People like Epstein are why it would be a good thing if there were a few of Andrew Vachss “Burke and crew” or Barry Eisler’s “Livia Lone and crew” in the real world instead of just the pages of books.
Epstein is an extreme example of how heterosexual pedophilia is both normalized and often cast as aspirational: the reward for male success
Wed 10 Jul 2019
Jeffrey Epstein may well take a lot of powerful men down with him. A new indictment on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against the hedge fund financier threatens to bring consequences to a suspected pedophile who has long avoided them. Epstein, a friend to the likes of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was a paradigm of elite impunity and the moral rot of rich men. He exemplified the kind of corruption, self-interest, and disregard for the suffering of others that compels the communities to protect their own, and the systemic injustice allows even the most vile abusers to evade legal consequences when they have shoulder-clapping familiarity with those in power. Following revelatory reporting on Epstein’s case from the Miami Herald in November and amid a new sense of seriousness around sexual abuse generated by the #MeToo movement, it seems that Epstein, long suspected of abusing children in the near-open and facing no repercussions for it, may finally face justice.
At least, that’s what it looks like for now. But Epstein has been here before: he faced federal charges for nearly identical alleged behavior in 2008, when a teenage girl and her parents came forward to local police saying that Epstein had coerced her into giving him naked massages, and then paid her for it.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding Epstein, in particular around how he made all his money, but his habits as an abuser seem pretty clear. When investigators searched Epstein’s huge Manhattan home, in a raid timed to coincide with his arrest just after his private jet arrived in New Jersey from Paris, they found “hundreds, possibly thousands” of explicit images of underage girls, so it seems likely that Epstein was also involved in the production and distribution of child abuse images. Afterwards, he would pay the girls, and get them to recruit other children.
Other victims came forward and the case eventually went to the FBI. But Epstein was given a sweetheart plea deal; federal charges were dropped, and he only pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution, a bit of legal logic that seemed to equate the coerced, abused children with adult sex workers. Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in jail and was released five months early. During his stay, he was permitted to leave jail six days a week, to go to the office. He continued to run his hedge fund during his sentence. The man who arranged this extraordinarily lenient treatment for the financier was the then US attorney Alexander Acosta, now Donald Trump’s secretary of labor.
It seems clear that Epstein was protected by his many powerful connections, as many abusers are, and because they were wealthy, powerful and famous, their protection was extremely effective at shielding him from consequence. And like other rich people, Epstein used his wealth to evade the criminal justice system, purchasing the services of skilled defense attorneys and leveraging his status in order to procure the favor of prosecutors.
But Epstein, with his opulent life of multiple homes, private jets and lavish parties for the elite that were populated heavily by girls and very young women, also benefited from a culture that interprets male heterosexual pedophilia of his type as benign or even aspirational, a facet of the good life and a privilege of the ruling class. There is a vision of the life of a very rich man that Epstein pursued for himself and that those around him approved of him having, and this vision is grounded heavily in a kind of indulgent sensualism, one in which the very rich man is privileged to enjoy lavish trips, rich wine, fine food and beautiful views.
The sexual abuse of teenage girls and young women is part of this vision; the pleasure that they afford the rich man is considered largely interchangeable with that that he gets from a rare steak or a nice cigar. But Epstein’s victims were not mere party props; they were not cocktails or expensive clothes. They were little girls. “I had braces on,” Epstein victim Courtney Wild told ABC news after his arrest. When she says that he abused her, she was 14.
Epstein was protected by his money, and by his well-positioned friends, and by the corruption of those tasked with stopping him. He was protected by the broad cultural antipathy toward treating sexual abuse as real harm, the often hostile reaction to the premise that teenage girls should matter as much as adult men. But he was also protected by an idea of teenage girls as fair game for adult men to pursue and abuse, by a chuckling acceptance of May-December “romances” that begin mid-March. But he was also protected by a vision of the good life in which girls and women are objects of pleasure more than they are subjects with their own free will and their own demands on justice, dignity and freedom. It is a life that many men still covet for themselves.