It might not be fair to comb books that Bill Cosby wrote decades ago for words that foreshadow the massive, growing list of sexual assault allegationsagainst him.
But if you do decide to engage in that type of retroactive scrutiny, the red flags are hard to ignore.
The Washington Post's Carlos Lozada reread three of Cosby's best-selling books: "Fatherhood," "Time Flies," and "Love and Marriage," all published in the 1980s, and concluded that the body of work as a whole was "still funny but mostly creepy."
He's right, but the content is actually more than creepy. It's troubling, and a little scary. Cosby's words reflect attitudes toward women, sex, and secrecy that seem to line up perfectly with the actions of which he's accused: drugging and/or sexually assaulting multiple women over a period of several decades.
Cosby, of course, has denied all of the allegations against him.
Here's just some of what Lozada unearthed when he looked back at the books.
As a child, Cosby reports harboring hostility toward little girls. And we're not talking about just reflecting the sexist attitudes that went unquestioned at the time, or eschewing cooties — he actually took pleasure in hurting them, and considered them "a lesser part of humanity."
"If a girl wandered on to a football field where I was playing," he writes of his sports-obsessed childhood, "I might make knocking her down part of my fly pattern, for a girl was only an honorary human being; and if my roller skating assumed a certain grand sweep, a girl or two might hit the cement, not an unfitting position for such a lesser part of humanity."
Here, as an adult, he admits that he would never want his daughters to date anyone like him — and he's really serious about it.
The happiness of these four daughters has been of supreme importance to me, but the problem is that this happiness may depend on their avoiding the kind of person their father was in his drugstore days. . . . Every time a young man comes to my house for one of my daughters, I have wanted to take them aside and say:
"You're not like me, are you? If you are, then I know what you want and I hope you have the same terrible luck. . . . And one more thing: I may have to kill you, but it will be nothing personal."
Normal and not-so-normal sexual exploration
Some of the content about sex that Lozada pulled up is pretty innocent, if a little more explicit than you might expect coming from "America's dad." Take this bit:
In his early teens, dancing allows Cosby to explore the female body. "You enveloped the girl, hoping that she would fit neatly in the contours of your body, and then you slowly rocked her as if you were putting a baby to sleep," he explains. "It was a trip to the moon if the girl gave you both a little pelvis and a little knee . . . in what was called The Grind."
But other parts get undeniably disturbing. Like the passage highlighted by Lozada in which Cosby explains how he would "lure" girls outside to sit in his car and admits that they didn't enjoy the time spent "kissing and rubbing" with him, In fact, he says some would sit there "like statues."
Cosby usually paints himself as an innocent, knowing less - and doing less - than his friends and classmates. "Although the boys had breezily talked about getting to second and third base with girls," he says, "I doubted that . . . I'd be able to make more than a foul pop-up." By 15 or 16, he became bolder. At high school parties, Cosby writes, "sometimes I managed to lure one of them outside to sit with me in a car for a little kissing and rubbing." Not all of the girls enjoyed it, he admits, in a passage that could be innocuous but ends up unnerving: "Most of the other girls I managed to lure away from the crowd just sat there like statues, hoping that this moment would pass and they could get on with their lives."
That doesn't sound pleasant. Moreover, it's troubling that he writes about this dynamic as if it's normal. And the idea of being sexually intimate with a woman who is not moving has scary similarities to the type of conduct Cosby is accused of. Some women who have spoken out against him say he drugged them to the extent that they were unconscious or immobilized before he sexually assaulted them.
A deeply cynical take on love and marriage
Lozada writes that Cosby's descriptions of tensions in his marriage are mostly lighthearted, and often read like Cosby Show scenes written for the happily married Huxtables. But he highlights one passage that references a serious conflict:
Cosby says he recalls only six times in their marriage when they left home without the kids, but adds, "seven times if you count the night Camille walked out on me and I went after her without bothering to get a sitter."
And then there are these parts, where Cosby, who has admitted to infidelity while denying all of the sexual assault allegations against him, seems to struggle deeply with the idea of honesty in marriage (or perhaps, with having a marriage that he could be honest about?):
Maybe it became his delusion, too. "Since self-deception is the heart of falling in love," Cosby writes, "perhaps the best sex education for a boy is not studying drawings of reproductive systems, but simply remembering to lie to himself."
When he married Camille, Cosby writes, "my instinct was to break the rules of marriage and be honest with her about everything."
That's one instinct we can all agree he didn't follow.