The abundant conversations about sexual harassment have become a mishmash of modern morality in America. Talkers mix the accusation toward the evildoer, the man who uses power against innocence to abuse women, with accusations against a man with less calculated motivation whose weakness of the flesh exploits a confusion of sexual signals.
In between are all kinds of boorish behavior. One kind that emerged over the past months involves the uncouth man with a patina of sophistication who thinks his naked body under a robe tantalizes simply because he's the Big He.
In responding to this array of trashy behavior, some naive women have reduced themselves to whiners, applying tar and feathers to men just because they don't seduce with the charm of Don Juan or fulfill romantic notions of splendor in the grass, and they want to make them pay for it.
Women who have come forward to lodge legitimate accusations at men in power who nakedly abused them deserve admiration for animating the cliche of "speaking truth to power" and dispatching to deserved obscurity the dirty old men who hurt them. But rant and rage accompanying the outing of a celebrity over a clumsy seduction is an immature millennial version of the woman bent on revenge. Instead of "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," social media hath no cowardice like an anonymous woman taking revenge on a celebrity who didn't live up to her expectations.
A notorious account on the website babe tells how a 23-year-old woman who gave herself the pseudonym "Grace" set out to destroy Aziz Ansari, winner of a Golden Globe, with a detailed account of a sloppy seduction when she was 22. Her account, which has naturally gone viral, is cruel and unusual punishment for merely a date gone bad.
This victim — so-called — seems most offended by the man's hypocrisy in elevating his masculine virtue toward women, for daring to wear a "Time's Up" pin to falsely advertise himself as one of those male angels who proudly calls himself a feminist. She never learned to separate the onstage character or the public persona of a star from the actual man. "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant," as Cary Grant himself famously put it. "Even I want to be Cary Grant."
The woman who went out on the date with Ansari, starry-eyed by the reflection she thought she saw of herself in his eyes, raged that he stepped on her toes with his clay foot. He was less than suave, his advances hurried and gauche, and she details her disappointment like a petulant schoolgirl telling her diary something for her friends to giggle over. He serves her white wine when she wants red. He rushes through an expensive dinner, kisses her too quickly, undresses her too swiftly, reaches for protection before she's ready. After she says something like "Whoa," they both resort to the sexual act that former President Bill Clinton made famous. She didn't say no to it, but she wasn't thrilled. Oh, dear.
The vulgar details, described without art, are revealed in this soft-porn dialogue she might have lifted from a comic book. "I don't want to feel forced because then I'll hate you, and I'd rather not hate you," she told him. "Oh, of course, it's only fun if we're both having fun," he sagely replied.
Literature this is not. Nor is it even acceptable journalism. The only claim it makes on any reader's attention is that in the world of social media it joins company with #MeToo confessions, and it has already attracted more than 2.5 million viewers looking for accounts of men behaving beastly with women.
In the march toward equality of the sexes in the workplace, the notion that men and women have equal (and identical) sexual urges and women sometimes put them on display becomes a muddle of wants, needs and destructive recriminations. The sex icons of Hollywood, male and female, eagerly espouse equality on camera, but their pop-culture messages are really all about power plays. Examples of someone practicing the rules of restraint are hard to find.
Women are on the warpath, and they've exposed some bad dudes along the way to where we are now. But as men and women now struggle toward that elusive happy bargain in love, we must separate reality and fantasy with the understanding that human behavior doesn't always match what we expect and want.
We've thrown away the old guidelines, and the unhappy result is a chaos of spontaneity. A coarse and graphic description of one date gone bad, read by millions of women across a wide sampling of the population, becomes a window into the ways "normal" male-female hookups play out. Whose fault is that?
Write to Suzanne Fields at [email protected] Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's "Paradise Lost." To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.