On Rep. Massa

[Trigger warning.]

So, I really didn't want to have to write about former Republican-current Democratic Representative Eric Massa, whose implosion—"Originally, you'll remember, Massa claimed he was retiring due to health problems. But when reports surfaced last week that he had been accused of sexually harassing a male staffer, Massa said the ethics issue 'is my fault and mine alone.' On Sunday, the story changed again, as Massa accused prominent Democrats of orchestrating a vendetta against him because of his health care stance"—brings me no particular joy or sorrow, but then Massa took to the cable news last night to discuss the allegations that he sexually harassed and/or assaulted several of his male staffers and interns:
"No, no, no!" he said when asked during an interview with Fox's Glenn Beck. "I did nothing sexual."

…That is at odds with an account provided by Mr. Massa, who, the day before, described an inappropriate encounter he had with a male aide during another staff member's wedding in January. He said he grabbed the aide while the two were seated at a table, joked about having sexual relations with him and mussed his hair before getting up and leaving.

In the interview with Mr. Beck, Mr. Massa acknowledged exercising poor judgment in his interactions with his staff on another occasion. He recalled tickling an aide during a birthday party in a townhouse he shared with five of his staff members.

"Now they are saying I groped a male staffer," he told Mr. Beck. "Yeah I did. Not only did I grope him. I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday. It was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context."

Mr. Massa suggested he was warned about how his conduct was being perceived.

"My chief of staff had a conniption and said: 'You can't live there; it's not Congressional'," he said. Mr. Massa, who is married, explained that he and his aides — "all bachelors" — lived together because they could not afford Washington's "outrageous rents."

"I should not have allowed myself to become so familiar with my staff," he said.
But then, Massa "said hours later on CNN's Larry King Live that 'it is not true' that he groped anyone on his staff. He told Beck that he resigned from the House because he made the mistake of 'getting too familiar with my staff' members, but he told King that he left primarily for health reasons."

Massa is clearly very mixed-up at the moment, and I have no interest in speculating about the causes (nor is that welcome in comments). But whatever's underlying his curious vacillations, one thing is evident: Only in a rape culture where men (in particular) are socialized to associate masculinity with sexual aggression, and regard as intrinsic to their privilege unconstrained access to the bodies of their perceived subordinates, could "I grabbed my aide and joked about fucking him" and "I never groped anyone on my staff" be proffered as non-conflicting statements, or could "I tickled him until he couldn't breathe" be justified as some birthday fun for the boss.

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