Alabama | Image: Based on Kaboom88, CC0 (public domain)
[Content warning: this one’s about Roy Moore, so there’s descriptions of sexual assault in here. Also note that because we follow the adage “believe victims’ claims first,” and because the claims made in this case are heavily corroborated by over thirty sources, the editorial decision has been made to present them as given. Roy Moore has not yet been found guilty of any offenses in a court of law.]
Sometimes, sitting down to write these posts feels like rolling up to an all-you-can-eat buffet of rotten hamburger and spoiled green beans. I just have so many options. There are so many shitty people and shitty things! Should I write about how the GOP budget bill is trying to define fetuses as “unborn children” and let them have savings accounts? Should I write about Harvey Weinstein? Louis C.K.? Bret Ratner? Kevin Spacey? George Takei and Al Franken? (Seriously George Takei and Al Franken? Seriously? I need to have faith in like, at least three people in the world, and you guys are blowing this for me.) Should I write about Jane Doe, the Central American abuse survivor whom the Trump administration attempted to deprive of the right to an abortion? Should I write about how Johnny Depp and Mel Gibson both seem to be getting the “family friendly” treatment, despite a history of violent and sexist behavior? How could I possibly choose, amongst the smorgasbord of terrible behavior, what I would actually write about?
And then Roy Moore stayed ahead in the polls despite accusations of molesting and assaulting teenagers, and I was like, “Oh, obviously that.”
For those of you who don’t hate-read the way I do, Roy Moore is the current candidate for Jeff Sessions’s old seat in the Senate. Like Sessions, he is conservative, hateful, and an awful person in increasingly new and unpredictable ways. Recently, four women came forward to say that Sessions had either dated them or attempted to molest or assault them when they were between the ages of 14 and 18, and he was in his 30s. Since the age of consent in Alabama is 16, that puts what he did in between “outright illegal” and “not illegal, but just really, really creepy.” With the 14-year-old, Moore touched the girl over her undergarments and then tried to get her to touch him over his underwear. To make things additionally creepy, he did so at his home in the woods, 30 minutes away from the girl’s home. This is literally how horror movies start.
Then additional women came forward, saying that Moore had basically been that creepy guy from every junior high PSA, cruising the mall for young women to harass and bully into dating him. He called one girl at school to ask her out for a date. If you are a grown man and you are having to interrupt your would-be date’s trig class to ask them out? Re-examine every single one of your life choices. Moore ended up being banned from the mall for his predatory behavior. Do you know how unbelievably creepy you have to be in order to be banned from a mall? Mall owners don’t want to ban anyone. Mall security guards don’t want to hassle with anything besides punk kid shoplifters. I have never, in my life, met a human being who managed to get banned from the mall. Roy Moore did.
Another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward with her own creeptastic experiences. Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. Moore was a regular at the restaurant where she worked, and would often compliment her appearance or touch her hair. (NEVER DO THIS TO A WAITRESS, OR ANY WOMAN EVER.) He offered her a ride home after her shift one night, but instead of taking her home, merely parked in a deserted area near the restaurant and began to grope her. He forced her away from the door when she tried to escape, and locked the door. He started to remove her clothes, and tried to force her head towards his crotch. When he finally stopped, he said one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read:
“You’re just a child and I’m the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.’” A man in a position of authority said this to the 16-year-old he had just tried to rape. He acknowledged that the girl he tried to rape was a child, and instead of using that as a warning sign that he was doing something horrific, he used it to help shield him from consequences for his actions, and to intimidate his victim. I now need all the showers.
When I first heard about this story, I was obviously disgusted, but I was also weirdly relieved that the scandal was so clear-cut. “There’s no way the GOP can explain this waway.” I thought. The party that had raised such a ruckus over the morally bankrupt Anthony Weiner surely couldn’t turn around and support a child molester. Surely child molestation was the one thing that goes above all politics, the one thing that everyone can agree is a Bad Thing.
Oh, what a sweet summer child I was.
First you have the mealy-mouthed individuals of the national GOP members. Who, nearly to a person, trotted out the same line: “If this is true, he should step down.” Which, as Clio Chang points out, is pretty much entirely bullshit. What, beyond these women’s stories, would convince the GOP the stories are true? They all happened many decades ago. There will be no forensic evidence. The women’s stories have been consistent, and many of them talked about their experiences with Moore with friends and family at the time. Moore, obviously, is not going to come out and say, “Oh yes, I definitely sexed up that 14-year-old.” (Though he did admit he never dated a teenager without her mother’s permission, which… listen to the words that just came out of your mouth.) These stories have as much proof as they are ever going to have, and the decision now is to either A, believe them, or B, assume that multiple women decided completely independently to make up almost identical stories about Moore, because despite the fact that most of the women are Republican, they are acting as stooges for an evil Democrat conspiracy. I feel like one of those options is way, way simpler than the other.
The Alabama GOP, however, took home the trophy in the “What the Fuck” Olympics. Many Alabama GOP members said they would still vote for Moore since their alternative was a Democrat. And 37% of polled Alabama white Evangelicals said the allegations MADE THEM MORE LIKELY TO VOTE FOR MOORE. MORE LIKELY. MORE.
You know that old rock and a hard place dilemma, where one of the candidates is a sexual predator, and the other candidate isn’t? Hard decisions there. Way hard. Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler tried to make dating a teenager okay by comparing it to the Bible. I cannot make this shit up. Ziegler shared his… interesting… views with the Washington Examiner.
“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler told The Examiner. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Zeigler said. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Mm. Yeah. Kay.
First of all, again, the age of consent in Alabama is 16, so sexually touching a 14-year-old is, in fact, illegal. Not to mention immoral!
Second of all, Joseph did not become a parent of Jesus. The entire “virgin birth” thing ensures that Jesus’ Y chromosome did not come from an Earthly fella. Joseph was Jesus’ awkward stepdad.
Third of all, neither Mary nor Joseph’s ages are clearly discussed in the Bible. He is described as a man, she is described as a virgin. That’s it. That’s all the information we have. Mary and Joseph could have been the same age. Mary and Joseph could have at least been a few years apart. Mary and Joseph honestly probably were not decades apart. The decision to start depicting Joseph as an older man comes from outside of scripture, and a lot of it comes from the artistic tradition, and a fervent desire to make it clear how Mary and Joseph could be happily married but Joseph would not Be All Up On That. Making him an older man explained why he would potentially not have been tapping that, without implying something dreadful like “Mary and Joseph just decided of their own accord not to have sex.” Because that would be weird.
Not only is Moore still in the race, as I said earlier, Moore is still ahead in most of the polls. Granted, not as far ahead as he was previously, but forgive my naivete for believing that being accused of sexual assault should drop you more than ten points in the polls. (I know. Donald Trump. I know. Shut up.) I don’t really know anyone from Alabama, so I don’t have the option of grabbing someone by the shoulders, shaking them, and shouting, “What is going on?!” even though that is what I really, really feel like doing.
Instead, like so many of you, I’m forced to watch from afar in horror.
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not slamming her face repeatedly into her keyboard in utter horror and disbelief, she studies gender in popular culture.
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