by Evert Cilliers
There are the Bill Cosbys and Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers of this world, and then there are the Al Franklins and the Aziz Ansaris.
There are those who need to be in jail — Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Russell Simmons, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump — and those who only need to be fired, censured, shamed or … maybe forgiven?
So, the first question is: why aren’t Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, Russell Simmons, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump being criminally prosecuted, if Bill Cosby was? What makes them more special than Cosby?
And the next question: who among these assholes may be worthy of actually being forgiven?
I was all for coming down on men like a ton of bricks for anything unwanted — an awkward comment that embarrasses, asking out someone who works for you after she said no the first time, stroking a back or massaging a shoulder without asking permission first, pinching a bum, “stealing” a kiss (whatever that means) — until the whole Al Franklin thing.
I’m a great fan of the guy (just google him doing a Mick Jagger — down to a tee — and you can’t help but like the man). He’s a comic genius. He was a damn good Senator, and a straight-up left-of-center liberal. He was beloved by his staff and his constituents. Heck, someday he might even have been a credible candidate for President.
Then a woman complained that Franklin gave her an unwanted kiss and stuck his tongue down her throat, and afterwards put out that photo of him comically holding his hands over her breasts while she was sleeping (bad taste on his part, for sure, and not very funny either). Then others complained that he had pinched their butts while they were being photographed together. That’s all I heard, and if there’s more, please enlighten and correct me.
Then Franklin said he would welcome an investigation, and then Kristin Gillibrand said he should resign, and then more women called for his resignation, and then he did resign.
1. Are There Degrees Of Sexual Misconduct?
And there was no investigation into what Franklin did.
Which I think is a shame. Because if there had been, maybe there would’ve been a discussion about whether there is a line between behavior which crosses the line, and behavior which is sort-of-forgivable: forgivable because what the guy did was not that bad, forgivable because he was just being a jerk, forgivable because it happened only once or twice, forgivable because the man said he’s sorry and the woman accepted his apology.
Now I still think we should come down on men for any unwanted behavior, but this question still nags at me: what is a firing offense and what is not?
Are there different types and degrees of offenses?
1. Offenses for which a man should be jailed.
2. Offenses for which a man should be fired.
3. Offenses for which a man should not be fired but punished or censured in some way.
4. Offenses for which a man should he forgiven if his apology is heart-felt enough.
If there are these four different types of offenses, what exactly are they? We know what the criminal or firing offenses are: rape, assault, persistently targeting a woman with predatory or rude or sexist behavior, etc.
If there are others that are not this bad, what are they?
Where do we put jerking off in front of a woman who did not expect it? Is it less bad than rape or not? Should Louis C.K.be forgiven for jerking off in front of women, because, heck, although it was in really bad taste, and not anything that the women would’ve wished for their eyeballs to peruse, he did not touch them, he only touched his dick, so what’s the harm, really? Can he be allowed to come back from that? (Charlie Rose wants to make a TV comeback with a series where he interviews other sexual misconducters … oy vey, what will they talk about — the great time they had before they were exposed?)
Where do we put an unwanted kiss? A butt pinch?
Where do we put planting an unwanted kiss or pinching a butt or making a rude comment only once or twice, and apologizing then and there, or shortly afterwards?
In other words, where do we put a one-off thing when there’s never been a pattern of behavior?
Or for a pattern of behavior, what do we do about serial butt-pinchers? Do we have to lock up all the men in Italy?
2. Tarentino, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen
And what do we think of guys like Tarentino who knew that Harvey Weinstein was up to no good, but sat on their hands?
And where do we stand in the Dylan Farrow-Woody Allen she-says he-says controversy?
And what do we think of actors and actresses who laud Roman Polanski as a great director?
And what do we think of Matt Damon and Andrew Sullivan when they point out that it’s not all black and white — that there are nuances to consider?
And what do we think of Camille Cosby, the wife? Does she think Bill never did what 80 women said he did?
3. The Feminist Pushback Against @MeToo
Should Franklin have resigned? Should there have been an investigation? I still don’t really have an answer.
And I don’t know what to think of the pushback there’s been from some feminists against #MeToo. Martha Gessen says in the New York Review of Books that we should beware of a sex panic. Katie Roiphe says in Harper’s that women needn’t be so damn fearful. Or get totally creeped out if a guy merely leers at them.
Much of what women are reporting as sexual misconduct is not really all that scary, Roiphe appears to be saying. “I can’t imagine sitting with one of my smart, ambitious students in my office,” she writes, “lined with shelves of books like The Second Sex and A Room of One’s Own and I Love Dick and The Argonauts, saying, ‘Before you go work there, I just want to warn you, that guy might leer at you.’ I would worry I was being condescending, treating her like a child who doesn’t know how to handle herself in the world.”
And then Catherine Deneuve and many French women wrote that this #MeToo thing is not all that amazingly great, because it messes with the good stuff that women should be into, like flirting and seduction. You know, all that naughty mistress stuff the French get up to — like President Mitterand having had another semi-secret family that nobody minded about because what does a man’s sex life have to do with him running the country?
4. The Whole Aziz Ansari Thing
Then there is the Aziz Ansari thing. That first date that ended up in his room, when Aziz pushed for sex, but the woman wanted him to slow down, and said so. That date when she interrupted his sexual advances a few times, and when he backed off a few times. That date when she gave him oral, twice (so what was he supposed to think, one may ask). That date when they never got around to actual fucking. That date when she was free to leave in the end.
Afterwards she felt so bad, she figured she had been assaulted.
So what do you think (and I think what you think might be colored by your gender)?
What do I think?
Maybe she should have had more agency. Been more non-consensual. More firm. Maybe she should have left early on. Maybe she should’ve realized that going to his room was sort of consensual. Probably she did, but she could not foretell that what was going to happen would make her feel bad. She was probably hoping for a wonderfully romantic and loving encounter, which it was not.
Lots of maybes. It’s a situation to which most women can relate.
And maybe Aziz Ansari should’ve been less pushy. Or at least more sensitive. Actually, that’s no maybe. If he is as woke as his book about modern dating says he is, he ABSOLUTELY should have been more sensitive, and stopped pushing hard for sex.
But whatever your opinion, Aziz is not going to lose his career over this.
So there we are: gray area. The area that The New Yorker short story “Cat Person” covered so well, the story went viral and got the author Kristen Roupenian a big two-book deal.
The area that porn actress and director Stormy Daniels alluded to when she told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes that she went to the bathroom in Trump’s hotel room, and when she came back out, Trump was sex-expectantly perched on the bed, and “I realized exactly what I’d gotten myself into. And I was like, ugh, here we go. And I just felt like maybe — it was sort of — I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone’s room alone and I just heard the voice in my head: Well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.” Stormy told Anderson Cooper that she was not attracted to Trump and did not want to fuck him, but she did it anyway, because she had walked open-eyed into the situation in the first place, so what the hell, let’s get it over with.
Is her response a grownup one, and the Ansari woman’s response a childish one?
I do say this: however nice a woman thinks she should be, however much she’s been trained by society (translation: the patriarchy) to be over-polite — which can lead to these “bad sex” moments — I hope from now on that if any woman feels the least bit uncomfortable, feels the least bit that she’s in an Aziz Ansari situation, she will tell the guy “no!” or “stop!” in no uncertain terms, or leave the room, or slap the guy in the face, or do something demonstrably non-consensual. Myself, I’m all for a strong “no!” PLUS a slap.
That would’ve given Aziz the message. Giving him two blowjobs clearly didn’t.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say a woman could simply say “no!” and slap the dude. What about when a woman is in a situation where she doesn’t want to upset the guy to the point that he gets violent? In those situations, a woman is always faced with the horror of the guy being stronger than her, and being able to force her to do crap she doesn’t want, if she dares to resist in a way that might make him mad.
Back to Ansari: I think this woman felt bad afterwards because she expected to be romanced, not just to be pushed for sex.
I also think Ansari behaved the way he did —not doing the romance thing very heavily, for example — because he takes his celebrity privilege for granted. And I think that really sucks. A guy who thinks he’s worth fucking just because he’s a celeb is a stinky moron. Women want, at the very least, to be sweet-talked into sex, Aziz, not stiff-armed, you asshole.
One hopes that women, standing proud in this #MeToo moment, will stand up more for themselves in uncomfortable situations. But I know it’s not bound to happen all the time everywhere. There’s just too much ambiguity and uncertainty and too many over-eager and plain bad dudes in this patriarchal world.
5. Listen Up, Fellas
I would say to men: please try and help yourself, and don’t be pushy. Don’t go fast. Don’t leap to conclusions. Let her take the lead. I, for example, will do consensual foreplay unto eternity, to the point of utter frustration or complete boredom, and not make a move towards actual sex, or go anywhere near her pussy, unless and until the woman says something like, “let’s go to the bedroom,” or takes off her panties and gives me that look that makes my heart go thumpety-thump.
Now that I’ve brought all this up, I must add that I am a man, so what do I know? Sweet blow-all, really.
I do know that I and, I suspect, many other blokes are looking back at our lives and wondering if we ever said or did something that upset a woman, and fervently hope that we didn’t, and feel terribly ashamed if we remember any such moment, and swear to the highest heaven that we will take care never ever to be a boor in our male futures. That’s the part of #MeToo that women should know about. Ladies, you’ve driven all of us semi-woke guys into deep self-examination. Thank you for that.
I do know that I have three sisters. I do know that I have more female friends than male friends, and that we can talk about anything. My platonic woman friends have talked to me about their problems with their pussies, for example. (And God, do women have problems with their pussies!) I’ve never had a problem with my cock, so it always amazes me — the things that can go awry with a pussy.
I also know that having a statute of limitations for sex crimes is probably not kosher at all. It can take victims years of trauma to get over what they’ve suffered, before they might feel ready to report it.
And I know that #MeToo and Time’s Up are culture-changing events that should’ve happened long ago, but thank god they’re happening now (just like the pink pussy-hatted Women’s March on Washington and many more women deciding to go into politics are culture-changing events, and Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives and Red-for-Ed teachers walking out all over the land for higher pay and more education funding are nation-changing movements — because suddenly we the people are speaking up because our politicians don’t represent the interests of we the people anymore, but only the interests of we the very rich people).
Anyway, I’m hoping women will read this without finding it too distasteful, and will comment, and school me and the guys about the matter of where to draw the line between unforgivable and forgivable behavior, and what forgivable sexual misconduct might actually be.
Or whether there is such a thing as forgivable sexual misconduct at all.
I’ve said my say, so here’s hoping you will say yours.