Some Thoughts About Harvey Weinstein and What He Represents

I met my Harvey Weinstein when I was around 13 years old. He was the head waiter at the catering hall where I worked, and he spent the next three or four years groping and fondling me as often and in as many ways as he could. Once, when we had back-to-back jobs to work and had almost no time to sleep, he gave me Black Beauties to take so I could stay awake. This was when Black Beauties were really Black Beauties, not the diet pill that later had that name, and he hinted very hard that I owed him something in return, and that, if I couldn’t afford to pay him money, there were “other ways” he’d agree to be compensated. Nothing ever came of that, though. I think he backed off in part because he was sort of a friend of the family and he was worried what would happen if I told. It’s important to remember that, at this time—around 1978 or so—while people were beginning to talk more openly about sexual violence against women, no one was talking about the sexual abuse of boys. Even if I had wanted to tell someone, there was no language in which to describe what he was doing to me as the sexual assault that it was. I literally did not have the words to understand and name my own experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this man lately, as I’ve been thinking about the significantly older male colleagues of mine who, when I was first hired at 27 at the college where I teach almost thirty years ago, would pull me aside at the beginning of every semester to ask, “How many really hot women do you have in your class?” When I refused to answer, which I did every time they asked, they would look at me incredulously and tease me by saying that I wasn’t answering because I probably had my eye one or more of those women. I have often wondered at my own silence back then, which—while it was a form of resistance—was a relatively passive one, in that it did not confront those men with an open and explicit refusal of the sexist, exploitive male bonding in which they were trying to engage me. In the late 1980s, there wasn’t much of a language yet—I’d say it was just starting to develop—in which men could confront other men on those terms. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t yet have the words to assert and insist on my own disloyalty to that male code.

Those are just two examples of how impoverished our language for talking about not just manhood and masculinity, but also male sexual vulnerability, was back then. That language is far less impoverished now, and I have been listening to and reading the words of men who are using it to talk about who Harvey Weinstein is, what he did, and what he represents. It is heartening. At the same time, though, I am very aware that, because the people Weinstein targeted were women, this talk, from both men and women, tends to render my own experience with my own Harvey Weinstein invisible. It is, in other words, explicitly heteronormative—a fact that poses a serious challenge.

On the one hand, it would be dishonest and irresponsible to hold sexual violence against women and sexual violence against men as entirely equal in every respect. Regardless of what may be true about the frequency with which men experience sexual violation (ETA: studies suggest the numbers may not be all that different from women), or the kinds of violation we experience (ETA: we are assaulted by both men and women, and, in some contexts, some studies suggest, more frequently by women), it is not the case that sexual violation is used against men in the pervasive and systemic way that it is used against women as a class, to keep them silent and subservient, to hold them back, etc. We have to be able to talk about what Harvey Weinstein did and what he represents as part and parcel, and as perpetuating of that system, and we have to be able to have that discussion without it being diluted by calls to pay simultaneous and equal attention to sexual violence against men.

At the same time, though, if we do not find a way within the larger context of this discussion to give sexual violence against men and boys the weight it deserves on its own terms (not in a weighted comparison to women’s experience), then we will be telling an incomplete and ultimately impoverished story about sexual violence in our culture. Not only would that be doing real harm to the men and boys who, like me, are survivors of sexual violence (or, perhaps more accurately, not only would it perpetuate the harm that is already pervasively being done); it would, in the end, precisely because of its heteronormativity, perpetuate many of the notions about manhood and masculinity with which all too many people seek to normalize, excuse, rationalize, justify, and/or minimize what Harvey Weinstein did and what he represents; and that would do real harm to the women whom men like Harvey Weinstein continue to target. Not to mention how much more difficult it makes things for those men who are working out ways of being men that are not exploitive, and for those men and women who are trying to raise sons who will stand in opposition to the Harvey Weinsteins of the world.

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74 Responses to Some Thoughts About Harvey Weinstein and What He Represents

  1. 1
    Sebastian H says:

    “On the one hand, it would be dishonest and irresponsible to hold sexual violence against women and sexual violence against men as entirely equal in every respect.”

    Even worrying about this is the kind of thing that makes me crazy in the academic and/or activist social justice world. Why do we feel the need to make a hierarchy of really terrible evils? Sure we can make broad distinctions between murder and lying to your husband about whether those jeans make him look fat, but do we really need to carefully parse whether or not raping men or raping women is ‘worse’ or whether talking about raping men ‘devalues’ discussions about raping women.

    What is wrong with saying things like “seeing the incredible strength that some of Weinstein’s victims made me think of X in my life which raises the issue of systematic sexual assault against men”?

  2. Sebastian,

    Difference does not have to mean hierarchy.

  3. 3
    Mookie says:

    Nothing about what Richard wrote in that quote suggests the act of “devaluing” nor did he say or imply one or the other was “worse.” He goes on to explain precisely what he means in that paragraph (explaining differences in rates of frequency and types of violence, how female victims are re-victimized in ways that men are not, how rape or the greater likelihood of experiencing sexual violence is folded into girls’s and womens’s identities). You’re free to disagree with that, but you shouldn’t put words in his mouth.

    seeing the incredible strength that some of Weinstein’s victims made me think of X in my life which raises the issue of systematic sexual assault against men?

    As for implying that he failed to say this, you are again wrong. He explicitly calls for finding

    way[s] within the larger context of this discussion to give sexual violence against men and boys the weight it deserves on its own terms (not in a weighted comparison to women’s experience)

    and that failing to do so would be a disservice to boys and men who have experienced sexual violence.

    Again, there is no reason to make things up, especially in response to such strong, clear writing.

  4. 4
    Sebastian H says:

    I apologize. By way of explanation I had just read three posts on Facebook saying that men using the #metoo was undermining the discussion. I let that color how I read you.

  5. 5
    Jake Squid says:

    By way of explanation I had just read three posts on Facebook saying that men using the #metoo was undermining the discussion.

    I considered doing a #metoo post on fb but then I thought about it. I realized that #metoo was about the sexual assault of women in response to Weinstein’s decades of assaulting women and all the people who enabled him. As such, I figured that my experiences as a man would just distract from a moment in which people who were otherwise unaware of just how common sexual assault is for women could see how big the problem really is.

    I agree with Richard about how this brings those experiences back to the forefront for men who’ve been assaulted. But for me, that doesn’t mean that this is the right time and place to bring it up. The difficult question remains, as Richard wrote, “At the same time, though, if we do not find a way within the larger context of this discussion to give sexual violence against men and boys the weight it deserves on its own terms (not in a weighted comparison to women’s experience), then we will be telling an incomplete and ultimately impoverished story about sexual violence in our culture. ” I believe that we must do so and we must do so without infringing on moments like this one. We can, and we must, find our own moments.

  6. 6
    Jeff says:

    Regardless of what may be true about the frequency with which men experience sexual violation (ETA: studies suggest the numbers may not be all that different from women), or the kinds of violation we experience (ETA: we are assaulted by both men and women, and, in some contexts, some studies suggest, more frequently by women), it is not the case that sexual violation is used against men in the pervasive and systemic way that it is used against women as a class, to keep them silent and subservient, to hold them back, etc.

    I’m struggling to find words here, so there’s probably going to be a lot of ellipses in this paragraph. I… don’t understand the journey between the beginning of this paragraph and the end of it. If your best sources say that men and women are the victims of sexual assault at roughly similar rates… even if they’re victims in different ways… But the discussion rarely addresses men, men are less likely to report, and even when they try to in the context of other sexual victims they’re told “now is not the time”, then by what logic is the abuse of women, specifically, a silencing tactic?

    Jake @ 5

    I agree with Richard about how this brings those experiences back to the forefront for men who’ve been assaulted. But for me, that doesn’t mean that this is the right time and place to bring it up.

    I also want to point out… gently… That this compartmentalization of victims is a very different take on victimization than that which I see as normally put forward by progressives. To use gun violence as an example… The exact details of the tragedy seem almost irrelevant to the talking points in situations involving gun violence. During the time after these tragedies, people only tangentially related to the victims are given platforms… people unrelated to the current tragedy but have connections to previous tragedies are given platforms… politicians use the opportunity to push the legislation de jour, whether or not the effects of them would have prevented the tragedy (Hillary Clinton re: Suppressors after Vegas is as pertinent an example as any). And I’m not saying that any of that is illegitimate. Let people feel their pain. Let people express their pain. And if MSNBC wants to give them a platform, well… Freedom of speech. ‘Murica…. I just don’t understand the reason why male victims of sexual abuse are treated so differently. If someone could explain that, I’d appreciate it.

  7. 7
    Jake Squid says:

    Jeff,

    If the current moment was about all the boys and men that Weinstein had assaulted over the past 4 or 5 decades, I would hope that women wouldn’t turn attention away from the gendered violence uncovered. The fact of the matter is that sexual assault is viewed, and often used, through the lens of gender. The societal reaction differs based on the perceived gender of the victims. Most importantly, as you quoted from Richard, “.. it is not the case that sexual violation is used against men in the pervasive and systemic way that it is used against women as a class, to keep them silent and subservient, to hold them back, etc.” Gun violence, otoh, is not clearly used to keep either men or women, specifically, terrorized.

  8. 8
    Jeff says:

    Jake @ 7

    The fact of the matter is that sexual assault is viewed, and often used, through the lens of gender.

    But is that right? And if not, will it ever change if we refuse to speak about it in a context without gender? I have to admit I find the “if not now, when?” question pertinent… If we can’t talk about male victims of sexual violence in the context of female victims… And we don’t talk about male victims, because they don’t often come forward… Then when? What does that situation even look like?

  9. Sebastian:

    First, I appreciate the apology. Thanks.

    It’s interesting. I did post this on Facebook, not just on my own timeline, but also in the comment threads of women who put up #MeToo posts, and I have received nothing but positive responses. I posted it with some hesitation for precisely the reasons Jake talks about in his comment. I was not—and I am not—interested in putting my individual experience of sexual violation at the center of something that is supposed to be about women’s experience; and, with the singular exception of those male performers who told their stories to express solidarity with the women Weinstein assaulted by further exposing what goes on in their industry, I think it is undermining for male survivors to put up #MeToo posts without any context, without any reflection on how their experience fits into this particular conversation, without any sense that there is a real social and cultural difference between sexual violence against women and sexual violence against men.

    I know there will be people for whom the distinction I am making will be irrelevant, who will see my putting this up on Facebook, as Jake put it, “as distract[ing] from a moment in which people who were otherwise unaware of just how common sexual assault is for women could see how big the problem really is.” With those people—and I assume, Jake, that you’re one of them—I will respectfully disagree. I posted what I wrote not because I felt the need to tell my story. I have done that here on this blog, on my own blog, in other places online, and in the books I have published. I posted it because I truly find the heteronormative nature of the way people are responding to Weinstein and what he stands for very troubling, and I think that male survivors, as survivors, have a perspective to offer that is worth hearing. I don’t know how to offer that perspective without also, in some way, revealing that I too am a survivor of sexual violence.

    Jeff:

    If your best sources say that men and women are the victims of sexual assault at roughly similar rates… even if they’re victims in different ways… But the discussion rarely addresses men, men are less likely to report, and even when they try to in the context of other sexual victims they’re told “now is not the time”, then by what logic is the abuse of women, specifically, a silencing tactic?

    I think you are comparing apples and oranges here, even though it doesn’t look like it. Sexual violence is silencing of both men and women, but men and women are positioned very differently in relation to how and why sexual violence is used to accomplish that silencing. Not just in the United States, sexual violence is a tool of male dominance/patriarchy, used systemically to keep women in their place—and one of the ways that is accomplished is through silencing. By making sure that women cannot use their voices to threaten, undermine, undo the male dominant order of things. That women now are able to speak up, to speak out, that there are men who are allies and who are also wiling to speak up and speak out, against sexual violence against women does not change the motive behind or the desired goal of the violence. And just think of all the individual women who, for whatever reason, do not, cannot, will not speak up. Their silence is not just individual; it is part of the larger silencing of women I talked about above.

    The silencing of men is just not systemic in the same way. To put it differently, men do not wield sexual violence against other men—or even against a specific class of men—in order to protect male dominance from some sort of internal threat. In fact, I would argue quite the opposite. Sexual violence against men is more likely to create that threat by engendering a class of men who have experienced, in their bodies, just how vile and oppressive male dominance can be. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a larger politics at work when it comes to sexual violence against men, just that it is a different politics, and that creating the kind of false equivalency I think your question creates ends up obscuring far more than it reveals.

  10. 10
    Jake Squid says:

    With those people—and I assume, Jake, that you’re one of them—I will respectfully disagree.

    Not necessarily. It depends on how, precisely, you (the generic you) word your story. I know that I didn’t (and don’t) feel confident enough in my writing to clearly not center myself. I don’t object to what you posted on fb (which I did see). I may have objected to what I would have posted and didn’t want to risk that as I have seen a number of “what about the men”and victim blaming in comment threads of some of the #metoo posts to which I have access. I don’t want to add to that distraction and I’m not sure that I won’t.

    It’s a difficult area in which to tread and I’m not up to adding my experience in a productive fashion. I would venture to guess that most men aren’t either.

  11. 11
    Kate says:

    If we can’t talk about male victims of sexual violence in the context of female victims… And we don’t talk about male victims, because they don’t often come forward… Then when? What does that situation even look like?

    Two examples are sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and prison rape. In both cases there are both male and female victims of powerful hierarchies dominated by men, but which include female offenders as well.

  12. 12
    Peter Forrester says:

    Thanks for your email. I always enjoy reading them. I don’t find many other male voices like yours, saying the kind of things you say, on the internet. I agree that we need to “have that discussion without it being diluted by calls to pay simultaneous and equal attention to sexual violence against men.” I do however believe that people like you and I are victims of patriarchal abuse and that abuse is part of that culture which maintains associated male hierarchies. The men who embrace and benefit from patriarchal privilege behave in ways toward other men that are violent, abusive and designed to maintain their power over other men as well as women and children. I think the behaviours of these abusers are a part of the same system as the one that has abused women and children for so long (not to mention other social minority groups).

  13. 13
    Sebastian H says:

    Ok deep breath because yikes this has hit hard. Again I want to apologize for lumping you in unfairly. This was my experience just before reading the main post:

    Three different friends innocently joined the #metoo hashtag on facebook to identify themselves as people who had been sexually assaulted (or more specifically in all three cases, raped). One was kicked out of his home at 14 in the late 1980s. He ended up being repeatedly raped by different men and women over the course of the rest of his teenage years as he sought safe shelter in the District of Columbia. One is a trans-man who was raped as a woman. One is a young man who dealt with alcoholism and associated blackout rapes that led to more drinking and more abuse.

    All three were viciously attacked through various avenues. Two of them were explicitly compared to Nazis who tried to ‘hijack’ Black Lives Matter with AllLivesMatter. One of them was accused of being in league with misogynists who were trying to ‘silence women’. He was literally reduced to sobbing fits which lasted a half an hour at least. All three were accused of downplaying “the real problem” of sexual harassment of women and not being sensitive to why trying to stop sexual assault needed to be “a safe space for WOMEN to talk about it”. One was asked to APOLOGIZE to women for talking about his sexual assault. Another one said “My family told me not to talk about my sexual assault because they didn’t want to deal with it. I’ve been told today that again I shouldn’t talk about my sexual assault because they didn’t want to deal with it”. One was accused of making a woman relive her rape because he tried to appropriate it. And I think what associated the reaction with your post was that two were told that it was ‘diluting’ the message.

    It isn’t diluting the message. It isn’t like #AllLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter was an attempt by people who had not experienced police brutality to deflect the BlackLivesMatter discussion about police brutality into a super generalized and less uncomfortable gauzy look at human relations.

    Males using #metoo aren’t doing anything like that. They are raising their own personal experiences of sexual assault and rape in solidarity with other people who have been sexually assaulted and raped. From an intersectionality point of view male rape victims are even less likely to be believed, more likely to be told to suck it up, less likely to have their attacker prosecuted, and have less social support offered to them than female victims. Which is not at all to say that female victims are well positioned in any of those areas. I’m saying that male victims tend to be worse off on all of those dimensions. So the idea that raising that point is a ‘dilution’ of the message strikes me as exactly wrong. There are states where if a man is raped it won’t even be called a legal rape because the law doesn’t allow for male victims.

    And even from the beginning of the hashtag taking off, Alyssa Milano, who originated it, has been retweeting men who used it, so it seems perfectly clear to me that there is no reason to think men can’t include themselves in it.

    And from a liberal-structural perspective I repeatedly saw the same people who thought that BLM groups trying to shut down gay Prides until they got their demands met as fighting the good fight, while men merely stating that they were raped were “appropriating the fight”. Ummmm the distinction between male/female rape victims seems a lot finer than police brutality/gay rights. Both are related, but one is obviously more related. I suppose I can see someone thinking there is cause appropriation in both cases, but the idea that there is one in the #metoo case but not in the BLM/gay Pride case is just ridiculous.

    The interesting thing I learned that I will try to remember is that I allowed myself to attack someone who was broadly on my side because I misunderstood them not defending the way I would have.

  14. 14
    Ben Lehman says:

    Richard:

    You matter. You count. Anyone who demands your silence, no matter how politely, no matter what ideological basis they demand it from, is in the wrong.

  15. Ben:

    Thanks! Those are always important words to hear.

    Sebastian:

    There is no excuse, absolutely none, for responding as you have described to someone who chooses publicly to reveal their own history of sexual violation.

    As to the rest, we will have to agree to disagree. I get why the comparison to #AllLivesMatter strikes you as completely off base, but I also think you’re looking at the wrong Venn diagram, so to speak. In the case of #MeToo, it’s about the difference between people who and people who have not experienced the particular structure of the sexual violence directed at women within patriarchy. To the degree that men joining in the #MeToo campaign tends to flatten the distinction between that structure and the social/cultural structure of sexual violence against men, the conversation about sexual violence against women will be diluted. As I said, though, I am guessing we will have to agree to disagree about that.

    Peter:

    First, thanks for your kind words.

    You wrote this:

    I do however believe that people like you and I are victims of patriarchal abuse and that abuse is part of that culture which maintains associated male hierarchies. The men who embrace and benefit from patriarchal privilege behave in ways toward other men that are violent, abusive and designed to maintain their power over other men as well as women and children. I think the behaviours of these abusers are a part of the same system as the one that has abused women and children for so long (not to mention other social minority groups).

    I agree with this, but what I am more interested in these days is the fact that this analysis takes as its starting point, if we’re talking about male survivors, the agenda of the abusers, not the experience of the abused–which is the antithesis of everything I learned about a feminist approach to this issue. It’s not that I think you’re wrong, or that what you said doesn’t need to be said. It does. I just wonder, in terms of male survivors, where we go from there. Or, more precisely, I wonder what happens if we take a step back and start from our experience of that abuse, not what we already know the abuse is supposed to do to us.

  16. 16
    Sebastian H says:

    “In the case of #MeToo, it’s about the difference between people who and people who have not experienced the particular structure of the sexual violence directed at women within patriarchy”

    Again, the person who originated the hashtag seems comfortable including men, suggesting that she think they add to the discussion rather than detracting from it. (I say tongue firmly in cheek) why should we mansplain that to her? ;)

  17. Sebastian:

    I just posted this on Facebook. I think it’s how I would respond to your question:

    I have been thinking more about the whole question of whether male survivors should be using the #MeToo hashtag.

    I have heard from men and women on both sides of the issue, some of them commenting on what I posted the day before yesterday, and some whose comments I’ve just been reading, and I’ve come to this: If you’re a man posting a #MeToo story, you are addressing a different issue than most of the women whose #MeToo posts I’ve been seeing. For those women, as far as I can tell, #MeToo is almost always about female solidarity in the face of pervasive male heterosexual entitlement and the harassment and assault it all too often leads to. For the male survivors who are posting those stories, the impetus to use the hashtag may be an expression of solidarity with those women, but it is also a request, a demand, for solidarity with us—of which there is all too little to be found almost anywhere—and an assertion that we have something to add to the conversation about sexual violence (including men’s sexual violence against women) that is perhaps not being said by anyone else.

    Both #MeToo’s are valid, but it is wrong to behave as if this mutual validity means that the socioeconomic, cultural, and political dynamic of men’s sexual violence against women—which, whether or not it is where this manifestation of #MeToo started, is where the majority of women using it have taken it—is identical to the dynamic of sexual violence against men. Indeed, I think that conflation is dangerous. It obscures both women’s particular experience in a patriarchal/male dominant society and the fact that male survivors, inevitably, no matter how much we might not want it to be so, stand on both sides of the line that distinguishes the targets of sexual violence from those whom society generally entitles to commit such acts. (I am not saying that all men are rapists, harassers, etc; I am simply acknowledging that society generally licenses men to behave in that way.) To me, obscuring that fact about male survivors actually obscures what we have to add to this conversation.

    But that is a much longer conversation, not really suited to Facebook posts. What I want to say now is this: Given everything I’ve just written, it seems to me that men who want to use the #MeToo hashtag ought to take responsibility and make the distinction between what their #MeToo means and how #MeToo is being used by (at least from what I can see) the overwhelming majority of women who are using it.

  18. 18
    Jeff says:

    Hey Richard,

    I don’t think there’s much we’d agree on… But I say this with real sincerity: I’d love to have a beer with you sometime and talk. I don’t know if we’d ever get to a place where we agreed, but I’d like to try to understand.

  19. 19
    Jake Squid says:

    Richard,

    Your fb post in comment 17 is really, really good. I appreciate the thoughts put into that post. I’m still really conflicted, but I think that’s a thorough description of how I’ve been thinking about it.

  20. Thanks, Jake.

    And, Jeff, I’m always up for a drink.

  21. 21
    Mandolin says:

    Is this a matter of men joining an existing hashtag for abuse victims? I mean, that seems like it’s obviously okay.

    Is it a response to the sexual harassment of women that’s trying to say “stop talking about these instances and structures of abuse, and focus on the erasure of men in these conversations” then that’s less great, although obviously at some point we do need to focus on the erasure of men from these conversations.

    But if it’s just a matter of participating in conversation about abuse — yes, men have every right to say “me, too.”

  22. 22
    Peter Forrester says:

    Thanks Richard. I don’t know how to get those quotes as indents. Perhaps you could enlighten me. So I will continue with my old fashioned method:
    “I just wonder, in terms of male survivors, where we go from there. Or, more precisely, I wonder what happens if we take a step back and start from our experience of that abuse, not what we already know the abuse is supposed to do to us.”
    I also agree with this view. I have been writing about my experiences of abuse for a few years but very little publicly. I hope to use my own experience as a foundation for further writing on my new website.

    Keep up the good work. Your voice is very important.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t know how to get those quotes as indents. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

    You use the blockquote attribute for that; an explanation (and example of how to use it) can be found here.

  24. Mandolin,

    My understanding, which is probably incomplete, is that this iteration of a MeToo hashtag was started on Twitter by Alyssa Milano—apparently without realizing that there was a previous iteration started by an African American woman named Tarana Burke (Milano has acknowledged this on Twitter). I don’t know much about Burke’s campaign because when I went to its website, there was only a form to sign up for a newsletter and to be notified when the new site is online. Milano, according to Sebastian—and I have no reason to disbelieve him, though I haven’t actually gone to Twitter to check—framed her call for people to post to MeToo in terms of all people who have suffered sexual harassment/assault. On Facebook, though—I don’t know about Twitter because I’m not on there a whole lot—some/a lot/I’m not sure how many of the women who were using the hashtag started framing it as a chance for women to make visible women’s particular experience. This is not a unanimous feeling amongst women. There has also been disagreement among men, with some arguing that the hashtag should be reserved, this time at least, for women, and others arguing that it should not.

    There have, in other words, been a whole lot of mixed signals about this. What I think is true, though, is that the men who have been posting MeToo stories using the hashtag have not been trying to get women to stop talking about their experience so that the focus can be shifted to men’s experience—or at least they have not been doing this willfully. They are not motivated by misogyny or a desire to minimize women’s experience, or any of that kind of thing. I’m just kind of repeating what I said above, but I think a large part of the problem is that, while there are obvious and important surface similarities and parallels between men’s and women’s experience of sexual violence, the underlying narratives/structures are different enough that to conflate them (which is what an unreflective use of the MeToo hashtag by men inevitably does) is to obscure and silence important parts of each side’s story. (Though I don’t know if I should call them “sides.”)

    Peter,

    I’ve looked at your website. It’s really interesting, and when I can, I will look more deeply into it. And thanks, truly, for the kind and supportive words. They mean a lot to me.

  25. 25
    Gracchi says:

    Richard,

    I think that it is wrong to merely classify undesired sexual contact as being the result of “pervasive male heterosexual entitlement.” I would say that you have various categories, for example this non-exhaustive list:
    1. People who plan and execute a rape/assault
    2. People who act transgressive when they are impaired (alcohol, drugs)
    3. People who believe there is consent, but have misjudged signals
    4. People who have different culture

    In category 2, there are many men who have experience with drunken women who catcalled, groped and/or raped them. Alcohol has a very similar effect on men and women. In fact, it is known for ‘liberating’ people from social norms, which also means that it makes women more likely to act counter to their gender role (by propositioning men or otherwise being more sexually aggressive, for example). So I object to classifying undesired sexual contact that is caused by impairment as ‘male’ or as an patriarchal form of ‘entitlement.’ In so far that it is institutional/cultural, it is drinking culture.

    Category 3 is a mistake that happens because people are not perfect and in ‘guess culture,’ which is how most of the world does seduction, people send intentionally ambiguous signals. The more serious mistakes are much more often made by men, because traditional gender roles means that men are often expected to ‘make moves.’ Men were traditionally forced in this role, because few women were willing and/or allowed to make moves, so men would remain single if they didn’t ‘make moves.’ I object to describing men who comply with the male role merely to have a chance at a mutually satisfying relationship ‘entitled.’

    Anyway, the point of this exposition is that I think that you and many others are wrong by merely classifying undesired sexual contact as “pervasive male heterosexual entitlement,” patriarchal, etc. This ignores that there are very different mechanisms at work. What I often see happen when people treat all undesired sexual contact that happens to women as one category, is that:
    – the claim becomes that all forms of undesired sexual contact rarely happen to men, even though this seems to vary greatly by category
    – we rarely discuss the categories where men should have a strong voice separately, so they rarely get a chance to participate in the discussion
    – the blame for all forms is put on patriarchal beliefs by men, even though some categories seem to have very different causes
    – gender equality is seen as a magic solution that will end most undesired sexual contact when this is really rather unlikely
    – it makes people ignore the possibility that more gender equality will shift some forms of undesired sexual contact to have more female perpetrators. For example, if women become more sexually aggressive, you can expect more female category 3 perpetrators. If women are more likely to drink heavily, you can expect more female category 2 perpetrators.
    – it makes many people ignore the need to find a (realistic!) way for men and women to partner/hook up and instead, male sexual behavior is demonized without a good alternative
    – it makes people ignore disparate impact. For instance, Title IX cases seem to disparately be against ethnic minorities and/or foreign students, due to cultural differences

    IMO, we should not seek to replace the simplistic, traditionalist narrative with a simplistic, feminist narrative. Solving societal issues should start with the facts and figuring out what theories best explain them, rather than start with a narrative and then selectively looking at the facts that support the narrative.

  26. 26
    Jeff says:

    Gracchi @25

    I had a similar reaction to Richards assertions re: patriarchy and structures of abuse… He seems to treat all hetero-male-perpetrated sexual violence as if it was monolithic, and fundamentally different from all other forms of sexual violence, where I very much doubt that’s true… Even though women may as a class be effected by sexual violence (and even that assertion, I think, oversimplifies), there’s no doubt in my head that the people victimizing them just don’t think that way… They don’t rape to preserve male dominance, they rape for one of a million disparate reasons, and the outcome might be the preservation of male dominance.

    The reason I didn’t write that all out the first time around is that is I don’t think it really matters. I have very serious doubts that the victims of sexual violence are overly concerned with the motivations of their abusers. What matters, I think, is building a culture more able to talk about abuse so as to prevent attacks and to help victims, preferably in that order. And I think that distinction is important: Prevention and Support are two different, almost mutually exclusive things: You don’t often prevent future victims by supporting current ones, and you don’t often support current victims by preventing future attacks. These two goals are separate but related, and both are important.

    And… here’s where Richard and I seem to most seriously disagree: I don’t think the kinds of differentiation he makes is beneficial to that culture from the perspective of support. From a prevention standpoint, it might matter, different problems require different solutions… But #metoo isn’t about prevention, it’s about awareness, and supporting victims. It’s about support. And how supportive is it to tell male victims that their turn to get support is at some ephemeral point in the future, when society suddenly decides their trauma is worthy of discourse?

  27. 27
    Sebastian H says:

    The response in my facebook circle has been incredibly ugly against gay male rape survivors. I really have trouble stating clearly how bad it has been. It got worse than I originally reported and I just don’t understand the nastiness. The feminist catch phrase I kept hearing was “emotional labor” as in “You’re stealing from our emotional labor” or “making us listen to you is just pushing the emotional labor back on women again”. I just don’t understand how anyone can think that is an appropriate reaction to the mere voicing of #metoo. It is a hashtag, an opportunity to invite dialog. If you don’t want to accept the invitation to dialog, you don’t have to. But there is nothing wrong with the mere voicing.

    First, Tarana Burke has made clear that she thinks of the ten year history of #metoo as attacking the culture of shame and hiding that powerful men leverage to sexually assault people.

    What do we do about this epidemic of violence—violence against women, violence against women color, violence against black women, queer people, trans people? And even, what do we do about violence against men?” Right? Cis men, trans men.

    This kind of patriarchal violence really functions off of shame and silence. And it’s not lost on me that every single person who told their story about Harvey Weinstein talked about how they were silenced, how they were encouraged not to speak up, how they were embarrassed or ashamed to speak up. And so the power of this movement of “Me Too,” this power of empathy, this power of connection, is really about empowering people to be survivors, to be resilient, and also to make really visible that sexual violence is not about people’s individual actions, that this is a systemic problem that then requires different types of responses to deal with how systemic this problem actually is.

    Note that she agrees it a systemic problem, but her frame of the systemic problem is different than Richard’s. Her frame seems just as powerful as his, but without the need to wall off male experiences of being victimized.

    Second, when Alyssa Milano repopularized the hashtag, she almost immediately made it clear that male victims were welcome to it as well.

    So from a historical point of view, both major iterations of the hashtag are male inclusive.

    But from a rhetorical point of view the people bashing my gay survivor friends (and maybe Richard) this is a woman’s time to reflect on the abuse? Or maybe societal structures which make women fear more often mean that talking about male victims distracts the discussion from the fact that female non-victims sometimes have more fear?

    Those are *possible* narratives. But I don’t understand why narratives like those by Alyssa Milano and Tarana Burke aren’t also good narratives. In fact I don’t see why those aren’t considered complementary narratives. They don’t need to be set up as competitive narratives at all. And underlying a lot of performance masculinity is a background “I’m too tough for you to rape me” vibe which is why the so called “gay panic” defenses swept through for a while.

    For me a lot of this is problematized by not understanding how the #metoo hashtag functions. I don’t mean its history, but rather what adding it means.

    It isn’t an assertion that more female centered frames is wrong. At the most it means ‘I was sexually assaulted and I might be willing to talk about it’. If for some reason you are a woman who doesn’t want to be distracted/overwhelmed/feel emotional labor for men who have been sexually assaulted you just don’t have to take up invitation. That is all. If you are one of the (it seems to me majority of women in and around the hashtag) who wants to engage with men on the issue and who feels that they have something to say about issues of silencing victims or societal pressure to avoid speaking out you can take up the invitation.

    I don’t think men who participate need to feel apologetic or any need to explain themselves. They are just engaging in one of the (if not the very most) major narratives already in play.

    But this is nothing at all like #allLivesMatter where they were trying to set up a counternarrative.

  28. 28
    Sebastian H says:

    Ugh. I believe callout culture has turned cancerous so I’m going to edit out his name, but one of the people who has been slamming my friends just had this exchange with me. We had gotten to the point where he was saying why men needed to not participate because they didn’t have oppressive structures keeping them from talking about being sexual harrassment victims. I couldn’t believe he meant that so I restated it.

    ME: Do you believe that there are no oppressive structures in the US society which operate to keep male victims of sexual harassment and rape from talking openly about them/bringing them to the attention of police?

    Him: I think they are greatly exaggerated. I think men shame themselves as much or more than anyone shames them; I think police are unsupportive in general about everything and male rape is just one unremarkable example; and I think the desire not to be talked to about it is a reasonable belief that it, like many other personal experiences, is a matter for therapists, support groups, and close friends, and not the random public.

    Me: I see. Well I would tend to suggest that isn’t what male rape and assault victims are reporting to me. So perhaps your circles are different, or they don’t feel safe talking to you about it because you don’t believe the obstacles are real. I’m really not trying to use this as a gotcha, but are you aware that those are precisely the same things that were said about female rape in the 1960s?

    Him: I accept that the first two are debatable. I assert the last as a strong personal belief and believe it is true in general for women too, and for any crime or injury one experiences. I believe the general public doesn’t need any individual’s narrative.

    On some level I guess it explains his belief that men should shut up–if I believed there weren’t any serious barriers keeping men in hiding I would want them to shut up.

    But for anyone who believes that isn’t true, it really highlights how male victims really do need to be part of this discussion. The “shame themselves” is especially crazy making to me. Why do they do that one might wonder. Argh.

  29. I am not where I can take the time to respond substantially to any of this right now, but I have a few questions.

    Sebastian, you wrote:

    Note that she agrees it a systemic problem, but her frame of the systemic problem is different than Richard’s. Her frame seems just as powerful as his, but without the need to wall off male experiences of being victimized. (emphasis mine)

    I will respond, Sebastian, to your second comment when I can.

    Where do you see me “wall[ing] off male experiences of being victimized,” especially given what I wrote in the original post? I feel you are having an argument with someone who is not me and you’re using me and my words as a stand-in for that person.

    Gracchi, you wrote:

    I think that it is wrong to merely classify undesired sexual contact as being the result of “pervasive male heterosexual entitlement.” (emphasis mine)

    Where did I use the phrase “undesired sexual contact?” Do you not see a difference between that phrase and “harassment and assault,” which is the actual language I used?

    Jeff, you wrote:

    He seems to treat all hetero-male-perpetrated sexual violence as if it was monolithic, and fundamentally different from all other forms of sexual violence, where I very much doubt that’s true…

    Where did I even suggest that?

    Jeff, you also wrote:

    But #metoo isn’t about prevention, it’s about awareness, and supporting victims. It’s about support. And how supportive is it to tell male victims that their turn to get support is at some ephemeral point in the future, when society suddenly decides their trauma is worthy of discourse? (emphasis added)

    Where did I write anything even resembling what the text I’ve bolded says?

    Also, given your emphasis here on support, what do you do with the fact that a substantial number of women are saying that men’s use of #MeToo makes them (women) feel unsupported as victims and survivors, that it actually detracts from raising awareness about the particular circumstances of women’s experience in this regard? Do you simply tell them that their feelings, as victims/survivors, are wrong? Where is the victim advocacy in that?

    Finally, I would ask those of you who are disagreeing with me to remember that I too am a survivor of sexual violence, and that I am writing here out of that identity and experience. Not that this means I deserve any sort of special treatment or that it makes me “right” (whatever that means) by definition, but I would appreciate a little bit of awareness that, when you suggest I am minimizing or dismissing men’s experience of sexual violence, you are also accusing me of doing that to myself. Thanks.

  30. 30
    Jeff says:

    I’ll admit it’s an inference, it was built off of:

    Not just in the United States, sexual violence is a tool of male dominance/patriarchy, used systemically to keep women in their place—and one of the ways that is accomplished is through silencing. By making sure that women cannot use their voices to threaten, undermine, undo the male dominant order of things. That women now are able to speak up, to speak out, that there are men who are allies and who are also wiling to speak up and speak out, against sexual violence against women does not change the motive behind or the desired goal of the violence.

    (emphasis mine) and:

    Both #MeToo’s are valid, but it is wrong to behave as if this mutual validity means that the socioeconomic, cultural, and political dynamic of men’s sexual violence against women […] is identical to the dynamic of sexual violence against men. Indeed, I think that conflation is dangerous.

    You seem to make no distinction within “men’s violence against women”. If you aren’t treating it as a monolith, how should I take it? And again… This might be good information from the perspectives of a prevention strategy, but I question the validity of dividing victims by the intent of their abuser. Why should we care why victims are victimized when we go to offer them support?

    I also wonder if this distinction isn’t artificially inflated by bias… If, for example, a female victim shared a #metoo story of her abuse by a female rapist, would you argue that she should also be aware of the differences in her abuse compared to the women that were raped with all the proper patriarchal trappings? Suggest that she maybe wait for the lesbian version of #metoo to come down the pipe before sharing her story? For the record… obviously that is said entirely tongue in cheek, I don’t believe you would say that.. But I don’t see a material difference between that situation and the #metoo men, and if you do see a difference, I’d like to know what it is.

  31. 31
    Jeff says:

    “Also, given your emphasis here on support, what do you do with the fact that a substantial number of women are saying that men’s use of #MeToo makes them (women) feel unsupported as victims and survivors, that it actually detracts from raising awareness about the particular circumstances of women’s experience in this regard? Do you simply tell them that their feelings, as victims/survivors, are wrong? Where is the victim advocacy in that?”

    Great question… And I don’t think it has a perfect answer.

    The fact is that if you take their concerns as legitimate, if you believe that supporting men inherently takes support away from women, then you’re left with a choice: Support men over women, or support women over men. Because we’re treating these things like they’re mutually exclusive. It seems… and correct me if I’m wrong… But it seems you want to err on the side of choosing to support women, because of men’s relative privilege as a class. If that’s your argument, my response would be to posit a particularly ugly truth… Regardless of whether women are disenfranchised as a class, and whether men have privilege as a class, we’re talking about rape victims. These aren’t particularly privileged men. Or maybe they could be… but in this narrow set of circumstances… they need support.

    If the only way to support both male and female victims of rape is to simultaneously try to support and educate the women who don’t think men should be supported (and I don’t take that for granted, but it seems… again, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be the dichotomy you put out there), then maybe that’s the best path forward.

    I mean… What’s your better idea?

  32. 32
    Sebastian H says:

    “Where do you see me “wall[ing] off male experiences of being victimized,” especially given what I wrote in the original post?”

    Maybe we are seeing ‘wall off’ in different ways.

    In the original post you said “We have to be able to talk about what Harvey Weinstein did and what he represents as part and parcel, and as perpetuating of that system, and we have to be able to have that discussion without it being diluted by calls to pay simultaneous and equal attention to sexual violence against men.

    This suggests that you think there is a pretty large portion of the conversation about what Harvey Weinstein did for which paying attention to sexual violence against men is a ‘dilution’ that we need to be free from.

    That is what I mean why I say having the #metoo hashtag with it walled off from male experiences of being victimized.

    The Tarana Burke narrative doesn’t see male experiences of victimization as needing to be ‘walled off’ (my words) or as causing a ‘dilution’ (your words). She sees it as a question of the systems that abusers (often but not exclusively male) use to shame and silence their victims (often but not exclusively female)

    Your followup on comment 17 (from your facebook) is along the same lines. In YOUR narrative of the Harvey Weinstein and #metoo experience “If you’re a man posting a #MeToo story, you are addressing a different issue than most of the women whose #MeToo posts I’ve been seeing. For those women, as far as I can tell, #MeToo is almost always about female solidarity in the face of pervasive male heterosexual entitlement and the harassment and assault it all too often leads to.” You then create a fairly sharp binary between male and female experiences which again I called “walling off” male experiences so that the discussion could continue in that binary. That seems like a general academic feminist sensibility, but that isn’t really the narrative I see around #metoo.

    In both the Tarana Burke iteration and the Alyssa Milano iteration it is about breaking the systems that the powerful use to induce silence about sexual harassment and rape, and the hashtag itself is very functionally about the act of breaking that silence. For men who have been induced into silence about their victimization, that was of course very attractive.

    In your post at 24 you write “I think a large part of the problem is that, while there are obvious and important surface similarities and parallels between men’s and women’s experience of sexual violence, the underlying narratives/structures are different enough that to conflate them (which is what an unreflective use of the MeToo hashtag by men inevitably does) is to obscure and silence important parts of each side’s story. (Though I don’t know if I should call them “sides.”)”

    Now maybe I should have taken your parenthetical as a stronger statement than I did. That may be why you think I shouldn’t call it a ‘wall’. But you are strongly implicating that there might be something inappropriate about men using the hashtag without apologizing for themselves or otherwise changing the nature of the simple “me too” statement.

    But I think I want to really examine your “which is what an unreflective use of the MeToo hashtag by men inevitably does”. That isn’t right. Using the hastag is allowing yourself to be numbered among those who have been attacked. It is fundamentally about saying “I am an abuse victim”. That does nothing more than invite a conversation around the topic. Some of those conversations will be more centered on concerns that involve largely female dynamics. In THOSE conversations it might be appropriate to put discussions of male victims on hold. Some conversations will have wider applicability (like how abusers create systems to induce silence) where it will naturally make more sense to include male experiences. There can be all sorts of different conversations around what we should do with the information that so many people are victims in so many different ways. But that is different from denying male victims #metoo. It makes it feel like they are being called non-victims. You try to soften that a little by saying that they should explain themselves as different kind of victims. I can sort of see that from a more academic sense, but to anyone who hasn’t taken Feminist Theory courses that has got to sound a lot like “I know I’m not AS BAD a victim as you, but please I’m victim enough” which is just another dimension of demeaning the male victim. . That isn’t your intention, I definitely understand that. But that is the effect.

  33. 33
    Gracchi says:

    Sebastian H,

    I think that when we are talking about the category of powerful people who abuse that power sexually, empowering victims is really the most important thing. We often see that many victims stay silent until there is some sort of breakthrough that causes many of them to come forward. If we manage to find a way to get these people to come forward earlier, in a relatively safe manner, that might prevent many further victimizations, because it is horrible when these perpetrators keep doing this for decades.

    A strategy that many people seem to favor is to demand that other men intervene, but I don’t see how this can work because most men are quite powerless to stop this. A male actor is similarly dependent on Weinstein giving him roles and/or not blocking his career as a female actor. So the same forces that keep victims quiet, keep male actors in the vicinity quiet, especially since these people generally will only have heard rumors. Any person who calls out a superior based on a rumor is bound to get severely punished, while usually little will happen to the superior.

    Also, the strategy of claiming that this kind of behavior is common to men can be dangerous because it can result in perpetrators rationalizing away their faults as something that all men do, resulting in the opposite of the desired effect: making men who don’t transgress feel unjustly blamed and making men who do transgress that their crimes are socially acceptable.

    Richard,

    I prefer a more generic term like undesired sexual contact in the context of my comment, because the actual issues are more broad than what is legally considered rape/sexual assault and people use the #metoo hashtag more broadly as well.

    In hindsight I see why you might feel strawmanned, but that was not my intent. I was merely trying to broaden the discussion a bit.

  34. 34
    Mandolin says:

    A strategy that many people seem to favor is to demand that other men intervene, but I don’t see how this can work because most men are quite powerless to stop this. A male actor is similarly dependent on Weinstein giving him roles and/or not blocking his career as a female actor. So the same forces that keep victims quiet, keep male actors in the vicinity quiet, especially since these people generally will only have heard rumors. Any person who calls out a superior based on a rumor is bound to get severely punished, while usually little will happen to the superior.

    I think one reason this may be something people say is because women often intervene for each other. We often do it very subtly, though. It’s like the whisper network, but in actions. “Oh! I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you, I have the book for you in my hotel room — sorry she can’t go with you tonight.” Or what I usually do is “sexual harassment interference” where I see a serial harasser go after a target and strike up a cheerful conversation to divert them.

    I’ve also done some more intense stuff. I’ve called someone out in person. I’ve been the go-between for people who’ve been harassed and people who run conventions. It’s utterly, utterly exhausting.

    I know men who take action, too. They have both more and less latitude than women do. I can usually do things while seeming inoffensive, especially I could when I was younger. On the other hand, a lot of male perpetrators categorize me as someone they can victimize, and they’ll go after me. But not physically, generally. And a man who they didn’t see as an automatic victim wouldn’t have to deal with some of that, but might have to deal with physical violence.

    I think part of the call is for men — or people who are not automatically seen as victims — to be aware of how much of this is going on without their notice. Of course, telling them in a blog post and not when it’s going on isn’t necessarily going to help. And it’s difficult to tell people what’s going on as it’s happening because you don’t know which people are going to respond violently to you or make things worse. As a consequence, people who are seen as automatic victims tend to talk to other people who also are because the odds are better (not perfect) that they won’t freak out.

  35. 35
    Mandolin says:

    I want to try to introduce a slightly different concept here than the gendered one of male/female, which is the idea of people who fit into the cultural concept of “victim” which harassers are aware of. Women going out alone at night in some cities are automatically in that category, in a way that a physically smaller man might not be, even if he would be easier to target. I am only discussing sexual violence here because what makes an automatic victim depends on what kind of violence your’e discussing–obviously a large black man is an automatic victim for police brutality in a way that he usually isn’t (Terry Crews aside) for random sexual harassment.

    Children of all genders are automatic victims. You were an automatic victim, Richard. You know what it’s like to be targeted because you were someone in a vulnerable category. You know what it’s like to be targeted as part of a group whose behavior is consistently molded around the idea of predators. Like adult women, children are warned against predators outside the home, when they may well be assaulted by family, close friends, or authority figures–the same categories of people women are more likely to be raped by than random figures in the bushes.

    Adult men can also be automatic victims in one way or another. They can have visible physical disabilities or mental illnesses. The rates of assault for that are terrifying. They can be elderly. They can be in prison. They can be gay or effeminate. When the gay man I know who has multiple visible disabilities was deliberately run over by a car, he had to worry about rape and harassment as much as I would have.

    People who aren’t automatic victims are also targets and it is vital for them to speak out, too. We understand this in other areas. Most pregnant people are women, but the liberal edge wants to make rhetorical room for trans men and other non-women people to be discussed at the same time. Most computer programmers are not women, and this increases the need for role models who are. Most victims of sexual assault may be people who are automatic victims — but the people who aren’t in those categories need to know they aren’t the only ones, and that they can define their experiences as rape and assault, and that they aren’t alone or at fault. (Terry Crews has done a good and brave thing.)

    Yes, there is a place for discussing the gendered aspects of sexual assault. But that discussion is only part of the issue. If men were using the yesallwomen hashtag (which has its problems I won’t go into here) then that would be obnoxious because that’s a focused conversation. “Me too” is too generic to have that automatic association.

    The exclusion of men from this conversation makes me uncomfortable as a woman, and reminds me of some bad things I’ve witnessed or been part of.

    Most strongly, it reminds me of the panel on rape in fiction at a convention where the moderator told the men in the audience this was about rape so she only wanted to hear from women.

    –(P.S. I am not really so much addressing you here, Richard. I mean, I disagree with you, but I also think you have the right to decide how you handle and view your experiences. There is some irritation in this post, but it is not directed toward you.)–

  36. 36
    Harlequin says:

    A strategy that many people seem to favor is to demand that other men intervene, but I don’t see how this can work because most men are quite powerless to stop this. A male actor is similarly dependent on Weinstein giving him roles and/or not blocking his career as a female actor.

    I agree with Mandolin’s point that a lot of this kind of intervention is done without direct confrontation. But also, while the Weinsteins of the world can do a lot of damage because they have immense power and are hard to stop, it’s also true that a larger number of less-powerful sexual harassers and assaulters are doing similar things to fewer people. Bystander intervention will likely be insufficient to stop the CEO of a large and powerful corporation, but middle management is doing this, too, and there are more people with equal or greater amounts of power to those people, if those other bystanders realize it’s happening. Not to mention that sexual assault of women often comes with a heaping helping of misogyny, such that a subordinate man and subordinate woman with equal amounts of power objectively would have a much different success rate when trying to intervene. (And such intervention can also help interrupt sexual assault/harassment of men, too, though you may not get the same due-to-misogyny bonus.)

    In any case, Richard, I think I understand your trepidation with joining the hashtag, but as far as I’m concerned–like others here–I’m not sure that the systematic/societal differences between sexual assault of men and women are important enough that men should exclude themselves, to the extent that those differences are even relevant. But I also appreciate that–I think–you were looking not for our permission or recommendation to join in, but rather musing on how we as a society might have a somewhat different conversation that addresses the same concerns for male victims. And there, I’m afraid, I’m not sure if I have anything useful to say right now, beyond resolving (again) to question the absence of rhetorical space for male victims in discussions of sexual violence whenever I come across discussions that don’t already have that.

  37. 37
    Peter Forrester says:

    Thanks Mandolin. I find your words insightful, constructive, supportive & useful. I think more women have been engaged in these types of conversations over a longer period of time than men. I find certain male commentary tends to shut me down, including in this particular Weinstein thread. Your approach makes me feel like I could safely engage in a dialogue with you around this. I take some responsibility for my reaction to the way some men argue. I have complex trauma as a result of growing up with a Narcistic Dad which means I can get overwhelmed easily. However I think men could learn to argue more in ways that encourage connection, safety & dialogue. Traditionally male culture tended to train men to argue rationally & competitively, ultimately to win.

  38. 38
    Gracchi says:

    Mandolin,

    I understand why victims or people with some power near the perpetrator may choose the ‘whisper network’ or to disrupt situations where harm may occur, as it is far less confrontational and thus safer for the person who intervenes (and thus much more consistent with the female gender role). However, it has serious issues. For one, the perpetrator is not actually stopped and thus can try again and again. It makes sense to think that these interventions work the worst for those who are least empowered and/or have the least social capital (and thus have fewest people looking out for them). As such, I fear that the actual effect is that these perpetrators then keep victimizing the ‘automatic victims’ of which you speak.

    Another major issue is that people (and cultures) greatly vary in what signals they perceive as sufficient evidence of sexual transgressions. For some, it’s not actionable sexual transgression until it’s rape. For others, a man who doesn’t harm anyone but doesn’t have normal body language or who otherwise behaves atypically in a non-sexual way is seen as a perpetrator, including autistic people who don’t seem harmful at all. Any particular person or community can be anywhere on this spectrum and thus would often intervene too late or too quickly.

    History is full of (literal and figurative) witch hunts, usually targeted at social outsiders, based on extrapolations from little evidence. I don’t think that we should only focus on helping one kind of victim, using methods that create other types of victims.

    I think that for sexual transgression above a certain threshold, going to the police works best. They have a relatively consistent standards, have the ability to collect more evidence than other people and they can get the perpetrator punished so that it’s made clear to the perpetrator that he or she has severely violated a societal norm.

    I know men who take action, too. They have both more and less latitude than women do.

    The expected male response is often: aggressively confront the other person, using or be ready to use violence. For example, Brad Pitt threatened to beat up Weinstein. That solution has many issues & risks, especially for small/weaker men. Furthermore, in modern society, this is getting less and less socially acceptable and we are punishing people more harshly for being aggressive or using violence.

    So that often leaves men in a situation where they truly feel powerless to intervene, because they reject the aggressive/violent solution that the traditional male gender role prescribes or fear the consequences, but they also aren’t taught what else they can do.

    I think that one reason for the disconnect between people is a tendency for some to think that men have immense power, while many men don’t perceive it that way at all.

  39. I have three or four union blog posts that I need to write over the next couple of days, which is going to make it impossible for me to respond with any timeliness in a way that does justice to what everyone has been saying here—and it is, I think, an important conversation. So let me note a couple of things that reading through people’s responses to me have made me think:

    First, I don’t think I adequately contextualized my original post or the thinking that flows from it. I posted that on Facebook at a point in the MeToo hashtag’s use when the women in my corner of the online world were already using it to mean something like #yesallwomen. Given that Alyssa Milano started this iteration of MeToo in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I don’t think this is surprising, nor do I think—again in the context of Weinstein—that it is an unreasonable thing for women to feel entitled to claim. Whether the claim is truly justified or not is a different question; I am merely acknowledging the legitimacy of the feeling. So, on Facebook, I prefaced the original post with this: “Because I think it’s important for male survivors to find a respectful way to enter this conversation as survivors.” In other words, the post was an attempt to make room for male survivors in a conversation that was already taking place—and that, for entirely legitimate reasons, women might want to protect from men (not survivors; men in general) who might try to co-opt it—and much of what I have said in this thread has continued to take that as the unstated of context of my thinking. (Also, I make no claim that my thinking/statements in this thread have been consistent; my ideas are developing as I go and so I might very well have contradicted myself on any number of occasions.)

    If I step out of that context, of course I agree with much of what Jeff, Sebastian, and Mandolin have said. There is tremendous power in recognizing that sexual violence cuts across a whole slew of populations that might not otherwise be grouped together, in thinking about who is seen as (by definition) a victim, or at least victimizable, and there is tremendous power in each of those groups being able to name themselves publicly, individually and collectively, as survivors. No survivor’s healing, no survivor’s claim on the simple support that comes with being heard and seen, with being believed, with being affirmed, should be politicized, and—I will say it again—shame on the men and women who have been behaving towards male survivors in the ways that Sebastian has described.

    That said, once you get past the initial power of—and I mean this without irony—AllSurvivorsMatter, you will still have to deal with the differences in social power and privilege, etc. between and among the groups. Those differences matter, and not only, as Jeff says, in terms of prevention. I think they matter greatly in terms of how we understand not healing itself, but the social and cultural implications of healing—because once healing moves out beyond the therapist’s office/support group’s work/etc. it will have social and cultural, of not political and socioeconomic implications. In other words, I think they matter also in terms of social transformation, but that is a subject for another time. Right now, I need to get to work. (I’ve edited this paragraph to make my point a little more clear.)

    In any event, I hope this clarifies my position a bit, since I will probably be dropping out of this conversation for at least a couple of days.

  40. 40
    Jeff says:

    Sorry Richard, I was re-reading through this thread, and I realized I missed a question from you.

    Jeff, you also wrote:

    “But #metoo isn’t about prevention, it’s about awareness, and supporting victims. It’s about support. And how supportive is it to tell male victims that their turn to get support is at some ephemeral point in the future, when society suddenly decides their trauma is worthy of discourse? (emphasis added)”

    Where did I write anything even resembling what the text I’ve bolded says?

    I want to apologize for giving you the impression that this was a specific comment about you. Rereading my original, I see how it could be taken that way, I didn’t mean it that way, and I’m sorry for my lack of clarity.

    To clarify, I think I’m experiencing a general frustration with the discussions around male victimization.

    It seems like, generally, we don’t have constructive conversations about any societal problem until something very serious has gone wrong… and even then, although there is the opportunity for that discussion, it often gets so rapidly polarized and politicized that the opportunity is lost.

    But we don’t often talk about men, even in the wake of emergency, in fact, it’s like society puts forward an effort to ignore the suffering of men. Up here in Canada, we’re going through a process where the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women are encouraged to share their stories, with the goal being to create change in law enforcement to try to make the process better. It’s not a bad idea, aboriginal women punch about two times the average population per capita in murders and vanishings… But what no one talks about is how the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal men is about four times the rate of that of the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. I don’t understand the mindset that focuses on 20% of the problem and ignores the other 80% completely. This whole process could have just as easily been called the “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Peoples” commission and looked at the whole picture. But I think this is more typical that not, if more extreme and blatant.

    I’m frustrated with the general feeling that men have to wait their turn, that they have to wait for a situation or movement that specifically concerns them, that they’re a distraction from the issues facing women… Because I don’t think that male specific conversation will start naturally. In fact… I think when it’s attempted, that Sebastian’s experience is probably more typical than not. My experience is that male vulnerability is treated with hostility. It’s not a man’s job to be vulnerable, after all.

    I can’t even envision what the situation where a conversation about the support of men looks like.

    If not this, then how?
    If not now, then when?

  41. 41
    Adrian says:

    Gracchi brought up the advantages of calling in the police. Unfortunately, those have to be weighed against the dangers of calling in the police. In some communities, there’s a risk that police will take the opportunity to check that nobody in the room is violating any drug or immigration laws–even if they don’t just come in eager to shoot first and ask questions later. (Are you willing to bet your life on it? Are you willing to bet the life of the scared teenager who happens to be standing next to you?) I’m not saying it’s never a good idea to call the police. Just…it can be a hard decision.

    Speak was very much a book about white kids.

  42. 42
    Jake Squid says:

    A relevant story:

    We hired a new salesmen a week ago. The guy is 50 years old. Yesterday he was sent to a customer. Today the manager at the customer called. He was very angry and said that new salesman was never to go there again. New salesman had asked a 23 year old employee at our customer for a date and she was totally, understandably freaked out by this.

    Today we called the salesman in and terminated him. He said that he knew what he did was wrong soon after he did it but is extremely surprised by the outcome.

    Does anybody doubt that this is a regular thing for this guy? Does anybody doubt that other employers didn’t impose any meaningful discipline at any point in the last 30 years or so?

    I’m thankful that the employee made a complaint to her manager, I’m happy that the manager took her complaint seriously and called our company and I’m proud of our company for getting rid of this dirtbag, but it’s an example of what #metoo is drawing our attention to.

  43. 43
    Gracchi says:

    Adrian,

    The NYT did a story on this, but it really seems that the perception that victims may be deported is completely out of proportion with the very, very small number of times that this actually happens.

    I’m also not aware of any cases where a victim who used drugs was charged for that. From a rational point of view, it seems career suicide for a DA to do this, as I think that very few people approve of that.

    I think we should be wary of teaching people to fear law enforcement way more than is reasonable. Also because this can create a destructive spiral where a community reduces their cooperation with the police, which then makes the police less able to identify & get evidence against the criminals and instead makes them resort to searching people who ‘seem criminal’, resulting in a perception that the police is both useless and harasses innocent people which makes people cooperate even less, which makes the police even less able to identify & get evidence against the criminals and instead makes them resort to searching people who ‘seem criminal’ even more, etc.

  44. 44
    Gracchi says:

    Jake Squid,

    The interesting part about your story is that while this salesman violated the standards for his job, I don’t think he abused his power or engaged in a sexual crime. You are also speculating wildly when you say:

    Does anybody doubt that this is a regular thing for this guy? Does anybody doubt that other employers didn’t impose any meaningful discipline at any point in the last 30 years or so?

    Perhaps this was the first time that he was so smitten by a customer that he did this. Perhaps 99% of his interactions with customers until then were with men, giving him few opportunities to become enamored by a customer.

    Perhaps the stress of the new job imbalanced him. Perhaps he never had a salesman job before or only had this kind of job for the past few years, having changed careers. So perhaps his behavior was calibrated for coworkers (rather than customers) who he could ask out. Do you actually know that he has been a salesperson for 30 years or is this speculation on your part?

    Perhaps he did do it before a few times, but none of these women complained or they weren’t harsh about it. I’ve heard many women say that they avoid confrontation when encountering undesired behavior. So it seems quite plausible that no one ever told him that it was a serious breach of the norms or reported it to his employer.

    Your jumping to conclusions is actually inconsistent with one of the few facts that you have, which is that the salesman says that he knew it was wrong. This is weak evidence that he didn’t do it regularly as you claim must be the case and you seem to have no actual evidence that he did. So your conclusions seem to be based on little more than assuming the worst.

    People make mistakes, especially when it comes to sexuality, which is a minefield. For one mistake, which merely consisted of asking someone out in an appropriate situation, you brand this person as being a contemptible person aka a “dirtbag”. You may be comfortable with branding people by their worst moments/mistakes and not trying to understand them, preferring a narrative that assumes that people are intentionally hurting others, but I’m not.

  45. 45
    CLE says:

    I would have at least a bit of empathy for a 50-year-old man who just can’t read situations in life.

    Gender situations can’t always be reversed because men and women are different, but sometimes it’s useful:

    Picture a 50-year-old, “conventionally unattractive” woman who gets a sales job and then asks a young guy at a client’s company out on a date, thinking that he is showing interest in her. The guy tells his boss that she disgusts him, and he doesn’t want her around him, the boss tells the woman’s company to do something about it, and she is summarily fired.

    I don’t think most people with empathy would be calling her a dirtbag, they would think that she has some problems and is going to (continue to) have a hard time in life because of it.

  46. 46
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    @CLE: Yes but the odds that this woman would follow up the refusal with continued inappropriate behaviour or actual violence are much, much, much lower.

  47. 47
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    @Gracchi: “So perhaps his behavior was calibrated for coworkers (rather than customers) who he could ask out. ”

    If he’d asked out a 23 year old coworker who was disgusted by him, it would have been just as bad.

  48. 48
    Gracchi says:

    Ortvin Sarapuu,

    Yes but the odds that this woman would follow up the refusal with continued inappropriate behaviour or actual violence are much, much, much lower.

    That is stereotyping. It’s the exact same type of justification that cops use for racial profiling, after all…the odds that black people commit crimes is higher.

    So are you OK with treating people differently based on their race/gender/etc due to (perceived) group-level differences/stereotypes?

    If he’d asked out a 23 year old coworker who was disgusted by him, it would have been just as bad.

    Why? Because of the age difference? Or do you think that it’s morally wrong for a person to respectfully ask out another person with no element of coercion, when that person is disgusted by the unattractiveness of the person who asks?

  49. Ortvin,

    You have yet to respond to the questions people on this blog raised about the antisemitic nature of the comment you directed at me on my post about Charlottesville. As a result of that non-response—after at least two other people, including myself, repeatedly offered you a chance to respond within the thread—I banned you.

    Given your continued silence on that matter, which I can only (continue to) interpret as an antisemitic one, you are not welcome on any comments thread on any post of mine here on Alas. If you want to respond to this comment, please do so either on the original Charlottesville thread or on an open thread.

    Also, I am asking that no one on this thread respond further to Ortvin’s comments until and unless he addresses this issue and to take any comments you might have either to the Charlottesville thread or an open thread. Thanks.

  50. Jeff,

    I’m taking a break and I want to respond quickly to your comment up at #40. You wrote this:

    I’m frustrated with the general feeling that men have to wait their turn, that they have to wait for a situation or movement that specifically concerns them, that they’re a distraction from the issues facing women… Because I don’t think that male specific conversation will start naturally. In fact… I think when it’s attempted, that Sebastian’s experience is probably more typical than not. My experience is that male vulnerability is treated with hostility. It’s not a man’s job to be vulnerable, after all.

    I think it’s easy to forget that the only reason we can have the discussions that we now have about the issues facing women is that women worked damned hard—and suffered precisely the kinds of experiences Sebastian related and more—to make those issues visible in such a way that they could not be easily dismissed.

    Women made women’s issues visible, and let’s talk specifically about sexual violence against women, broadly speaking, by making the sexism and power-asymmetry of heteronormative gender roles visible. While that was enormously difficult work, it had the “advantage” of being symmetrical in some ways with those gender roles. In other words, it wasn’t hard for people to imagine women as being vulnerable, both in and of themselves and to male sexual predation. To make male sexual vulnerability similarly visible is arguably even more difficult, precisely because we do not culturally imagine men as vulnerable.

    That hard work has begun. More and more men in power are speaking up about their own victimization and experiences as survivors, and more and more men are speaking up to the men in power—and I think it’s important to remember that it is ultimately the men in power who matter when it comes to this—in whose interests it is to keep male vulnerability hidden. But, as far as I can tell, this work does not yet have even half the intellectual and political analysis that the women’s movement developed because of the difficulties they faced in getting their issues “on the agenda,” so to speak–which often included “wait your turn,” when it came to other progressive issues. (And just to be clear: I am talking here about work dealing with male survivors, not work dealing with men and sexism and feminism, in general.)

    I guess it’s for this reason that I do not see the kind of empathetic and political alliance I think you are looking for truly taking shape until someone can articulate a vision beyond—and I know I am being reductive and simplistic here—”men can be raped just like women can be raped.” Not because that baseline commonality is not important; it is crucially important; and it should be all that matters when you talk about supporting survivors and helping us heal. But once you get beyond that baseline, things become a whole lot more complex.

  51. 51
    Jake Squid says:

    Picture a 50-year-old, “conventionally unattractive” woman who gets a sales job and then asks a young guy at a client’s company out on a date, thinking that he is showing interest in her. The guy tells his boss that she disgusts him, and he doesn’t want her around him, the boss tells the woman’s company to do something about it, and she is summarily fired.

    No. Just no. Your hypothetical woman should also be fired. This is inappropriate behavior. (As an aside, why do you assume that 50 year old sales dude is “conventionally unattractive?” He isn’t.)

    Look. If I had a sales job and I’d been going to a customer for 10 years and knew this person well and we always got along I’d still never ask that person for a date. Because if they’re not into me in the same way, I’ve just made the relationship weird and uncomfortable and I may lose them as a customer. Never mind doing that on my first visit to a customer.

    If this dude didn’t know this was inappropriate, what else doesn’t he know is inappropriate. This is just not a thing that anybody in our sales department thought was okay or an innocent mistake. This is so out of bounds and your hypothetical defenses are exactly what enable this behavior to continue month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

    I guarantee you this is not his first time doing this. I would bet my entire net worth on it. Talk to young women who deal with sales people and see how many of them haven’t been propositioned.

    We fired a woman for doing the same thing to one of our customer’s drivers. Inappropriate is inappropriate no matter the genders involved.

    But, hey, if you guys wanna continue to enable this kind of thing, I can’t stop you. Though it seems to me that you’ve missed the point of #metoo.

  52. 52
    Sebastian H says:

    “But, as far as I can tell, this work does not yet have even half the intellectual and political analysis that the women’s movement developed because of the difficulties they faced in getting their issues “on the agenda,” so to speak–which often included “wait your turn,” when it came to other progressive issues. ”
    I’m not sure how true this is. Arguably the women’s right to vote movement was one of the first successful movements, and the Prohibition was very much sold as a women’s rights/concerns issue.

    Still, I sort of see this BUT I feel it risks becoming a sort of anti-feminist Men’s rights movement if we are forced into that tact. I already see a very FUCK YOU kind of attitude in the gay community (which very likely has abuse frequencies approaching or exceeding that of the female heterosexual community) because of the way the #metoo male shaming took place. I can hope that tempers will cool and distinctions can be made between feminists who were supportive (or would have been supportive if they had known about it) and those who seemed viciously exclusionary, but it looks really bad in the immediate aftermath. I know of at least 6 young men who have said things like “that’s it for my support of the organized women’s movement, they don’t care about us at all”. Now I fully expect that is said out of a moment of deep wounding and it may not represent long term commitments, but I cannot overstate how damaging this particular incident has been on the gay/trans side of the rape survivor’s community.

    Part of this is iteration number 5,793 about how destructive voices can come to the fore in social media. I don’t know what to do about it other than sound the alarm and say “I see a huge problem that wasn’t evident last week”. What made a bunch of people who clearly see themselves as very ‘woke’ feel that slamming deeply vulnerable men was ok? Do you see this elsewhere?

  53. 53
    Ben Lehman says:

    Is there a single group, anywhere, that has ever benefited from “waiting their turn?” Is there a single successful social movement, anywhere, that has ever coalesced around “let’s wait our turn?” I cannot see how this is any different for rape survivors than any other group.

    Feminist hostility towards rape survivors isn’t unexpected — feminism is a part of our society, and it carries the same prejudices and hostilities of our society, which is overtly and violently hostile to survivors. I’ve watched feminist organizations and movements ostracize rape survivors for decades, in exactly the same way that non-feminist organizations and movements ostracize rape survivors — first through infantilization, then through silencing, then through denial, then through paeans to civility or appropriateness, then through excuses and demands for forgiveness, then through delaying tactics and, finally, through social isolation and outright hostility. This is a very standard playbook for dealing with rape survivors, and it works exactly the same in a church group, school, or family as it does in a feminist collective.

    That is what is going on, right now. That is what Sebastian H is pointing to.

    Fortunately — and in no small part through the work of those feminist groups who actually did the hard work of allying with survivors — our society has moved substantially forward in the way that we view rape survivors. I cannot tell you how grateful I am — how much it heals my heart — to see the overwhelming majority of people writing about #metoo talking about the experiences of “most women (and some men).” I cannot tell you how grateful I am to see the vast majority of the responses to #metoo being in the form of support and love, rather than in the form of aggression, silencing, or violence. That has changed, and in my lifetime. And I — still carrying the baggage of decades of silencing and anger — am simply boggled by it. I don’t want to take away from that, or lose sight of it. #metoo is a sign of really important social progress. Like all social progress, it invites the reactionary backlash that Sebastian H writes about here, but the backlash does not mean that it is not still progress.

    Richard, upthread, you asked how one would respond to the women who were made uncomfortable by #metoo posts whose authors they had judged to be insufficiently female. It was not a question directed at me, but I have decades of experience having these conversations, and I’d like to offer my response.

    1) I would tell them that anger, discomfort, and unsafe feelings are perfectly normal emotional reactions to someone disclosing that they are a victim of sexual violence. That I recognize that the emotions that they are feeling are valid, are normal, and that they have a right to feel those emotions and express those emotions.

    2) I would tell them that projecting their anger and discomfort onto the victims of sexual violence is both counterproductive and wrong. The wrongness and the horror that they are experiencing is not the fault of the victim, it is the fault of the rapist, and the communities that enable that rapist. That simply because the victim is present, and the rapist is not, is not a reason to project anger and fear onto the victim. That, even if they wanted to, the victim could not resolve this anger, because they are not the person who has done evil. They have simply told the truth: that evil was done to them.

    3) I would tell them that, when they post publicly in an attempt to silence rape survivors, they are sending a message to a broad audience, an audience that almost certainly includes many other survivors who are not disclosing. That the message that they are sending is “I do not support you. If you do not perform ‘rape survivor’ to my satisfaction — a satisfaction that is both arbitrary and unfair — I will do anything in my power to dismiss, belittle, and silence you. And, if I am unsuccessful in dismissing, belittling, and silence you, I will viciously and relentlessly attack you until I’ve succeeded in hurting you as much as I can.” I would ask if this is the message that they want to send to rape survivors and, if they don’t, what message they would want to send, and to think about how to behave in a way that sends a message that they do want to send to rape survivors.

    4) I would tell them that, when they post publicly in an attempt to silence rape survivors, they are sending a message to a broad audience, an audience that almost certainly includes rapists. I would tell them that the message that they are sending to rapists is “I have your back. As long as you pick your targets carefully, I will do everything in my power to silence, belittle, and dismiss your victims. I will work as hard as necessary, including doing enormous amounts of volunteer labor, to make sure that you are never made to suffer even the slightest consequences of your actions. I will do whatever I can to make sure you never even have to reflect on the evil things that you’ve done. You have my love and you have my support.” I would ask if that’s the message that they want to send to rapists and, if it isn’t, I would ask them to think about ways to change their public behavior in a way that sends the message that they would like to send.

    5) I would ask them to please not respond to me immediately, and to please not respond with dismissals or attacks. I would say that I understand that I’m asking them to reassess their own behavior, and they way that they’ve hurt vulnerable people, and I would acknowledge that I am asking them to do some extremely difficult and painful self-reflection. I would thank them for listening to me despite that, and I would thank them for doing that self-reflective work.

    I would ask them, regardless of whether they agree with me, to take some time to think critically about rape survivors, and the ways that their communities act to silence and dismiss rape survivors, particularly rape survivors that do not fit the social model of “rape survivor.” I would ask them, regardless of whether they agree with me, to take some time to think critically about rapists, and the ways that their communities act to support and defend rapists, particularly rapists who do not fit the social model of “rapist.” I would ask that, in the future, they think critically about these things before reacting.

    6) Then I would leave.

    7) If after at least several days had passed, they re-initiated the conversation with me, I would listen and respond accordingly and with respect for the work that they had done.

    yrs–
    –Ben

  54. Ben,

    That is truly eloquent. Thank you.

  55. 55
    chuckles says:

    It strikes me that opposition to male #metoo stories looks a great deal like the “perfect victim” narrative all sexual abuse/assault survivors had to deal with for generations. The idea that concerned citizens and the authorities should only ever lift a finger for virginal, white victims did a great deal of damage, and many of the same feminists we see gatekeeping #metoo spoke out against it. Rightly so.

    This time around, the existence of male victims challenges the theory of rape as a “tool of male dominance/patriarchy, used systemically to keep women in their place” and queers the binary between the victim and victimizer class.

    Thus the pushback. As per usual, the instruction is to fade into the background, make yourself small, genuflect, consider how you’re really part of the problem and let the worthy people do the talking.

    They never come back to help you once you’ve voluntarily agreed to be harmless and invisible. Why would they?

  56. 56
    Gracchi says:

    chuckles,

    Indeed. Some people are inconvenient victims, but an inconvenient truth is still the truth.

  57. 57
    Sebastian H says:

    So just a report, in my circles gay men and trans men are still getting very viciously attacked over their association with #metoo. I expected it to die down by now, but some of them still have quite a few…..hmmmmm I have to call them trolls…. hectoring them about daring to try to do terrible things like “steal a seat at the table we bled for” and “attacking and revictimizing women by appropriating their movements”. Its just crazy. It is like feminist buzzword bingo completely out of control. It makes me want to scream.

  58. 58
    Ben Lehman says:

    Sebastian H: If you think it might help, please convey love and solidarity from another survivor to your friends. I am so, so sorry that they’re receiving this level of hateful backlash. I am trying to speak out against where I can, but the level of anger and self-righteousness with which people are trying to silence them is appalling, and wrong, and I am sad that it is happening to them. I thank them for speaking out–every survivor voice is important–and I’m sorry about the horrible costs that others have imposed on them simply for speaking the truth.

    (FWIW, I would call them harassers, not trolls, but obviously, call them whatever gets the point across.)

  59. Sebastian,

    Thanks for keeping us informed. I will add my voice to Ben’s in this: If you think it would be helpful, please offer them my solidarity and support as well. Also, if you think another voice pushing back agains that backlash would be helpful, I’m happy to lend mine. Say so here and I will email you and we can figure out if it makes sense.

    One thing I have learned in this thread is just how different my corner of the online world is from yours. I posted something to Facebook in this matter and got the first real pushback I have gotten. (Well, actually, the second, but the other person deleted her comment from my Facebook post.) It pales in comparison to what you’ve described, but I was surprised by it nonetheless. The pushback is at the end of the comment thread, by someone whose FB name is Aphra Behn.

  60. 60
    RonF says:

    What Harvey Weinstein means to me is that the moral bankruptcy of Hollywood and the whole entertainment business/political complex has finally been exposed. This is a community that though movies, TV shows, awards shows and personal commentary from its members in all manner of settings and media have promoted a moral system well to the left of much of the country. They deem it “progressive” and condemn those who disagree. They claim they are feminist. They claim that those holding more traditional and/or conservative positions seek to degrade women either explicitly or implicitly. They have gotten heavily involved in politics so as to promote their views and the candidates they agree with who will put them in place while condemning in strong terms those they claim are immoral. They have held themselves up as moral examples. But now we see that they were quick to protect a powerful person engaged in gross debasement of women – and I suspect we will see more – so as to protect their own fortunes.

    It reminds me of the Roman Catholic Church’s scandal. It’s one thing for particular individual priests or producers to sexually abuse. You’re going to get a few bad apples in any barrel. The true betrayal was when the bishops and the stars and others in the hierarchy of those two communities covered it up for their own personal benefit and for what they perceived was the need to maintain the moral position of their institutions. That was far more widespread, and frankly may be the worse evil.

    Personally I figured it out when they continued to honor Roman Polanski….

  61. 61
    RonF says:

    For what it’s worth, one of the very first “#me too” FB postings I saw was from a gay man I know. None of the community of (rather outspoken) women that he and I have in common, some of whom had themselves posted earlier, had any negative commentary towards him at all.

  62. 62
    nobody.really says:

    Regarding @60:

    Yup, it’s discouraging to see so much sexual harassment/rape. It would be appalling in any industry, but it seems especially hypocritical in an industry dominated by putative feminists/pro-feminists. Yet, as RonF observes, we saw something similar in the Catholic Church, an organization that also holds itself to higher (or at least stricter) ideals than the movie industry. Given this context, what conclusions should we draw about the degree of hypocrisy in the show biz industry?

    Maybe we should cut the show biz industry some slack. I sense RonF harbors some pretty pessimistic views on this. But I’d like to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps … he isn’t pessimistic enough.

    That is, we think we are observing the appalling degree of sexual exploitation in the show biz industry. But maybe we’re observing the appalling degree of sexual exploitation in the labor market. Far from seeing something aberrant, perhaps we’ve seeing something pervasive—but it only gets revealed in environments which are dominated by enough people with enough ideals to expose it.

    People with power are willing to use it in a manner that benefits themselves. In On The Waterfront, the labor bosses demand financial kickbacks from subordinates. But there’s no reason that kickbacks must be in the form of cash. Research suggests that it’s more common for a prostitute to have uncompensated sex with a police officer than to get arrested by a police officer. That’s the nature of power.

    Now observe all the studies documenting that conventionally attractive people achieve greater career success than average, all else being equal. What accounts for that? It’s easy to suspect that employers benefit themselves by hiring and promoting the people who please them, whether or not those people are also the best candidates. “Please them” doesn’t necessarily mean sexual exploitation—but it’s consistent with that hypothesis.

    Anyway, that’s the thought du jour. So, so long for now. [Theme music swells.] And remember, kids, that whenever thinks look really shitty, remind yourself that things could be worse. And then remind yourself—perhaps they are! Ta ta…!

  63. 63
    Ben Lehman says:

    Ron: If you don’t think that every community that you’re involved in has a problem with sexual assault, you’re wrong. This is specifically a Hollywood problem, sure. It’s also a wider problem.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s the church, the boy scouts, hollywood, or a political advocacy group. If you have a community larger than, say, 20 people, that group probably has covered up at least some sexual assault.

    This is Hollywood’s problem. At the same time, as an outsider to Hollywood, claiming that this is strictly Hollywood’s problem is a way of avoiding personal responsibility.

  64. 64
    nobody.really says:

    [W]e think we are observing the appalling degree of sexual exploitation in the show biz industry. But maybe we’re observing the appalling degree of sexual exploitation in the labor market. Far from seeing something aberrant, perhaps we’ve seeing something pervasive….

    Apparently Slate agrees with this assessment:

    American men entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers as they returned from World War II, and employers welcomed these men as a matter of patriotic duty. Many men proved to be diligent, competent professionals over the ensuing decades. Sadly, however, many did not. The cascade of recent revelations of male workers abusing co-workers, threatening subordinates, and masturbating into potted plants leaves only one conclusion: the long experiment of having men in the workplace has failed.

    * * *

    Here is a partial list of industries in which sexual harassment is an ongoing, systemic problem: advertising, acting, agriculture, animation, construction, food, journalism, higher education, law, law enforcement, medicine, mining, politics, science, technology, and yoga. We can hold endless conferences and panel discussions on ‘Men in the X Industry.’ But when will we admit that ‘the industry’ is not the problem?

  65. 65
    RonF says:

    Ben and nobody.really, I believe you missed my point. Where did I hold that sexual harassment by employers is unique to Hollywood and overall entertainment content producers? I agree with your point that you are quite likely to find it in varying degrees in a lot of communities, depending on how expansive your definition of sexual harassment is. Although I will take issue with calling out the Boy Scouts. I’m pretty familiar with the organization and ever since the scandals that occurred back in the 1990s resulting from the discovery of cover-ups of assaults on boys the BSA has been (rightfully) hypersensitive on this issue. It has committed extraordinary efforts on training parents and Scouters about it and how to report such things, and it has been quite stringent in enforcing their guidelines. I am personally aware of one dedicated Scouter (who I have known ever since he was a Scout) who was permanently banned from Scouting after years of service because a couple of times he was at a restaurant when Scouts known to him walked in and he invited them to sit and eat with him and a parent who saw that complained. They threw him out purely on the optics of those acts – there were no allegations of any other kinds of actions on his part.

    But, to the topic at hand – my analogy to the RCC was meant to illustrate that unlike sexual harassment in the vast majority of workplaces what’s fairly unique here is that this is a community that has gone out of its way to regularly lecture the rest of the country (if not the world) on politics, morality and social responsibility, especially with respect to sexual relations and identity. And what seems to make it unique overall is that a rather large number of its most prominent members seem to have known about it – and said and did nothing, as it would have worked against their own financial interests, even while being quite outspoken on feminism, women’s rights, the actions and policies of various political candidates and parties, etc. Looks like a lot of those multi-million dollar homes are built on hypocrisy and degradation, and a lot of the money that they’ve publicly given to charities and politically-oriented causes is tainted with violations of the very principles that they claimed to uphold and protect.

    It also seems that they demonstrated strong biases when it came to calling out sexually abusive politicians, as well. How many “feminists” called out Bill Clinton, or for that matter called out Hillary Clinton for her complicity? I saw a meme recently stating that Sen. Ted Kennedy was well-named as the Lion of the Senate, as he mated promiscuously and killed without regret. Now, I don’t know what he thought in his own heart and said in his prayers about Mary Jo Kopechne, but he was certainly never held accountable before the law for her death in any adequate fashion and the people who favored the legislation for women’s rights that he supported never called for that either.

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    Jake Squid says:

    … what’s fairly unique here is that this is a community that has gone out of its way to regularly lecture the rest of the country (if not the world) on politics, morality and social responsibility, especially with respect to sexual relations and identity.

    Please name a community that regularly lectures the rest of its perceived society on politics, morality and social responsibilities that doesn’t have this problem.

  67. 67
    Ampersand says:

    Please name a community that regularly lectures the rest of its perceived society on politics, morality and social responsibilities that doesn’t have this problem.

    Well, as everyone knows, conservatives have never sanctimoniously lectured the rest of us on sexual morality, and never had any scandals or problems with mistreatment.

    Ditto for Republicans.

    Ditto for Christians.

    And it’s certainly not as if those same people took a serial sexual harasser and gave him literally the highest honor our country has by electing him President.

  68. 68
    Jeff says:

    But, to the topic at hand – my analogy to the RCC was meant to illustrate that unlike sexual harassment in the vast majority of workplaces what’s fairly unique here is that this is a community that has gone out of its way to regularly lecture the rest of the country (if not the world) on politics, morality and social responsibility, especially with respect to sexual relations and identity.

    You know… I was about to agree with you, Ron, and then I realized while writing out my thoughts that that while the RCC and Hollywood were (and are) spectacularly hypocritical in their rhetoric, I don’t think that this is actually a Hollywood or RRC problem per se.

    See, I was going to draw a difference in scope between “Lone Wolf” abusers, and people who lived in a culture that could actually reasonably be called a rape culture. The examples I was going to use were Jerry Sandusky, the football coach that sexually abused young players, and Graham James, the hockey coach who molested his young players. I was going to say that as opposed to being the same as Hollywood’s culture, Sandusky and James were given a version of The King’s Pass: They were wealthy, powerful, and the people around them didn’t know what they would do without them, because they were so good at their jobs, or so the people around them rationalized. Once I’d actually written all of that out, I realized that Hollywood and the RCC were just giant cesspools of King’s Pass carrying members, and the difference wasn’t in the systems around them, but in the concentration of powerful, wealthy, ‘indispensable’ people.

    I’m still waffling on whether this is a feature or a bug. I don’t think that every culture that is saturated with the rich and powerful will by the nature of being rich and powerful devolve into a culture of abuse and harassment, but I think it would be hard for a culture of abuse and harassment to develop absent wealth and power. And I think (pure speculation tempered with observation) that the canary in the coal mine might be just how strongly the people within these cultures morally grandstand…. I just can’t bring myself to believe that it’s purely coincidental that two of the largest rings of abuse happened to also make pretenses that they were moral arbiters. Maybe it’s guilt… Or projection… I’m still working through this thought.

  69. 69
    Sebastian H says:

    Jeff, you’re on to something with the King’s Pass thing. I’d put it this way. There are at least two types of sexual predators: people who think that they won’t get caught (the classic scary rapist) and people who think that they are in powerful enough positions *with respect to their victims* that they won’t be reported even though their identities are fully known.

  70. 70
    Jeff says:

    Well, as everyone knows, conservatives have never sanctimoniously lectured the rest of us on sexual morality, and never had any scandals or problems with mistreatment.

    Ditto for Republicans.

    Ditto for Christians.

    I mean, I won’t say that you’re wrong… But even using a really broad brush, sexual abuse and rape were never really in the wheelhouse of conservative activism… Family values and gay people/gay marriage were. And yeah, there were a lot of deeply hypocritical people who got caught up in family values issues or gay scandals… Not things that were necessarily bad in and of themselves, but made bad because of the sanctimonious preaching the people involved had been spouting previously. But doesn’t that just reinforce Ron’s point? Maybe not that everyone within these cultures that deem themselves moral arbiters fail to live up to their own standards, but for some reason these preachy cultures seem to attract the people you’d think would facially be turned off by them?

    And it’s certainly not as if those same people took a serial sexual harasser and gave him literally the highest honor our country has by electing him President.

    This is just catty and cheap. Had Hillary Clinton won, would it have been fair of me to assume that everyone who voted for her was fundamentally dishonest and corrupt? Because you know… those people voted for her, and there’s significantly more evidence that she’s a corrupt liar than that Trump is a serial abuser (Although I grant that both are probably true.).

  71. 71
    RonF says:

    That’s true, Amp. But in my next sentence I make the point that what we see here (and with the RCC in their huge scandal) is not so much the existence of sexual abuse by powerful men in the group but the reaction of the other members of the group. Do they ignore, cover up or try to justify the behavior, or do they reveal it and condemn those people?

  72. 72
    Jake Squid says:

    But in my next sentence I make the point that what we see here (and with the RCC in their huge scandal) is not so much the existence of sexual abuse by powerful men in the group but the reaction of the other members of the group.

    But this is SOP for any group that has systemic sexual abuse within it. It’s only exceptional when it isn’t covered up and/or excused.

  73. 73
    Ampersand says:

    But even using a really broad brush, sexual abuse and rape were never really in the wheelhouse of conservative activism…

    Not true. There are many examples – going back decades, and I think there was an example just last month from the conservative columnist of the New York Times – of conservatives saying that rape and sexual harassment are caused by liberal attitudes towards sex and women. I saw quite a few conservatives defend Mike Pence’s rules about meeting with women, for example, by saying that if everyone agreed to those rules women would be safer from sexual abuse.

    I mean, sure, if by “activism” you mean actually passing legislation or helping in any pragmatic way, sure, not in their wheelhouse. (Also not in Hollywood’s wheelhouse). But Ron seemed to be talking about sanctimony, not activism.

    I’ll respond to the bit about Clinton on the open thread.

  74. 74
    Ampersand says:

    Ron:

    I’d say that in all cases, the powerful and those around them ignore, cover up, or try to justify the behavior, until and unless widespread fury forces them to stop doing that. (In the cases of people who are in the orbit but not themselves powerful, we could argue that they stay silent out of fear of reprisal, or a belief that they are powerless to do anything, which isn’t heroic but imo is understandable.)

    I don’t think you can claim that many ordinary liberals or feminists have been defending Weinstein, though, or saying that the accusations against him are all lies or irrelevant. But the right in general does seem to be defending Trump in exactly that way.

    A bit more response to Ron is in the open thread.

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