and expression. They heal by using the positive power of their genius to help others heal.

    Cosby chose not to, and that says more about both his character and the nature of our sick culture and how it enables certain kinds of pain, than about his own misery.

    Short version: Cosby=miserable shitheel. Damage exponentially enabled by sick culture.

    Which is easier to fix?

  19. After finding out that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist, I wanted to hurl every pudding pop I’ve ever eaten. I remember when he called out Eddie Murphy for swearing during his stand up routines. Turns out he was the monster under the bed the whole time. The damage to his image is certainly significant to him, but I wish we could vote him off the island.

  20. I apologize in advance for this comment (from a man) being mostly about men.

    1. Beverly Johnson’s story about avoiding being raped sealed the deal for me. I know there will still be people denying the situation even after the deposition has become public. Not much anyone can do about that, except to note the number of defenders is dwindling.

    2. The whole hero/villain thing. I’m older than Mr. Scalzi and I bought Cosby comedy albums back in the 1960s when I was a kid. I loved them. As for his most potent critics in the press – both male – I can take or leave the work of Judd Apatow and I’ve never heard anything by Hannibal Buress. Still, these guys whose work means nothing to me are telling the truth and Cosby is the central figure in a multi-decade industry of lies.

    3. Another odd mix of hero and villain has come into this story. John W. Dean was a creepy corporate lawyer type with a really pretty wife, and he became a star of the Watergate hearings on TV by ratting on Nixon with his lovely wife always sitting just where she could be seen on camera. It wasn’t the greatest career move ever, but he emerged from this as one of the most important voices for ethics enforcement in the legal profession. He raises a question I haven’t heard anywhere else: Why haven’t Cosby’s lawyers been disbarred? Everyone deserves a chance to defend themselves from accusations, but the steady stream of slander from the guys defending Cosby is beyond the pale, according to Dean.

  21. “There are now 46 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Cosby of rape or sexual assault; the 35 women here are the accusers who were willing to be photographed and interviewed by New York. ”

    My guess is that the empty chair represents the 11 uninterviewed women and all the other women who have not yet come forward. My guess is that there are more than just the 46.

  22. Just side stepping the ‘Cosby incident’ and talking generally:

    [Aaaaand deleted because once again, Gregory, this is an attempt to drag the conversation away from a specific discussion to a much wider and general theoretical discussion about law. I get that you want to talk about pretty much anything other than “The Cosby Incident,” but The Cosby Incident really is the discussion here. Offering up a grab bag of general points is not going to be useful for the thread focus. If and when I do a general post on rape, you may offer up these thoughts again.

    Gregory, I do apologize that it must appear I am just shutting you down left and right, but in my experience the best way for comment threads on contentious topics to stay useful is to avoid having them wander off into very general sidestreets. — JS]

  23. @Peter Cibulskis, I was just going to say the same thing – pretty sure there are a lot more than just the women who have stepped forward. Cosby had a long career, and given that rape is widely under-reported, I bet the real number is staggering.

    Regarding separating the art from the artist …. I can’t do that in this case. I had a couple of Cosby albums, and memorized several of his routines, but they’ve now been deleted from my assorted digital library collections. Maybe it’s because comedy relies on the relationship between the comic and the audience, and is in the comic’s own voice (vs books that are about other characters/worlds), but I can’t listen to him anymore.

  24. I am haunted by the empty chair. I can all too well imagine those women who have yet to come forward to be seated in it, who have yet to tell their stories.

    Powerful cover.

  25. Excellent post. While we are on the topic of rape, let’s not forget how colleges across the country have covered up campus rapes for DECADES and constantly drag their feet about making real changes. Real changes need to be made across the board where rape is concerned.

  26. I grew up listening to him, first on the ‘Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids’ show and then his albums. Loved it all. This was in Philly, so he was also had a bit of that ‘local hero’ vibe going for him. A decade or so ago I watched the full run of I Spy, the series he did with Robert Culp, and quite enjoyed it.

    It’s almost impossible to listen to any of his comic routines now, and I doubt I could watch an I Spy episode. It’s not just me – I was at a local Half Price Books, and there was a long line of his comedy CDs in the used rack. I’m betting they’ll be there for a long time.

  27. As a rape survivor I hate when people refer to rapist as monsters/villians. Rapist are just the guys next door who do an evil act. But until society stops trying to see them as “monsters/villians” we won’t change the culture and survivors will not be believed. My rapists were normal guys. Quite likable actually. The only problem I had with them was they raped me. It’s made me quite leery of white dudes who are my friends/family as those have been my rapists. Not some big scary monster but the guy in my house, regular customer where I work, co-worker.

    Please stop calling them anything but what they are RAPISTS. Otherwise it’s hard for you to listen to the women in your life when they tell you they were raped. One out of five women are raped. Yet most people don’t know which women in their life were raped. You don’t believe us because you need a villain, a monster, not the guy next door who is “simply” a rapist.

    I’m not downplaying the harm rapist do. I’m still recovering. Being raped sucks big time and may take a lifetime to fully recover as you learn all your triggers and work to get over them. And learn to trust men again – you know the guys you work with, live next door to, your family members, people you look up to as celebrities, clergy members, etc.

    I’m pointing out the harm the general population does with the words they use to insulate themselves. Call a spade a spade. Call a rapist a rapist. Thank you. /back to your regularly scheduled programming of Bill Cosby

  28. Regarding your point that it was Hannibal’s bit that kicked things into high gear was definitely not unnoticed. One of the women specifically spoke about that in the NY Mag piece. I’m yet to read each account because of the ridiculousness with the site being down but this was in the main section:

    “I went online one morning, just to check my email. The Yahoo page came up, and there was something about Cosby, this thing with Hannibal Buress. And all of a sudden, something just hit me. Anger. Son of a bitch! You know, a woman can be not believed for 30 years. But it takes one man? To make a joke about it? That fucking pissed me off so bad. Suddenly I’m thinking, Who do I contact?” —Victoria Valentino

  29. I suppose a stack of folding chairs wouldn’t have the same symbolic meaning as an empty chair.

  30. The idea about Cosby’s old, funny routines being intolerable to listen to now is kind of interesting, and is a sort of generalizable thing. After all, every sort of communication is a function with two ends – the sender and the receiver. We all have our own sets of filters, and the stuff that gets through them is sometimes very wildly different between two people who may have a lot of things in common, as innumerable couples know. ‘Sense of humor’ is one of those tricky things that’s just different in all sorts of ways from one of us to the next, like many other senses. What Cosby can be assumed to have done over and over again is horrible, and the fact that he presumably skates free is also horrible. For any Cosby apologists, replace any of those women with your mother or your sister or your daughter and see how you react (which is a good rule of thumb in any event regarding any horrible thing). I still find his old routines very funny. He’s a very funny man (in my opinion) who is also a man who did horrible things to women. The one (in my opinion) does not change the other, but it may happen that in time my tastes will change, or something about what I find funny will change or I will simply forget his old routines. The ‘non-legal’ consequences to Cosby himself are presumably pretty rough on a personal level (and presumably well-deserved), even though we can assume he won’t be hit with any legal consequences. Why does a comedian do comedy, after all? Well, maybe we’ll be seeing a tour group of “Asshole rejects and scumbags of comedy” making the rounds in the near future. Or maybe they already tour under a different label, to sell-out audiences. Wouldn’t surprise me, people being people.

  31. The thing that really bothers me about people who try to defend Cosby or any other rapist is that in general our society tends to believe the worst of people, particularly our celebrity’s. Generally if there is a scandal we will believe the accuser. The only exception to this is if the crime was rape. We only “don’t know all the details” when the crime is rape. And this reinforces all of our other problems surrounding sexual assault as well.

    Colleges can get away with not having any policy in regards to rape because no one is willing to do anything about it. I’ve even heard that one victim was told to wait until the year was over and the man who assaulted her had graduated before coming back, this was how they were trying to create a safe space, by making the victim miss a year of college rather then punishing the perpetrator.

    Evan when the victim is believed they are often blamed for the crime more than the perpetrator. You don’t hear people telling men who were robbed that they were “asking for it.”

    If we want actually do something about these crimes we need to destroy our current culture of silence and our core message of “don’t get raped” replacing them with a culture of openness and a message of “don’t commit rape.” The fact that we haven’t done this already says very bad things about our culture in general.

  32. The question of whether it is significant that the person who made this “go viral” was a man is a difficult one.

    On one hand, it could be that the important thing is that someone was willing to step forward in a public forum and say, “Hey, there are a lot of rape accusations against Bill Cosby.” Maybe that was enough to get the public discussion going. It happened to be a man because Hannibal Burress was sick of Bill Cosby’s public moralizing, and therefore had a reason to be critical of Cosby, but it could have been a woman as well.

    On the other hand, Hannibal Burress is not a particularly well-known comedian (he’s still young and emerging), and it’s not like he made those comments during a TV appearance — someone happened to put a piece of a club performance on YouTube, I think. So that makes me think maybe there was some cultural/gender thing going on there, that it was so unexpected that a man would say this.

  33. One thing that this whole Cosby thing has shown me, which we rape survivors really already knew, is that the comments on any article about women who waited to or didn’t report a rape demonstrate why women wait or don’t report their rapes.

    For a lot of people a man accused of rape is innocent until proved guilty in a court of law, but a woman who reports a rape is guilty of making false accusations until she’s proved innocent by getting a jury to convict the man she’s accused. That presumption of innocence only ever goes one way. We hesitate because we’re already traumatized, and reporting means putting ourselves on trial every bit as much if not more than our rapist. I didn’t have my past

  34. Ok, please don’t do the mother/wife/daughter thing. Women are important in their own rights, not just in relation to men. I am also saddened by the Cosby thing. And I think this shows how much farther we still have to go in fighting sexism. thank you for writing about this, John. Apparently they have put the article up on Tumblr, from something I saw on Twitter. I had Cosby books, music, and loved the show growing up.

  35. I’m waiting for the moment when Cosby defenders move from dismissing the accusations to calling for forgiveness for Cosby … neatly skipping over the awkward part about, you know, dealing with the crimes and the victims.

  36. The thing that I think about most when I think of the latest Cosby scandal is the widespread gaslighting.

    I remember the first time that I heard that Cosby is a rapist. It was in 2005. Several women had accused him and I thought all these thing that people are saying now — If America’s DAD could rape…. I feel so dirty…. Can I still watch Cosby Show reruns? Etc. Etc.

    And then, to my confusion, the story simply went away.

    Now, I was head-down in motherhood and sleep deprivation at the time and it was’t the first or five-thousandth thing on my mind, so all of my details are fuzzy. But when i sort of re-surfaced to be able to follow news, no one seemed to associate Bill Cosby and rape. And I swear to heaven, I kinda thought I might have made the story up in my own head.

    I feel bad for that now.

    When the story broke late last year, I said, “Wait, didn’t we already know this?” And no-one I asked had a clue what I was talking about. I had to go back and look up the articles I dimly remembered to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

    All I’ve been able to think, all this time, is how much more crazy-making must it have been for the women who were raped? They already had their memories and perceptions altered because of the drugs. When people simply denied and ignored their words, called them crazies or liars, when an *entire country* simply ignored Tamara Green.

    Anita is right — the most radical thing was can do is believe women. Even more radical, do what Dr. Tiller said and trust women.

    We, as a society, have had at least an inkling that Cosby was a rapist for about ten years. But we didn’t decide to do anything about it until recently. I don’t know why it changed but I’m glad that it did.

  37. I knew Bill Cosby in the early-to-mid 1970s, when he was earning his Ed.D. at University of Massachusetts/Amherst; and I was teaching a variety of courses that he needed, including introduction to computers.
    I conversed with him in late 1970s or early 1980s, at an airport (we were going to different cons).
    I did not WANT to believe the women’s accusations. BUT, from my three decades of Legal Experience, as Paralegal in Appellate and Supreme Court cases, and as a Private Eye, often dealing with Cold Cases, the evidence is OVERWHELMING. What remains is legislation to tweak Statutes of Limitation for Criminal prosecution against this self-deluded monster.

  38. @Zeb Berryman: “You don’t hear people telling men who were robbed that they were ‘asking for it.’”

    Well, actually, I pretty much was told that. Also, probably because I was a white guy in one of “those” neighborhoods, they decided that I had been participating in a drug deal that went bad. Never mind that I lived in a different part of that same neighborhood.

    That said, the point is still valid. There’s a whole damn script that’s applied to rape victims that isn’t applied to other crime victims.

  39. I had certainly both heard and believed the allegations from when it had been (repeatedly, if infrequently) reported on from over the last ten years. I don’t think it’s quite the case that because a male comedian called him out on it that people believed it. I’m sure I’d heard of this from – what – ten years back? This is not a shocking revelation in the sense that it’s new. Rather, I think what you had here was enough backbone of social media that it solved the very difficult collective action problem.

    The American public, instead of people who in hearing about Bill Cosby from some older report, didn’t yell at their TV, “aw, fuck, Bill Cosby is a rapist? Bill Cosby? Really?” and move on with their lives. Instead, when this comedian called him out, it was in a universe where we have now a means by which people both do and are expected to have a way to voice their disappointment / outrage / shock / disbelief / etc. about Bill Cosby. Any dissent from a decent position here, even if meant in irony or jest, is now kept to one’s self (as it should be). One’s opinion of Bill Cosby is now someone accountable to my friends and associates in a way it simply wasn’t 10 or 15 years ago. Even if one wanted to defend Bill Cosby — and I do not — one is going to be a lot more careful doing it on Facebook than they are in a locker room.

    Now that the country was talking about it — and, despite the disappointment, believed it — instead of a couple of women who were brave enough to go after Bill Cosby individually, these other women are now supported in a context where polite society is going to be publicaly (if, through social media, atomistically) cheering them on for doing so.

    I don’t happen to believe that if 35 women had held a news conference collectively accusing Bill Cosby of rape ten years ago, it would have gone unnoticed nor would it have not had the same effect on Bill Cosby. People would have believed them and Bill Cosby would have been done with.

    But the collective action problem, the information boundary, made that damned near impossible. Social media changed that. This comedian hit Cosby with this in a broadside where people could react to it in a qualitative different way.

  40. I was the one who told my therapist about the Cosby story about a week after it really started trending. She said she felt physically ill. The thought of someone so charming and loveable being doing such evil was just disgusting. I had felt the same way. The tipping point where you must believe that someone you loved and respected is capable of so much harm and evil, and that he can face the world with such dishonesty every single day, such hypocrisy…. it just makes you want to vomit. What it shouldn’t make you do is deny. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. But when you learn the truth, you need to believe it and adjust your worldview in order to move on without ignorance. I hope that Camille Cosby can finally make that transition to accepting the truth of who she married and come through this with her dignity intact.

  41. The thing I find interesting and disturbing about what’s happened with Bill Cosby is the fact that a) very few people don’t believe it but b) very few people have any idea how to really react.

    It took *that many women* to have weight with your average “let’s not get carried away without the evidence” type, but even most of them are starting to believe it. But there isn’t a nice, neat, “well, we’ll put that monstrous aberration in jail and tell women to be more careful of monstrous aberrations” wrap-up to this one.
    In my opinion, it’s because this entire pattern indicts society as much as the individual responsible. We dismiss and ignore women until we have no choice, so routinely that 46 different women can be saying the same thing for decades and be dismissed and ignored. We create hero cults around powerful men and protect them at all costs. We treat female attention and female bodies as the natural rewards of male success. We have behaved as though excellence outweighs error, even error this egregious.
    We have so routinely sacrificed issues that are seen as “women’s issues” and silenced women’s voices “to get to more important things” that we literally have no idea how to proceed when we all but have to center women’s voices and experiences.

    And I don’t even have the experience or really the right to talk about what this means within the black community.

  42. Accusations of rape have also historically played a role in enforcing the place of black men in American society.

  43. I’ve believed Bill Cosby to be a rapist since the accusations first came to light in 2005. I say that not to praise myself but to point out that what the media anoints at the truth and what ordinary folks may think is not the same thing. I’m betting there are a lot of people who did the same as I did, but don’t have any avenue for putting their belief out there.

  44. Rape: What other crime accusation is met with as much disbelief of victim testimony?

    The outrage here is not that some cultural icon raped women, but that so many women are there on that cover (with at least 11 more who did not agree to be photographed). Imagine 46 mugging victims, all disbelieved. Or 46 pickpocket victims. Or 46 hit-and-run victims. All disbelieved and attacked for speaking up. Imagine getting your life ripped apart and reputation trashed for identifying someone who mugged you, or picked your pocket, or hit your car and ran. As a rule, that won’t happen. As a rule, victims are believed. But not in rape.

    That is rape culture. And that’s the horror nobody wants to discuss that’s underlying that cover.

  45. @Doug

    Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that Bill Cosby himself is not a rapist. The evidence for that is, at this point, overwhelming. The automatic presumption of guilt on the part of black men, the way we as a society make them into a specter of sexual threat, is awful and bigoted and has been used as an excuse for a lot of really appalling violence against black men in particular and black people in general.

    None of that means that this particular black man is not a rapist. It means that we shouldn’t assume he’s a sexual predator because he’s a black man. Believing that he’s a sexual predator because forty-something women came forward to accuse him of rape and because he admits to drugging women for sexual purposes is not the same thing, and I’m really uncomfortable with conflating the two.

  46. Reading the women’s stories is mesmerizing – the cumulative effect is nauseating. The one that hit me the most was the bereaved mother who’d recently lost her young son – how much lower can you go?

  47. @aehbel Apologies for my being overly epigrammatic.

    The historic dynamic of that particular accusation played a role previously — though I hope no longer — in some people’s evaluation of the women’s stories. I recall reading things along the lines of, “So much gets thrown at black men that I am going to withhold judgement on this.”

    Women have trouble getting their stories believed. Black men have borne a particular (deadly!) burden because of rape allegations. Both are true; neither negates the other.

  48. Gonna go point-by-point here:

    –I’m not familiar with Bill Cosby, but I know that he’s an African-American comedian.

    –I was 8 in 2005, so I’m unsurprised but saddened that I have never read the original story. Pissed that it took 10 damn years for people to believe these women, though.

    –Somebody’s going to bring up the race card and talk about how rape allegations have been a historical weapon against African-American men. Fuck that. The rapist admitted to drugging people to have sex with them. This isn’t some racial weapon, this is a rapist who doesn’t see a problem with drugging people to have sex with them.

    A close friend was roofied while out and about last semester. She called me the next morning, in a strange room, in a strange bed, naked, thank god her clothes and purse were lying nearby, and I picked her up and drove her to the hospital.

    So to anyone who tries to deny that Cosby raped these women because he just drugged them: Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

    Bill Cosby admitted to raping women for decades. He’s a rapist. End of story.

  49. I find this whole thing profoundly depressing for the same reason I find Ta-Nehasi Coates “Between the World and Me” profoundly depressing. Because we keep describing the problem, over and over and never seem to actually address it.

    Labeling Cosby”s behavior “rape culture” and walking away never does anything but describe what happened to all those women. There is no more a call to do anything than there is to TNC pointing out that all American culture was born of and irremediably steeped in the misappropriation of black lives.

    Yes, but… But what? Cosby”s apparent belief that what he did wasn’t wrong, wasn’t rape, is undoubtedly rape culture in action but then what? It seems, over and over, that in this case at least SOMEthing more than “He’s a monster,” should be forthcoming. I have no idea what, but there must be more to this than, “This is what rape culture is,” but I’m damned if I know what that ought to be.

  50. JvP, IANAL (nor a paralegal nor P.I>), and maybe I’m misreading you, but wouldn’t any attempt to prosecute Cosby after extending the limitations statues run afoul of ex post facto prohibitions? (That is, or course, a separate question of whether the limitation should be raised or lifted for rape cases.)

  51. Cosby got less funny as he went along… but did he also get rape-ier? One wonders.

    Not only does that empty chair represent the other women who wouldn’t pose (and who can blame them), since he’s been doing this for 50 years, odds are that some of his victims have died of natural causes by now.

    The women on this cover are brave. They made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I salute them.

    It totally sucks that it took a man to get this to the attention of the public (the brief flare up in 2005 doesn’t count), but OTOH good for Hannibal Buress. It would have been much easier for him to say nothing about it, but he did anyway.

    I hope this will bring some good discussion about rape culture (yep, “nice guys” rape all the time) and believing women, but I doubt it. And how it’s about power and violence, not sex. Bill Cosby of the 1960’s — young, handsome, talented, funny, famous, rich — could have gotten all the willing women he could handle. Yet he still drugged them unconscious and raped them. That’s violence and power and hate.

    Larry Willmore’s show had a discussion about it and he summed it up with “The MF did it.” Other black male comedians (Cosby’s affinity group) believe the women — why shouldn’t the rest of us?

  52. I think most people in “society” believed the accusations. They just did not see how they personally would affect the process. We assume that somebody somewhere must be doing the appropriate thing. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that that’s the case. Would we want thousands of people descending on Cosby’s house or otherwise interfering with the justice system? What we really want is the people who have been given responsibility to act in these cases to act responsibly. We also want opinion leaders to get out ahead of something, determine the facts and speak out appropriately. Sadly, that is not what we get these days and probably not what most people got at any time in the past.

    As for separating the art from the artist, we accept all sorts of horrible facts about people whose work we admire. It helps that they are usually dead before we get to these discussions. But even this case will eventually be resolved: I mean, how long can Bill tread water?

  53. @Doug: that cultural narrative has been used to bludgeon black men accused of raping white women. Cosby did not limit his attacks to white women. And it’s well worth noting that particularly cultural narrative is long from dead. If some people were over-inclined to give Cosby the benefit of the doubt because of it, surely you’d agree that many more people were over-inclined to decide he was guilty in a way they wouldn’t have assumed of a famous white guy?

  54. So I used to work a bit with this guy. He was funny and charming, a real salt-of-the earth sort of man. He was very kind to me when I was learning a new role (We were in different departments with some overlap)

    He was a little flirty, yes. But to be fair, lots of men in their 40s were flirty with my mid-twenties self, even at work. I didn’t like it, and didn’t respond to it, but it wasn’t odd when it happened. He never set off my “creep radar.” I never felt unsafe being alone with him.

    I found out several years later that he had been accused and convicted of drugging and raping his wife. He was repeatedly raping his wife around the same time period he was being flirty with me and other women at work.

    Oh, and guess what? He admitted to drugging her. He didn’t see anything wrong with it. “She was snippy and the drugs made her nicer” The judge didn’t sentence him to prison, just house arrest. The judge also told the victim that she should “forgive him”

    Ever since then, well….if a woman says that a funny, charming, and “kind” man raped her, I believe her. You can be many things and still be a goddamn rapist.

    So yes, I believe Bill Cosby is a rapist.

    (More details are here:

  55. @theblondeandthebeardiful Yikes! I remember that case. It was infuriating. I also remember a big deal being made of that judge being up for reelection, but it didn’t matter because Marion County superior court judges are elected in the primaries due to a weird law we have that divides the seats up equally between parties-the general election vote is just a formality. Lots of people got riled up about voting him out without knowing that he was already guaranteed his seat.

    I was an alternate on a rape trial jury once. There was another juror who had to be convinced that giving up on an escape attempt after nearly getting your hand broken in a slamming door and getting a couple of good punches to your head (we had all kinds of evidence of the injuries) is not the same thing as consenting. This was after learning that the defendant had lied in a sworn statement to the police about having seen the victim at all that night, and he only remembered having what he claimed was consensual sex with her after the rape kit DNA came back a match to him. I followed up on him and found out the time he spent in prison before being paroled was only one month longer than the time she spent waiting for the case to go to trial.

  56. Rape is a crime of power. It’s a crime about power, which uses sexual behaviour as a means of exercising and demonstrating power.

    Bill Cosby’s crimes, as described, are very much about power and entitlement. He had power – the power of celebrity. He felt he was entitled to sex from women because of that power, and he felt he was entitled to do whatever the hell he needed to in order to remove the women’s opposition to his actions. He also felt he was entitled to do whatever was necessary to ensure this information never reached the source of his power – his public. He was canny enough to know if the news got out, he’d have a hard time retaining the power he was enjoying, and he’d have a hard time maintaining the access to women. So he committed rapes which didn’t fit into the established definition of “rape” as it was back in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, early 2010s – rapes which didn’t involve a stranger leaping out at a woman in a darkened alley and dragging her off into the bushes to violently have his way with her.

    We’re only just starting to accept there are more ways rape can happen than the stereotype, and that indeed the most common form of rape is the one where the rapist basically gets the victim too incapacitated to say “no” before carrying out the rape. Violent rape is actually a comparative rarity.

    With regards to the whole question of whether I can listen to Cosby’s stuff any more… well, I still have a bit of a sentimental fondness for some of Rolf Harris’s stuff. But when I listen to it, I am even more aware, under the “well, it’s a product of the era” justifications for various forms of racism, sexism and other offensive imagery, of an underlying thread of nastiness. And the same is the case in a lot of Cosby’s stuff – there’s an underlying nastiness there, an approval of people who aren’t him being hurt. The art usually says something about the artist.


    “Of all the people out there bill cosby is the last person i wouldthink would be a rapist. I dont trust anyone anymore. For all iknow anyone i talk to is a rapist, murderer, pervert, or some form of criminal.”

    Welcome to life as a woman. Now add in being judged harshly by people just like yourself (and often the people closest to you) for getting the answer to the question “is this person a rapist or not?” wrong, no matter which way you did it (guessed someone might be a rapist and was overly cautious; guessed someone wouldn’t be a rapist and got raped). Can you start to see why we might just be advocating a few changes in the current culture surrounding rape?

  57. Docrocketscience: You’re exactly correct. The Statute of limitations on rape varies from 3-7 years depending on the particular jurisdiction in the USA. Since he’s well outside that on all the known allegations, he’ll never face criminal charges. I suspect he’ll face a civil suit sooner or later.

  58. Donald Trump’s lawyer possibly not clear on “on the record/off the record” distinction:

    (from the above story):

    “Trump’s lawyer then changed tactics, lobbing insults and threatening a lawsuit if a story was published.
    “I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

    “You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up…for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet…you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.”

    Well, okay, then.

  59. Bearpaw: Wow that sounds awful. I think you put it better than I did in your own post. It’s not that other crimes never have victim blaming, it just seems that rape has far more and is dismissed far more frequently.

  60. @SteveC: Difference being a whole lot fewer people are surprised or disbelieving that Trump’s a rapist.

    @Guess: Yes, welcome to being a woman. Now also add that you get 25% less in your paycheck, your health care and clothing cost more, you’re discouraged from going anywhere at night, and not only might someone commit a crime upon your person, but that the crime might leave you pregnant! Lather, rinse, repeat for several decades.

    @DAVID: Like asshole, like lawyer (But I repeat myself).

  61. I have a nagging suspicion Cosby’s behavior was/is not unusual in the worlds of celebrity and power. What is the probability that at one time his actions were common?

  62. My own thought is not that power corrupts, so much as that immunity (or the belief that one is immune to the consequences) corrupts. Each of us is capable, after all, of wielding a great deal of power (all it takes is a few hundred dollars to acquire a projectile weapon – rifle or pistol – capable of doing immense damage), but none of us would be immune to the consequences of our actions.

    I think that Bill Cosby, due to his fame and wealth, believed himself immune — as well as (rightly) believing that he was powerful. And I think it was that belief in his immunity rather than the power alone that corrupted him (if he was not corrupt to begin with).

  63. Tom White said at 7:52 PM: “The Statute of limitations on rape varies from 3-7 years depending on the particular jurisdiction in the USA.”

    I’m not sure where you got the 3-7 year figure, but I do not think it is entirely correct. In Kentucky, where I practice, there is no statute of limitations on any felony. In Ohio, where Mr. Scalzi lives, it’s 20 years. In California, it’s 10 years unless the victim was under 16 at the time of the offense (in which case it’s until the victim turns 40). In New York, it’s 5 years for second degree rape with no limitations on first degree rape. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for sexual assault appears to be 12 year. (those are the few I looked up).

    Most f these figures (except for Kentucky) come from

  64. Most of the women who consented to be photographed are -or appear to be- white. I wonder how many times the total would balloon if all the women of color he went after were willing to come forward? Because they would have an even lower belief factor than the white women do, if they came forward.

    While it is a theory of mine that many particularly effective/powerful/inventive people – often leaders, political or otherwise – are inclined to have a strong sex drive, this isn’t the same thing. As someone else said up-thread, there are plenty of groupies who would have said ‘yes’, but he went deliberately after people who, if he’d flat out asked “do you want to have sex with me?” would have said no.

    He’s justified it with “it’s no different than buying a dinner, or a few drinks” – well, your fans bought YOU dinner, or drinks by buying products that sponsored your TV show, so bend & spread them, Dr. Cosby.

  65. The catch-22 of the Hannibal Buress angle on the whole nightmare eats at me. I get that the victims are livid at the fact that it took a man speaking up before their statements could get any traction, but on the other hand, Buress’ challenge to Cosby did result in the victims being heard by the wider world at last.

    Apologies in advance, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a mess of this, but my mind boils down my responsibilities in a situation like this to the following: what these women are saying needs to be heard. If I echo what they are saying, in the hope that people will listen to the message if it comes from a man, on the one hand, I can see that it’s chauvinist of me to assume that the message needs a man’s voice to speak it, but on the other hand, aren’t there some messages that need to have their signal boosted by any means necessary, even if the price is the reinforcement of a hurtful status quo?

  66. @Greg:

    Wow. Thats quite a powerful cover image. Is the empty chair for someone specific? Or just for potential new victims coming forward.

    Both — eleven women who’ve spoken out about Cosby in other places declined to participate in this story but it’s also a acknowledgement of all victims of sexual abuse –and not just by Cosby — who “are unable to come forward, out of shame or in fear of a culture that won’t believe them.”

    @Itinerant Pedant says:

    Labeling Cosby”s behavior “rape culture” and walking away never does anything but describe what happened to all those women. There is no more a call to do anything than there is to TNC pointing out that all American culture was born of and irremediably steeped in the misappropriation of black lives.

    M’kay…. but this is doing something. Do you want to know why I didn’t tell ANYONE I’d been sexually assaulted for over twenty years? Because everything in the culture was saying I wouldn’t be believed, and even if I was I’d be told a million times a day that I must have done something to deserve it. Calling rape culture what it is, giving it a face and a voice on the cover of a mainstream general interest magazine matters. It shifts the culture just a little bit more in the right direction. Just as much as Ta-Nehasi Coates taking the pulse of institutional and cultural racism, all the ways black lives don’t matter and never have to white power, in the pages of The Atlantic.

  67. If you click on the “read her story” link on every photo and read all 35 of them in a row, the cumulative effect is indeed, as someone mentioned above, nauseating. The cumulative effect also reveals a lot about Cosby’s habits as a predator.

    He had several methods of persuading women to swallow the pills he gave them (some did it a a recreational or social thing, but a number of them thought he was giving them something for their headache, their cold, or to make them feel better). But there are plenty of victims (more than half, it seemed) whom he never tried to persuade at all–he just offered them a seemingly ordinary beverage (sometimes as innocuous as coffee or soda) which he had spiked with drugs without their knowledge. Reading all 35 accounts in a row, you get a strong sense that Cosby was very cunning at assessing which victims would accept a pill from him (and on what basis), and which victims he would instead have to drug by more elaborate means (secretly dissolved in drinks).

    Which also leads me to wonder, since no predator is successful in every hunt, how many women don’t even realize they narrowly missed being drugged and assaulted by Cosby. How many times did he say to a woman, “Here, take this pill for [insert reason here],” and the woman said, “No, thanks, I’ve already taken something” (or: “no, I get bad reactions to things and have to be careful,” or “no, cold meds make me woozy”)–and so on. There are presumably women who just don’t remember that they declined Cosby’s offer of a “painkiller” or “antihistimine” or “something to relax you” in a 10-second exchange 30 years ago. There are probably even more women who don’t remember that Cosby offered them a cup of coffee or soda or cocktail in a 10-second exchange 10-20-40 years ago (or perhaps in several such exchanges over multiple encounters) which they casually declined because they didn’t want one.

    A few of the NY Mag accounts are by women who report Cosby suddenly grabbing and groping or raping them (such as the woman who recounts his raping her in her dressing room at the Tonight Show) with no drugging involved. But the heavy prevalence of this habit strongly suggests that drugging a victim before molesting or raping her was very much his preferred m.o.–for decades.

    So in addition to the dozens of women he raped over decades, not all of whom have come forward… How many women, I wonder, had a narrow escape (and didn’t realize it, and don’t remember a seemingly inconsequential 10-second exchange of offer-and-refusal that occurred 10-25-40 years ago) simply because they casually declined his offer (or ignored his urging) to have a pill or a beverage?

  68. Something else that leaps out at me from these 35 accounts is at that even the oldest/earliest of the incidents seems to portray a very smooth predator, someone experienced at what he was doing. From shrewdly assessing who would accept and swallow a pill, and who would not (but would accept a beverage), to how smoothly he maneuvered them into vulnerable positions, how casual he was about raping them, and how quickly and easily he got rid of them (and, when necessary, intimidated them) after he finished or they regained consciousness.

    it makes me think he was probably already an experienced predator by the time of the earliest of these accounts. Which makes me wonder when he started, how far back it goes. Given that Cosby is now 78, it’s entirely possible that his earliest victims are no longer alive. And given that he was not always a celebrity, it’s also possible there are women who never connected the TV star of the 1960s-and-onward with a sexual abuser who they encountered for one sole night in 1958, for example.

  69. @Togarth:

    Most of the women who consented to be photographed are -or appear to be- white. I wonder how many times the total would balloon if all the women of color he went after were willing to come forward? Because they would have an even lower belief factor than the white women do, if they came forward.

    I’m sure there’s a hell of a conversation to be had about the massive overlap of cultural racism and rape culture, but can we please not do it while racial profiling on the basis of photographs? That really gets my hackles up because a disturbing number of people have shown a distasteful comfort level with saying racist shit around because I’m one of those biracial folks who don’t “look black.”

    If there’s a common factor here, it’s got nothing to do with race/ethnicity and a lot to do with age, rebuilding trust and social networks of people who believed them, and then forming careers and lives Cosby couldn’t touch — despite his threats to destroy them if they didn’t keep their mouths shut. “It took me a long, long time to come to terms with the fact that it was him, it wasn’t me” is a sentiment repeated over and over again. And I know from experience that’s not a place you get to quickly or easily when you’re being told the opposite from every side, every damn day.

  70. If you click on all 35 “read her story” links, although the accounts are short, so the women don’t go into that much detail about their own lives at the time of assault, most of them seem to have had a number of factors in common at the time that Cosby targeted them.

    Most of them were quite young at the time of the assault; quite a few were still teenagers, many others others were 20-24. It seems as if most were also single at the time. Most of them were starting out in life or “low status” women at the time: aspiring models, aspiring actresses, aspiring singers or writers, Playboy bunnies, secretaries and assistants, a masseuse, a waitress, etc. Most of them were start-struck, looked up to him, and viewed him as a mentor, a potential guide to the show biz world or to life, someone who might protect or advise them. Several of the women, at the time of the rape, had considered him their friend or their boyfriend for some months or years.

    Another thing they have in common, of course, is that it’s clear years or decades later that most of them were very goodlooking young women (a number of them are still very goodlooking decades later).

    So most of the time, Cosby was very, VERY specific, it seems, about choosing his targets. There are many reasons he got away with it for decades (surrounded and assisted by enablers and accomplices; protected by immense wealth, fame, and social power; a culture that looks the other way, shrugs, laughs, or blames the women when a charismatic man molests and assaults women; a cultural era in which, as many of the women note, there was no concept of date rape (and often the ONLY concept of rape was a total stranger jumping you in the dark with a knife to your throat); and so on), but surely one of the keys to his decades-long immunity from consequences was that he was so specific in targeting a “type” of woman who turned out, again and again, to be safe for him to prey on: young, vulnerable, powerless, looking to him as guide or advisor or mentor, often emotionally fragile (ex. drugging and raping a woman who’d just lost her son; the repeated drugging and rape of a confused girl 17-19 years old whom he verbally and psychologically manipulated; specifically asking accomplices to introduce him to broke, hungry aspiring models; and so on).

    I’ve no idea whether he was targeting women by race, though he certainly seems to have targeted them by appearance–most of the victims were very goodlooking (models, actresses, Playboy bunnies, etc.). But I think it’s pretty clear he was certainly targeting them by those other factors.

  71. I can’t help but think of the horrific stories being revealed in the Jimmy Savile investigations in the UK, and the ensuing discovery of the number of people who were aware of the sexual abuse but did not report it, or were not believed when they did.
    Hopefully, these awful revelations will make it easier for people who have been subject to abuse by those who were considered beyond the law to come forward and get some closure, and perhaps some justice.
    Because the monster who rapes because he feels he has the right and the power is one monster, but he also harms those who become accessories to his crime by feeling powerless to intervene.

  72. Regarding questions on the attitudes towards rape and unconsensual sex I would refer you to the “Rat Pack” and Playboy magazine of the era, major motion pictures, advertising – especially that aimed at men. Women were prey. A good chunk of movies made at the time revolved around some leading man trying to bed some leading lady who was finagling to get a ring on her finger (or a touch of mink) before she paid the piper. It was considered a game, and men were told that women were saying “no” because they were supposed to say “no” even though they really really meant “yes”. And getting her drunk or drugging her was actually doing her a FAVOR because then she could say she was not responsible for her actions. She could still be a “good” girl but have the sex too!
    To be clear, nice people did not do this stuff in any era or any age. It was a fantasy being sold to men to get them to buy aftershave, sportscars, polyester pants, blended scotch and magazines.

  73. Laura Resnick, there is support for the idea that he was targeting specific types of women. From a story in the Washington Post about the deposition (

    “He wanted to dine in his dressing room with young fashion models. But not just any girls. He had a specific type in mind. They should be from out-of-town and ‘financially not doing well,’ Bill Cosby told Sue Charney, a New York modeling agency owner. Not making it big yet, but full of potential.”

  74. @mrtoads: I haven’t read/heard any of Cosby’s stuff recently, but I know that, at least for me, awareness about the creator can definitely make me view bits of the work in a new light.

    For example, watching “Rosemary’s Baby”, which features drug-induced nonconsensual sex, and knowing that Polanski is…Polanski, I definitely find those bits (and Guy’s general assholeishness) perturbing, and am unsure whether Polanski meant to portray them as problematic or thinks the whole thing would be just fine except for Satan.

    I’d imagine that, were I to go back to Cosby’s gender-and-sex stuff, I’d find it a pretty squicky experience for similar reasons.

  75. auntfoggy, I was with you until you wrote: “nice people did not do this stuff in any era or any age.” You seem to have ignored everything about this case, and most of the discussion here.

    Maybe you just mean that people who do things like this aren’t “nice.” Since that disposes of the question by definition, there’s not much to say about it. But the whole point of this story is that a nice man, famous for his charm and folksy family humor, a virtual Father to America thanks to his long-running TV series, with a name that was practically a trademark for niceness, did things like this. And not just once, but many times over many years.

    One reason I’m not all that surprised by the allegations is that I haven’t thought Cosby was nice for quite some time now. When he went on his tirades about black youth some years ago, I lost a lot of respect for him. Michael Eric Dyson’s book on the controversy, “Is Cosby Right?” examines him critically but with compassion, and ought to be read by anyone interested. But briefly: in the 60s Cosby bravely took on the issue of American black people’s history; I still have somewhere a paperback of the companion book to his TV series “Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed?” It was pretty radical stuff for the corporate media in the day, and must have strained the goodwill of many of his white fans. He was critical of people who picked on speakers of Black Vernacular English. But later he forgot all that. He vilified black people who gave their children “unusual” names, though he had done the same thing. And there are indications that he was far from the idealized father that he played on TV. And so on.

    A number of people here have said they “loved” Cosby. I understand that feeling, but remember that what they loved was his persona, the character he played, and not Cosby himself, whom they didn’t know. Glenn Greenwald wrote something about this a few years ago; he was talking about politicians, but I think it applies to all celebrities. This is not just an American thing, by the way, as some have said here; I think that personalities cults are part of what politics is really, basically about:

    Indeed, as I’ve written many times, “trust” is appropriate for one’s friends, loved ones, family members and the like — but not for politicians. That’s what John Adams meant when he said: “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” “All” means “all” and “none” means “none.”

    What I’m advocating here is not cynicism, but just that we should remember that we don’t know the people we see on TV or onstage or in the movies, and we can’t really love them in the way we love people we know face-to-face. Or hate them, for that matter.

  76. Duncan: please go back and re-read what auntfoggy actually wrote. She was referring to the Playboy/Rat Pack fantasies, not real life. Please save your smackdown for those who merit it.

  77. @Duncan, I read that comment as saying that there were decent people who were not rapists in the 50’s-60’s, despite the fact that quite a lot of the social narrative tended to glorify sexual violence. That social narrative wasn’t an excuse any more than Liam Neeson movies are an excuse for shooting anyone who gets on your nerves today, but it provided cover for predators.

  78. @auntfoggy As I’ve said before nice guys rape. They aren’t monsters they are rapists. A few might be sociopaths but most are nice guys who are also rapists. Even the serial rapist (which many are) are “simply” rapist. Both of mine were nice guys while being serial rapist.

    One used drugs at a corporate party. For all I know he still does. Everybody loved the guy. He wasn’t in a position of power. He convinced me and a couple of co-worker friends he didn’t know what he did to me was wrong and wouldn’t do it again. We bought the line. It took me years to fully understand all that happened and realize how duped we’d been.

    When we call them monsters and villians we make it harder for people to believe most women who are raped because our rapist are “nice” guys. Heck we make it hard for us women to believe we’ve been raped. Nice guys have been raping women since the dawn of time (or since humans appeared).

  79. Which also leads me to wonder, since no predator is successful in every hunt, how many women don’t even realize they narrowly missed being drugged and assaulted by Cosby.

    And then there are the women like Beverly Johnson, who had enough experience with various drugs that she knew she’d been drugged two sips into a cappuccino, and started yelling at him. He responded by dragging her to the door, shoving her into a cab, and sending her off. So, drugged, but not sexually assaulted, anyway. (Her description of being pulled down the stairs to the door sounds like it would qualify as plain assault anyway.)

    (Actually, I see Matthew00hubbard above already mentioned that one, so presumably it’s in the article.)

    Then, of course, there’s Frank Scotti, who worked at NBC at the time and who admitted to acting as a ‘wingman’, guarding the door and helping pay off people while keeping Cosby’s name off the money transfers.

  80. Interesting take on how Cosby might affect the election from Camille Paglia at Salon.

    Wow. I’m actually dumber after reading that. Paglia (which autocorrect changes to ‘Pergola’) argues that the power differential between Clinton and the intern he had sex with is the same as Cosby drugging and raping more than 35 women. Yes, she seems to be arguing this seriously.

  81. …I’m not sure what I’m supposed to think about that article or Camille Paglia, but it kind of seems like she’s drawing a really specious parallel between Clinton and Cosby and then basically telling people “awww, you’re just a bunch of babies, there are much worse problems in the world, this stuff doesn’t matter!”

    Am I an asshole for thinking that Camille Paglia is full of bullshit?

  82. Nope, I do too.

    I would not, like, *recommend* shtupping the intern, even if she comes on to you, and if you’re coming on to the interns then that’s definitely a thing, but there’s a good country mile between accepting an unsolicited offer from someone whose motives may be a little groupie-ish and slipping people roofies or just physically overpowering them.

  83. Never heard of Camille Paglia before & will be quite happy never to read anything by her again. She seems very confused on feminism and the difference between one incident and drugging and raping multiple people. I think she needs to get over herself.

    @HelenS thank you for the entertaining link to the response by Molly Ivins. It was perfect.

  84. Has anyone other than Salon taken Paglia seriously in years? She’s Old Woman Yelling At Clouds*. Molly Ivins’ (RIP, and man, could we have used her these past few years) comments are a bon mot, as we always say in New Braunfels. ;)

    @HelenS, thanks for the link. Superb.

    @isobelcooper: Cosby has a routine about the mythical effects of Spanish Fly on women which is just chilling given what we know now.

    *Clouds are actually shrubbery.

  85. @TashaTurner:

    She seems very confused on feminism and the difference between one incident and drugging and raping multiple people. I think she needs to get over herself.

    I don’t think there is any difference – and neither does Paglia. Where we differ is that she doesn’t think men harassing and abusing women is any big deal. I really really fucking do. And with all due respect, Tasha, “one incident” is more than enough for me. Not least because sexual predators NEVER do it just the once.

  86. Yes one incident is more then enough.

    Do I suspect Bill Clinton has preyed/continues to prey on other women? Yep. Would I ever want to see him in a position of power? Nope. I’d really like to see someone other than Hillary as the Democratic nominee. Because I can’t vote for her knowing it’s going to put Bill back in a major power position. But a GOP option is so much worse for a larger number of women. So at the moment I don’t see any reasonable options.

    But I do see shades of grey. I’ve been sexually harassed. I’ve been date raped. I’ve been drugged and raped. I’m the adult child of incest. Each was awful in different ways. I can certainly say one of those was much worse than the others.

    So yes one incident is enough.

  87. I certainly hope y’all aren’t trying to insinuate that Bill Clinton screwing a willing intern is somehow comparable to Bill Cosby’s serial raping. Because that’s how it reads. So to help anyone out who needs it… Bill Clinton = Cad. Bill Cosby = Serial Rapist. Not the same. At all.

  88. LOL @Betsy if I came off that way I didn’t mean too. I do have problems with Bill Clinton screwing an intern but I consider it a lesser offense than drugging & raping women as Bill Cosby has done.

  89. I have seen no indication that Clinton violated anyone’s consent. The equivalence fails completely.

  90. Guys, I think we’ve come to the end of the useful discussion of Bill Clinton, and of Camile Paglia. Let’s table it and move on, please.

  91. @lurkertype: Oh, God, I kind of remember that one.

    And at the time, I remember it coming off as standard teenage bullshit–I was close enough to teenage at the time to understand the allure of a substance that would magically make the people you liked like you back as much as you wanted, and not to flag the consent issue*–but now? Daaamn. No.

    *See also: love potions/spells in just about any work pre-1980s or so, also the “our mindbonded aliens/space elf genetic engineering/etc makes us have to do it” trope. Wow, the seventies were weird.

  92. I think it’s interesting to compare the reaction to the allegations against Bill Cosby and the allegations against Jimmy Savile. (
    tl;dr: Jimmy Savile was a popular entertainer, dj, fundraiser and “man about town”.

    After his death, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse were made against him, leading the police to believe that Savile was a predatory sex offender, and that he may have been one of Britain’s most prolific sexual offenders. There had been allegations during his lifetime, but they were dismissed and accusers ignored or disbelieved; Savile took legal action against some accusers.

    The biggest difference was that Savile was now (a) dead, and (b) perceived to have preyed on children. So there tended to be less of the “well, it’s just noise” and more of the “think of the children”.

  93. So, a week ago, I read a historical romance book from my favorite author in that genre and to my surprise, horror, and disappointment, the premise of the book — the entire driving conflict and the reason the hero and heroine meet — is because of the hero dating raping the heroine. Which is ultimately forgiven, to the point where the heroine thinks to herself near the end of the book that she has accepted she’s “partly responsible” for what happened, and they end up happily ever after together. I nearly gagged. At the end, I closed the book and thought to myself, “How is this still a thing in 2015?!”

    And then I remembered good old Cosby and I was like, “Oh…yeah…”

  94. Perhaps part of what shielded him, though probably less so than his star power, is an intuitive and understandable, yet manifestly incorrect, assumption that someone who is a genius will not fail to use it to build a rational moral compass to guide their choices. I have the same problem with the ‘Aliens Are Too Smart to be Malevolent’ trope. But also, genius, although related to intelligence, isn’t super-intelligence. Genius is a creative spark.Someone can have profound creative intelligence without exercising any moral intelligence, so why assume that a creative genius will be a moral person, even if a moral facade is integrated into his work as it was in Cosby’s television?

    The smartest family-values guru on Earth can still be a complete hypocrite. Personally, I’m not mad because Cosby is a hypocrite (save insofar as it contributed to his camouflage); I’m mad because he’s a vile sexual predator raping rapey POS who deserves far worse than to have his reputation dragged through the mud. I get the impression that a lot of the public outcry is more on his hypocrisy than his lifetime of serial rape and gods know what else. If he wasn’t who he is, I doubt there would be anything like the response these revelations have been met with. Actually, I’m sure of it, because I’m sure there are serial rapists who’ve been called out by their victims and others, and yet the general public, if it cares at all, doesn’t begin to care as much about what Bill Cosby did.

    TL;DR: It seems like what a lot (most?) people care about is that Bill Cosby is a monster in a Coogi sweater, not about the women he violated and traumatized. If I’m right (which I realize I might not be), then surely it follows that a big part of the problem perpetuating rape culture is that serial rape only gets press when the serial rapist is famous.

  95. And not even a Sorry folks, bad timing from the juvenile moron who launched the DDoS attack on New York Magazine. Just a I have not even seen the cover, LOL…then right back to his narcissistic obsession. But he doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who would give a crap about anything that isn’t about him.

  96. @Laura Lis Scott

    The outrage here is not that some cultural icon raped women, but that so many women are there on that cover (with at least 11 more who did not agree to be photographed). Imagine 46 mugging victims, all disbelieved.

    It should be, and here perhaps it is. But if that’s the reason for all the public outrage and media coverage, then why isn’t there anywhere near as much outrage when the victims of other serial rapists are disbelieved until the wake of trauma becomes overwhelming (and sometimes not even then)? I want to believe that you’re right, that people are pissed because these women were ignored and told to keep quite for almost half a century. I’m glad the tide has turned for belief in their rapes, even if it’s because Cosby fell from a long way up, but I wish it didn’t take that to interest the media and the masses.

  97. Speaking of Bill Cosby routines that I now find creepy, there is one where the punchline to the joke is him saying is a deep commanding voice, “Why should I tell her???” It cracked me up when I listened to it in my youth and just hearing someone say that line could make me chuckle decades later. Now? It just creeps the hell out of me.

    Bill Cosby was not exactly one of my idols, but I did grow up listening to his albums, watching all his TV shows (who else remembers Room 222?) and thinking he was a great performer and an all around good guy. And now my world has shifted. It’s not his hypocrisy that makes this so upsetting, it’s more that I have to face a fundamental disconnect between what I believed to be true and reality.

    It’s not that I care that Bill Cosby is a hypocrite, it’s that my own world view was so clouded that makes me reel. Yes, that is a very selfish reaction to make this all about me, but I do think that is probably the source of a lot of people’s outrage. I find out that a sleezebag, or someone I’ve never heard of, is in secret a serial predator, well, that doesn’t shake my worldview. So it’s tragic and I empathize with the victims, but I can accept that’s just the way the world is.

    I had a similar reaction when Robin Williams committed suicide. I had no idea who this guy really was behind the mask, how much pain he was in, and a lot of the grief I felt at losing him was probably just selfish, “how did I not KNOW that???”

  98. Sarah M.: yes, from “Niagara Falls” on Wonderfulness, which also contains “Go Karts” and “Chicken Heart”. I remember listening to those as a child and wanting to make sure my child was familiar with them, and now I have to negotiate having some really happy memories tied to the reality that the person who inspired them is a rapist.

    Compared to what the women on that cover (and those who weren’t) have wrestled with, it’s not that hard.

  99. Sarah M and Epiphyta: I second a lot of those emotions. My children and I in particular loved “The Ninth Street Bridge” bit: “That’s when the monsters come out.” You identify with young Bill so much there and now what…

    And these kinds of problems are serious, even if they are not as serious as the survivors’ problems. I don’t think we need to apologize for having more than one concern here.

  100. We always did the jokes from “Noah” any time the word “cubit” was mentioned (Voopa-voopa sawing noises included). No more of that.

    It’s an infinitesimal problem compared to all those women, but it does retroactively ruin the memories of my brother and I as kids, listening to those albums. Also we loved “I Spy” and can’t watch it now.

    Damaging the collective psyche of a nation isn’t a crime, but it’s another bad thing he’s done.

  101. “But I think for a person like Bill Cosby, the destruction of his reputation is probably no less painful than time in a cell). ”

    But the “destruction” of his reputation is one of the things that gave/give him (and other accused) protection. That a man’s reputation is considered so important that to damage it is considered horrendous-a worse act than rape. That destroying his reputation (why that rather than saying revealing his nature) is punishment, and some consider it punishment enough. No. Jail would be punishment . Parole would be punishment. Being treated as a person who has shown he is not deserving of the public trust. His good reputation prior was unearned, based on omissions, lies, denials and keeping his victims silenced He is not being punished, he reputation is just being adjusted to be more accurate.
    Allowing that loss of his reputation as punishment somehow justifies the lengths he went to maintain it. As if a car thief is somewhat punished if you make her return the car. The most that can be done is to strip away the falsehoods, to view him and his legacy in the bright light of reality and truth. But the loss of his reputation is not punishment.

  102. Sami Jenkins — I think that’s a general social animal thing. Reputations are as real as anything else in our society, and less fungible than most. If your car is stolen it can be replaced by another; if your reputation as a good egg is gone, you can’t replace it, you can only rebuild it. And having a good rep enables so much that losing it is a real thing, so I disagree that it isn’t a punishment to lose it. As to whether it’s punishment enough, that’s another question. For raping 35+ women, I’d agree that it’s not enough.

  103. I hope that losing his reputation as a good person is very, very painful to Cosby. I hope that every old friend and colleague who meets him now spits in his face and shoves him right out the door and that he finds that painful too. But no, that’s still much less painful than conviction and jail time.

    One very small silver lining to this long and terrible story is that his loss of reputation and public blame for the violent crimes he committed are happening while he’s around to feel it.

    One of the many tragedies of the Jimmy Savile life-long rapist story is that he died at 84 knowing he got away with it.

    I’m sure it’s not much comfort to his victims but at least Cosby knows that he didn’t.

  104. Niall Shapero says:
    “My own thought is not that power corrupts, so much as that immunity (or the belief that one is immune to the consequences) corrupts.”

    I’ve long believed that the true measure of a person is what they do when they believe there will be no consequences. What they do when nobody is looking, or nobody is willing to look.

    It’s also why I don’t trust people who think that “what happens in vegas stays in vegas” is a reasonable attitude.

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