Bill Cosby, center, and his team outside Cosby's home in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, after Pennsylvania's highest court overturned his sex assault conviction. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
That men and women do not always see eye to eye on the issue of consent is a recently discovered fact, mainly by the male of the species. Some timely womansplaining at last! Stories came tumbling out, on how different ‘yes’ is from ‘no’ and what a real ‘yes’ looks like, sounds like against a ‘maybe’ or ‘I am not sure…’ The head that shakes or nods or neither shakes nor nods.
Between Jessica Knoll’s novel Luckiest Girl Alive (2015), followed by her admission that she was gang-raped when she was a teenager like the heroine of her book, and Cat Person, a short story by Kristen Roupenian (2017), where we read, ‘It was a terrible kiss, shockingly bad; Margot had trouble believing that a grown man could possibly be so bad at kissing’, the blur had begun. From Konkona Sen’s character in the movie Lipstick Under My Burkha complaining that ‘it burns’ to Nimisha Sajayan’s character in The Great Indian Kitchen asking for some foreplay, sex from the female perspective was finally in focus.
Peer pressure to be cool or competing with what the porn industry puts out as norm is nothing when compared to the real and omnipresent threat of rape. Date drugs can knock anyone unconscious, at the mercy of someone they perhaps trusted. Being the gentlemanly sex, girls brought up on the concept of niceness being a gender given, struggle with putting their foot down. Women get into cabs, travel after dark, go about their business and pretty much try to be on their own but at the back of their heads, like a menacing tune that never stops playing, is the memory of that man who groped them when they were a child. He can return, they know. This faceless, formless terror.
It is reassuring and comforting to give these threats a name now and then. Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and so many others the world over, including India… To know they are identified as culpable is a small form of compensation for their victims. These examples are changing history, righting wrongs as they go along, even if there is real possibility that some of these names may be blameless, may be collateral in a movement so necessary, so nuanced. Which is why to learn that comedian Bill Cosby, 83, has gotten away because of a legal loophole feels like a giant leap backwards. The how, when and why are apparently based on technicalities, not any overthrowing of evidence against him.
One cannot imagine the humiliation this is for the women who spoke of their experiences with him, of trusting him, of taking that wrong pill or spiked drink and waking up with groggy memories of being violated. Yes, Bill walked free, Bill of the wholesome family TV drama The Cosby Show, the ideal paterfamilias, but let his getaway also be a learning experience. He was named, he was shamed. He has himself confessed in past interviews his modus operandi with women. Such typos in the language of rape when taken to court are to be expected. Let’s fix the grammar.Read more: Bill Cosby, free but not exonerated, faces an uncertain future