Bill Cosby and the cruel joke that is the “rape exception”


Crossposted from

ac360 screenshot

A friend of mine asked recently if I planned on posting about the recent release of the deposition where Bill Cosby admitted to obtaining qualuudes to drug women he wanted to have sex with. I do feel like others have done the matter itself more justice than I could (special kudos to Jamilah Lemieux) but when I watched this CNN segment where Anderson Cooper interviewed Cosby victim Patti Masten it drove home a point I and other reproductive rights advocates have been making for some time. That point is that the “rape exception” blithely offered by anti-choicers as a token of moderation of their attempts to criminally ban abortion is – not to put too fine a point on it – bullshit.

Watch Masten, a former Playboy Club employee, describe how her male bosses (after she recounted her experience to them) scoffed at the very notion that anyone would believe that a famous and beloved comedian would drug and rape a woman. They told her to forget about it and move on. Worth noting is that they also had their own vested interest in protecting Cosby.

What if Masten had gotten pregnant by the attack and wanted an abortion, but the criminal ban on abortion that anti-choicers want had been in place? How, precisely, would she have obtained that magnanimous “rape exception” under the strict parameters that would typically bind such a thing? The proposed requirements (police report, mandatory counseling, etc.) vary but none that I’m aware of simply take the rape victim at her word. Of course they wouldn’t.

So-called “rape exceptions” are steeped in the same disbelief of victims and skepticism of women’s testimony as greeted Cosby’s accusers. Think about how rarely rape victims report in general and how often predators, especially if they are powerful, are shielded and enabled. Consider also how much “gray area” area around consent exists in sexual encounters and relationships*, and how women don’t necessarily control the contraception use.

Ponder – no, please, pour yourself a cup of tea and think hard on this – that dozens of women have come forward accusing Bill Cosby of raping them (or attempting it) but a lot of people still refused to believe them because, hey, he’s Bill Cosby and who are you, you conniving whore? And we are supposed to trust anti-abortion zealots – who don’t really believe that being raped is ever an excuse for abortion to be allowed – to craft sensible and compassionate “rape exceptions”, given how that is the culture in which they operate?

It seems to me that keeping criminal bans the hell off women’s private health decisions would be the way to go if you truly care about rape victims.

*Yes, the coercion sometimes (with heterosexuals) goes from the female toward the male. But only the possessors of female reproductive organs can become pregnant from sexual encounters, which is the subject at issue here.


  1. I was one of those people who wanted to believe Cosby was innocent despite the large number of women coming forward with basically the same story about him raping them. I was a useful idiot who just could not imagine Bill Cosby was capable of such disgusting and hateful actions. Now, I have to admit I was wrong…badly wrong.

    Shame on me.

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