Of Harassment and Hysteria
Recently, there has been a tidal wave of sexual harassment, abuse and rape allegations, leveled against a myriad of powerful political figures and entertainers. The endless accusations against Harvey Weinstein, for a long time one of the most powerful moguls in Hollywood, really appear to have opened the floodgates.
For the most part, I think this is a good thing. Exposing the dark deeds of elitists to the light of day is something any free society should benefit from. While it’s no surprise to many of us that men, especially, who wield great power choose to abuse it, I think everyone has been astonished at the breadth and extent of the problem.
While the whole #me too campaign undoubtedly empowered large numbers of victims to feel courageous enough to step forward, it almost certainly also enabled some to climb aboard the victimization bandwagon and gain not only sympathy, but perhaps a taste of notoriety. And the allegations varied wildly in severity; from the hopelessly nebulous “unwanted attention” to forcible rape. My hope is that the accusations will be sorted out rationally, and that everyone will agree that “unwanted attention” is not the equal of rape or any real assault.
Already, the responses to this epic scandal have been predictable. The House of Representatives, in their usual wisdom, is introducing legislation to mandate anti- harassment and anti-discrimination training. As almost certainly will happen, the corporate world will follow suit. In that case, the message will become; all males, regardless of their position in life and relative grasp of power, must learn not to harass or bring that “unwanted attention” to others.
What is lost here is that just as there is a huge difference, both legally and morally, between “unwanted attention” and sexual assault; there is just as wide a gulf between a congressman harassing a staffer and a mail room clerk trying to display romantic interest in a female co-worker. I detect, however, an inability on the part of many to make these important distinctions, and mandatory “sensitivity” style training smacks of the broad brush approach so beloved by our government and corporate leaders.
The emphasis here should be on how power corrupts, and in the case of too many powerful men, that corruption is of a sexual nature. As all the endless allegations against Hollywood figures demonstrate, those of us who have long maintained that there must be a literal casting couch in tinsel town were correct. But it’s the abuse of power that is the problem, not any freshly coined “toxic masculinity.” The power to force women into sex at the risk of losing their job is a far cry from socially unsophisticated males “creeping out” females by awkwardly asking them to dance or to lunch.
If the broad brush approach is used here, and if the past is any indicator it will be, then the result will be even more friction between the sexes, and eventually perhaps even a moratorium on “creepy” guys even talking to women. Taken to its logical extreme, “unwanted attention” can be something as innocuous as “good morning.” In all reality, virtually any “small talk” can be construed as sexual harassment. Why do males go to bars or to parties? Is asking someone to dance “harassment?” How far will this go, before it further erodes the relationships between men and women?
Congress has been filled with sexual predators for a very long time. I delineated numerous examples of this in Survival of the Richest. What these predators share in common, along with their plentiful celebrity brethren, is an above the law immunity. They aren’t penalized, and have never been penalized, in the same way that non- celebrity offenders have always been for the same transgressions. I don’t expect to hear any talk about this, but we will be saturated with feminist quotes about “male privilege” and the like, and the usual “left” and “right” paradigm perspectives.
To all the folks who worked with him on Saturday Night Live, Al Franken was an angelic progressive figure, someone who always respected women and fought for their rights. To the evangelicals who support Roy Moore, he was always a paragon of virtue. The random construction worker who is accused of some kind of sexual harassment doesn’t have this kind of perk; to have co-workers publicly quoted as expressing disbelief and singing his praises. That’s the way it works in America; if you’re wealthy and especially if you’re famous, sexual harassment is a life lesson you learn from and perhaps even lecture others about. If you’re a member of the common riff-raff, you are a sick pervert who needs to be locked behind bars.
This whole Harvey Weinstein-fueled phenomenon tends to provide smokescreen to the truly diabolical scandals involving children. I covered many of these in Hidden History, and the Pizzagate revelations- which despite the pleas of establishment puppets like Snopes have not been discredited- sent many of us even deeper down the rabbit hole. Corey Feldman is probably lucky to be alive, and hopefully will be releasing his list of high profile pedophiles soon. If pedophilia in high places is as prevalent as it appears, obviously the authorities have strong motives to keep it suppressed.
I truly hope that most women keep a level head about this. I refuse to believe that a majority of men are sexual predators of some kind. However, I understand how the trappings of power corrupt, and therefore can believe almost anyone with real power is a sexual predator.
We must also draw a clear distinction between cads who are serial adulterers, and those who threaten and/or blackmail others into sexual relationships. I’ve always used the examples of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton in this regard. While JFK was accused of having sex with the most desirable movie stars of the day (Marilyn Monroe and others), Bill Clinton went after low-level underlings like Paula Jones. JFK didn’t use the power of the presidency to get sex. It is undeniable that as governor of Arkansas, and then in the Oval Office, that Bill Clinton did.
Our culture sexualizes everyone and everything, including children. Attractive women, especially, are used to sell everything. How many comedies don’t revolve around sex? And yet in this sexually charged atmosphere, an increasing number of unsophisticated forty year old virgin-types are asked to navigate smoothly, and somehow meet the woman of their dreams, without offending them in some way. Considering how the list of offensive remarks and actions has grown in recent years, this cannot be an easy task.
Exactly how are males supposed to acceptably approach females at this point? Is “picking up” someone now impossible, or even illegal? All that small talk in obvious places is the only way most males know how to express interest in someone. If all this becomes frowned upon and defined as “harassment,” then how will anyone meet anyone else? Unless the female initiates things (which doesn’t seem to be frowned upon in the same way), how can any relationship be established?
I believe the furor over sexual harassment in high places will eventually subside. But will it subside before it drags virtually every man down with it? Or will sanity prevail, and those in positions of authority recognize that the problem is not about “creeping out” someone, but the simple timeworn abuse of power.