How the Truth Became a Victim of Progressive Politics: The Myth of the Bernie Sanders “rape apologist”

Bernie Sanders (image link:

I’m going to hop straight to the point here: Bernie Sanders was no more a rape apologist than Obama was, or is, a Muslim. No amount of pandering, punditry, or word garbage will change the fact that his essay — from 1972 — is about gender roles, and his view on how these entrenched views generate hostility. No amount of smearing, or logical fallacies will turn this 43 year old essay into “rape apology”. But this is more for my progressive colleagues, and less for my conservatives ones, because that’s where the real hypocrisy is. Even the conservative National Review defended Sanders by stating:

“Nobody honestly believes that Bernie Sanders is a sexual pervert or that he is a misogynist or that he intends to do women any harm. Nobody suspects that he harbors a secret desire to pass intrusive legislation or to cut gang rapists a break. Really, there is only one reason that anyone would make hay of this story, and that is to damage the man politically.”

Is the National Review to be our measure for progressive political correctness? I certainly hope not — and yet here I am, doing just that.

Indeed, no one left of center can “honestly” believe that Sanders was expressing some deep inner turmoil to rape women, or suggest that it’s acceptable. “Honestly” being the operative word, here.

There’s no doubt that Bernie Sanders said some off the wall things — it was the 1970’s, and he was obsessed with a Freudian acolyte. For those of you not caught up on your psychology 101 — Freud is only taught, legitimately, in survey courses, and in historical context. His impact on therapy has been all but wiped out. Why? Because it was found to be harmful, and wasn’t research based. And that acolyte, Wilhelm Reich — he died in prison. Both Freud and Reich had major impacts on psychology during that time. For that, I won’t criticize Sanders too much for not knowing what he knows now — that it was bogus, and harmful.

But this isn’t about his perspective that chronic emotional sadness can cause breast cancer (which was a belief that led to much research that debunked this claim) — this is about the notion that Bernie Sanders is a rape apologist.

The article, which can be read here, is referenced primarily by a small quote:

“A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.
A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously”

To ignore the rest of the piece is to do precisely what the Cooke (from the National Review) says — and that’s to inflict political damage. It’s amazing to me that progressives everywhere became defacto prudes, choosing to forgo logic and reasoning on the basis of political smearing. But it wasn’t just logic and reasoning, it was intellectual honesty that they forwent — and just basic honesty.

More baffling to me is that the prudishness — and outright lying — in context of only the second line. Somehow, it’s worse that women think about rape during sex, than it is that a man has tied up and abused women. Somehow, it’s more appropriate to be the abuser, than it is to be the abused, as if either is to be an acceptable outcome altogether, and yet this is the logical conclusion to the rationalized narrative, framed primarily by that of “progressives”.

And what of prudishness, and what of honesty? Despite Sanders’ previous beliefs on how fascism causes cancer (as opposed to being cancer, amirite?), those lines speak to a particular modern day truth — and that is, that women do, in fact, fantasize about rape, and that men, do, in fact, fantasize about particular elements of abuse.

But specific to Bernie’s quote: at least one easy to get to article points out that equally (among Canadian participants between the ages of 20–40) fantasize about being forced to have sex (28.9-female, 30.7-male), but that men fantasized about forcing someone to have sex (10.8-female, 22.0-male). The same held true when asked whether or not they fantasized about “abusing someone while drunk, asleep, or unconscious.” But sexual fantasies can be healthy outlets — even if they are “taboo”, and fantasizing about things does not mean that it will be exercised in a terrible and criminal capacity.

There’s all sorts of theories as to why people fantasize about concepts that would otherwise be very criminal, and very harmful. Some of these theories look into historical context to say that it was a means to experience sexuality “guilt free” — which is to say that they fantasized about rape in order to prevent themselves from feeling guilty while feeling sexual pleasure. Other theories reverse this to fit modern context following the sexual revolution, and to say that that such fantasies are an expression of female sexual freedom. But there’s also different kinds of rape fantasies that deal with the notion of simply being “dominated”, vs ones that cause avarice — or pain. Researchers have been looking into this for quite sometime — just hop on over the Kinsey Institute if you want to read more.

All of that was to get to this point: Bernie Sanders had a theory too — that rape happened more frequently, and sold as a sexual fantasy more frequently, due to the oppressive nature of gender roles. This line of reasoning isn’t too inconsistent with sociological frame works, and feminist frames of mind. Despite it’s feel for teenage angst, it was an attempt to tackle something we still tackle today — why does rape happen? Fundamentally, Sanders fell on what he viewed as outdated gender roles that caused an oppressive atmosphere.

To this end, rape is a terrible thing for any person to experience — it should not ever be condoned in any capacity. Bernie Sanders was not condoning rape — any attempt to justify such an argument shows the weakness of your logic, the hypocrisy of your rationale, and the vile nature of your intent.

It would be far easier to discredit Bernie Sanders on policy, and effectiveness in Congress, than it would be to smear through the outright deceit that it would involve to suggest that he’s a rape apologist.

To this end, I shift to a final parting point: suggesting that Bernie Sanders was “for rape”, or an apologist of rape, is to generate division. This comment has less to do with “party unity”, or the “purity of progressivism” (as if progressivism ever had “purity” — early progressives were “corporate shills”, pro-war, and racists — so who are we to judge as “moden progressives”?). This has more to do with the fact that the progressives, and democrats who are perpetuating this lie (as opposed to a myth) are generating the kind of division that the Tea Party created for the Republican Party. We saw what kind of damage that brought upon Congress (Ted Cruz, anyone?).

If you want to challenge Sanders’s four decade old, uninformed, but somehow close to the truth statement about sexual fantasies — do so, but be honest about it. You do no one, and certainly not yourselves, and most definitely not your political agenda any favors by attacking people on your side with facetious and harmful lies. Maybe you don’t want Bernie Sanders on your side? That’s fine — reject his views (that are likely quite similar talking points to your own) — but be honest about it. Be conflating, manipulating, and perpetuating such nonsensical lies, you become the same as the Birthers. You become the hypocrites. You become the self-fulfilling prophecy of the conservative movement; the criticisms come true that the Republican Party has painted liberals and progressives for so long — that we’re liars, and weak.

If we cant defend the truth when it comes to our own liberal and democratic colleagues, how are we to tout the truth when challenging lies of our conservative opponents?

We can’t.