The XX Factor

Bill Cosby’s Deposition Reads Like a Nightmare “Field Report” From the World’s Worst PUA

Bill Cosby in 2014.

Photo by  Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported on a 2005 deposition in which Bill Cosby admitted to procuring drugs in order to have sex with multiple women—an admission in line with dozens of rape and sexual assault allegations against Cosby over the years. On Saturday, the New York Times published excerpts from the entire text of the four-day deposition, which involved a basketball manager at Temple University who accused him of sexual abuse.* (The case was settled out of court in 2006.)

Reading the Times piece by Graham Bowley and Sydney Ember is a deeply disquieting experience. Cosby comes across as arrogant to the point of parody. Although he was supposedly defending himself against very serious charges of sex abuse, Cosby can’t resist the opportunity to brag about what a ladies’ man he is. Reading his testimony is eerily reminiscent of the far-fetched “field reports” that self-stylized pick-up artists post online. You can tell Cosby wants his audience—which consisted primarily of lawyers who believe he abused their client—to admire his talents for the art of seduction. From the Times:

Early on in his courtship, he arranged an intimate meal alone with [the accuser] at his Pennsylvania home, complete with Cognac, dimmed lights and a fire, he said. At one point he led her to his back porch, out of sight from his chef. “I take her hair and I pull it back and I have her face like this,” he said. “And I’m talking to her …And I talked to her about relaxing, being strong. And I said to her, come in, meaning her body.”

But the two remained inches apart, he said, and he did not try to kiss her because he did not sense she wanted him to. Nevertheless, at the next dinner he said they had what he described as a “sexual moment,” short of intercourse. He described her afterward as having “a glow.”

Like many a creepy pickup artist, Cosby imagines himself a philosopher when it comes to that tricky creature, the human female. Of his policy of avoiding sexual intercourse, he said, it “is something that I feel the woman will succumb to more of a romance and more of a feeling, not love, but it’s deeper than a playful situation.” 

Cosby took great pains to portray himself as a chivalric hero. “I am a man, the only way you will hear about who I had sex with is from the person I had it with,” he explained. What a rare and exciting opportunity this deposition afforded him! For this consummate gentleman, lady-luring techniques included “seducing a young model by showing interest in her father’s cancer” and “casting himself in the role of an experienced guide and offering [his accuser] the benefit of his contacts, fame and experience.” In a pinch—if, say, you’re being accused of sexual abuse—pressure your accuser to tell her mother that she had orgasms with you. Yes, Cosby really did that, and admitted to it.

Researcher David Lisak has found that when interviewing rapists, as long as you avoid calling it rape, you can get them to admit to a whole lot. “In fact, they are eager to talk about their experiences,” he told NPR in 2010. “They’re quite narcissistic as a group—the offenders—and they view this as an opportunity, essentially, to brag.”

In this deposition, Cosby doesn’t admit to rape. But he does show that same tendency toward self-puffery and braggadocio, and the same inclination to treat sex as a conquest instead of a mutually agreeable situation. 

Of course, that’s not proof he’s a rapist. Better evidence is the 36 public accusations made so far against him, as well the 13 women (many of whom are now public accusers) who offered sworn statements that he had assaulted them. 

*Correction, July 20, 2015: This post originally misstated that the New York Times article was published on Sunday. It was published on Saturday.