Feminism validated: Bill Cosby and the Playboy playbook

When I first heard the song “Have Some Madeira M’Dear” I didn’t think it was funny. The British comedy duo of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, were active from 1956 to 1967.  I heard first heard the song much later, after the duo has ceased performing.

The song is about a 17-year-old girl and an elderly playboy who uses the Portuguese fortified wine to help in the seduction. For me, it reflects the same kind of mentality that a women who is drunk is fair game for sexual predators. In the Great Britain, the age of consent has been 16 since 1885. This was up from the original 13. The song is about a girl who has reached the age of consent and not considered a minor.

The premise of the song is that and old, vile man wants to get her drunk enough for him to peel her panties. Alcohol has been used to make a woman more likely to have sexual intercourse, but when a woman is drunk the attitude toward her plays into the rape myth: If a woman is drunk or high, then she asked for it.

That attitude continues today with one Alaskan beer company naming one of their beers Panty Peeler. The Alaskan rape rate is 2.5 times the national average and child sexual assault is six times the national average.  For me, considering the kind of hostile environment of Alaska, that moniker isn’t humorous at all.

In 1975, Susan Brownmiller published her historical treatise on rape and rape myths, “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape,” a book that in 1995 the New York Public Library named one of the 100 most important books of the 20th Century. Rape myths haven’t disappeared and include:

  • The victim was asking to be raped because she was drunk or high.
  • The victim was asking to be raped because of the way she dressed.
  • The victim was asking to be raped because she was careless (e.g. walking home late at night or in the wrong area).
  • The victim was not raped because she didn’t or could not fight or refuse.
  • Rapes occur between strangers.

Bill Cosby was born in 1937. Brownmiller was born in 1935.  Hugh Hefner was born in 1926. Attitudes toward women, sex, and rape have changed markedly since then.  Once it was thought that “good girls” didn’t get raped and there was a lot of victim/survivor blaming. Once the concept of rape within marriage didn’t exist and rape could well be part of the marriage ritual in ancient cultures, a tradition that continues today in some cultures. A rape seems to be part of one character’s courtship in “Atonement” (e.g. Paul Marshall since he raped the 15-year-old girl not once, but twice and then marries her).  The rape in “Atonement” takes place in 1935, the same year that Brownmiller was born. According to Joan Collins, her first husband used a similar courtship technique.

Hefner would have been nine years old in 1935. He founded the American men’s lifestyle magazine “Playboy” in 1953–in Chicago. Marilyn Monroe was the first centerfold. The Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles was acquired in 1971. Hefner’s original mansion was bought in Chicago in 1959. Hefner used to divide his time between his Chicago and Los Angeles mansions until 1974 when Hefner moved permanently to Los Angeles.

Brownmiller’s 1975 book called attention to rape in culture, war and relationships. Also, in 1975, the term “sexual harassment” was coined. The term “acquaintance rape” was first used in print by feminist writer Diana Russell. Acquaintance rape can be categorized into gang rape, date rape, custodial rape, child rape and statutory rape. The first major book about acquaintance rape was published in 1988 (“I Never Called It Rape” by Robin Warshaw).

If we are to believe accounts by Izabella St. James (“Bunny Tales” 2009) and Kendra Wilkinson (“Sliding into Home” 2010), in order to cope with life as a woman in the Playboy Mansion West, one requires a lot of drugs and alcohol. Having sex is more of a business proposition, one that can help pay off debt, provide financial assistance for plastic surgery or bring one a lucrative centerfold deal. Growing up in that environment, one woman wrote was about men being in power and women were the weaker sex. Growing up as a young boy, Hefner’s son was mostly sheltered from the sexualized nature of the Playboy parties, but also admits he did get a peek. TMZ calls Marston and Cooper the “Luckiest Guys in the World,” but Marston was already arrested once for assault and his former Playboy Playmate girlfriend in 2010.

Bill Cosby has, since 1979, hosted the Los Angeles Playboy Jazz Festival. According to Inside Edition, Cosby was a regular at the Playboy parties. In the days of the old unchallenged double standard, being a good father and being a player weren’t contradictory. Through his Playboy connections, Cosby met some of the girls grasping for glamour model glory. Former Playboy Bunny Sarita Butterfield said that Cosby cornered her at his guest house and groped her. Another former bunny, Carla Ferrigno was similarly assaulted.

The scenario that former Playboy bunny Victoria Valentino describes to the Washington Post is similar to those of the Madeira song except for a few details. Valentino was with a friend Francesca Emerson accepted expensive gifts. Emerson accepted $1000 after a job loss. Valentino and her friend Meg Foster accepted massages at a local spa, steak dinners and red pills. Instead of a stamp collection, Cosby invited them to see “I Spy” memorabilia.

What’s interesting is to compare the outrage of the women making accusations about Bill Cosby to the shrugs of the women of Wall Street.

If these allegations are true, what Bill Cosby allegedly did wasn’t morally right, but apparently it was acceptable at one time. These women didn’t report it then at a time when some women, feminists, were fighting to change attitudes. Legally, for most of these women, it’s too late to do anything about the rape and sexual assault allegations now. Some of them made a conscious choice. They need to live with that choice. Others didn’t have enough evidence in order to make a legal case.

There were other ways these women muddied the waters. Some of them accepted gifts. Even now, people ask if a guy buys a girl dinner, does she “owe” him sex. That attitude was more prevalent decades ago and these women did allow Cosby to buy them things and essentially “buy” them.  The social contract was only beginning to be questioned and it was questioned by feminists. And the Hollywood casting couch was not unknown decades ago. For many of these accusers, I wonder if they consider themselves feminists or if they would shy away from the word. I wonder if they laughed at feminists and enjoyed jokes at the expense of feminists.

Many of these women made specific decisions not to say anything at the time. That was their decision. I don’t really want to hear their excuses because there were women making waves, or trying to, sacrificing their opportunities to change attitudes. Now even though the women making late accusations against Bill Cosby made the decision not to attempt to bring charges, three have a lawyer, Gloria Allred, who wants to start a new legal system, funded by Bill Cosby? Allred doesn’t even bother to separate the rape allegations with those of battery that apparently involves groping a breast.

While I do feel that men should not grope women and that men who do should be punished, so many women are groped by men in their lives, until all men are routinely brought to trial for groping women’s breasts, it wouldn’t seem fair to just bring Bill Cosby into court for those actions. If being groped is traumatizing, then most women have been traumatized.

Feminists have declared that women live in a war zone; we face a hostile environment. That’s not because of Bill Cosby. That is because many men share the same attitudes toward Bill Cosby. Those attitudes existed when Bill Cosby was born and certainly Playboy hasn’t exactly helped in changing those attitudes that women are little more than sex object. Feminists have. And yet the general attitude in America today makes people seen feminists in a negative light.

Bill Cosby is a product of his age. Judging his actions that occurred decades ago by today’s standards may not be fair. Would a jury of that time have acquitted him? We won’t know the answer because there either wasn’t enough evidence or the women chose not to make the charge. They may regret it, but it was a choice that is not too late to re-do.

If we are to believe Corey Feldman’s account that this kind of thing goes on still, why aren’t we looking at cases that can be charged? If sexual harassment still widely occurs in Hollywood, that we are just focusing in on Cosby makes me wonder if people are attacking him and only him because he is vulnerable?

Since the 1920, the era when Hugh Hefner was born, we’ve come a long way from blaming the victim to supporting survivors. We’ve come a long way to get where we’ve gotten today and we’ve feminists to thank for that.

I’m against this trial by public opinion, but if you want to talk about something, there’s plenty to talk about. Do men still think it’s funny to get a woman (or man)  drunk in order to have sex? I’d stay away from those kind of men. If women are just sex objects, then as if alcohol isn’t enough, will men be tempted to insure their success by adding another drug?  Do women still feel they need to play nice in order to be successful? Do you still think of feminists in a negative light?

If you’re outraged that women were possibly victimized by a man for decades, then be mad that these women made the decision not to bring charges or didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges and then be mad at those people who put down feminists. The attitudes toward a playboy playbook of seduction by alcohol and drugs has become illegal because of the feminists who fought and won legal rights.

Have Some Madeira M’Dear

She was young, she was pure, she was new, she was nice
She was fair, she was sweet seventeen.
He was old, he was vile, and no stranger to vice
He was base, he was bad, he was mean.
He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps,
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat,
The wine, his cigar and the lamps:

Have some madeira, m’dear. You really have nothing to fear.
I’m not trying to tempt you, that wouldn’t be right,
You shouldn’t drink spirits at this time of night.
Have some madeira, m’dear. It’s really much nicer than beer.
I don’t care for sherry, one cannot drink stout,
And port is a wine I can well do without…
It’s simply a case of chacun a son gout
Have some madeira, m’dear.

Unaware of the wiles of the snake-in-the-grass
And the fate of the maiden who topes,
She lowered her standards by raising her glass,
Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.
She sipped it, she drank it, she drained it, she did!
He promptly refilled it again,
And he said as he secretly carved one more notch
On the butt of his gold-headed cane:

Have some madeira, m’dear,
I’ve got a small cask of it here.
And once it’s been opened, you know it won’t keep.
Do finish it up. It will help you to sleep.
Have some madeira, m’dear.
It’s really an excellent year.
Now if it were gin, you’d be wrong to say yes
The evil gin does would be hard to assess..
Besides it’s inclined to affect me prowess,
Have some madeira, m’dear.

Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said
With her antepenultimate breath,
“Oh my child, should you gaze on the wine that is red
Be prepared for a fate worse than death!”
She let go her glass with a shrill little cry,
Crash! Tinkle! it fell to the floor;
When he asked, “What in Heaven?” She made no reply,
Up her mind, and a dash for the door.

Have some madeira, m’dear.
Rang out down the hall loud and clear
With a tremulous cry that was filled with despair,
As she paused to take breath in the cool midnight air,
Have some madeira, m’dear.
The words seemed to ring in her ear.
Until the next morning, she woke up in bed
With a smile on her lips and an ache in her head…
And a beard in her ear’ole that tickled and said:
Have some madeira, m’dear!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.