Above: Texas state Representative Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is under fire for online comments made years ago about smoking pot. But a remark he made about rape around the same time should be far more concerning to voters.
Update, 12:48 p.m.: After my piece ran Wednesday morning, Stickland called to say he “severely regrets” the comments he’d made in the past. His official statement: “I do not feel that way today. I can only repent and ask for forgiveness from the people it offended and hurt. Rape is serious and should never be joked about the way that I did regardless of my age.”
The Texas politics wonk-o-sphere has been abuzz with leaked oppo-research concerning state representative and noted “former fetus” Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. Y’all see, the tea party golden boy appears to have spent not a little time online some years ago seeking out partners in puffing. To wit: he once took to the internet in distinctively sad search for buddies with whom to consume the reefer.
It’s all very amusing, you see, because… weed and desperation? I don’t know. Anyway, these herbal revelations were made all the more compelling when news broke Tuesday that former Governor Rick Perry has endorsed Stickland’s Republican primary challenger. Charges of RINO! soon wafted through a #txlege twitter feed already peppered with a good deal of weed-related frivolity.
The Austin American-Statesman has a full rundown of the goings-on, entitled “Will ‘a few glorious rips from a blunt’ sink Jonathan Stickland?”, which you’ll no doubt find highly entertaining — the word “Schticklandschadenfreude” is employed liberally — right up until you find, buried about three-quarters of the way through the piece, an amusing little nugget discovered by the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock.
Braddock sifted through the pot chatter to find a 2008 forum post written by Stickland concerning the (im)possibility of raping one’s wife. Advising a fellow poster with some bedroom queries, Stickland cheerily chimed in: “Rape is non existent in marriage, take what you want my friend!”
He punctuated his wisdom with a friendly yellow smiley face emoticon offering a thumbs up.
Stickland was a married father when he offered this rape apologia — nay, this rape encouragement — for which he’s expressed only the most general, most milquetoast regret.
Does Stickland still believe a man can’t rape his wife? That, upon marriage, a woman’s total being, body and soul, becomes the sole domain of a husband who is entitled to do with her whatever he wishes, against whatever protestations she makes, no matter the physical or mental harm that might come to her? Thumbs up emoji?
I don’t know. I’ve telephoned Stickland’s office and Facebook messaged him. If he has come ‘round to the wacky idea that married women have a say in what happens to their own bodies, we may never hear tell of the undoubtedly difficult intellectual journey that brought him to this realization.
Some may try to excuse Stickland’s past statements, on rape or anything else, as youthful silliness combined with bad taste. I get it! Stickland and I are almost exactly the same age, and I definitely had some bad ideas in 2008. I think I was still listening to James Blunt and taking Goldschlager shots. What I wasn’t doing was actively encouraging people to commit rape. But hey — tomato, to-mah-to, I guess.
It may very well be that I just can’t take a good joke about forcibly penetrating the person you’ve pledged to love, honor and cherish for eternity. But the truth is that I have trouble squeezing out a chuckle about wives as sexual property when even in the Year of Our Trump 2015, laws in several states concerning marital rape remain murky. Suggesting the impossibility of marital rape isn’t at all preposterous or outdated — it’s embedded in the history of our own justice system. It is, indeed, too soon to joke about raping one’s spouse.
It may be that Stickland’s comically pathetic attempts to find a smoking buddy have a negative impact on his reelection bid, and if they do, it’ll be a shame. The tides are turning, if not yet quite so frothily in Texas as in the rest of the country, in favor of legalized marijuana. If anything is outdated, it’s pearl-clutching posturing about pot.
But a truly terrifying remark, even one made eight years ago, encouraging a stranger to rape his spouse? That’s something that, I think, bears consideration in the voting booth.