Memo to Readers: I am writing this piece with the full understanding that many women have been victims of sexual assault and have been emotionally and physically scared by these traumatic experiences. The victims of sexual harassment should be heard and if possible the perpetrators should be prosecuted. The piece is not meant to minimize the suffering of the victims, but bring light to the unfortunate reality that many accusers of sexual harassment are lying in hopes of benefiting from monetary gain, notoriety, and savoring the sweet taste of revenge for petty transgressions and broken promises made in the throes of passions. With that said, let proceed to the column.
“Sex, Drugs, And Rock & Roll,” the title of the 1977 song by Ian Dury, is the best way to summarize the culture of Hollywood. I don’t need to tell you that Hollywood is oversexualized and flooded with drug addicts and the morally questionable. Simply go to the movies or your local movie theater and you will get a taste of what Hollywood thinks is quality entertainment. The subject of sex and the treatment of women in Hollywood has been getting a lot of attention recently thanks to revelations involving famed Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein (“Weinstein”), Kevin Spacey (“Spacey”), and the Today Show’s Matt Lauer (“Lauer”).
To those of you who switch the channel or scroll quickly scroll through the articles on Facebook relating to Hollywood bigwigs, this all started with a New York Times article back on October 5, 2017. The New York Times detailed allegations of Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact with women going back decades. If that was not enough, the New York Times also reported that Weinstein had settled with eight separate women on sexual harassment related issues. On October 10, The New Yorker published its own story with more accusations against Weinstein. In the days following the accusations, actresses like Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie have shared their negative experiences with Weinstein. Rose McGowan’s accusations have been especially newsworthy as she has gone as far as accusing Weinstein of rape.
Screen legends like Emma Thompson (“Thompson”) and Meryl Streep also expressed their distaste for the male-dominated culture in Hollywood but bemoaned the fact that sexual harassment towards women was unfortunately common in the movie industry. When asked about the male-dominated culture in Hollywood, Thompson expressed disgust that the male-dominated culture exemplified by Weinstein was reflected in President Trump’s style and approach towards women. Thompson suggested that misogyny was a sentiment found in all industries and all walks of life. Since the Weinstein allegations broke, more actresses have come forward to talk about their experiences with Weinstein and other Hollywood insiders.
Not long after that, Spacey and Lauer were accused of sexual harassment. Spacey was eventually fired from his critically acclaimed series on Netflix, House of Cards, and Lauer was fired from his Today show gig of more than two decades. 2017 was the year of sexual assault victims coming forward and telling their story. Their impact was so significant that Time magazine made the chorus of voices of sexual assault victims called the “Silence Breakers” by Time magazine were named Time’s “Person of the Year.” Shows like Megyn Kelly Today, starring the former Fox News news personality who had a famous spat with President Trump during one of the Republican presidential debates, have jumped at the opportunity to exploit the stories to increase viewers to their struggling shows.
I consider myself a political and media observer. In my years of observing the media, I have never seen the media so willing to find a person “guilty” of wrongdoing on the basis of a mere allegation. Once upon a time in this country, a person was innocent until proven guilty in the court of public opinion. Not anymore. The consensus nowadays is that if a person is accused of sexual harassment that person must be guilty because the presumption is that a sexual assault accuser would “never lie” about such a thing. The presumption is ludicrous and naive.
I can speak from personal anecdotal experience that a woman and a man for that matter can lie about such experiences. I have heard and talked to plenty of women who talk about how they regretted sexual encounters and decide to revise the history of events to make themselves feel better. I know of women who have tried to seduce men and when that man refuses their advances they have claimed sexual harassment. I know of women who use their sexuality to gain a professional advantage and play a dangerous cat and mouse game with their male colleagues and supervisors in hopes these men will award them with coveted projects with the men hoping that these women will repay them with their affections.
As a law student, I have seen similar sexual manipulations among my peers. I have seen female students flirt with upperclassmen to get their hands on their outlines. I have witnessed first-hand, how class notes are bartered for dates. I have heard from female friends, that they openly use their sexuality to work to their advantage. I have also heard about the stories about women cheating on their boyfriends and the boyfriends finding out and the women telling their boyfriends that the sex that had been consensual with the other man had been “forced.” Just like every woman has a story involving some form of sexual harassment, every woman has heard another woman talk about how they have exploited their sexuality in some way to gain an advantage.
Historically, men were the romantic hunters and women were the prey. Society expected women to be docile and meek while men were expected to be strong and assertive. That has changed dramatically in the last decades. Women now aspire to have high-powered careers while many men have decided to take a back seat professionally to support their more ambitious wives and girlfriends. Many women, including yours truly, complain how most men have become man-child’s who are more interested in video games than facing the challenges of adulthood.
Personally, when my husband and I started dating I was the more assertive of the two with me being the one to give him my card and taking the lead on planning our dates and outings. After two years of marriage, we have discussed whey that was the case and my husband simply responded, “Nowadays a man has to be careful because if he comes across as too assertive with a woman they can be misconstrued as sexual harassment. I wanted to make sure you were okay with the pace of the relationship.” My husband is not the only man that feels that way. Many male friends talk about the death of the concept of a man wooing a woman. The characteristics of assertiveness and decisiveness that were once coveted in men during courtship process could lead to sexual harassment or sexual assault allegations. At the same time, women are now complaining that men are “not romantic” or “beta males.” Of course, ladies. They are scared of us. They think if they look at one of us sideways we will take them to Human Resources, have them fired, or worse have them arrested.
There is a Machiavellian aspect to this sexual harassment firestorm that I am hesitant to discuss, but feel is an important part of this story. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these allegations surfaced after the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Many Hillary supporters are convinced that part of the reason she lost the election is because there are still high levels misogyny in this country, and that the only way women can break through the “glass ceiling” is to remove men from those positions of power and guilt the “powers that be” to replace those men with women. I think this a conceivable notion to entertain after all that would explain why a liberal sweetheart like Weinstein would have been the target of such allegations. A lot of women think that taking men out of these position of power and influence through any means is the only way to achieve true “gender equality” in today’s society. Sorry ladies, I don’t want gender equality that way.
As a woman, I want to be recognized for my hard work and ability not solely because of my gender. I don’t want to cuddled because I am a woman. I don’t want to be put in a position of power and influence for the purposes of satisfying a public relations goal. I want to be chosen for the job because I am the best person for the job. I don’t want my gender to be the deciding factor in my application, but my experience and ability. I want strong men and women to have the opportunity to lead equally. Just like I don’t think all men in positions of power are competent the same goes for all women in similar positions. I don’t want to use something as vile as false sexual assault accusations to destroy the careers of competent men. Lying should not be weaponized to advance the cause of gender equality. We would be no better than the men who have kept women down over generations.
To those sexual assault victims who have experienced these awful encounters, my heart weeps for and I hope you find justice in some way. For those women fabricating these allegations, I say stop! You are putting in danger all the progress we have achieved in the last three decades. When men start accusing women of sexual assault will we be as willing to pass judgment so quickly? Instinct tells me that we will not be so quick to indict those women. Let’s strive for a justice for the victims of sexual harassment and assault, but with the knowledge that not every allegation will be true. Understanding the human capacity to deceive and manipulate regardless of gender is an important part of this ongoing conversation.