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The two Brett Kavanaughs

Brett Kavanaugh tells one story about himself. New allegations — and his high school yearbook — tell another.

Demonstrators protest against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick
Demonstrators protest against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick.
AFP/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Since sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became public earlier this month, two versions of the judge have emerged.

One is the version he and his supporters have promulgated: someone who, as a teenager, was “focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship.”

The other has taken shape through the sexual misconduct allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, and through the jokes in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook, which some former classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School say were misogynistic boasts about sexual conquests.

Julie Swetnick’s allegations, which became public on Wednesday, firmly support the second version. In a sworn affidavit posted by attorney Michael Avenatti on Twitter, Swetnick says that when they were in high school, Kavanaugh and others spiked the drinks at house parties so they could target certain girls for “gang rapes.” Swetnick says she was the victim of one such rape where Kavanaugh was present, though she does not explicitly say he raped her.

Kavanaugh has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct. Of Swetnick, he said, “I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”

But her affidavit adds credibility to the image of Kavanaugh painted by Ford, Ramirez, and former Georgetown Prep and Yale University students: someone who repeatedly victimized women in his time at the elite institutions that ostensibly prepared him for his career.

It’s unclear what impact, if any, the new allegations will have on Thursday’s hearing. But if the allegations are true, then the judge whose confirmation to the Supreme Court could have drastic consequences for women’s rights was, as a teenager, steeped in a culture that sees women as objects for men’s amusement.

The new allegations support the image of Kavanaugh presented in his yearbook

In her affidavit, Swetnick says she went to Gaithersburg High School, near Georgetown Prep, and attended more than 10 house parties during high school with Kavanaugh and his classmate Mark Judge, the other person named by Ford in her allegations against Kavanaugh. Ford says that Judge and Kavanaugh “corralled her” into a room at a party, where Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and covered her mouth; she was able to escape when Judge jumped on top of them.

Swetnick’s affidavit paints a disturbing picture of the young Kavanaugh. She says he engaged in “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls,” including trying to take their clothes off. “I likewise observed him be verbally abusive toward girls by making crude sexual comments to them that were designed to demean, humiliate and embarrass them,” she writes.

Swetnick says Kavanaugh and Judge tried to spike the punch at parties “to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say ‘No.’” She says they tried to get girls drunk or disoriented so they could be gang-raped by a “train” of boys.

“I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room,” Swetnick says. “These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.”

Swetnick also says she was the victim of one of these rapes, at which Judge and Kavanaugh were present. She does not say whether they participated in the rape, during which she says she believes she was drugged.

Swetnick’s description of Kavanaugh matches those of several former classmates who spoke to the New York Times on Monday regarding Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep yearbook page. On the page, Kavanaugh describes himself as a “Renate Alumnius,” which, according to some former classmates, was part of a misogynistic pattern in which Kavanaugh and other players on the Georgetown Prep football team bragged about having sex with a student at a neighboring school named Renate Schroeder (now Renate Schroeder Dolphin).

A lawyer for Kavanaugh told the Times that the phrase “Renate Alumnius” was merely a reference to “a brief kiss good night” the two students shared after a school event. But Dolphin says she never kissed Kavanaugh and called the “Renate Alumnius” joke “horrible, hurtful, and simply untrue.”

Kavanaugh and the other football players “were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, who attended Georgetown Prep at the time. “She should be offended.”

Swetnick’s allegations paint Kavanaugh as someone who demeaned women for the approval of men

Like Swetnick, Hagan recalls Kavanaugh as part of a group of boys who thought it was funny to sexually demean girls. As Lili Loofbourow notes at Slate, the presence of such a group is also key to Ford’s and Ramirez’s allegations. “In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience,” Loofbourow writes. “In each story, the cruel and bizarre act the woman describes—restraining Christine Blasey Ford and attempting to remove her clothes in her allegation, and in Deborah Ramirez’s, putting his penis in front of her face—seems to have been done in the clumsy and even manic pursuit of male approval.”

“The awful things Kavanaugh allegedly did only imperfectly correlate to the familiar frame of sexual desire run amok,” Loofbourow adds; “they appear to more easily fit into a different category—a toxic homosociality—that involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women.”

Swetnick’s affidavit paints perhaps the clearest picture yet of this toxic homosociality — the young Kavanaugh plotting with his friends to drug girls so that, together, the boys could sexually assault them.

Kavanaugh has maintained that all the allegations against him are false, that he was in fact a model student, humanitarian, and friend to women during his high school days. But the evidence on the other side of the scale is mounting.

On Friday, just hours after Ford and Kavanaugh finish testifying, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination before it’s sent to the full Senate. Their vote could set the stage for Kavanaugh’s ascendance to the Supreme Court, where he would probably in very short order have the opportunity to help overturn Roe v. Wade.

Everything that has happened with Kavanaugh’s confirmation since Ford came forward has the feeling of history repeating itself. It’s not just the parallels with Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas. It’s also the fact that, to so many women, stories of groups of boys sexually preying on girls feel so terribly, crushingly familiar.

Most people have probably witnessed the “toxic homosociality” Loofbourow talks about; many women have been its victim. That’s why the hearing and vote this week aren’t just about Kavanaugh. They’re about an entire culture that encourages men to bond by violating women, that treats women as toys for women to play with and discard.

The #MeToo movement has begun to challenge that culture. But as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “confident” Kavanaugh will be confirmed, before he’s even heard from Ford, and as President Donald Trump says the confirmation should have been pushed through weeks ago, it’s clear how much work remains to be done.