Re-reading Cosby’s best-sellers on sex and marriage in a new light

Bill cosby today

Extra! Extra! Bill Cosby calls women “only honorary human beings” and a “lesser part of humanity!”

How’s that for a headline? Pretty catchy and disturbing, right? And more than a little dishonest, even if it’s technical true.

Yes, Cosby said those things, but only as a joke at his own expense, laughing about his attitude towards girls back in his elementary school days. And he made the joke back in the 1980s, long before the rape allegations became public. So how much can you really read into that?

Perhaps nothing in isolation. But The Washington Post’s nonfiction editor Carlos Lozada tasked himself with re-reading all three of Bill Cosby’s best-selling humor books on marriage and sex from the 1980s, Fatherhood, Time Flies, and Love and Marriage. Do they sound super creepy in light of what we’ve learned about Cosby in recent months? Super, super creepy.

The line, “Sex at my age has become exhausting,” for example, now leads to horrific imaginings. Is that why he feels the need to drug women into unconsciousness first?

But there’s more to be found than dark humor and cheap shots. Says Lozada:

…lurking among the laugh lines and life lessons is an intensely vain man, fixated on sex; a man for whom women can stir violence or desire; a man seeking to appease his wife while remaining aware of his darker appetites. It would be too much to say that these pages foreshadow the accusations before Cosby today—they don’t. But they don’t really contradict them, either.

For me, it’s the parts where Cosby talks about his childhood relationship to girls his own age that make me play armchair Criminal Minds. First, pre-puberty:

“If a girl wandered on to a football field where I was playing, I might make knocking her down part of my fly pattern, for a girl was only an honorary human being; and if my roller skating assumed a certain grand sweep, a girl or two might hit the cement, not an unfitting position for such a lesser part of humanity.”

We can chuckle along with Cosby at his younger self only if we assume he grew out of it. But knowing what we know now, Cosby’s description of himself only grows more disturbing as he gets a bit older:

At high school parties, Cosby writes, “sometimes I managed to lure one of them outside to sit with me in a car for a little kissing and rubbing. […] Most of the other girls I managed to lure away from the crowd just sat there like statues, hoping that this moment would pass and they could get on with their lives.”

“Most.” What do you read into that?

Do you think he said, “You don’t seem into it. Why don’t we go back inside?” Or do you think he learned treat passive women as objects, the more passive the better?

[More excepts from Cosby’s books at The Washington Post.]

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  • Well, that’ll keep me off food the rest of the day.