Content warning: sexual assault
He’s totally friendly during the day. He’s got a 3.8 with a compsci major and loves talking about ‘80’s rock. His parents met at WashU med school and both became cardiologists. He’s an Eagles Fan. He’s got a sweet tooth. He hated the ending to Inception. He has a tight-knit group of friends who’d run into a brick wall for him. In short, he’s a whole person.
But there’s another, more sinister, side to him. Get a few drinks in him and he does some stuff that people don’t want to talk about. He grabs. He corners. He takes what he wants. He’s become the focus of the MeToo movement: the vilified abuser.
Harvey Weinstein. Louis C.K. Kevin Spacey. The MeToo movement is adept at handling the famous creeps. Everyone knows them, and everyone knows to stay far away. But this only works for recognizable faces. What about our innocent-looking Eagles fan? What do we do with him?
As long as he’s out there, he can keep taking, ravaging.
As of now, the solution seems to be social ostracization. We call him out for what he is–a rapist, an abuser, a freak. We can tell everyone we know to look out for this guy, to avoid him when you go out. But we don’t know everyone. With a coyote on the loose, we can’t fence in all the sheep. We need to change the coyote.
The unchanged predator can leverage this blind spot and take advantage of those who do not know him. Better yet, he can switch social circles or even transfer schools–that way, no one will know what he’s done. As long as he’s out there, he can keep taking, ravaging.
What do we do with the bad apple? We’ve tried calling him out, but he can skulk away from this social death. We’ve tried the courts, but they always take his side. Even the Senate puts his intellectual prowess over her truth. We have tried othering or locking away the creeps, but they keep coming back.
If we can’t get rid of them, we need to re-educate them. We need to do what our criminal justice system and network of social norms are supposed to do: change the deviants for the better. Have them confront their actions and get them to deeply understand why they are wrong. Have them take a Women and Gender studies class. Have them sit through the Kavanaugh and Thomas hearings. Have them listen to survivors’ testimonies so they can feel their guilt and grapple with it. Have them find the source of their toxic urges and silence that source. It will–and should be–an arduous process fraught with doubt and cognitive dissonance. But it’s the only way that we neutralize the threat they pose.
If we believe that we are all created equally, then we must accept that even the most troubled among us can recognize their sins and atone for them. After months of guided soul-searching, our compsci major will return with his personality intact, with a sweet-tooth and love for ‘80’s rock; however, he will have an evolved understanding of universal personhood, that women deserve just as much respect as he does. And when that happens, we can accept him just as we accept anyone else.
Of course, we must identify the pillagers. The MeToo movement has been adept here. But, more than that, we need to defang them. And re-education is the only way to do it.