Writing for his college paper, Cory Booker once admitted that he groped a friend when he was 15 years old.
Now the mayor of Newark and a candidate for New Jersey’s open Senate seat, a college-aged Booker described the experience of grabbing the girl’s breast and having his hand pushed away.
“Telling one’s own personal story is often the most powerful way to make a point, or, more importantly, to make people think,” Booker wrote in the February 19, 1992 column for the Stanford Daily, under the headline “So Much for Stealing Second.”
“When grandiose statements entrenched in politically correct terminology are made, many may listen but few will hear,” Booker continued. “When I hesitated in writing this column, I realized I was basking in hypocrisy. So instead I chose to write and risk.”
“New Year’s Eve 1984,” Booker recalled. “I will never forget. I was 15. As the ball dropped, I leaned over to hug a friend and she met me instead with an overwhelming kiss.”
Things apparently moved very quickly for the young man, who recalled thinking of sex as a “game.”
“As we fumbled upon the bed, I remember debating my next ‘move’ as if it were a chess game. With the ‘Top Gun’ slogan ringing in my head, I slowly reached for her breast. After having my hand pushed away once, I reached my ‘mark,’” Booker wrote.
Booker didn’t elaborate on what his “mark” was, but whatever happened, it was enough to haunt him for years to come.
“Our grouping ended soon and while no ‘relationship’ ensued, a friendship did,” he wrote. “You see, the next week in school she told me she was drunk that night and didn’t really know what she was doing.”
He attempted to explain his behavior. “Ever since puberty, I remember receiving messages that sex was a game, a competition. Sexual relations were best achieved through luck, guile, strategy or coercion.”
Booker wrote about how alcohol lubricated those relations: “Another friend in high school counseled me on the importance of drinking,” he wrote, detailing the slogans he had heard from friends. Booker listed them: “‘With liquor you’ll get to bed quicker,’ … ‘What do you think happened? She invited me back to her room at 3 a.m.’ … ‘I’ve got to find a way to snatch that snatch.’ … ‘The best thing for that girl would be to be tied down and screwed.’”
Booker described how his view of women changed radically after just two years in college — so much so that a female friend “chidingly called me a man-hater,” Booker wrote.
“In retrospect, my soliloquy titled ‘The Oppressive Nature of Male Dominated Society and Its Violent Manifestations Rape, Anorexia, Battered Wives’ may have been a surreptitious attempt to convince her that I was a sensitive man, but more likely I was trying to convince myself that my attitudes had changed,” Booker wrote.
Booker explained that his two years as a peer counselor had revealed to him a culture that leads to rape. “All I have are poignant visions,” he wrote.
“I see that preceding all the horrors of rape are a host of skewed attitudes.
“I see my friends seeking to ‘get some’ or to ‘score.’
“I see people making power plays.
“I see myself at 15 trotting around the bases and stealing second.
“I now see the crowds, no, not the spectators, but the thousands, the millions who are rarely seen or heard.
“I’ve seen enough.
“I spoke to a 40 year old woman who has trouble looking at her self[sic] in the mirror when she gets out of the shower. She can’t make love, she never had an orgasm, she never will forget what happened her first time. She can’t close her eyes.”
Booker would refer back to that column just months later, in a final op-ed for the Daily.
“But my second column, as I raised my noble pen to address the issue of date rape, I realized that the person holding it wasn’t so noble after all,” Booker wrote on May 27, 1992. “With this issue as with so many others, a dash of sincere introspection has revealed to me a dangerous gap—a gap between my beliefs and my actions.”
Booker did not return requests for comment. He is widely expected to win the Democratic primary on Tuesday and go on to the U.S. Senate.