Chelsea G. Summers | Longreads | July 2018 | 15 minutes (3,801 words)
This is a piece about abuse. This is a piece about kink and a piece about consent. This is a piece about the law. This is a piece about some powerful men whom I’ve never met, and it’s a piece about some nobody men whom I’ve loved. This is a piece about rough sex, about “rough sex,” and about how these two categories overlap and rub each other raw. This is a piece that was hard for me to write and may be hard for you to read. Most of all, this is a piece about why masculinity is fractured, and how women get caught in its cracks.
On May 7 of this year, The New Yorker dropped its Eric Schneiderman bombshell. The article, cowritten by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, gives voice to four women who detail their experiences with Schneiderman, the New York attorney general at the time, and accuse him of repeated instances of “nonconsensual physical violence.” Presented as a thread in the unfolding #MeToo fabric of sexual abuse allegations, this New Yorker piece told four women’s stories of how Schneiderman slapped and choked them, “frequently in bed and never with their consent.” Within a day, Schneiderman had resigned his office.
I read the Mayer and Farrow piece with a mounting sense of dread, horror, and recognition. I’ve never met Schneiderman; I’ve never met the victims who allege his abuse. But I knew what these women were describing because I too have felt something like those slaps, those stings, that choking fear. I understood the disconnect between thinking you were dating a “woke” man, a guy who understood in his guts the inequity of being a woman in this patriarchal world, and finding that this man was a rank, abusive hypocrite.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Schneiderman glows with an idealized aura of the East Coast elite. After graduating from Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Schniederman worked as a public interest attorney before turning to public office. In 1998, Schneiderman ran for a New York Senate seat in New York’s 31st district, which at the time stretched from the Upper West Side through Washington Heights and into Riverdale in the Bronx. Schneiderman won that election. He won the next election. And he won four times more, eventually parlaying his state congressional successes into his winning 2010 bid for New York attorney general. By all public accounts, Schneiderman used his power and his privilege as a champion for women and for the poor. You couldn’t draw a better poster boy for American liberalism.
I think I voted for Schneiderman. Why would I not? I was a progressive Democrat, and Schneiderman looked like an exciting candidate. Supporting both women’s access to abortion and victims of domestic violence, Schneiderman’s record on women’s issues was strong. Indeed, as state senator, Schneiderman introduced and passed the Strangulation Prevention Act of 2010, a bill that specifically categorized choking as a criminal felony. In his nicely cut, nondescript suits and silver fox hair, Schneiderman embodied consummate “woke” manliness, a guy who can execute a decent jump shot, then effortlessly quash dickish locker-room talk.