**Content warning: sexual assault.**
E. Jean Carroll is the writer behind Elle Magazine’s advice column “Ask E. Jean.” She’s been doing that column for 26 years and in her new book, titled What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal, she writes that during that time, “no matter what problems are driving women crazy — their careers, wardrobes, love affairs, children, orgasms, finances — there comes a line in almost every letter when the cause of the correspondent’s quagmire is revealed. And that cause is men.”
In the book, she reflects on her own history with problems caused by men, and she shares her list of the “The Most Hideous Men of My Life”–21 men who have had a profound and dark impact on her. She says she started the list the day the New York Times exposé on Harvey Weinstein was published. I’m not sure if all 21 entries are stories of sexual assault, but the ones shared in an excerpt published in New York Magazine are.
There’s the camp counselor who molested her at age 12, the college boy who attempted to rape her at knifepoint, the ad exec who gave her a job when all he wanted was to fondle her under a dinner table and chase her back to her hotel. Les Moonves, the former CBS president who has been accused of harassment and abuse by more than a dozen women, also makes the list after she said he attacked her in an elevator after she interviewed him for Esquire in 1997. She describes him as being “like an octopus.”
And there’s another horrible man on her list. She does not name him but there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the man is Donald Trump.
She describes meeting him outside Bergdorf’s, the extremely high-end luxury department store. He says to her, “Hey, you’re that advice lady!”
“And I say to No. 20 on the Most Hideous Men of My Life List: “Hey, you’re that real-estate tycoon!’”, she writes.
Carroll says Trump asked her to help him pick out a gift “for a girl.” She made a few suggestions (a purse, a hat) but he wanted to get lingerie and tried to get Carroll to model it for him. (Subtle.)
There are two or three dainty boxes and a lacy see-through bodysuit of lilac gray on the counter. The man snatches the bodysuit up and says: “Go try this on!”
“You try it on,” I say, laughing. “It’s your color.”
“Try it on, come on,” he says, throwing it at me.
“It goes with your eyes,” I say, laughing and throwing it back.
“You’re in good shape,” he says, holding the filmy thing up against me. “I wanna see how this looks.”
“But it’s your size,” I say, laughing and trying to slap him back with one of the boxes on the counter.
“Come on,” he says, taking my arm. “Let’s put this on.”
He does manage to get her to the dressing room, though she writes that she still had the intention of getting him to put the garment on over his clothes. “This is gonna be hilarious, I’m saying to myself — and as I write this, I am staggered by my stupidity.”
It doesn’t matter if you believe her on this point. It doesn’t matter if Trump might have succeeded in getting her to put on lingerie for him in a public department store. It doesn’t matter if she was flirting or attracted to him or if she wasn’t. None of that is a justification for what she says that Trump did.
“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights,” writes Carroll.
“I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing,” she continues. For someone who has never been in a situation like that, laughter might sound absurd or like a “mixed message,” despite her physical struggle. I don’t know what Carroll was thinking at this moment but I do know that women in general are conditioned to take men’s feelings into account above our own, even when they’re assaulting us. We see this repeatedly in Carroll’s excerpt. She yells at the ad exec groping her under the table but stays for dinner. She says she pushes Trump off of her but keeps laughing so she doesn’t seem uptight or she doesn’t want to upset him or whatever her exact thought may be.
She also writes that women her age have the mentality of “just ‘get on with it’ … It’s how we handle things: Chin up! Stop griping! We do not cast ourselves as victims because we do not see ourselves as victims.” As if men haven’t shaped that narrative from the start, telling us that we’re victimizing ourselves by calling them out for their abuse.
She calls herself “a member of the Silent Generation” but even today, even in the #MeToo era which isn’t even a full blink yet in the scope of modern history, these are feelings of needing to silence ourselves are ones too many women are sure to find familiar. “Like many women who are attacked,” she writes, “when I had the most to say, I said the least.”
But back to Trump, Carroll writes,
The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.
The whole episode lasts no more than three minutes. I do not believe he ejaculates. I don’t remember if any person or attendant is now in the lingerie department. I don’t remember if I run for the elevator or if I take the slow ride down on the escalator. As soon as I land on the main floor, I run through the store and out the door — I don’t recall which door — and find myself outside on Fifth Avenue.
Carroll knows people will ask why she didn’t speak up sooner or go to the police but if you’re still asking those questions, I can’t help but wonder why you haven’t been listening to all the women and men who have repeatedly given their answers over the last year and a half (and earlier, of course).
Besides the victim blaming and the trauma and everything else that makes sure every generation is the Silent Generation, going up against a powerful man is especially daunting. Carroll says that at the time, she told two friends what happened. One tried to get her to go to the police. The other told her, “Tell no one. Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.”
She also knows that by speaking out now, “I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did,” which is so incredibly depressing precisely because of how true it is.
“His admirers can’t get enough of hearing that he’s rich enough, lusty enough, and powerful enough to be sued by and to pay off every splashy porn star or Playboy Playmate who ‘comes forward,’ so I can’t imagine how ecstatic the poor saps will be to hear their favorite Walking Phallus got it on with an old lady in the world’s most prestigious department store,” she writes.
Carroll is one of many women (16? 17?) who have accused Trump of sexual assault. No doubt, there will be people who doubt her story (which the White House has denied, saying it was “created simply to make the President look bad”) but to insist that more than a dozen women are lying seems like an impossible belief. At some point, don’t those people have to admit that they don’t think the women are lying, they just don’t care? Or worse, that they get off on it and are proud to have such a man leading the entire country.
(via The Cut, image: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for ELLE)
“I made a list of hideous men in my life. It includes the president — who assaulted me in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman 23 years ago.” E. Jean Carroll writes about the “Most Hideous Men of My Life” https://t.co/fm49cB30cX
— The Cut (@TheCut) June 21, 2019
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