George HW Bush has now been accused of “sexual assault” by two actresses. The first alleged victim said that the wheelchair-bound ex-president touched her butt and told a “dirty joke” while posing for a photograph. A second woman, also scarred for life by an encounter with the sick, elderly WW2 hero, said that her butt was “groped” during a photo. From this second woman we find out the content of the horrifying, sexually explicit joke he’s apparently been telling across the country: He said that his favorite magician is “David Cop-A-Feel.” It’s a quip that wouldn’t even earn a PG rating these days, yet has scandalized these women and many members of the media.
Bush’s spokesman has issued an apology and explained that Bush is confined to a wheelchair and cannot physically reach above a person’s waist. He tells this joke to make light of the awkwardness, but he admits that on occasion he has patted a rear or two in what was supposed to be a “good-natured” manner. Unfortunately, that is an admission of guilt. Bush fought in WW2, became a congressman, ambassador, CIA director, then Vice President, then President, but now he must die in disgrace because at the age of 93, stricken by Parkinson’s and partially senile, he touched someone’s butt. That’s the way it goes now, I guess.
Let’s just hope these women never enter a nursing home. You’ll get felt up left and right by residents of both genders, and you’ll hear comments approximately 10 billion times more inappropriate than “David Cop-a-Feel.” It’s not just a figure of speech to say that the elderly have no filter. It’s an actual psychological phenomenon. People at this age have lowered inhibitions and less self-awareness. They are very likely to say and do embarrassing things. We can either laugh it off and show patience and kindness to them, or we can smear them publicly in hopes of gaining our 15 minutes of fame. Personally, I choose door number one.
After all, if Bush’s behavior can be called sexual assault, then I have been sexually assaulted countless times. I travel around the country for speaking gigs and have frequently been touched, especially by the older set, in ways that I can only describe as “familiar.” Here’s one example: An extremely old woman said she wanted to take a picture with me “for her grandson.” Likely story. During the photo she squeezed me around the waist suggestively and told me that she “just started dating again.” Everyone laughed, and so did I.
Another example: After a speech, a similarly old woman approached me to tell me how much she appreciated my comments. As we talked, she grabbed my hands and didn’t let go for several minutes. I would not have been OK with this if it were a young woman (or a young man), but this woman was older than my grandmother. I figured that yanking my hands away would be an ungracious and rude response. Finally, the woman’s daughter came up and joked that if her dad saw the two of us, he’d want to beat me up. We all laughed. Then I went on living my life. Little did I realize that I’d just been sexually assaulted, yet again, by a sweet old lady. It never even occurred to me to think of it that way. Probably because I’m not deranged.
See, this is what happens when we call everything sexual assault. If a pat on the butt from a sick old man in a wheel chair is sexual assault then my various encounters with touchy-feely old women must be sexual assault then really anything is sexual assault, so nothing is sexual assault. The term “sexual assault” loses all discernible meaning if it can now apply to physical contact of any kind. In fact, even if Bush were younger, healthier, more lucid, and behaved like this, I still wouldn’t call it sexual assault. I would call it inappropriate. I would call it uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t equate it with rape because that would demean and degrade the true victims.
So, maybe we should take it easy and leave George HW Bush alone. If this is the worst skeleton in his closet, I say let him be. And if you’re really offended by an extremely old man putting his arm around your waist, I say again that you must stay far away from any place where extremely old people might congregate. They’re real hands-on types. Proceed with caution. Or maybe just calm down and have a little grace.