When Roy Moore, who was recently quoted at a campaign rally as saying “blacks and whites” and “red and yellows” aren’t getting along, was recently accused of committing acts of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, he responded, “If we did go out on dates, then we did, but I do not remember that.” The four women who have come forward were in their early teens at the time of the misconduct; Moore was in his thirties.
The Republican candidate, who is currently trying to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the Alabama Senate in an upcoming special election, and who, in August, told The Guardian that “maybe Putin is right” when it comes to gay marriage, has been compared to the biblical Joseph by Republican leaders as they trip over themselves trying to defend pedophilia for the sake of political gain.
The scandal is just one more in a recent series of unmaskings of powerful men as sexual predators, what feels like every industry and political demographic—from men like Moore who believes 9/11 may have happened because of sodomy and abortion in the United States, to comedian Louis C.K., who made so many jokes about masturbating in front of women that we really shouldn’t be surprised, to NPR News Executive Mike Oreskes. (See, even the kale-eating liberals are getting in on it!)
Moore’s comments sparked a hashtag on Twitter this week, started with a tweet by @catlawson who posted a photo of herself at the same age of one of Moore’s alleged victims, captioning it: “Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere. #MeAt14.” Hundreds have followed in her wake, sharing pictures of themselves at 14, with gleaming braces and frizzy hair, heavy eyeliner and awkward height, reminding the public: they’re kids.
It seems like we shouldn’t need a reminder about the fact that when a 32-year-old approaches 14-year-olds sexually, it’s not “dating,” it’s abuse. That 14-year-olds are children, worthy of our protection.
But we shouldn’t take those assumptions for granted. In 2015, when he was on the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore was the sole dissenting vote in a case where a 17-year-old was charged with the rape of a 12-year-old. The case had been appealed up to Moore’s residing court, where he voted against finding the defendant guilty, arguing that “that the court’s interpretation opened the door to a 10-year-old being found guilty of raping an 8-year-old,” according to ThinkProgress.
When people look at cases like these and ask why it matters — why should the personal life and failings of these men matter — what does Louis C.K. forcing his colleagues to watch him masturbate have to do with his comedy, why do we care what Kevin Spacey did on the set of House of Cards when cameras weren’t rolling, what does it have to do with their “work”?
That is my answer. It is their work. It is their personal life. It becomes everything they touch, no matter the intentions you want to read into their actions, or their art, or their votes.
Maybe this is how we clear house. It’s a painful process, watching name after name come out in the papers, hearing accuser after accuser step forward — far more painful for the victims involved and for survivors who have to relive their trauma — but it’s a necessary one. Fumigating the house. Lancing the wound.
I hope that the Harvey Weinstein scandal jolted us into this place of change, that after witnessing how deep his tendrils ran in Hollywood, how much money there was to be made by ignoring sexual harassment and abuse, that we are beginning to say “no more.”
But I’m going to check back in in eighteen months. See if we haven’t let the muck settle back into its calm, after the good shake we’ve given it this fall. See if Weinstein is making movies again. See if Roy Moore still has a career. If “when you’re a star they let you do it.”
Until then, let’s keep reminding them.