Celeb: Former vice president Joe Biden, who initiated the landmark Violence Against Women Act in 1994.
Cause: The “It’s On Us” campaign, which calls on women and men (especially men) to raise awareness of sexual assault and combat rape culture on college campuses across the country.
Scene: Like a political rock star, Biden, dressed in a dark suit and striped tie, strode onto an auditorium stage at George Mason University as Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own” blasted through the speakers Wednesday morning. After the applause finally died down and the students in the room took their seats, the 74-year-old promptly asked that the teleprompter go dark. “I’m not going to do a formal thing,” he said.
Then the former Veep proceeded to wax poetic for nearly 30 minutes, providing a history of rape culture dating to 18th-century English common law and more familiar examples of progress, such as the firing of a major cable news anchor because of repeated sexual harassment claims. But he never named any names.
Biden also refrained from name dropping when launching into a fiery condemnation of lewd locker-room talk. When you hear something, say something, was Biden’s passionate edict, adding that the men with the foulest mouths “are usually the ugliest sons of guns in the room.”
“Here’s the thing, guys, you got to speak up and you got to do what my father taught me: Turn and say, ‘You’re a horse’s tail,’ but only more graphic,” he said before calling men who rape cowards, and the men who witness inappropriate behavior yet say nothing “accomplices.”
“If you can’t get her to say yes because she wants to, you ain’t much,” Biden concluded, in a far-ranging speech that he described as “very restrained.”
“I say to you guys, please, please act like men. Rape and sexual assault are not about sex, it’s about power. If you want to be a man, stand up, man.”