Once again, we saw a woman being penalized for actions that are deemed to be acceptable for men when Katie Hill (D-CA) resigned from the House of Representatives after an affair with a female campaign aide came to light.
A double standard being applied to women in power doesn’t come as a surprise to most women — it shouldn’t.
Hill is currently embroiled in a messy divorce and it was her soon-to-be ex-husband who released nude photos of Hill without her consent to the right-wing website RedState.
Hill has also been accused of an affair with a congressional staffer, a charge she vehemently denies as House rules prohibit relationships between members and their staff.
The scandal surrounding Hill brings up several issues, including revenge porn, female sexuality, anti-LGBT bias and women in power being subject to rules that seemingly don’t apply to their male colleagues.
On a criminal level, distributing revenge porn should be reclassified as an act of sexually based violence and intimidation.
As a survivor of sexual assault, I see a lot of the same motivations behind revenge porn and sexual assault. Both are about humiliation, control and power dynamics. While it isn’t physical assault, I would argue revenge porn leaves a similar psychological wreckage in its wake.
I’ve been groped or inappropriately touched more times than I can count yet did not have to relive the humiliation in perpetuity on the internet or lose my career as a result.
Part of what makes sexually based violence so insidious is how it completely destroys the self-worth of its victims. On top of the violation, Hill is having to deal with this in the public eye and a hyper-partisan political landscape.
From Lilith in the Bible to Pandora in Greek mythology to the witch burnings of Medieval Europe, female sexuality has often been viewed with fear and controlled through violence.
Hill committed the double sin of being a woman confident in her sexuality and openly bisexual. Homophobia plays a part in this as the campaign aide she had an affair with was a woman.
Why is Hill’s bisexuality a liability but, when a pastor is caught with a male prostitute and meth, it’s an opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual growth?
For a man, you can credibly be accused of rape and still win the presidency or get appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States but if you are a woman, even consensual relationships can be held against you.
If only Hill had paid off a mistress with campaign funds or admitted to a sexual relationship with teenage girls, then maybe the male Republican establishment would let her stay.