Jim Jordan Defender Remembers the 1990s, When Everyone Was Very Chill About Sexual Abuse
Meet Bre Payton. Bre is a staff writer for our favorite conservative site The Federalist. Yesterday, she appeared on some panel discussion over at The Hill, wherein she explained that if Jim Jordan let those wrestlers get molested, that was OK because it was 20 years ago and no one knew that was a bad thing then.
According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Payton graduated high school in 2010, which would have made her about five years old 20 years ago, and thus an ideal candidate to comment on social norms during that time:
"Now it's 2018. The 'Me Too' movement has empowered a lot of victims of sexual assault to feel comfortable going forward and naming their accusers and going public, and that's a really good thing that we should all applaud," Payton, who writes for The Federalist, told Hill TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on "Rising."
"I think it's also important not to hold people 20 years ago to the standards of today, right? I think we have to look at these things in context. There's a lot of unanswered questions about this. There's a lot of details that still remain unanswered about Jim Jordan, what exactly he did, what exactly he didn't know," she continued.
"So I think there's a lot of information that we don't have, and a lot of pieces of the puzzle that we don't have."
Ah yes, she definitely knows of what she speaks. Who among us does not remember the 1990s, when we all wore a lot of flannel and didn't care if people were molested by their doctors?
People love this excuse though -- this "things were different back then" excuse. They use it for sexual assault and sexual harassment, they use it for anti-LGBT bullshit, they use it for racism. It is a bullshit excuse for those things and it is a bullshit excuse for this. If you need social pressure from outside forces, if you need a cultural sea-change to help you understand that something like a doctor forcing himself on young men is not a thing that should be happening, then you are a bad person. Or at the very least, you were a bad person and you should apologize for that.
That being said, the idea that "sexual abuse" was not a "thing" in the 1990s is patently absurd. It was absolutely a "thing." As was sexual assault. I lived through the '80s and '90s, I remember. There were constant talks about how no one is supposed to touch you without your permission and what to do if anyone tries. There was an episode of Diff'rent Strokes. There were many, many After School Specials. There was an entire cultural phenomenon called the "Day Care Sex Abuse Hysteria" in which children were manipulated by doctors into lying about being sexually abused by day care workers. There were episodes of Oprah and Sally Jessy Raphael dedicated entirely to the issue. I promise you, young people -- literally everyone in the 1990s was well aware that sexually touching people without their permission was a bad thing to do.
However! You need not rely on my personal recollections of the 1980s and '90s for this. Here is an excerpt from a study about how child sex abuse declined in the 1990s, suggesting that one of the reasons for that might have been increased awareness of the issue over the previous two decades:
The most optimistic explanation is that incidents of child sexual abuse are decreasing. A great deal of public awareness of the problem has developed in the past 20 years. Prevention programs that target children are widespread (Finkelhor and Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995). A large number of offenders have been incarcerated (Beck et al., 1993). Many treatment programs have been directed toward offenders to prevent them from reoffending (Freeman-Longo et al., 1994), and laws have been passed in many States to improve the monitoring of sex offenders in the community (Finn, 1997). All of these efforts could have the cumulative effect of reducing incidents of child sexual abuse.
Even before then, people knew it was bad. Peyton Place, written in 1956, was one of the best-selling novels of all time. In that novel, the character of Selena is repeatedly raped by her father, and becomes pregnant. The town doctor then performs an (illegal) abortion on her and then confronts Lucas and forces him to leave town. If a fictional small town doctor in 1957 was able to figure out that sexually abusing people was bad, it is hard to imagine that Jim Jordan, an adult living in the 1980s and 1990s, would be unable to comprehend that.
I cannot, for the life of me, come up with any time in recent history in which someone being sexually touched without their consent was a thing that was OK. It was never OK. To say that it was is honestly pretty damned insulting to literally everyone who was alive 20 years ago or however many years ago.
Perhaps Bre Payton should stick to commenting on things she actually understands. What that would be, I don't know, but it is certainly not the social norms of eras she did not live through.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse