Losing My Feminist Status
The last few weeks have been a drip, drip, drip, scenario for males in powerful positions. I’ll start by suggesting that poor Harvey Weinstein needs to be given some slack. Knowing little about him, I’ve just seen pictures of him, and realize that without getting into a powerful position, how would he ever get any. Oops, just realized the previous statement dealt with body image and sex and that definitely IS politically incorrect.
One common theme in the current take downs is the “celebrity” aspect. If we go back to groupies and rock bands, is it okay for females to pursue, and rock stars to “consume”? Replace rock star with sports star, TV or movie personality, or rich man for that matter, do groupies pursuits have limits? Do groupie “consumers” have protections? Do the same rules apply to Madonna as they do Mick Jagger?
There are two prevailing themes in the current new coverage; sexual assault needs to be called out under all conditions, and one cannot judge solely on accusations. While there is merit in calling out sexual assault, the “zero tolerance” proponents need only look at other zero tolerance initiatives since the term was first coined in the last century. You can see the “success” of the war on drugs. On the other side, when several accusers come out within weeks of each other, it is hard not to buy into the guilty verdict. The people being fired are not being fired on a he said-she said report, but more a he said-they said where “they” is a large number. There were enough background noises prior to the reckoning event.
If one takes sex out of the narrative, there may be a clearer picture of the wrongdoing. Throughout history, or at least since the dawn of agrarian societies, sex has been used as a control mechanism. Men have been the drivers of the narrative, and that is why a promiscuous male is a stud and the female equivalent is a slut. Even in these enlightened times, that is still a gut-feel truism shared by both sexes. Dealing with the “sex in society” narrative, precedes any other measures in rewriting the norms of good behavior.
We all (mostly) agree that consensual sex between adults is not an issue. I suspect there are still laws on the books that make some of these encounters illegal, including when there is a quid pro quo with money changing hands. Infidelity regarding sex is an issue not dealt with here, but rises out of the commercial transaction we call marriage. The single key factor in assessing right and wrong is that sexual activity must be mutually pleasurable.
If there are any concerns with the current dialogue, it has to do with the wooing process. Short of ceding control to technologies like Tinder, where being a subscriber seems to represent some form of consent, I don’t quite understand how one might build up to the encounter. Unlike a “Dating for Dummies” series, one cannot assume that potential partners on either side possess the social skills to read come hither versus stay away creep signals. Secondly, we cannot assume uniformity in wooing techniques or desires. Subtle and overt can be read very differently by any two people. I think back to the funnel theory of sales, where you knock on doors and get a 5% success rate. That converts to a “Do you want to ****?” question posed in a crowded room. Asked enough times, you will have success, unless you look like Harvey Weinstein.
The race to right the wrong will result in conflict rather than harmony. In the statement “Grab them by the pu**y”, the more egregious statement is the preamble, “when you’re a star”. It is the inappropriate exercise of power that is the problem and that is a far greater problem to deal with, as it spans most of humanity’s conflict sources, not just sexual assault.
What are the remedies? One can use the trite “education” solution. People don’t learn from books, as behavior is shaped more by observed actions rather than statements from influencers. Parents are still more likely to smile while chastising a son versus a daughter’s misbehavior, while voicing the same concern to both. We cannot enact draconian laws to deal with the issue until we come to terms with where we are sexually in society. We will know we’ve arrived when the slut and stud labels are a thing of the past. That can only happen when we learn to respect each other’s boundaries. Strangely enough, I think this started with the wider acceptance of the LGBTQ community. It’s still a long way off, but let’s celebrate a good start.