The #metoo news articles have died down a bit. Is it fading from the national consciousness?
I’ve never agreed with the idea that sexual assault and harrassment is all about power and not sex.
The way I see it, power and sex aren’t mutually exclusive. Sexual abuse is about sexual power.
In a sense, power is ultimately about sex; in the deep down brain. Political, economic, social power. Power and sex aren’t separate urges; they’re sides of the same coin. Sides of the same multi-sided die (“die”, as in the singular of dice). They’re inextricable.
It’s no coincidence, in my opinion, that nearly any man who finds or places himself in a position of power ends up trying to build a harem. Without exception. Think of all the commune, compound, and cult leaders. The polygamists. The politicians. The church. The schools. The financial bros. The tech bros. The civil servant bros. The service industry bros. Any insular community or organization. It’s all the same s—. It all shakes out to one charismatic egomaniac, a hierarchy of privileged enablers, control of resources, and psychological control that inevitably manipulates the flock, for lack of a better word, towards the alpha man’s junk.
It goes without saying that it’s not just men and #notallmen. There’s a national story every few days about a teacher — it seems like most of them are women, often married — having sexual relationships with underage students. I can see the power and control angle there, as well.
But it should also go without saying that the manifestation of men’s sexuality is on some whole ‘nother level s—. I don’t want to demonize male sexuality, or discount personal responsibility and the importance of just being a decent human being, but testosterone is a hell of a drug and we aren’t coping well enough.
The consequences of testosterone are very real. We men have to do better. Edward Scissorhands wasn’t a monster because he had scissors for hands, but he had to be mindful in order to function and contribute to the world, potentially lethal hands and all. I mean, we have to be better than this.1Anyway, I know that it’s an accepted aphorism. It’s part of the cultural zeitgeist. I’m open to discussion. It wouldn’t be the first time that I missed a point.
Have you seen Saturday Night Live episodes from the 70’s and 80’s? “Jane, you ignorant slut!”
Remember Uncle Roy, the skits about the frustrated pedophile babysitter? Holy crap.
Playboy Magazine used to run the “Chester the Child Molester” comic strip. If you recall, it was Chester trying to trick women and girls into touching or otherwise engaging with his genitals, e.g. painting his balls like Easter eggs and lying in wait. That kind of thing.
Soap opera rapes and subsequent relationships as a plot device.
Quaaludes and barbiturates.
Revenge of the Nerds where the nerd protagonist tricks the trophy woman of the movie into having sex with him by dressing up like Darth Vader in a carnival funhouse — take that, frat boy jock antagonists — but it’s okay because she falls in love with him because he has a big dick.
And you may remember Benny Hill, my favorite. Back in my middle school days I would stay up late on Sunday nights to try and catch it. Now I’ve got a box set. All kinds of skit based humor — musical, slapstick, prop, word play, jokes, satire, raconteuring, plus dance numbers a la Solid Gold — and by today’s standards, 90% sexual harrassment and assault. Sigh. I suppose it was sexual harrassment and assault back then, too, but back then it was considered funny to watch a woman being harangued and sexually menaced by dirty old men. In the latter years they flipped the script and put women on the offensive sometimes.
I think at this point with all of these powerful men catching the hammer, every guy you know is either doing some serious self-reflection and/or rationalization. We’re all complicit, if not guilty to some degree, myself included.
Back when I was coming of age, grabbing ass or physically getting in a girl’s personal space as a confident display of affection was considered flirting, even if unwanted. Nowadays that would be considered sexual assault, depending on the context. In retrospect to the middle and high school days, a lot of girls endured sexual bullying and no one was there to help them. They just … dealt with it? Or didn’t.
Those were different times. It’s true. What was considered acceptable — the bar was a lot lower — and, frankly, enabled and even promoted sexual abuse. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades.
But kind of not. Women are empowered but demeaned and resented for it. Women have the capacity and momentum to address abuse, but only if they’re willing to go through hell to maybe get some kind of recourse. (Report a rape in a small town and see how quickly things get Old Testament.) Women are politicians and CEOs, occasionally, but are mistrusted and questioned.
This is a cynical take, I know, but we’re talking about the dark corners of our culture.
Women have been and are complicit, too. I think women often go along to get along or play the game, so to speak.
Okay, wait. Wait. Hold on. Before anyone has a rage stroke, let me clarify because that didn’t come out quite right.
Abusers and perpetrators are the problem. Abusers are at fault. I’m saying that this is how abusive power and systems work. The whole goal, whether conscious, instinctive, or subliminal, is to make victims and potential victims complicit in their own violation.
Even those who comply (whether reluctant or eager) are being exploited when their only path to a prominent career in the field of their choice is in the hands of someone who can sink their livelihood with a word. And from what we’ve seen, those choices are often presented after the groping or rape has occurred, which isn’t much of a choice.
Will the #metoo movement trickle down to other industries and the every day 9 to 5 workplace? Restaurant, civil servants, military, domestic workers?
Will things change in a meaningful way? Power protects power. Power concedes nothing without a demand, right.
Some resign. Some may be elected. Some were elected. Some are protected by the nature of the office or position they hold. Some are well below the radar of any kind of media or public outrage.
Is this change? Even if it is, is it just change in western societies or will it spread globally?
#risingup or #outyourpig
Honor killings. Acid attacks. Rape of girls and young women as punishment for someone else’s crime. Genital mutilation. African immigrant women are taking the pill because they know they’ll be raped at some point along the way. Psychological and emotional abuse when they attempt to report crimes against them. Vitriol and condemnation when they don’t. Shaming when they do, shaming when they don’t. Doxxing, death and rape threats for having an opinion, or merely existing online.
Murders, abuse, murder suicides, family annihilation.
If anyone could be protesting, kneeling, raising fists or blocking traffic, it could be women.
Men are f—ing dangerous.
I think there are multiple reasons for that. Socialization, culture, belief systems. And testosterone.
Positive aspects include physical strength, sturdiness, muscular development, spatial awareness, and a general rambunctiousness. Negative side effects of testosterone include territorial violence, possessiveness, physical aggression, sexual aggression, being a general menace, etc.
In the animal kingdom, might makes right. Physical prowess and aggression determines social structures and roles. In some species, testosterone levels increase 1,500% during mating season. They are violent, territorial and deadly. (Just imagine one of those street harasser guys being fifteen times more handsy, verbally abusive, and more of an asshole than usual.)
But we, human beings, have higher order intelligence and social structures. There are qualities other than size and muscle mass that allow us to be successful: intelligence, cooperation, empathy, creativity, problem solving, communication.
Point? We’re animals but we’re not limited by that fact. In other words, that’s no excuse for s–tty behavior.
Again, I don’t want to demonize human sexuality and male sexuality, specifically. But there’s something about our culture that is toxic and increasingly dangerous.
Why is nearly every single mass shooter male? Why do men respond to romantic and sexual rejection with violence and often homicidal rage? What the hell.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The male ego is like ceramics. Strong as hell, stronger than steel by some standards, resilient to caustic chemicals and wear and tear, but if you drop it or hit it (not even that hard) the wrong way, it shatters violently, shards flying.
Is this learned behavior? Can it be unlearned? Can it be inoculated against?
On your average day, women would be perfectly within their rights to believe they’re under siege, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, geographic location, etc.
Can you imagine if all of them united? Half of the world’s population? The world would change.
It won’t happen. But just imagine.
It won’t happen because there are too many -isms. The proximity of conditions — the immediate environment — overrides the commonalities of global or ubiquitous injustices.
I mean, how do you stand together when there are so many factors separating you?
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught
Even now, when you go online there are a lot of women vocally defending people and policies and scapegoating with the best of them.
We have many identities and it can’t be boiled down to one facet. It shouldn’t be. I’ve been generalizing for this entire entry, obviously. Women aren’t a monolith. Even if they collectively face monolithic injustices. Life is more complicated than that. How all aspects of culture, identity, and ideology converge, intersect and exist within larger institutions.
We pick our battles and choose our sides, though. The devil I know over the devils I was raised to fear.
It’s intense. And exhausting. So it goes. It’s almost paralyzing. What do we do? What do I do?
What do you do?