A Monster For Our Time
The story of Jeffrey Epstein is a story of wealth and power, a sordid tale of white male privilege at its most toxic extreme. Naturally, it involves Donald Trump, and his administration of scoundrels. Today, a political commentator referred to an "oligarchy of sleaze", while a New York Times journalist called the case a symbol of "plutocratic rot." Another spoke of "industrial scale pedophilia and sex trafficking."
We'll be searching for new expressions of visceral disgust in the coming weeks and months. Start working on your own, if you want. Get in on the ground floor!
Like Harvey Weinstein, Epstein conducted his long reign of sexual abuse in plain sight, despite claims of shock by people in his social circles. Like Weinstein, Epstein had a reputation so pervasive that his very name is associated with underage girls. Epstein's private jet is known as "The Lolita Express", a little joke his buddies must have enjoyed.
Arrested on Saturday on his return from a trip to Paris, Epstein has been accused of exploiting and abusing dozens of minor girls, some as young as 14, and conspiring with others to traffic them. A search of his Manhattan residence turned up hundreds of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially-nude girls. Just today, a new victim has come forward, describing how one of Epstein's assistants recruited her outside a high school, grooming her for seduction and, ultimately, rape.
Now that Epstein seems poised to finally pay the price for his crimes, his ring of co-conspirators may be exposed as well, unless they can use their influence to shut down the new criminal indictment like they did in 2008. That time, Mr. Epstein was miraculously given a slap on the hand for crimes that would land a normal person in prison for life. Despite allegations of sexually abusing more than 30 underage women, the prosecutor in Epstein's case charged him instead with soliciting prostitutes, and signed an order to protect any and all co-conspirators in the case. As we know, that prosecutor is now Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor, a post that ironically puts him in charge of sexual trafficking.
Did Donald Trump or Bill Clinton attend any of Epstein's notorious sex parties on his private island, where security guards stand ready to deal with uninvited strangers? What about Epstein's other high-powered friends, who include attorney Alan Dershowitz, Britain's Prince Andrew, and his early "mentor", Leslie H. Wexner, the founder and chairman of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret?
Epstein surrounded himself with powerful people, and felt so confident in his untouchability that even after his conviction in 2008, he joked about being a registered sex offender, comparing himself to someone who steals a bagel. He couldn't have guessed that a series of articles by a persistent journalist, Julie K. Brown of The Miami Herald, would lead to a new indictment, this time by a team of New York prosecutors who seem committed to bringing him to justice.
Maybe the age of Trump has a silver lining. Pundits have said that the #MeToo movement was born of frustration over a President whose misogyny and self-described sexual assaults have gone unpunished.
As the story continues to unwind, corruption keeps popping up everywhere. A Vanity Fair writer who wrote a profile on Epstein in 2003 reports that her editor cut out mentions of two girls who spoke to her about the abuse. The editor, Graydon Carter, explained: “He’s sensitive about the young women.”
There goes Graydon Carter, a power broker in his own right. It's going to be an ugly business as the names continue to roll out like the credits of a grotesque epic movie.
Personally, I'm bothered by the question of why so many powerful men want to prey on young girls. Is it merely to prove that rules don't apply to them? Is it something more perverse, some predatory streak that helped them attain power in the first place? Is it pure unfettered misogyny?
Apparently, Epstein had a knack for finding vulnerable victims whose lack of social status ensured that no one would take their side if they spoke out. But all of us who are female know the fear of powerful men. It's instilled in us at an early age. We're socialized to not cause trouble and when we do, we feel it's our own fault.
The sooner all these men are outed, the easier it will be to teach our daughters to make some noise, to stand up to power, and to know their own worth. And we will have to teach them by example. Fuck Jeffrey Epstein and the plane he rode in on. May he and his buddies experience the full weight of justice, so we can return to some semblance of mutual respect in everyday life.