A local Republican politician in the posh town of Greenwich, CT was arrested recently for grabbing a woman by the genitals, an assault he and his lawyer characterized as “a playful gesture.” Christopher von Keyserling, 71 and a long time member of the Greenwich town council, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with fourth-degree sexual assault. He was released on $2,500 bail and has a court date set for January 25.
The incident occurred last month when von Keyserling encountered a 57 year-old woman in a hallway. A brief political argument ensued in which von Keyserling reportedly said “I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct.” When the woman tried to walk away, von Keyserling allegedly reached between her legs and pinched her groin, adding to the woman that “it would be your word against mine and no one will believe you.”
That’s right. In Trump’s America, Republican politicians can now “grab women by the p*ssy” since they don’t “have to be politically correct.”
According to police, surveillance footage of the incident is entirely consistent with the woman’s account.
While this incident is merely one of the thousands of cases of sexual assault every day in this country, it is indicative of the disgusting attitudes of male entitlement that drive so much sexual violence and that are now sanctioned by the highest levels of government. To characterize a sexual assault as “playful,” or to believe that non-consensually grabbing a woman’s genitals could ever be a “jocular moment” is to reduce all women to passive objects waiting to be fu*ked.
The incident is also a frightening indication of how our politicians’ words and actions have real effects for ordinary people. Von Keyserling was clearly taking his cue from Donald Trump, not only in his repudiation of so-called “political correctness” but of course also in his grabbing a woman by the pu*sy, as Mr. Trump infamously bragged he could do freely. A tragically high number of men, Trump and von Keyserling included, seem to believe that if they can do it they should do it. Hence Trump’s pride at the groping powers his celebrity status granted him and von Keyserling’s telling his victim that nobody would believe her.
What is most dangerous about the present situation, however, is the conflation of the fabricated war on political correctness with a free pass to sexually assault. Von Keyserling clearly saw his assault as part of the new opportunities granted him by the overthrow of “political correctness.” And given the fact that Trump and other top Republicans have repeatedly defended the president-elect’s many sexual assaults in similar terms, it is no surprise that Trump’s followers are taking after their idol.
The Republican Party currently unofficially endorses sexual assault. Worse, it presents such abuse as a brave repudiation of “political correctness.” All decent Americans have a duty to fight back against this patriarchal oppression, which is why next weekend’s Women’s March on Washington is so important.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.