“Hideous Men” by E. Jean Carroll, the June 21 cover story of New York, shares an excerpt from the columnist’s new book What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal. It excruciatingly details her own recollections of sexual assault since childhood, and focuses on her traumatic encounter with President Trump in a dressing room at the exclusive Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman 25 years ago. (Our current president has denied all of Carroll’s allegations as well as accusations of sexual misconduct from over 15 other women.) Just as devastating as the actual details of that assault is Carroll’s final revelation: “That was my last hideous man,” she writes. “I have never had sex with anybody ever again.”
Now 75, Carroll doesn’t blame her abstinence solely on Trump. “I think it wasn't because of him,” she tells Christene Barberich, Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief, on this week’s UnStyled podcast. “I just didn’t have the luck to meet that person that would cause me to be desirous again.”
That awful day, however, did change her. “I think maybe in that dressing room, my desire for desire was killed. But I think if I had met somebody, had the good luck to meet somebody, I think I would have been revived again. I think the desire would have boiled up again. I just think I've been unlucky. Now, who knows, maybe I'll walk out here and boom!”
Like many survivors of sexual violence, Carroll kept quiet about her experience with Trump and 20 other male perpetrators for decades. It wasn’t simply the explosion of the #MeToo movement in late 2016 that moved her to speak up. “I am of the silent generation,” she says now. “We do not talk.”
But Carroll acknowledges that not talking didn't help. "It changed nothing," she says. "So I'm glad to tell the story... That's how we change things. We change the culture of sexual violence by talking."
Listen to Carroll and Barberich’s entire conversation — in which the author revisits that day at Bergdorf’s, shares the inspiration behind her book, dishes on her famous Elle column and more — by subscribing to UnStyled via Apple Podcasts today.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).