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What does a “love child” have to do with sexual violence?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 13:43 EDT
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Some times nothing, some times everything.  I'm sure someone can do a syllogism of this, but my feeling is that a man who is harassing and violent towards women probably isn't the sort of guy who is likely to suddenly grow a conscience when it comes to cheating on his wife.  But I don't think the flip is true—that a cheater is necessarily a violent man.  So, I'd say that there's no reason to think Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich harasses women because they're cheaters.  But a man who harasses women is probably a cheater. 

I guess the way I'd put it is that X means Y, but that doesn't mean Y means X.  Such as, if it's raining, there are clouds in the sky, but that doesn't mean that because clouds are in the sky, it's raining.  Just substitute cheating for "clouds in the sky" and sexual harassment for "raining".

Which leads me to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the least surprising revelation of all time, that he had a child with a servant ten years ago, and concealed it from his wife, who has taken a lot of shit on his behalf in the time they've been together.  (Not that she's off the hook, which I'll get to.)  This is an excellent time to remind everyone that Schwarzenegger was accused by a lot of women of sexual harassment during the 2003 campaign.  These accusations carried a lot of weight, for a number of reasons:

1) The accusations were numerous, extended over 25 years, and were from women who had nothing to gain personally from accusing him, but were only coming out because they were concerned that he could get elected governor.

2) He admitted guilt: ""Those people that I have offended, I want to say to them that I am deeply sorry about that and I apologise because that's not what I'm trying to do."  Yes, he made excuses for himself, but basically he admitted it.

3) This interview he did for Oui magazine in 1977, where he said this:

"Bodybuilders party a lot, and once, in Gold's–the gym in Venice, California, where all the top guys train–there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together." Asked by Manso if he was talking about a "gang bang," Schwarzenegger answered, "Yes, but not everybody, just the guys who can fuck in front of other guys. Not everybody can do that. Some think that they don't have a big-enough cock, so they can't get a hard-on. Having chicks around is the kind of thing that breaks up the intense training. It gives you relief, and then afterward you go back to the serious stuff."

The disclaimer is that there's always a slender chance that the woman in question was fully consenting, but if so, the way he describes the incident is strange.  Was the force implied part of a game?  It's hard to tell if he's leaving out the part where the woman said, "Yes please, 'take' me upstairs and 'jump' on me.  Pretending to be raped by a bunch of bodybuilders gets me off." His complete indifference to her experience of the situation is what's remarkable from this passage.  The presence or absence of consent is his recollection leads the reader to conclude he didn't care either way.

Needless to say, for those of us who never forgot all this crap, the fact that the woman in question was a servant of Schwarzenegger's was the least surprising aspect of this story.  I am curious to hear her story and hope that if she's signed some non-disclosure agreement, the exposure of this story will make that null and void.

*****************

Here is a concern that was hashed out on Twitter, with Anthea Butler setting me straight. I noted that I feel bad—and often feel bad—for Maria Shriver, who has been publicly humilated by her douchebag husband repeatedly.  Has any woman in politics had to suffer so many people wondering what she sees in him?  But as Anthea pointed out to me, Shriver has her own responsibility for this mess.  Not the cheating, but the fact that such a horrible man ended up the governor of California.  Because when all these accusations came out about Schwarzenegger, and when he basically admitted to them, it was the presence of the well-respected Maria Shriver that allowed him to basically dodge the accusations.

Twenty-six years later it has become clear that whether she's working to land the man of her dreams—or to propel him all the way to California's governorship—Maria Owings Shriver fights for what she wants. On Oct. 7, wearing a $1,000 Dolce & Gabbana dress and her grandmother Rose's diamond engagement ring, Shriver, 47, beamed as Schwarzenegger declared victory in Los Angeles. "I know how many votes I got today because of you," he told the world. Indeed, at the end of the race Shriver was constantly by his side, helping to blunt charges of sexual harassment that threatened Schwarzenegger's candidacy. "When it comes to her husband, kids and friends, Maria is like a lioness with her cubs," says her good friend Wanda McDaniel Ruddy, who notes that Shriver shed 15 lbs. during the effort. "She didn't eat because she was too busy. She was running on adrenaline."

Here's the problem: Shriver is a prominent feminist activist. She worked with the Center for American Progress to put together a report on American women, their gains and their challenges.  It was a pretty good report!  She does good work, and that's what makes it all the more frustrating that she used all the good will she's garnered in order to propel a groping, lying shitbag into the governor's seat of the largest state in the country.

I'm not eager to judge anyone for who they fall in love with or marry.  Love is remarkably good at blinding people to who they're in love with, and anyone who claims this hasn't happened to them is either lucky or lying. 

But your moral responsibilities kick in when the man you love starts doing things that are wrong and you help him do it.  Shriver could have declined to help him run for governor, and I doubt that anyone would have thought less of her for doing it.  If she wanted to dodge the issue, she could have pointed out that she differs with her husband politically, and she can't bring herself to campaign for someone she wouldn't vote for.  So while I do feel bad that she's getting humiliated so publicly, she played a role in this.  And I hope other women that are caught up in sick relationships with hopeless cads are paying attention.  Even if your emotional and sexual feelings are such that you haven't got it in you to leave yet, that doesn't mean you have to enable.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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