No, the sexual revolution didn’t cause Harvey Weinstein

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Dear Rebecca:

It’s becoming something of a trope on the socially conservative right that the reason for Harvey Weinstein is … the sexual revolution. It’s a critique of Weinstein that echoes his own laughable defense of himself, and ignores one critical thing: Men in power have been preying on women since time immemorial, even — sometimes especially — when conservative sexual ethics ruled the day.

David French offers such an argument over at National Review:

You can sum up the sexual ethic of the sexual revolutionary in one sentence: Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms. One-night stands? Fine, so long as there’s consent. May/December relationships. Fantastic, so long as there’s consent. Workplace liaisons between boss and subordinate? No problem, with consent. Adultery? Yes, there are tears, but the heart wants what it wants.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but French relies on a concept of consent that’s so one-dimensional that it leads him to produce an error-filled paragraph.

“Consent” these days is more than about saying “yes” or “no” but includes the power dynamics that surround them. So actually: We still cast a wary cultural eye at May-December romances, because we worry that the older person is taking advantage of a younger person’s lack of experience, lack of knowledge, lack of power, whatever. Workplaces liasons between boss and subordinate? Maybe French hasn’t been through the sexual harassment training videos that I have, but again: The power differential makes this dicey.

As for adultery: Who lionizes the adulterer? He may have consent with the person who shares the affair with him, but he damages the consent shared with his spouse – who operates in such a climate with a deficiency of critical information.

French again:

The practical result of consent-focused morality is the sexualization of everything. With the line drawn at desire alone, there is no longer any space that’s sex-free. Work meetings or restaurants can be creative locations for steamy liaisons. Not even marriage or existing relationships stand as a firewall against potential hookups.

One wonders how closely the man has read his own Bible. King David sent Uriah off to die in a war so he could sleep with Bathsheba, we’re told in Jewish and Christian scriptures. He was a man who abused his power to whet his sexual appetites – and remained in God’s good graces enough, we’re told, that his lineage came to include the Savior of All Humankind. 

What kind of lesson are we supposed to take from that?

The Sexual Revolution was probably not an unambiguously a good thing. No human developments are! But an ethic of consent was probably one of the better things that has emerged from it — and, as French’s writing indicates, it takes a misunderstanding of that ethic to make it responsible for Harvey Weinstein … whose actions, it must be emphasized, apparently happened entirely without regard to or respect for consent. 

There are a lot of villains in this story. “Consent” is not even close to being one of them.

Respectfully,

Joel

Listen to women, Part 2 (Or: Complicity is easy!)

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The spotlight is getting hot, isn’t it?

Dear Rebecca:

When I’m tempted to get self-righteous about the whole Harvey Weinstein thing, this comes along:

In 2015, I attended the Just for Laughs festival as a journalist writing on behalf of Gawker, a profoundly flawed organization I miss desperately. The organizers of the festival did not know the purpose of my presence was a desire to get to the bottom of Louis CK’s numerous accusations of sexual impropriety. Had they known, I surely would not have been invited to attend. Because Louie, you see, is a “friend” of the JFL organization.

A tall man in a suit approached, relieving her of the duty of admonishing me. He was, in a word, livid. In two words, fucking livid. Red faced, he informed me that JFL is a “family,” that Louie is a member of said “family,” and that I could ask my question on “my turf,” but that this was “our turf.” This wasn’t “that kind” of red carpet, he informed me, it was a “friendly one,” and Louie was a “friend of the festival.” Were I to ask the offending question again, he said, I would be ejected from the carpet. But if I asked “nice” questions, I would be allowed to stay. His demeanor aggressively implied he had no desire to let me do so. Tears stinging my eyes, I apologized to the man who loomed over me, the man I later learned was the COO of JFL, for my indiscretion and said I’d straighten up and fly right.

Now, to be clear, there have been no substantiated allegations about Louis CK — but in recent years, you’ve seen more stories about stories that allude to a possible problem without making definitive accusations. (Again, I feel compelled to say for legal reasons: I don’t *know* that Louis CK has ever done anything untoward, but references to hazy, undefined problems have appeared in high-profile publications like NYMag’s Vulture.) Until last week, of course, we could say the same thing about Harvey Weinstein.

Whether Louis CK has a problem or not, though, here’s the thing I realized while reading the above piece. I don’t want him to have a problem. I like Louis CK! He makes me laugh! He’s even made me think! The world would be poorer without some of the art he’s made!

But … that’s bullshit.

Complicity starts with not wanting to see. Enabling begins with an unwillingness to look truth square in the eye. And the result, often, is that women who have been abused find themselves with few avenues for justice or truth telling because Person X is likable, or made a piece of art that moved us, or has friends in our “family,” or maybe, simply, just makes us money.

I do not know what the endgame will be with Louis CK. I want to root for his innocence. It’s wiser to root for truth. If I’m lucky, truth and innocence will be on the same page. But that hope is not a piece of evidence that has any bearing on what the truth is.

Complicity is easy. Listening to women is … not as easy for a lot of us. But it’s worthier. I hope I do the worthy thing. I’ll keep trying.

With respect,
Joel

A dirty, racist etymology

In his post on white justification for violence against men of color this week, Joel mentioned the word cuck, a favorite insult from the alt-right that is fast making its way into the “mainstream” right’s vocabulary. It’s from the portmanteau cuckservative, which combines cuckold and conservative.

The cuckhold part is an aviary metaphor. A cuckoo bird will lay its egg in another’s nest for that bird to raise. It starts to appear as a metaphor in Medieval lit, most notably “The Miller’s Tale” by Chaucer, to describe a man whose wife is cheating.

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Above, the very ugly, very mean, very selfish, very smart cuckoo bird. 

It’s also the major theme of Othello, a tragic love story about a jealous black man murdering his white wife. (“I will chop her into messes! Cuckold me?”).

It’s also a fetish (a word that I use with no pejorative meaning) as Joel notes when he draws from an article on the term that originally appeared in GQ back in August:

The cultural importance of the cuckold in America is rooted in racism: in pornography, the wife of the cuckolded (almost exclusively white) husband is most commonly sleeping with African-American men, meant to provide an additional layer of humiliation if the white husband sees that man as “inferior.” In the world of pornography meant to elicit humiliation as an erotic sentiment, cuckold porn takes advantage of its viewers’ racist perceptions.

That’s also a source of the use of the term in white supremacy/alt-right circles: they see men who enjoy this fetish as weak, emasculated, effeminate, and not properly in control of/protecting their women/nation. The collapse of white women with White Womanhood with White Nationalism happens pretty quickly from here.

White nationalists thus use cuck to describe conservatives who don’t mind their nation (women) getting “fucked over” by people of color. One example: When ex-Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro criticized this “alt-right” website, Milo Yiannopouls (who was behind the racist Twitter attacks on actress Leslie Jones) sent Shapiro, upon the birth of his son, a photo of a black (biracial) baby–the idea being that Shapiro (who is not black), in leaving and criticizing Breitbart, had become a “cuckservative.”

Read cuck like “race traitor” or “n—— lover,” but on a larger scale: someone who is deliberately betraying their people by allowing the population to be “polluted,” sexually, genetically, or through immigration. It means being a dupe–like the birds who raise the cuckoos babies. The cuckoo doesn’t even wait for the host bird to leave the nest; it lays its eggs while the nestbuilding bird is sitting right there, attempting to defend its own home and babies, unsuccessfully every single time. The cuckoo is larger than its hosts (three times bigger than the reed warbler, one of the birds it picks on), and it often hatches earlier. If it hatches earlier, it promptly rolls its foster mother’s babies out of the nest; if its foster siblings are born first, it pushes them out.

When racists say cuck (and racists are the only people who say cuck), they are thinking about nonwhites taking over white cultures by infiltrating them, then destroying or displacing people, all while forcing whites to pay for the process: anchor babies, refugees disguised as stealth jihadists, Muslims practicing taqiyya in order to penetrate Western civilization and topple it from the inside, demographic warfare.

 

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Above, a featherless cuckoo, evil at birth, practices “nest eviction,” rolling its unhatched foster sibling to its death. 

This is why those in the alt-right don’t just talk about people as cucks but whole nations–white, European, Christian nations being dragged down by immigrants. Germany is held up as the primary example in white supremacist circles as a once-strong, homogeneous nation that is now weak, effeminate, emasculated, etc., as evidenced by its inclusion of Muslim/brown/immigrant bodies. Sweden is another place criticized for polluting its white population with brown and black skinned immigrants. If you wonder why Trump criticizes these nations for their immigration policies (even when such criticism sounds like nonsense to the rest of the world), know that he’s not talking to you; he’s talking to his extremist friends.

Cuck shows us how the alt-right (and their “mainstream” right allies) think about  white women (as white men’s property (a la Othello or, more importantly, the many women who are murdered each year by men who are “jealous” of their sexual attention) and nonwhites–people who, together, are fucking them over.