“Shut Up and Enjoy it!”: Abortion Promoters who Sexually Pressure Women
by Ms. Boomer-ang
For the second time in 13 years in the same state, an abortion-promoting governor has resigned because of sexually “liberated” practices that displeased women. Besides Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo, other prominent “liberals” have acted the same. Some have gotten in trouble for it, some have gotten away with it. But their actions show that supporting abortion is compatible with sexually exploiting women, and that many women don’t like “liberated” sexual experiences.
Legal abortion has deprived women of once-accepted justifications for refusing a man’s sexual advances. In return, sexual libertinism helps generate demand for abortion. An early supporter of the post-1965 abortion push was Playboy’s Hugh Hefner. Is it any wonder that some men labeled as “women’s allies” for supporting abortion have sexually harassed, exploited, and/or abused women?
Powerful men have promoted abortion for both reasons related and reasons unrelated to sexual libertinism. For various reasons, including to wipe out justifications for rejecting their sexual advances, they imposed a sexual revolution about 50 years ago.
The sexual revolution put both men and women under pressure to increase their sexual activity. Men were told it was abnormal not to make more sexual advances. Women were told, “Don’t consider it harassment or exploitation. This is what you really want. This is what you really long for. Yes, you do! Be liberated! Shut up and enjoy it!”
Sexually demanding associates and bosses like Harvey Weinstein were portrayed as not abusers but teachers. How many men exposed for their sexual shenanigans react with, ‘I was just doing what was expected of me’? How many women endured their abuse convinced it was remedial sex education for their own good?
For years, the message has been: “The Sexual Revolution has won. If you complain or disrespect this victory, you’re a Religious Right, Puritan enemy of freedom.”
After all, didn’t the media report stories about Thomas Jefferson’s and John F. Kennedy’s extramaritial dalliances with happy excitement? Did not it treat Bill Clinton’s episode with Monica Lewinsky as happy entertainment?
For decades, Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon – a Republican abortion advocate – took sexual advantage of his female staff. Compatible with the image of exploiter as teacher, “at one point . . . he suggested it was his ‘Christian duty’ to have sex with a woman he thought deprived of it.”1 In 1981 or 1982, Mary Hefferman of NARAL was in his office, finishing up a discussion of abortion legislation, when he touched and kissed her in unwanted sexual ways. After that, Ms. Hefferman avoided being alone with him, but “she did not complain to anyone about the incident out of concern that it would adversely affect the abortion-rights cause.”2
But unlike many sexual harassers, Mr. Packwood did not get away with his behavior. In 1991, he and his first wife, Georgie, divorced. Soon after, a Washington Post investigated rumors about his womanizing and unethical activities. In 1995, the Senate concluded that his actions had “discredited” it, and he had to resign.
Georgie, quoted in the Buffalo News on September 10, 1995, said that his “shadow life made a mockery of my marriage . . . [and] a mockery of Bob’s dedication to equality for women.”
About a decade later, Eliot Spitzer was the Attorney General of New York State, and his agenda included closing down crisis pregnancy centers. In 2007, he became governor and championed a drastic bill to reduce a woman’s right to escape abortion and reduce a professional’s right not to participate in it. Roe v Wade denies women any protection from unwanted abortions in the first trimester. Spitzer’s bill would have extended that denial to all three trimesters. Pro-life publications suggested the bill could allow even chiropractors and massage therapists to cause miscarriages at any stage of pregnancy without the woman’s explicit permission and could require health care professionals to perform abortions in order to get licenses.
Before the bill was finalized, someone discovered that Spitzer was indulging in luxury prostitutes. His wife Silda, whatever she thought of his social agenda, looked very unhappy in the photo accompanying the news story about the prostitutes. In March 2008, Mr. Spitzer resigned. The Spitzers divorced in 2013.
But the media and prominent voices continued mocking those who objected to sexually libertine behavior – except if the exploiter espoused a “cultural conservatism” cause or belonged to a pro-life entity.
But then some women remembered that Harvey Weinstein had treated them as badly as the media was noticing Donald Trump had treated other women.
Weinstein was known as a big supporter of “women’s rights,” the New York Times acknowledged, but the story was too big to shove aside. Ironically, right after Trump’s election, the story of Weinstein’s sexploitation of women came out, and the #MeToo movement arose.
Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo, who had succeeded Spitzer as Attorney General, became Governor of New York in 2011. He and his wife, Kerry Kennedy, had divorced in 2005. His agenda was “culturally liberal.” In the middle of the last decade, he told pro-lifers (as well as people culturally conservative in certain other ways) that we don’t belong in New York.
In 2020, he proudly and excitedly signed a version of Spitzer’s abortion-promoting law. I don’t know how it compares with the Spitzer proposal. But one of its proud points is making it easier for parents to force a minor to abort against her will, no matter how late in gestation they discover the pregnancy. To celebrate this violent law, Cuomo had his girlfriend flick a switch that turned lights in New York City pink.
However, late that year, it came to light that some women complained about Cuomo’s making unwanted sexual moves on them. His misdeeds, from reports I read, seem less severe than Packwood’s. Would Cuomo have gotten into trouble if this were before the Weinstein exposure? Would he still have gotten into trouble if he were moving more quickly and energetically in enacting more points of a culturally/ ethically “liberal” agenda? Where was First Girlfriend now? In any case, some of Cuomo’s fellow Democrats rumbled about impeaching him. In August 2021, he resigned.
(New York State got its first woman governor, Kathy Hochul, as a consequence, but I don’t have high hopes for her. That’s a different story.)
In his resignation speech, Andrew Cuomo said, “In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn’t fully appreciate.”
However, the “line” between acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior had been redrawn before to the position he was used to in about 1970, before he entered his teens. That was the “generational and cultural shift” everyone spoke about. Maybe the line has been redrawn again since the Weinstein exposure, but it still is looser than it was before 1970, and we don’t know how long it will keep its new position.
They say baby boomers made the sexual revolution. But I was born at the height of the baby boom, and by the time I entered high school, the line was already at the position Andrew Cuomo was used to. Most women of my cohort felt they had no choice. Cuomo is a couple of years younger than me; maybe he didn’t remember the line’s pre-1970 position.
On August 13, the New York Times published a letter from a Gail Griffin saying, “Who drew the line in the first place? Whom did the [c.1970-2017] ‘rules’ serve? And most important, do you actually believe that the women being harassed approved of those ‘rules’ or enjoyed that treatment? . . . The fact is that women adjusted. Accommodated. Endured . . . The final test of a man’s ‘good intentions ‘ and respect for women might be whether or not he can identify enough with women to see how the . . . ‘rules’ dehumanized, demoralized, terrified, hurt, and deranged us.”
The media told us that sexual libertinism is what women really want, but only now are some taking seriously that a lot of women don’t like it.
1Helen Dewar, The Packwood Report, released September 7, 1995, Forward p. vi
2Testimony to Senate Ethics Council, Ibid, p. 65
For some of our other posts on abortion and women’s rights, see:
Abortion and Violence Against Pregnant Women / Martha Shuping, M.D.
The Myth of Sexual Autonomy / Julianne Wiley
How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture / Rachel MacNair
Oppressors of Women Scapegoat Fetuses to Preserve Patriarchy / Richard Stith