The fact that this examination of party culture is happening in tandem with Supreme Court confirmation hearings could help observers comprehend what these stories are actually about: the intersection of white, upper-class male impunity and contempt for young women that infects communities across the country. The “lineups” that Lescaze and Swetnick have described are not gruesome aberrations specific to the tony suburbs of D.C. in the ’80s; they’re the predictable end product of a stew of entitlement, misogyny, one-upmanship masculinity, glamorized alcoholism, and a fetishization of virginity that shames women for having sex, thus discouraging them from identifying and reporting sexual assault. These sorts of assaults are at the far end of a continuum with the other abuses mentioned in Lescaze’s article and Swetnick’s affidavit—unwanted kisses, groping, trying to get girls drunker than they intended—and the sort of “Renate Alumni” boasting Kavanaugh and his friends encoded in their yearbook.
For what feels like the first time, there is a glaring, urgent reason to discuss a toxic culture that is as familiar to young women today as it was to the students of Georgetown Prep, Holton-Arms, and the National Cathedral School 35 years ago. It’s prompting women all over the country, including hundreds of women from Ford’s school, to remember, relive, and possibly recategorize violations they endured as high school and college students. “We didn’t call it rape,” Lescaze wrote of the “lineups” she saw in the ’80s. With the entire country’s eyes on a man who allegedly partook in ritualized, normalized sexual abuse as a teenager, those “lineups” are finally getting seen for what they truly are. The indignities that preceded and surrounded them are overdue for a wholesale recall, too.