American Apparel Sexist Ads Rape Culture
Photo: American Apparel
The controversial brand has made a name for themselves selling their clothing with sexist, objectifying images of mainly women photographed in sexually suggestive ways.

This article was originally published on December 28, 2015 and has been updated throughout.

Editor’s Note: Bill Cosby, who may may soon be facing jail time, is a “selective offender — striking when he has access, when he controls the setting, when he can be reasonably sure to conceal his actions,” prosecutors alleged in court at the pretrial hearing Tuesday, December 20th. Just days before the 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out, Cosby was arrested December 30, 2105, and charged with with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University student at his home in 2004. A criminal trial is scheduled to begin in June 2017.

The 78-year-old, knockout drug rapist accused of attacking nearly 60 women is taking action against seven of the women who have accused him of sexual assault. On December 14, Cosby filed a defamation suit against Massachusetts accusers Angela Leslie, Tamara Green, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis and Therese Serignese. The suit, filed in federal court, claims that the women have made “malicious, opportunistic and false and defamatory accusations of sexual misconduct against him and knowingly published false statements and accusations.”

Leslie, Green, Traitz, Moritz, Bowman, Tarshis and Serignese joined together and sued Cosby in November 2015 for defamation in response to Cosby and his legal team saying that they are falsely claiming that they are lying about being assaulted by him (statute of limitations prevent the women for suing him directly for sexual assault). Cosby hit back earlier this month with his counter suit saying that their accusations have caused him “shame, mortification” and “hurt feelings.”

Even after having testified in a 2005 deposition that he purchased the knockout drug Quaaludes with the intent to give them to women he wanted to have sex with, Cosby and his team are defending the accusations against him saying that the former star did not sexually abuse any of his seven accusers. “Mr. Cosby states plainly that he neither drugged nor sexually assaulted the defendants and that each defendant has maliciously and knowingly published multiple false statements.”

The assault allegations from the seven Massachusetts women include charges of forcing oral rape to manipulative and forced masturbation and unconscious, forced sex. Though Cosby claims to feel shame and hurt feelings, like many women that have experienced sexual assault, many of his accusers waited years to come forward because of shame or fear of retribution. Through the lens of patriarchy, women are often seen as temptresses therefore creating an uncomfortable reality of victim blaming and or disbelief. Survivors often feel like they aren’t allowed to seek justice through a system that is built upon the same lens that strips them of their autonomy. Claiming sexual assault can be an intimidating deterrent, and the burden of proof for women is often an uphill battle. Add to that Cosby’s fame and fortune and it can seem like justice is only for the socially privileged amongst us.

Having spent a lifetime objectifying women and feeling entitled to bodies there were not his own, Cosby’s tears and shame mean nothing. Though he’s denied all of the accusations agains him, it’s interesting that of all of his accusers, he’s focused on a handful of stories to speak out against. “It’s curious to me how there can be scores of other ladies who have come out, and yet Mr. Cosby has singled out seven of them to bring a claim against. It’s seems a bit retaliatory to me,” says Attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represents the seven women named in the Massachusetts suit.

To put Cosby’s entitled mindset into perspective, take the 2014 study, Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders, by “Violence and Gender” that found that nearly 32 percent of college men admit they would force a woman to have sex with them if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences” and claimed that they “didn’t know that ‘[forcing] a women to [have] sexual intercourse’ counts as rape.” Of those men, only 14% would admit to forceful sex if the word rape was used to describe the same encounter. It’s quite obvious that the wording is different but the meanings are the same. This study found that men willing to admit to intentions to rape harbored hostility towards women and felt that they were manipulative or deceitful which in turn justified rape in order to punish women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent survey, almost 20 percent of women in the United States have experienced rape and 43.9 percent of women “experienced other forms of sexual violence during their lifetimes, including being made to penetrate, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences.”

Outside of outright denying that he’s ever had encounters with his accusers, Bill Cosby has a history of callous attitudes towards women and throughout his depositions have spoken of his accusers with blatant and casual disregard and indifference. Often suggesting that he was skilled at picking up on nonverbal cues that a woman was giving consent, Cosby claimed he was a “pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.” In his 2005 deposition he is described as coming across as a “cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women — a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.” This is the same attitude that drives the 32 percent of college men to admit they would rape women.

Patriarchy-driven sexual callousness is the same worldwide problem that drives men like Bill Cosby and those that defend him to objectify women and place no value on their lives. It’s what drove director Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando to use the butter in the scripted rape scene while filming Last Tango In Paris, but to not tell co-star Maria Schneider “what was going on, because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.” It’s this type of dangerous prevalent thinking that keeps many survivors of sexual assault and rape from speaking out. It can be disheartening for some to know that sexual assault prevention depends heavily on men seeing women as equals who deserve respect. Of Cosby’s countersuit, Gloria Allred, the attorney who is one of six lawyers handling civil lawsuits against Cosby, says, “Bill Cosby appears to be going to war against women who have sued him in Massachusetts and who allege that he has victimized them. Although I do not represent the women in that case, I do believe that in general such a tactic will not deter courageous women from fighting the battle against him.”

It’s important for Cosby’s survivors and other women of sexual assault to keep speaking out. We have to support them and demand that men begin to hold themselves and each other accountable for hypermasculinity, sexual aggression and cultural attitudes that justify rape and victim blaming. Women don’t owe men their bodies. The excuse of “I didn’t know” or “She was asking for it” is tired and tone deaf. Men must be held accountable for their active and passive actions whether they claim to know the meaning of “rape” or not.

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