Trevor Bauer is free today. He was scheduled to pitch, but, belatedly, MLB placed him on administrative leave while it investigates sexual assault allegations against him. Bauer’s agent, a friend from college days, says the pitcher won’t challenge the forced leave – conveniently spinning the situation to suggest that he could fight the benching. The agreement with the union on this does not allow that.
That’s hardly the only misleading statement Bauer’s reps have put out. The most egregious one? That the woman who applied for a restraining order against him this week engaged in consensual sexual encounters with him. The court filings indicate Bauer choked the woman until she passed out. When she came to, Bauer was anally raping her. It goes without saying that you can’t consent if you’re unconscious.
I’m not a Bauer fan. He has always seemed like a jerk to me – further confirmed by his Sports Illustrated interview in 2019 about his rules for “dating.” Bauer publicly declared himself emotionally unavailable, anti-monogamy, and intolerant of affectionate attachments to him. (What? Who doesn’t want to be loved?) None of which is related to “dating,” of course.
Based on the pictures of Bauer’s victim, it doesn’t seem like emotional attachment from his sexual partners is a rational fear. Bauer allegedly fractured the woman’s skull and left her with two black eyes. Since he doesn’t seem to care if his partner is conscious or not, it’s hard to imagine how this “boyfriend experience” would inspire affectionate feelings.
After the story broke, Bauer’s reps released text messages allegedly between him and his accuser, which undoubtedly meant to shame the victim and suggest that because she sexted with Bauer, it was okay for him to beat her up. The thing that made the young lady appealing to Bauer becomes some kind of justification for his assault and means to tarnish her reputation while saving his. It’s bizarre.
It’s hard to know yet what Bauer’s victim intended. There’s an outside chance this really was an intentional effort to get a payout from the sports celeb. Imagine being willing to endure that physical pain for some cash. That doesn’t seem rational – and how would she know he would abuse her while she was unconscious? If she thought that she might blackmail him with some embarrassing salacious story, she got far more than she bargained for.
More likely, the young lady got herself in over her head. There will be lots of moralistic judgements of her behavior, but she would not be the first woman who consented to sex and found herself in a situation she did not expect. Or, to go back for a second encounter after an unsettling first experience (especially if he apologized and agreed to set new parameters). I know lots of women – including myself – who found themselves in terrible situations because we were young, naïve, or misjudged a situation. Maybe she was blinded by his fame, too innocently excited by 50 Shades of Grey, or caught between what she desired and treatment she most certainly did not. Whatever her situation, she is undoubtedly learning a painful life lesson and will suffer the most here.
I can’t hope for legal accountability. I wouldn’t even bother to hope that this situation would inspire Bauer to become a better person – or just less of a jerk. He’s shown us who he is. Let’s believe him.
Meanwhile, the opportunity for MLB and the Dodgers to provide any kind of leadership on the matter has passed. Each points to the other to blame for the lag in addressing their Bauer PR problem. Moral capitalism is often murky to navigate, and few organizations rise to the challenge when values and valuables conflict. It doesn’t help that of late in our country, the top men seem to always want the perks of leadership but not the responsibilities. We still have no answer for Lee Iacocca. Sadly, Rob Manfred has an answer for sticky substances but not sticky publicity situations. Someday, a major sport will get someone who knows how to handle these issues, and maybe finally we’ll have a good response blueprint for everyone to follow.
For the rest of us, my hope is that in our exchanges about the story we are clarifying a community standard of behavior. Maybe there’s a lesson for others out there about what is socially acceptable and the nature of consent. What that certainly is not is a kind of unconditional immunity that absolves one of any and all consequences for one’s actions. There are limits to what you can do even with consent. And, it isn’t an all or nothing proposition – agreement on one act does not mean anything goes.
When I was young, we didn’t have public conversations about consent. I’m so glad the focus has shifted so that this is our response to these kinds of reports. It makes me feel like things may be better – different – for my niece and nephew than it was for their mother and I at their age. Even if baseball doesn’t get it right, the rest of us have a good chance at it.