Republican Senate candidate and “pro-life” “family man” Herschel Walker reportedly paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion, we learned earlier this week. After he claimed to not even know who the woman was or remember her, she spoke out again, this time reminding Walker that he literally has a child with her. In the new interview, the woman also dropped this thought-provoking little nugget about Walker’s response: “Sure, I was stunned, but I guess it also doesn’t shock me, that maybe there are just so many of us that he truly doesn’t remember,” she said. “But then again, if he really forgot about it, that says something, too.”
That quote has been reverberating around my brain, prompting me to think about all the other famous men who’ve said they don’t remember the women accusing them of mistreatment, or deceit, or anything else. As Republicans trip over each other to compare the reports “attacking” Walker to sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and former President Donald Trump—both of whom claimed to not know or remember the women accusing them—I see another similarity: “Not remembering” the women accusing them is a pretty telling denial, because even if the accused famous man genuinely doesn’t remember the woman, that would simply speak to how many other women he’s harmed. Are you lying, or did that not even register on your radar? Is one better than the other?
Often enough for women, the most traumatic experience of our lives really could be something the male perpetrator doesn’t even remember the next day—sometimes due to excessive drinking, or sometimes because the interaction or assault was normal, casual, or simply unimportant to them. According to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, when Kavanaugh sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her, he was almost blackout drunk; per Amber Heard’s testimony, Depp’s violent episodes often took place while he was hammered, too.
The issue applies to sexual assault as much as it does to paying for someone’s abortion—the common thread is, I don’t even remember touching you. Even beyond alcohol’s effects on memory, some men dole out gendered violence and harassment pretty casually. Men in the street who tell me to smile or ask where I’m going and trail me as I walk by seem to stalk and cat-call as an afterthought, as a reflex, almost in their sleep. Individual male street harassers could be harassing and stalking dozens, maybe hundreds of women on any given day—we’ll never know, and they probably won’t either. They don’t even think about it; they probably couldn’t identify any of the women they harassed today in a police line-up. But being leered at and followed by a stranger can be a horrifying, even traumatic and panic attack-inducing experience for a woman, especially if you’ve already survived prior sexual violence.
In my freshman year of college at University of Southern California, a man at a fraternity party groped my breasts and crotch while I vomited into a trash can. Almost every female friend I made in college survived sexual violence in some form. A few years later, in 2021, dozens of female USC students spoke out about being drugged and assaulted at frat parties. Sexual misconduct is widespread at colleges across the country—yet on the worst night of some young women’s lives, there’s no telling, really, how many roofied drinks were poured, how many women were assaulted. I would bet a lot of male perpetrators can’t remember a single face of the women they drugged and assaulted. It meant nothing to them. That doesn’t mean the assaults didn’t happen.
Walker has been accused of hurting and threatening to kill several former romantic partners, including the mother of one of his sons, as well as her son Christian, too. The woman who spoke with the Daily Beast was clearly one of many women in Walker’s life (he has children with three other women) and, as she suggested, she may not even have been the only one whose abortion Walker paid for.
Abortion can either be an extremely easy or extremely difficult decision for pregnant people—no one’s abortion experience is exactly the same. But however easily it was made, the decision to have or not have a child changes the course of your life. If Walker and the woman are both telling the truth, and he did pay for her abortion and simply doesn’t remember, it seems the decision was a mere blip in his life. He had the money and resources to make it happen simply and easily, and brush it under the rug; he had the male privilege to not carry a pregnancy and give birth. At a time when abortion is banned in about a dozen states, Walker’s lack of memory is a walking metaphor: Walker, who wants to ban all abortion, will never face the consequences of his own actions—so why would he bother remembering them?
His ex-girlfriend’s abortion, the fall of Roe v. Wade—these events have altered our lives as women. Maybe men like Walker, Trump, and Kavanaugh are flat-out lying; or maybe what happened was just another Thursday for them.