Trigger warning: This post discusses accounts of sexual harassment and assault.
In September, at least three women came forward with accusations that then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted them as teenagers. The allegations, starting with Christine Blasey Ford’s account of an attempted rape, reinvigorated a national dialogue about consent and rape culture. Kavanaugh may have been confirmed to SCOTUS, but the conversation is still ongoing. Now, in a new article, The New York Times is continuing the dialogue by publishing eight stories from men who admitted to past sexual misconduct.
Alicia Wittmeyer, staff editor of The Times’ opinion section, wrote that the paper received more than 750 responses to the call for men’s accounts of their sexual wrongdoings, which was issued in response to Ford’s accusation. Ultimately, The Times selected eight stories, which they printed alongside the writers’ names, their ages at the time of the incidents, and the years they graduated from high school.
Some of the men admitted that they knew it was wrong but felt like they were supposed to act the way they did, while others said they didn’t realize it was wrong until later. But all of the respondents expressed remorse for what they had done. The result is a disturbing—but critical—look at what can drive someone to commit sexual assault or harassment.
One man, Gene Biringer, wrote that during a group wrestling match, he had groped a friend he was attracted to but who intimidated him. Seeing her reaction immediately made him feel ashamed.
Biringer wrote that he had later been sexually assaulted, and the experience caused him to empathize with the girl he had wronged.
Another man, Tom Lynch, wrote about putting his hand up his prom date’s skirt as they rode in a limo. Lynch said he felt regret when he later saw her mom and felt “sad” that he had done that. He later came out as gay.
Max Maples, the only Millennial respondent featured, recalled pressuring his high school girlfriend for oral sex, and confessed that he didn’t realize it was wrong until later.
Maples continued by writing that he feels society promotes the idea that “men are allowed to act on sexual impulse because they feel it more strongly than women do.”
Of course, acknowledging someone’s motivation for committing sexual misconduct and their guilt afterwards does not mean their behavior is in any way absolved. But hopefully, with pieces like this one, other men will reflect on the ways they have hurt women in the past and work to be better in the future—and teach the next generation of men to be better, too.
You can read all eight stories here.