Kevin Cramer's Terrible Lesson for Teenage Boys

JACOB DENNINGER: Speaking about the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a television interview, North Dakota Representative and Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer taught teenage boys a terrible lesson.

Cramer said that the allegations were “even more absurd” than the allegations against Clarence Thomas in 1991 because “these people were teenagers when this supposed alleged incident took place.” Cramer also said, referring to the accusation of sexual assault and attempted rape against Kavanaugh, “There was no type of intercourse or anything like that.” Finally, Cramer asked, “Even if it’s all true...does it disqualify him from the Supreme Court?”

Let’s break each of these comments down, but let’s put aside whether or not the allegations are true or not. The comments are problematic because of how they address the behavior included in the allegations, not because they question the truth of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations.

Cramer’s first comment implies that rape and sexual assault are acceptable if the perpetrator is a teenager, as if that makes the behavior not as bad, or even not bad at all. But rape and sexual assault are always serious crimes, no matter how old the perpetrator is.

Cramer’s second comment implies the behavior of which Kavanaugh is accused is not bad because the attempted rape was unsuccessful. It makes it seem as if sexually assaulting and attacking a girl should be excused, as long as there is no sexual intercourse. But this behavior can not be excused, despite the fact that it was, in Cramer’s words, “an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”

Cramer’s final comment implies that the charges Kavanaugh faced are not bad enough to disqualify someone from serving on the Supreme Court. And if even serving on the Supreme Court, a position that should hold Justices to higher standards of behavior, should not be out of reach for someone who has committed the offenses Kavanaugh is accused of, what repercussions do teenage boys have to fear if they perpetrate acts of sexual violence?

Overall, Cramer’s comments make excuses for and minimize the magnitude of sexual violence. They reflect an old-school, pre-#MeToo, “boys will be boys” mentality that teaches teenage boys the wrong lesson: that sexual violence isn’t that bad and that boys should be able to get away with it with no repercussions for perpetrators. It is the same mentality displayed by a Republican woman who said, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?” during an interview, as if sexual assault is a normal teenage behavior.

So let me, as a teenage boy, be very clear. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and any other kind of sexual violence are never acceptable. Period. It doesn’t matter matter if the perpetrator is a teenager or is drunk at the time. It doesn’t matter if it was an “attempt or something that never went anywhere.” And it is not a normal act for a teenage boy.

For those who perpetrate acts of sexual violence, there should be repercussions. No one who behaved in the way Kavanaugh is accused of behaving should be able to serve in any office of public trust. Not dog catcher, not Court of Appeals judge, not Supreme Court Justice.

Cramer’s comments on the Kavanaugh allegations make it seem as though the behavior he is accused of is acceptable. It’s not. And no one who claims that it is should serve in the United States Senate.

Max Magid