Matt Gaetz: an Extraordinarily Ordinary Creep
Matt Gaetz Has Plenty in Common with Some High School Teachers
I don’t know a soul who’s shocked by the reports “alleging” that Matt Gaetz is a sex creep. All anyone has to do is glance at his hair to know he’s gross and even the National Review published a timeline of revelations with this sarcastic headline: “Gaetz-gate: Who Would Have Thought…” Accompanying Isaac Schorr’s round-up of events is a photograph of Gaetz speaking at 2021’s Conservative Political Action Conference. In the picture, the Panhandle politician looks like the lovechild of Chuck Woolery and Chucky.
Don Mancini, can you please make the aforementioned horror film happen?
On March 30th, the New York Times stunned no one with its report that the Justice Department is investigating Gaetz “over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him…” At this rape-y political scandal’s core looms the question did Matt Gaetz violate federal sex trafficking laws? If you trust the DOJ, I suppose that, in due time, you’ll have your answer. Of course, Gaetz denies the allegations, having told the Daily Beast, “The last time I had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, I was 17.”
Gaetz is 38. Next month, he turns 39. He’s a Taurus.
Like Al Capone and Martha Stewart, Gaetz’s relationship with a tax collector is what landed him in hot water. Seminole County’s Joel Greenberg and Gaetz were very friendly, the Tampa Bay Times reporting that the tax collector and lawmaker “were often spotted having dinner and drinks together at Seminole restaurants and bars.” The article includes a selfie tweeted by Greenberg in 2017. It features the tax man, Gaetz, and political operative Roger Stone smiling at the camera, a liplessly craven trinity.
Greenberg’s court record has been described as looking like a “CVS receipt.” One indictment alleges that he used “a state database to look up individuals with whom he was engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships,” and Greenberg stands accused of causing a minor, whom he knew to be under the age of 18, to “engage in a commercial sex act.”
New York magazine compiled further accounts of Gaetz’s sleazy behavior, citing sources that “allege” that the Congressman has a “proclivity for younger women.” Lawmakers also stated that Gaetz bragged about ladies he’s fucked, whipping out nudes and videos while on the House floor in order to illustrate his conquests. Frankly, I’m surprised the fucker didn’t show them a PowerPoint presentation and one source described being shown an image which will remain seared into Florida political history, a naked woman with a hula hoop. Lawmakers add that while serving in the Florida statehouse, Gaetz played a sex game “in which participants won varying points depending on who they slept with.”
What makes the allegations against Matt Gaetz so plausible isn’t really his sleazy hair, which, I might add, is a bipartisan problem.
(See: Governor Gavin Newsom.)
What makes the accusations so plausible is the ubiquity of men like Gaetz.
They are, indeed, all over the damn place, and, like Gaetz and Greenberg, many of them work for the state.
Take, for example, the city that I call home, Long Beach, California. While men in my community fetishize and pursue children a la Gaetz and Greenberg, their shitty behavior rarely makes national headlines. Nonetheless, over the last ten months, Long Beach Unified School District, the largest employer in the city, has been forced to reckon with three middle and high school teachers who’ve been accused of sexual abuse, assault, and misconduct.
Last summer, Mark Santo, a 51-year-old teacher was “charged with six felonies related to sexually abusing or assaulting three former students from Jordan [High School] or Lindbergh [Middle School], two of whom were underage at the time.” According to records obtained by the Long Beach Post, “Long Beach Unified School District promised Santo it would provide few if any details about the accusations to potential employers” following his voluntary resignation.
In December of last year, Buena Park police arrested my former co-worker, “46-year-old Cabrillo High School teacher John William Gunde[,] on suspicion of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.” Gunde met his 15-year-old victim through Ashley Madison, a dating website which caters to people who are married or in relationships. It is also recognized as a sugar dating site and it’s slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Like Santo, Gunde first worked at a Long Beach middle school, eventually transferring to a high school.
Gunde continues to be listed on the Cabrillo website as a social studies teacher.
In January of this year, Thomas Lind, a 56-year-old teacher, was screensharing during distance-learning when his Millikan High School students watched “a pornographic website appear on the screen…[Search] terms related to ‘high school,’ including ‘high school girls,’ were typed in.” Lind claims that he has no idea how the pornography found its way onto his screen (SURE, MR. LIND!) and the district placed the veteran teacher on paid administrative leave. The school’s principal, Alejandro Vega, emailed the school community, stating, “We are looking into the matter and will take appropriate action as necessary.”
Lind continues to appear on the school’s website.
I worked in public education for nearly twenty years and what makes Santo, Gunde, and Lind slightly exceptional is that local media publicized their cases and two of the men were arrested. According to RAINN, roughly 3 out of every 4 instances of sexual assault go unreported and one of the biggest hurdles that prevents reporting is a victim’s fear of retaliation. Seen through the statistical lens provided by RAINN, we can extrapolate that Santo, Gunde and Lind represent the tip of a despicable iceberg and when victims do report, officials, law enforcement officials included, routinely sweep this sort of shit under the rug. Shiwali Patel, Director of Justice for Student Survivors & Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, attested to this pattern when she told the Washington Post that “she has represented female students who were accused of lying and suspended from school for reporting assaults. In one case, a student who reported that she had been assaulted was pressured into recanting and then punished.” Equally as often, authorities offer misogynistic excuses for the shitty behavior of abusive men.
One former LBSUD student told me that upon reporting a teacher for ordering her to stand against a wall so that he could ogle her, a staff member scolded her, stating that her clothing had provoked his behavior. The staff member then ordered the student to return to the ogler’s class.
Another former LBUSD student told me that she stopped attending a class taught by a teacher who frequently complimented her body. He also touched her. When she reported him, her accusations were cast into doubt. She was told that he seemed too “nice” to be a creep.
To avoid his advances, she continued to ditch. She failed his class.
Another former LBSUD student who attended the same class told me that this teacher had behaved similarly toward her. When she reported him, staff not only rejected her claims but accused her of attempting to smear the teacher in order to improve her grade.
That same teacher’s wife discovered intimate photos of him posing alongside a student with whom he was having a sexual relationship. The wife took to social media and exposed the affair.
The creep fled the district and later found work at a community college.
This teacher’s students were absolutely right to be disturbed by him. The girls should’ve been afforded every opportunity to learn in peace. They never should’ve been subjected to a teacher’s romantic and sexual advances and the girls should be applauded for ditching.
Ditching an abusive teacher’s class is an act of self-love.
I describe these instances not to downplay the allegations against Matt Gaetz but to remind adults of how shitty it is to be a girl navigating a society built by and for men, a world in which an accusation against an adult man can imperil a girl’s G.P.A., her ability to graduate, her social standing, her health, and her safety. Gender-based oppression often occurs precisely where a girl’s welfare ought to be of highest priority: at school.
Most campuses continue to function as patriarchal havens and while much has been made of the dangers that young adults face during college, the harm that girls face at elementary, middle and high school campuses receives less attention. Like many women in the United States, I experienced a violent sexual assault during my college years. However, my first experience with sexual abuse happened on a junior high school campus when I was 12. A school staff member witnessed the harm, blushed, and looked away.
According to a case study of K-12 school employee misconduct, “10% of K-12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school.” Female students are the most frequent targets and offenders are typically “popular” faculty and staff, not the horned trolls that the public would prefer them to be. They tend to be the type of teacher the two students reported for his advances, a “nice” guy.
Most girls who experience sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault, or exploitation won’t be harmed by a notorious politician. Most girls are hurt by ordinary men, mundane fuckers who often seem very “nice” during their public-facing interactions, and we owe it to girls to believe them when they come forward with testimony about the shitty behavior perpetrated by teachers and other school staff. About such revelations, cultural critic Fran Lebowitz has said, “I believe all women. You have to prove to me that [a woman is] lying. And the reason I do is because I am a woman. But more importantly, I was a girl…” I agree with Lebowitz. To disbelieve girls would require me to discount the patriarchal misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault, and exploitation I’ve experienced and witnessed across my lifetime. I won’t do that. And neither should you.
Myriam Gurba is the editor-in-chief of Tasteful Rude. She is also the author of the memoir Mean, a New York Times editors’ choice. O, the Oprah Magazine, ranked Mean as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time and Publishers’ Weekly describes Gurba as having a voice like no other. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Paris Review, TIME.com, and the Believer. Gurba has been known to call shitty writers pendejas and has no qualms about it. Along with Roberto Lovato and David Bowles, she co-founded Dignidad Literaria, a grassroots literary organization that seeks to revolutionize publishing.