The pleasant, kind-looking man in the photo is Alex Coberly, 33, who has been employed by the Seattle School District since 1998 and who has been an elementary school principal for the past three years.
On November 22, he did something he later told police he’s done a number of times in the past: he intentionally slowed his car (emblazoned with children’s stickers of various kinds) alongside a car carrying two young women, smiled at them, then attracted the attention of the woman on the passenger side to his upraised, naked body and the movements he was making with it. The women wrote down his license plate number, took note of what he looked like, called 911 and he was arrested.
What is interesting is, his attorney and some school district officials, parents of students, and former students have argued that Coberly should be able to keep his job, that his history of exposing himself to women doesn’t have anything to do with his performance as a school principal. His attorney told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he feels there is “no connection between this incident and [Coberly’s] job [because] it doesn’t involve children and doesn’t involve his work.”
Also interesting are the people who express sympathy for Coberly and talk about how “sad” this is for him, what a “tragedy,” what a “nice man” he is, and so on.
What about the women this man sexually assaulted? Not just the two who managed to get his license plate number, but all of the other women he says he’s assaulted in the same way? Having a man display his genitals in a menacing and intimidating way is sexual assault if you are a woman, girl, or boy. It is not “flashing,” which sounds funny and cute and harmless. It’s not “exposing himself,” either. I think, say, peeing on the side of the road would be more consistent with “exposing oneself;” “exposing” doesn’t communicate the truth of what is done in instances like this. These assaults are never just about “exposure.” When men assault women in this way, they do it to intimidate, threaten, and shock women. Their penises are usually erect and they are usually moving their pelvises menacingly. It is scary and traumatic to women who are victimized by it and would be destructive and frightening no matter what, but it is particularly harmful to women who have already been raped or sexually assaulted, meaning at least one out of three women (And I believe the number is closer to one of two or even more).
I will grant that he does look like a nice guy, in the same way the guys in the Craig’s List experiment looked like nice guys. He looks harmless, like the guy next door or your brother’s friend. And yeah, these guys are nice — all the way up until they feel like sexually assaulting, threatening, or menacing girls and women because it gets them off. Then they aren’t nice at all.
I wonder whether those defending the principal would feel the same way if he’d sexually assaulted them, their daughters, their mothers? If he’d driven alongside them, this really nice-, normal-appearing guy with kids’ stickers on his car, and thrust his erect penis in their faces? What will it take, what level of sexual violation is required, for it to matter more that a woman has been sexually assaulted than it matters whether the man who violated her keeps his job or can move on as if nothing had happened? Why is a sexual predator’s reputation of more concern than the lives of the women he has harmed?