No one denies the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, choked, beat, and battered a woman during sex at his house this spring.
What we don't know is whether Bauer's reputation and career will survive the blowback from the salacious details that have already come out with a judge's ruling Thursday.
A woman who said that Bauer sexually assaulted her was seeking a long-term restraining order to keep Bauer away. Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman ruled against the civil domestic violence order, saying Bauer poses no threat to the woman and that the injuries she suffered from having sex with him were the consequence of the type of sex she had asked him for.
"We consider in a sexual encounter that when a woman says no she should be believed," Gould-Saltman said. "So what should we do when she says yes?"
It was a bold decision, particularly for a female judge who will suffer backlash from the #MeToo people as well as the social justice mob on Twitter. The court of public opinion — especially social media's kangaroo court, where #MeToo trials are held — might not be so forgiving.
This will come down to a debate over sexual norms and freedoms, blurring sensibilities, and the line between rough sex and assault.
"If she sets limits and he exceeded them, this case would have been clear," the judge said. "But she set limits without considering all the consequences, and respondent did not exceed the limits that the petitioner set."
It's hard to understand — for me, anyway — why Bauer would find sexual satisfaction in pummeling a woman. At some point, every guy has been told that you don't hit a woman. And sexual assault is not sex, but violence.
Times are always changing, though, and those are the old sensibilities. Just 10 years ago we would all be appalled hearing that a robust professional athlete brutalized and bludgeoned a woman during sex. Now, we're not sure what to think. We've been told there are no differences between men and women and that we should open our minds when it comes to assessing sexual norms.
Bauer is not yet free and clear in this era, either, though. The Los Angeles police are investigating and will decide whether to file criminal charges. Meanwhile, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred finds himself in the awkward position of having to decide whether to kick a player out of the league because he and a woman had consensual S&M in the privacy of Bauer's home. Twice.
Bauer has been on paid leave since July 2, when the allegations became public. The league extended that Thursday until Aug. 27.
The move speaks to how potentially polarizing Bauer's predicament is. Manfred and baseball — perhaps justifiably — want to see which way the Twitter and #MeToo winds blow.
That could depend on how closely the public follows the details of the case. The judge said that the woman, based on her texts, had "wanted rough sex in the first encounter and rougher sex in the second." The woman also had texted a friend that she intended to go after Bauer for a Range Rover and cash.
Was the woman trying to get bruises to set up Bauer for a payday? During testimony, she said that she had only been kidding about seeking to extort Bauer.
The lines of debate will be drawn quickly. Did the woman actually ask for this, as the judge seems to be saying? Was she simply irresponsible? Will the judge be accused of victim-blaming? Those are the usual arguments used to keep women from reporting attacks
On the other hand, here is a question for modern, secular America: Is there anything wrong with casual and consensual sex in private between two adults?
The woman said that she contacted Bauer in April for the first time seeking consensual sex at his house in Pasadena, Calif. They agreed to rough sex, but there were also acts, she said, that were not consensual. She lost consciousness.
She connected with him again in May, saying she had been "turned on" when she lost consciousness the first time. She also texted to him to "gimme all the pain."
"I just wanted to create another experience where I could live up to what he wanted," she testified. "I just wanted to give him what he wanted."
This time, she said, they set up a safe word — "daddy issues" — meaning that they would stop if one of them said that. But she said he choked her with her hair until she was unconscious and when she woke up, he was punching her in the face and genitals.
"I felt like my soul left my body," she testified. … "He was treating me like I was not even a human being."
She said she was so battered from his punches that she was unable to speak. And then, she said, he choked her unconscious again.
Rough sex might be more common than you think. According to a study in Pubmed.gov this year, about 80 percent of people with a current partner engage in rough sex.
It's hard to know whether that's all Bauer's case counts as — rough sex — or whether it's OK to assault someone just because she asked for it.This was one court decision in Bauer's favor, but in the courtroom, on Twitter, in the league office, and everywhere the #MeToo movement thrives, Bauer's fate has yet to play out.