False allegations ruin a man's life, we're told.
Vindictive women destroy their promising careers because they regret a bit of sex! He's a "good bloke"; she's just out for revenge, fame and money!
It's a narrative repeated so often, we've come to treat it as fact, despite its incongruence with reality.
The truth is, men's lives are rarely ruined by women.
Not because women are incapable of being vindictive, cruel or malicious, but because our culture disregards and minimises women's experiences so routinely, they're stripped of all value.
It seems easier to believe she's just making it up for attention, to inquire if she's SURE it really happened that way; even to scold her for going upstairs with him – really, what was she expecting? – than to examine our unease with treating women as though we matter.
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Candice Warner has been targeted with abuse for years over a 2007 incident with Sonny Bill Williams. Picture: Tim Hunter. Source:News Corp Australia
If we did, we might have to confront the ways in which men, even the "good blokes", benefit from our subjugation.
One only has to look at the unrelenting abuse SAS Australia star Candice Warner has faced for over a decade since having a brief consensual sexual encounter as a single woman, for evidence of how deep the rivers of female disenfranchisement run.
Since Warner was filmed without her knowledge inside a toilet stall with footballer Sonny Bill Williams at Clovelly Hotel in 2007, she's been apologising – to the public, her family, and even Williams himself.
Most recently, on an episode of Channel 7's SAS Australia , Warner was interrogated about the incident , eventually admitting, "A long time ago, when I was young, I got myself in a compromising position, which I regret. It had a huge impact on my family. Huge."
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Warner was repeatedly grilled over the incident on SAS Australia. Picture: Nigel Wright Source:Supplied
Earlier this week, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph , Warner spoke of how the media and public scrutiny around her encounter with Williams led her to feeling suicidal , saying, "I got to the point where I literally couldn't take it anymore."
Eleven years later, when cricket fans donned face masks of Williams to taunt Warner's husband, cricketer David Warner, and ultimately humiliate Warner herself, the former iron woman told Australian Women's Weekly : "I'd like to extend that apology to Sonny Bill. He's a husband and father, so imagine how his wife would feel, and his kids."
To date, Williams – who was actually in a relationship at the time of the incident – has avoided discussion of the encounter, excepting a statement at the time, in which he alleged he had no memory of it. He has also dodged major public scrutiny and went on to sign lucrative football contracts following the incident.
Warner's ongoing shame isn't just maddening when you consider how largely unaffected Williams continues to be from the event; it's an indicator of our culture's need to punish women in order to spare men from accountability.
Perhaps the most high-profile example of this, is the widely publicised testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who came forward in 2018 to testify then-Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her.
Sex columnist Nadia Bokody says Warner's ongoing shaming reflects a frustrating cultural norm. Picture: Instagram. Source:Instagram
Ford has since faced ongoing abuse and death threats and had to discontinue her teaching role at Palo Alto University, maintaining a low profile to protect herself and her family. Kavanaugh went on to be appointed to the highest court in America.
Even when we acknowledge men who've been held accountable, it's impossible to do so without recognising how many mountains had to be scaled for it to happen. It took 60 women coming forward before Bill Cosby was recognised for the atrocities he'd committed, and closer to 80 for Harvey Weinstein.
A couple of years ago, I faced my own public reckoning for a story I wrote on a blog that was picked up by a major online publication and quickly went viral. The story was about my sexual awakening emerging from my marriage breakdown, and how casual sex had helped me rediscover myself.
It was written, in part at least, as a kind of diary chronicling my sexual experiences. I never expected more than a handful of people to read it.
Nadia has faced her own public reckoning. Picture: Nadia Bokody/Instagram Source:Instagram
The morning after it went viral, I woke to hundreds of emails and DMs from strangers informing me I was diseased, used-up and disgusting. Every time I deleted and blocked one, another appeared in its place.
There were comments too, on the articles written about me – some positive, but most cruel and hurtful. No man would ever want me again, they said. I just wanted my fifteen minutes of fame, others speculated.
After hours devouring their words in the foetal position on my couch, my boyfriend stepped in. "You're only punishing yourself by reading all this – this is hurting you," he said, gently prying the phone from my hand.
The truth was, I was punishing myself. I shouldn't have written the story, shouldn't have had so much sex, shouldn't have acted that way coming out of a marriage. It was my fault this was happening, I told myself, in the days and weeks that followed, until the hateful messages eventually dried up.
Women take on shame that doesn't belong to us because we've been taught it's ours to bear. Because it benefits men; even men who aren't necessarily seeking to benefit from it.
Warner doesn't owe anyone an explanation for something she did inside the privacy of a toilet stall over a decade ago. She doesn't need to keep apologising to her family, to Williams, and to herself.
The only reason we're still demanding it, is because it serves a story we keep telling ourselves. One in which women ruin the promising careers of good blokes because we're just after a bit of money, fame and revenge – despite the fact there are no wealthy, smug women at the finish line.
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