If I were a political cartoonist, I would draw a copy of the Rape of the Sabine Women and make the male faces look like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, and, oh yeah, Donald Trump. As Claude Rains says in Casablanca, “I’m shocked to find out that there is gambling going on in this institution! Shocked!” Well, OK. I’m shocked to find out that men in powerful positions sexually harass and rape women. Shocked!
When Bill Clinton was impeached for having sex with “that woman” with whom he denied having sex [What’s your definition of sex?], a book came out that chronicled the sexual affairs of all of Clinton’s predecessors in the Oval Office. It’s a pretty extensive and tawdry list. If I had read that book as a child, or even at age 12, I might have been surprised, but being a man, I’ve known a lot of other men. Guys talk to each other in ways that they don’t talk to women, so the idea of sexual abuse of power, although not appealing to me, should be well known to every man in America.
Of course, women, being the abused parties, also talk among themselves and are equally aware of this phenomenon. Neither men nor women have ever wanted to publicize what’s been going on. Men don’t want to lose their jobs and wives and/or go to prison. In the past, women were afraid of losing their jobs and their reputations as ladies. Society forced them into feeling shame for being a sexual victim. Now that shame stuff is starting to get old. Starting is a beginning.
I’ve been in a few positions with some power—obviously not on the level of the aforementioned abusers, but I’ve been in the position of hiring and firing women and/or helping them in their careers. I also taught college students for 30 years. Although I have had relationships with a number of women, some of which I could have helped, there was never a sexual quid pro quo for two reasons: first of all, my professional and artistic integrity prevents me from advocating anyone who is undeserving. Secondly, I don’t want to have sex with anyone who I am not attracted to in that way and who doesn’t want me for the same reason. How pathetic does Harvey Weinstein sound on that tape where he dispels all his proclamations of innocence? What pleasure could there be in enjoying yourself, when you know that you are physically inside of a woman who hates every ounce of your being at that moment (and probably every moment for the rest of her life)?
But maybe this isn’t about sex. Maybe it’s really about power and feeling contempt for other people. The idea that I could feel better about myself if I know that others were beneath me is a common disease that is practiced by millions worldwide and leads to greed, slavery, and war. It’s older than rope.
So why all this furor over Mr. Weinstein? The Motion Picture Academy threw him out and is deciding whether to take back his Oscar. I’ve got to laugh at the insane hypocrisy at work here. Wasn’t the Academy formed by the original studio heads who were notorious for foisting themselves on starlets with the tacet promise of a role?
When I was a young man, I had actress girlfriends who told me numerous stories of invitations to directors’ and famous actors’ apartments. One actress explained the game to me. She said that if you don’t sleep with them, you’ll never hear from them again. If you do sleep with them, then they got what they wanted, and you’ll never hear from them again. The way to be successful (and she was good at this), was to flirt with them, and make them think that you’ll sleep with them, but postpone the showdown as long as possible. Hopefully, they will be so desperate for sex, that you’ll get a part and then you can turn them down. The only way this really works is to get a career-making role where the industry needs you more than you need them. What a game!
Why should an artist (or any woman in any walk of life—this behavior is endemic to all positions of power) have to endure such demeaning treatment? The answer is that we live in a society where men control just about everything, and powerful men get there by lusting after power. Only the lustiest rise to the top. Once on top, they surround themselves with sycophants and from then on believe their press notices (as we say in show biz).
So, I repeat, why all this furor over Harvey Weinstein? He is one of hundreds of thousands of American men doing this stuff every day, and one of hundreds of millions of men around the globe involved in this sordid behavior. Maybe we can’t police the morals and ethics in other countries, but we could pass some federal laws and enforce them right here and right now. Starting with the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief. That’s right—Donald P.G. Trump. If Harvey could be kicked out of the Motion Picture Academy and have his Oscar taken away, why can’t we take away Trump’s phony election win and kick him to the curb, or better yet, tar and feather him and run him out of town on a rail?
Oh yeah, I just remembered. We can’t do anything bad to Donald because the Republicans in Congress are all afraid that if they don’t go along with what they used to think was bad behavior and dangerous policy, they will lose their jobs. Trump may be a pussy grabber, but these guys are just pussies. How about standing up for America? Or are you all afraid that we’ll find out that you are no better than the Manchurian Candidate in the Oval Office and his swamp-draining carpetbaggers? You’re all just in it for the money. Ooh, and maybe for the sex.
When I think about our Founding Fathers risking their lives standing up to the most powerful nation on earth at that time, it makes me sick to my stomach to see this country sold to Putin and his American oligarch friends. I would say, ”God help us,” but then my aunt would answer, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s time that we Americans demand a “government of the people, by the people and for the people” before our nation perishes from this earth. Step #1: the 25th Amendment. Do it now, before we are dragged into World War III and Trump declares martial law.
For those of my readers that only want me to talk about music, I apologize, but these are desperate times. Be assured that the next essay will be about music, and it’s going to be a good one.
Good point, Elissa. Those brace women who speak up and report rapes face being called liars by the power establishment which includes the police and justice system. Did anyone really believe that Anita Hill was lying? To declare her story true and disqualify Clarence Thomas threatened abusive men everywhere. First Thomas, then who is next. Better to stop it here and have an incompetent, lying abuser on the Supreme Court for 50 years. If that wasn’t bad enough, we now have a self-confessed (and proud of it) abuser in the White House. Sadly, he never would have been elected without the votes of tens of millions of women.
“Neither men nor women have ever wanted to publicize what’s been going on. Men don’t want to lose their jobs and wives and/or go to prison. In the past, women were afraid of losing their jobs and their reputations as ladies.” With all respect, I beg to differ that “women don’t want to publicize what’s been going on.” Women have been talking about this and publicizing what’s going on for eons. Read everyone from Virginia Woolf to Steinem to Edith Wharton to, more recently, Eimear McBride, Caroline Kepnes, Alice Munro, Jessica Knoll, Jocelyn Catty, and on and on and on. What about the Anita Hill hearings could have possibly constituted our not wanting to talk about it? Again: women have been talking about this for eons. The only problem is the one that continues to exist to this day: most men just don’t want to hear about it. It’s so pervasive that you’ve all become desensitized; the problem has become white noise. There’s a difference between talking and listening or not listening, and therefore, not hearing us. We talk, and we publicize, and we will continue to do so. And the problem will continue to exist until patriarchal culture and society actually hears us. I am not holding my breath. Thanks for posting this, David.
This was a good one. Thank you for saying what everyone
else is thinking.
Dave- you pretty much nailed it with this essay! Well- stated!