Sowing Wild Oats
October 5, 2018 (1,829 words)
Today is the one-year anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, which kicked off and gave voice to the #MeToo movement. As this past year has unfolded, I have found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The ongoing wave of testimonials against high-profile men has left one wondering if there is any man of a certain age who hasn’t been guilty of sexual harassment. The deluge of distasteful reports has left an indelible impression that essentially all men are by their very nature prone to sexually predatory behavior. It’s just the select few who enjoy a measure of authority in the workplace who get to act out this inbred inclination.
While I wouldn’t for a minute try to challenge such a scary assertion, I would like to point out this stark assessment hardly qualifies as news. After all, it was controlling the notoriously wayward male sexual impulse that was a hallmark of the now-discarded Christian era. It was masculine self-control that brought us such quaint, by-gone notions as The Age of Chivalry.
While virtues such as modesty and humility and chastity have always been a heavy lift down through the ages, and have been especially under siege from the cognoscenti throughout the modern era, it’s our very own “sexual revolution” of the 1960s that has been responsible for the shabby way men have been treating women of late.
… we hold the sexual revolution in high regard
That no one seems able or willing to make the connection is a measure of the high regard in which we hold that revolution. We consider its tenets to be an essential component of modern dogma. We all embraced its by-laws, men and women alike. We agreed to a unilateral repudiation of all physical inhibitions, the dispensing with moribund social conventions and societal expectations, in order to let it all hang out and give our true natural full expression.
Free love with no strings attached may have been the banner under which we all marched in the beginning. Fifty years on we are learning that the two genders have internalized those free-wheeling early guidelines very differently, in ways that aren’t the least bit compatible.
If I have this right, women want above all else to be liberated from their biology. They want to do more than get pregnant and procreate, only to raise kids and keep house. They want to spread their wings and pursue fulfillment through rewarding careers outside the home.
(This heady, inspirational rhetoric belies the fact that most employment is little more than paid drudgery, and a high percentage of women have had no choice but to seek employment outside the home, due to economic drivers that have undermined our once thriving middle class.)
… liberating men form their responsibilities
Men, on the other hand, have only always sought liberation from their responsibilities. In this context, that liberation has meant no longer tethering their sex drive to one woman in the covenant of marriage, with the associated burden of faithfully raising whatever children may result from such a union. Without this tether, left to their own devices, men have always created havoc in whatever strata of society they are found to matriculate.
The hand-wringing of the past year has apparently led no one to draw the obvious, unavoidable conclusion. When men and women agree to liberate themselves from the chains of morality, one of those groups is bound to suffer unintended, uninvited consequences.
So while I thoroughly empathize with women who have been forced to endure unwanted sexual advances, not to mention those who have had fondling, molestation, and full-blown rape foisted upon them, I am nevertheless waiting for a wider recognition on the part of these women that it’s not just lascivious, out-of-control men who are the problem, but rather our entire lascivious, out-of-control operating system regarding sexuality that is faulty at its core.
#MeToo survivors may think of themselves as victims who were minding their own business and did nothing to deserve being at the receiving end of such sexual criminality. To my mind they are actually more like collateral damage of the suspect ideology both men and women have willingly devoted their lives to.
… there is never any justification for harassment or assault
There is never any justification for harassment or assault. And it’s true that much of this bad behavior is attributable to renegade men who refuse to observe propriety, or personal boundaries of any kind. This is what we are hearing about the most, and it is deplorable in every instance.
But there is also a fair amount of squishy motivation at work in many of these scenarios, a fair amount of mixed signals being sent which constitute a certain degree of extenuating circumstance.
By and large men in their natural state are very simple creatures who operate on an easy-to-decipher system of impulse gratification. This is not offered as an excuse, only as an objective statement of fact. In this new, sexually liberated landscape many such men are finding it difficult to differentiate between what is appropriate male-female behavior, and what remains off limits.
One minute they are expected to treat women as brothers-in-arms, breaking down the barriers of pre-conceived gender roles by treating their good-looking counterparts as nothing more than one of the guys. But then in what seems like the very next minute, when the physical attractiveness inevitably kicks in and blurs their sense of right and wrong, they are supposed to revert back to knights in shining armor who respect and defer to the fairer sex.
… say “no” before you leave the bar, and just go home
For instance, when will someone get around to pointing out that maybe it’s not such a good idea to have drinks and then decamp to someone’s apartment or hotel room, only to suffer molestation or outright rape? The time to say “no” is before you leave the bar, isn’t it? And maybe you should not attend that keg party at a frat house in the first place, only to find yourself upstairs in bed, underneath somebody who might very well be as drunk as you are, who is trying to take your clothes off.
The latter example points up the distinction that should be made between the sexual harassment of adult women by their male co-workers or superiors in the workplace, and that same sort of harassment of young women on dates. The latter discussion brings us to the emotionally charged confirmation process of recent Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, age fifty-three.
As everyone knows by now, in the late stages of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings to review his nomination, Judge Kavanaugh was accused by three women of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature while he was a senior at an elite Catholic high school, Georgetown Prep, and as a freshman at Yale.
Since these episodes happened so long ago, and because no formal charges were filed at the time, the women involved had trouble remembering all the details of the alleged incidents, and corroborating witnesses were also hard to come by.
So this confrontation turned into a classic “he said, she said” stalemate. Kavanaugh, who has enjoyed a stellar reputation as a Washington, D.C. jurist for the last twelve years, had sixty-five women sign a letter on his behalf, stating what a swell guy he is, and what a promoter of women in the workplace he also is. The general tenor of this support is, “the Brett I know could never have done this.”
… one does not eliminate the possibility of the other
But as opinion writer Frank Bruni points out in “The Many Faces of Brett Kavanaugh” (The New York Times, Sept 26), the fact that Judge Kavanaugh has grown up and matured into a responsible adult in no way eliminates the possibility that he was a young man who, according to multiple accounts, may have partied a bit too heartily at times, and who may very well have attempted to force himself on a few unsuspecting and decidedly unwilling young women while intoxicated.
In listening to and reading and watching all the gory details, how many men across the country felt pangs of guilt over their own youthful (or not so youthful) behavior? How many were silently saying to themselves some (perhaps secular) variation of the well-known mea culpa, “there but for the grace of God go I”?
All these other men may not have come from the same privilege as Kavanaugh, and may not have felt the sense of entitlement he apparently did. But there is no doubting that a couple generations of young men have been raised with the license born of the sexual revolution to behave toward young women the way this handsome preppy is said to have behaved.
This is what the once benign, innocuous “sowing of wild oats” has deteriorated into in this, our age of sexual revolution. Should youthful indiscretion disqualify someone from high office? We are all supposed to be eligible for forgiveness and a second chance. But some indiscretions are more odious and harder to dismiss than others.
… unfurling partisan invective as a smoke screen
As we know, in confronting the charges against him this Supreme Court nominee eventually chose to set aside any pretense of judicial decorum and instead unfurled a final wave of partisan invective at his accusers, who he claimed were engaged in a calculated plot to “smear my good name.” This has become standard operational procedure, and such power plays leave many ordinary citizens feeling defeated and demoralized.
Out here in the hinterlands we are taught to own up to our mistakes and ask for mercy. But being rich and/or powerful and/or in the public eye means never having to say you’re sorry, and never having to get around to admitting you ever did anything wrong in the first place.
If Judge Kavanaugh wanted to maintain a high-profile career, he probably had no other choice. He lashed out in order to save his professional hide. Such is the way of the world.
What else could he be expected to do? Well, reflecting on these alleged, long-ago deeds in a careful and thoughtful manner would have gone a long way to maintaining his integrity and maybe putting his soul at rest, as well as disarming the contentious protests that have ensued.
As a parting bit of advice to all you virile young (and not so young) men, consider how the better part of valor would be to hue to a pre-1960s approach to sexual morality.
It’s time to recalibrate. Let’s dial down the societal anarchy by shelving the free love with no strings attached concept that has created so much strife between the two sexes. Then you won’t have to worry about a youthful (or not so youthful) indiscretion coming back to haunt you later in life.
Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
October 05, 2018