The author of this book had it wrong. Women, militantly and justifiably
raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. Men are from
…well, read the story and see
Back in my “Madmen” days, somewhere in the 1970s when I was a thirty-something advertising copywriter, I was sexually harassed by my female boss.
It happened at an office party. I can’t remember the occasion. It wasn’t a big party — just members of our creative group and a handful of people we worked with standing around bowls of potato chips and popcorn, sipping inexpensive wine from plastic cups.
Suddenly my boss, on whom I depended for my job, raises, favorable evaluations, and some minor supervisory authority, walked up to me and stuck her tongue in my ear.
Just before she did it she said, “You’re going to enjoy this.” She kept her tongue in my ear for quite some time, wiggling it around and purring while she breathed.
Now you have to understand that my boss — let’s call her Josephine — was about 25 years older than I was. She would have been described back then the way the writer Nicholas Von Hoffman once described Margo St. James, founder of a San Francisco sex workers’ rights organization called Coyote. Von Hoffman described St. James as “a good old broad.”
That was Josephine, too. Without knowing absolutely every detail of her life, I was confident that she had done everything — and ingested, inhaled and snorted everything — at least twice. In some cases a whole hell of a lot more than twice.
One of my colleagues at that ad agency, a television commercial producer — let’s call him Richard — told me that once, that when he and Josephine had been shooting a commercial on location in Los Angeles, Josephine revealed that her favorite cocaine dealer was in town. The dealer was an heir to a corporate fortune. His family name appears in the company’s logotype to this day. He had nothing much to do except live in big houses on his inherited wealth, so to pass the time he got involved in various hobbies. One of them was dealing cocaine, the drug a la mode back then. I swear to you, this is all true.
Josephine and Richard drove to Mr. Big Corporate Name’s West Coast digs, where she bought a glass phial of Bolivian Happy Dust for $500. Then they went to a very fancy restaurant, where they decided to get high before going to their table. But how?
They formulated a plan. It went like this. Josephine would take the phial to the ladies’ room, lock herself in a stall, and snort up a line or two while Richard stood guard outside, to warn her by coughing loudly if another women started heading inside. Then they would reverse the process, with Josephine standing outside the men’s room door while Richard took a few snorts.
Josephine went into the ladies’ room. Richard stood guard. Suddenly he heard a loud shriek from inside, followed by Josephine’s voice screaming, “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”
Alarmed, Richard charged into the Ladies Room, where he discovered that Josephine had accidentally dropped the phial on the tile floor of a stall. It had shattered. Cocaine dust was all over the floor. What to do?
“Well hell,” said Josephine, finally putting her emotions back in some secret hiding place, “there’s no point in letting all this stuff go to waste.” She lay down on the stall floor and began sniffing cocaine off the tiles. Richard followed suit.
Suddenly, Richard told me, while he and Josephine were lying on the floor, their legs protruding from under the stall, the door to the ladies room opened. Richard, from his low vantage point, saw a pair of feet wearing high heeled velvet pumps clack-clack-clack toward the center of the room. All at once, the pumps froze in place. There was a pause of perhaps four seconds. Then the pumps turned around 180 degrees and rapidly clack-clack-clacked out of there, while Josephine and Richard resumed snorting.
Anyway, that was Josephine, my boss. Uninvited, she stuck her tongue in my ear and wiggled it around while purring and breathing heavily. A clear case of sexual harassment.
Except that I rather liked it. Nothing ever came of the incident. She was ten years too late. I had dreamed of that kind of stuff when I was a teen-ager and a twenty-something. But now I was married, with a touchy wife (now an ex-wife), a kid, a house, a mortgage, and too much at risk if I dared to play around. So I passed.
But, to repeat, I liked the harassment all the same.
What does this tell us? For one thing, it is an illustration of why the title of a best seller some years ago, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is wrong, dead wrong, most especially today.
Women, at least women today, militantly and justifiably raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. And men? We’re from Penis, a place in our bodies that intrudes on and influences what must be a formidable percentage of our decisions. Like it or not, men of a certain generation have grown up in a testosterone-influenced culture. And yes, you may call it the Penis culture.
We are wired to want sex, Worse, our upbringing, however wrongfully, encouraged our wants. Which explains many things about the Madmen epoch, although it excuses nothing. It most certainly does not excuse rape, consistently creepy behavior, pederasty, or constant annoyance of any woman. However, it does account for a sublimation of sex that from time to time expresses itself as a bit of sexually-tinged playfulness, and that should in some instances, when it does not rise to the level of consistent annoyance of an individual, be given a pass. Cases concerning each point?
Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape and whose brother reportedly had a career on the side buying off women whom Harvey is said to have sexually abused, does not get a pass. Plus, the reports of lawyers and a brother paying numbers of women to shut up reinforces the probability that Weinstein is a sexual predator.
Donald Trump has admitted to much the same. From his position of power, he boasted during a so-called “locker room talk” on a bus that he was able to grab women by their private parts and get away with it. What he did does not quite rise to the level of rape. But it does rise to the level of at least a misdemeanor sex crime. Had any other male tried the same, whether in performers’ dressing rooms, or on the subway, he’d be deservedly sitting behind bars now.
But Al Franken, who was photographed playfully pretending to grab another performer’s breasts on an airplane, a mischievous look on his face, clearly aware that a camera is pointing at him? That seems hardly at all like predation. It seems much more like a mistake in judgement, the kind of tasteless bad joke that may have been influenced by testosterone culture, but is not even close to the level of a boss who stands nude in his home, in front of an assistant, who depends on the flasher for her salary.
Yes, the woman in the Franken photograph also accuses him of unwanted kissing. But film of her during the same tour shows her engaged in a bit of sexually tinged license of her own. Clearly, this playful license was part of the culture of this particular USO tour. Check out this video from the show, about two minutes past the beginning. In her case, as well as Franken’s, the license is merely playful rather than intrusive or creepy.
Anthony Weiner, the former U.S. Congressmen, sent to prison for texting pictures of his penis to young girls, clearly has no further business being in public life. The sexting, particularly to minors, is beyond the bounds of playfulness or flirting.
But if Weiner deserved prison, how can Roy Moore, who is accused of committing actual physical acts of pederasty (as opposed to Weiner’s acts of photography) with a 14-year-old girl get away with what he has done? Certainly he does not belong in the United States Senate if the charges against him are true. And the snowballing of similar charges by formerly underaged women keeps adding credibility to those charges. As does the defense by one of his friends which seems to indicate that the friend believes that the charges are true, but that the Bible says it's all okay.
To be sure, there is a danger in all of this, and that is the danger of witch hunt hysteria, which not only existed in Colonial America, but which swept across Europe from the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Centuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths by torture and fire. All anybody who wanted to get rid of, or get even with somebody else had to do was level an accusation of witchcraft.
The same kind of guilt by accusation is possible in contemporary times. That is why we will need evidence-based legal investigations, and possibly criminal trials, to determine who is a sexual predator, and who is a hapless victim either of an overreaction or a lie. (It may be telling that Franken has called for a Congressional investigation of himself, whereas Roy Moore simply growls denials.)
But investigations are long and slow. In the case of Senatorial elections there may not be enough time. People will have to vote their commonsense judgment.
My own common sense is telling me that Franken is guilty of little except some tasteless horsing around. But that Roy Moore may be a pederast more deserving of a prison cell than a U.S. Senate seat.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog