Why the A-list masturbating creep is the defining image of 2017 - Macleans.ca
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Why the A-list masturbating creep is the defining image of 2017

Anne Kingston: Louis C.K. and others have combined ego, id and male privilege to create a pornographic portrait of harassment by powerful men


 
Louis C.K. (Shutterstock)

Louis C.K. (Shutterstock)

In the first months of 2017, coincident with Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House, one image captured public imagination like no other: the bronze statue of “Fearless Girl” defiantly standing her ground against Wall Street’s “Charging Bull.” As the year ends, that fantasy, feel-good tableau has been eclipsed by grittier reality: the image of a bullishly powerful man—“dick” in hand, to quote Louis C.K.— masturbating in front of actual adult women who refuse to be silent or intimidated any longer.

Since six women reported producer Harvey Weinstein masturbated in front of them—once into a potted plant—the list of A-list wankers has mounted daily. More than a dozen harassment charges against journalist Mark Halperin include a former female employee at ABC News reporting that the Game Change co-author played with himself under his desk while discussing her career. Former Hollywood power players Brett Ratner and James Toback both have been accused of exposing themselves and masturbating in front of shocked, frightened and disgusted women. On Friday, comedian Louis C.K., admitted to what has been long-rumoured—that he practiced onanism in front of women in a hotel room, in his office, and while speaking on the phone. The very next day brought news that actor Richard Dreyfuss harassed a former female employee with behaviour that included exposing his penis.

In retrospect, “Fearless Girl” was a timely, if exploitative, PR gambit by State Side Global Advisors, the financial giant that positioned the child opposite “Charging Bull” on the eve of International Women’s Day. The stated intent was to telegraph a progressive message—specifically, to challenge companies to add more women to their boards. If the little girl also helped sell units of the company’s new fund, SHE, then so much the better.

RELATED: Louis C.K., Ed Westwick, Kevin Spacey—the ‘Weinstein effect’ keeps expanding

“Fearless Girl” was a ready-made crowd-pleaser in a metaphorical “You Go Girl!” way. New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio referred to the sculpture as “this miraculous girl” who “appears and creates such a powerful sensation because she spoke to the moment.” The little girl symbolized a new world where “women were not going to live in fear, that women were going to teach their daughters and all the women in their lives to believe in themselves,” the mayor said, a statement that should be redundant in 2017 but isn’t.

Photo taken on March 9, 2017 shows the "fearless girl" statue facing the bronze bull statue near the Wall Street in New York, the United States. The "fearless girl" was put there by an investment firm which said the idea was to call attention to the lack of gender diversity in management of companies as well as how few women work in financial services, and the fact that they get paid less than men. (Wang Ying/Xinhua/Getty Images)

“Fearless girl” facing the bronze bull statue near the Wall Street in New York (Wang Ying/Xinhua/Getty Images)

In real life, of course, sticking a little girl in front of a charging bull is child abuse, not unlike a the spectre of a 14-year-old girl “dating” a 32-year-old Alabama district attorney. Any sentient person should have looked at the staged tableau and shouted: “Run, little bronzed girl, run! This won’t end well for you.” As it happened, State Side Global Advisors’ progressive patina would turn out to be as faux as Louis C.K.’s: in October, it was discovered the firm had been ordered to pay a $5-million settlement to more than 300 female employees it underpaid.

What both images—powerful bull v. little girl; powerful, bullish man v. female employees—share, however, is an unequal power dynamic steeped in phallic visuals. The French philosopher Jacques Derrida coined the term “phallocentric” to describe societies in which the penis represents male dominance, and it certainly pops to mind here. Phallocentrism is so entrenched we don’t even notice it—if you’re brave, you “have balls”; the “seminal” is used to describe events that are pivotal or groundbreaking; Hollywood remains fixated on guns and machismo. Then there’s the Wall Street bull itself—celebrated as a symbol of Western capitalism and wealth—whose genitals have been burnished to a high gloss by tourists rubbing them for good luck.

RELATED: Half of Canadian women face unwanted sexual pressure, poll finds

Little surprise then that penis display and masturbation figure prominently in the sexual harassment repertoire of powerful men: it’s ego, id and male privilege in one pornographic portrait. It offers a twisted deniability, in that masturbation is not technically assault as we know it, as pointed out in one of the many primers recently written to explain why the powerful masturbate or display themselves. It’s a primal power play, or what Alexandra Katehakis, an L.A.-based sex therapist, described in an interview with Slate as “sexualized hostility”: “These men are imposing the body part that is most threatening to a female and in doing so, they are acting out what is called ‘sexualized hostility’ or ‘eroticized rage’ against their prey.”

That, in a snapshot, describes sexualized violence or harassment more broadly: asserting power through sexualized behaviour. This is a fact Louis C.K., once celebrated as a male feminist, doesn’t understand, as his statement reveals. He justified his behaviour because he asked  women for their “consent,” the comedian writes: “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first,” an assertion that’s not true. What he didn’t understand was that the question itself constitutes harassment.

It’s apparent Louis C.K. still doesn’t understand the dynamic he exploited: “But what I learned later in life, too late”—presumably upon news that the New York Times was about to expose him, figuratively speaking—“is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.” Again, no: A “predicament” is being locked out of your house. Having a man who’s at the top of an industry that you work in or are trying to break into asking if you want to see his genitals is aggressive, assaultive, intimidating behaviour.

RELATED: Me too: It’s not just Hollywood, it’s Canada

Dreyfuss also doesn’t get it. The actor said he’s “horrified and bewildered” that a former employee is reporting harassment, though he didn’t deny it. Like Anthony Weiner, now serving 21 months in prison for texting images of his genitals to a minor, Dreyfuss believed putting his privates on display was a treat for women. Exposing himself was “part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual that went on and on for many years,” said Dreyfuss, whose son Ben recently reported that Kevin Spacey groped him years ago. Dreyfuss needs to be told that if you’re engaged in a “consensual seduction ritual” that goes on “for many years,” it likely isn’t consensual.

The only thing that distinguishes a Weinstein or a Louis C.K. or Richard Dreyfuss from the more common creepy, exhibitionistic masturbators who lurk in subways or theatres, and often prey on children as young as “Fearless Girl”, is their privilege: their money and their fame has insulated them from consequence, until now. Now a growing battalion of women who’ve paid a steep price—in intimidation, in careers being sidelined, in being unable to make art the world has never seen—are angry and fighting back with another power unit Hollywood understands: money. Gal Gadot has said she won’t participate in Wonder Woman 2 if Brett Ratner is attached to it. She’s only one voice in a growing chorus that finally realizes they can’t face down human charging bulls alone.


 

Why the A-list masturbating creep is the defining image of 2017

  1. The so-called progressives let Bill Clinton get away with it 20 years ago…sexual harassment of a subordinate/intern right in the Oval Office, and the battering of his other accusers. The so-called progressives than supported the most prominent bully of his accusers in Hillary.

    i.e. Progressive argued that as long as a predator was a progressive, it was okay.

    • You’re really embarrassed about Roy Moore, arncha…….

    • 20 years ago it started out as something different and devolved into sex because America gets a kick out of naughty things.

      This has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with power. Power anywhere. This article SPECIFICALLY points out the entertainment industry, but you try to pivot it to politics. And old politics to boot.

      Stay on topic or get out of the pool.

  2. If the woman accepts the mans advances at the time, is it still harassment?

    If the woman considers her options and chooses the potential fame and fortune over raising the alarm, is she not complicit?

    If the woman initiates the innuendo of sex for reward of any kind is she not guilty?

    When women disguise themselves with beauty products are they not hanging out an “open for business” shingle?

    If a customer responds, is the woman under any obligation to accept the offer?

    As long as there is a power difference and greedy people, the potential for corruption exists.

    If women are truly altruistic, they will support the new human right to wear personal recording devices wherever we go.

    If someone agrees to turn off the recording, are they not agreeing to be complicit?

    We have the technology, but apparently not the will, to end corruption.

    It seems we still think we have potentially more benefits from corruption than harm.

    Pardon me, but I’m bored by the rhetoric.

    • If the woman accepts the mans advances at the time, is it still harassment?
      – YES! He shouldn’t have done it in the first place. And if she DOES accept, WHY is she accepting? Out of fear? Out of consensual appreciation? If he’s her boss or future employer, he needs to keep it in his pants. Period.

      If the woman considers her options and chooses the potential fame and fortune over raising the alarm, is she not complicit?
      – NO! She’s scared. Or, she’s jaded because it’s happened so many times, she’s inured. Imagine that. Being so used to seeing a potential employer waving his wang at her, that it’s like watching scenery. If that doesn’t disgust you, then you’re not paying attention.

      If the woman initiates the innuendo of sex for reward of any kind is she not guilty?
      – This isn’t about women doing the same to men, this is about men doing this to women. We can have this other conversation once this has been taken care of.

      When women disguise themselves with beauty products are they not hanging out an “open for business” shingle?
      – Oh F**K NO! Who determined these beauty products were necessary in the first place? Men. Who put them on magazine covers to make sure women bought them? Men. And why would we ‘disguise’ ourselves? Seriously, you consider makeup as a disguise? As a ‘shingle’ to offer sex? OMG, you need some serious help.

      If a customer responds, is the woman under any obligation to accept the offer?
      – What the what? Just because a woman wears makeup, she’s now a prostitute? You need to turn yourself into the nearest police station if you think that. I wear makeup for ME, not for you, not for a man to think I’m ‘open for business’. Why do men shave? Why do men wear cologne? Why do men brush their hair? Are THEY offering their services? Women don’t go around thinking about how to attract a mate (willing or not) – they go about their day, and 99% of that day does NOT involve sex or sexual acts or wanting sex or trying to get sex.

      As long as there is a power difference and greedy people, the potential for corruption exists.
      – Agreed.

      If women are truly altruistic, they will support the new human right to wear personal recording devices wherever we go.
      – Fine. What does this have to do with men in power showing their private bits to women who are not in power?

      If someone agrees to turn off the recording, are they not agreeing to be complicit?
      – You’re straying from the facts again and making this about something this isn’t.

      We have the technology, but apparently not the will, to end corruption.
      – Never will.

      It seems we still think we have potentially more benefits from corruption than harm.
      – Uhh… what?

      Pardon me, but I’m bored by the rhetoric.
      – And I’m bored by your ignorance and dullness. This isn’t about MEN being victimized by WOMEN. This isn’t about YOU. IT’S. NOT. ABOUT. YOU.

      There’s enough empowerment to go around. It’s not pie.

      • Had I accused you of the sexist bias you just demonstrated, you would have denied it.

        How about everyone be accountable for their own actions and feelings.

        You even blame men when you try to make a silk purse out of a sows ear with makeup.

        No accountability, no willpower.

        Thinking like that will define women. Hopeless.

        • What is clear here is that we actually are developing the will to deal with this. This is a watershed moment. And instead of recognizing and encouraging that, you are saying that “We never will develop this will, so we shouldn’t bother doing anything at all.”

          And, I suppose that since some women might willingly and enthusiastically consent to sex with people who have power over them for personal benefit, all women in that situation need to be ignored or punished for that. Does that mean that because some men rape, all men need to be imprisoned?

          The idea that all women should wear body cams all the time so that men think twice about committing sexual assault is patently absurd. How often are you thinking about sexual assault that you feel the need for somebody else to prevent you from doing it? Are you saying that the only thing preventing you from forcing a woman into a closet and whipping out your junk (as Louis C.K. did) is the possibility that she might be recording you? If that is the case, you are hardly holding yourself or other men accountable for their “actions and feelings.” You are holding women responsible for them.

          Makeup isn’t an invitation to prostitution, otherwise it would have been illegal when soliciting was a crime. Does your mother wear makeup? What are her rates and offered services? Do you need to book in advance, or does she take walk ins?

          • I suppose if you could have refuted my argument, you wouldn’t have made up another and try to pass it off as mine.

          • Did you not read your own original post? If I mischaracterized your words, be specific. But from what I can see in your post and subsequent comments I have not fabricated any argument that you did not actually make. You claimed that we lack the will as a society to do anything about this problem. You claimed that if women fail to wear active recording devices at all times then they are culpable in their own assault, that they are “agreeing to be complicit.” You claim that putting on makeup is comparable to “hanging out an “open for business” shingle” and then proceed to refer to “customers,” clearly describing prostitution.

            If I am misunderstanding you, then the fault lies in your ability to clearly articulate your points, not in my ability to understand them.

          • You typed, “you are saying that “We never will develop this will, so we shouldn’t bother doing anything at all.””

            I did not.

            Having the “new right” to record wherever we go, would help all potential criminals develop the will, to choose right over wrong.

            Then you implied that I said that since some women like the attention all others must be ignored.

            That was your fabrication.

            Then you suggested that I meant prostitution.

            Any women or man for that matter who makes their appearance, better, sexier, whatever, to attract attention can consider those attracted potential customers for whatever they’re selling.

            You fabricated it all.

            This is where your type typically cut and run.

          • Sorry for not being an appropriate example of “my type,” whatever that means.

            First off at no point in your comments do you ever indicate that women or other victims should be believed at any point, or that they could be in a position where they have no other option but to accept what is being forced upon them. Instead you only raise potential examples where they would be at fault and thus can be ignored or blamed. As you present no nuance whatsoever, the reader is left with the impression (almost certainly intentional on your part) that if some women do this for their own benefit, then all women do so, or at least all should be doubted or deemed to be at fault.

            In fact, you only describe women’s attitudes to sex in a transactional manner where they are exchanging it to a “customer” for some sort of personal benefit. Prostitutes need not be paid in currency, and women need not have sex only for personal gain. Sometimes they are forced into it, sometimes they are coerced, sometimes they are hoping to procreate, and sometimes they just enjoy it and are willing and enthusiastic participants with no ulterior motive whatsoever.

            As to this “new right,” as you describe it, that is nothing new at all, although I agree with you that technology has made it easier and more common. And in many cases it can and does help. Where I differ from you, and I will quote you here, is where you say that women not actively recording during their assault are “complicit” in it, the clear implication being that they should have to have a recording device on all the time, which may not be possible or desirable for a myriad of reasons, or they need to accept responsibility for their own rape. The only person responsible for a crime is the person who committed it, not the victim. Any other view on that point is not only preposterous and barbaric, but it also ignores the very foundations of our criminal justice system.

        • You have a thing about makeup and how it defines women. You need to explore that before you harm someone.

          • I get it.

            You use makeup to disguise your natural ugliness.

            Get some cosmetic surgery while you’re at it.

            Fill your boots.

            Who knows, with enough effort you may even fool someone besides yourself.

          • So I suppose reconstructive surgery is only for hookers?

            Here is another question: If a woman decides to wear red lipstick because her husband likes it, does that mean that every other man also has free reign to sex with her? Is makeup automatic, implied consent in any and all cases?

          • Do you need to paint your lips fuller, redder and moister to give the appearance of fertility and youth to make your husband horny?

          • Seems your the one who’s naturally ugly. Your words reflect a type of psychopathy that makes me worried for those in your circle, especially women.

            You’re making a mistaken assumption that everything women do is for sex. You must be really lonely.

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