Thursday, November 16, 2017

Uneasy about #MeToo

Fair and balanced still works for me.

In my previous post I took Vanessa Grigoriadis to task for sloppy thinking about the wave of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I owe it to you to present a writer who grasps the complexity of these issues. But, who masks her identity behind a pseudonym, Lexa Frankl.

Writing on Quillette Frankl recounts the time when she, an eighteen-year old college freshman got very drunk, invited a boy up to her room, had consensual sex with him and woke up in the morning wondering what she had done. Through this encounter she also contracted herpes.

Was she raped? Or not?

And who was I to accuse someone of a crime when I knew perfectly well that it was partly my own recklessness that had placed me in jeopardy? I had willingly embraced a degree of risk in my pursuit of pleasure. I had drunk to excess, I had invited a man I had just met back to my home, and I had willingly engaged in unprotected sex. 8 or 9 times out of 10, the only consequences would have been fleeting regrets and a headache. But I was old enough to know that I might be unlucky. And so I was.

When she looked at feminist sites, she discovered that, to their mind, she had been assaulted. She felt that she had made a mistake. They told her that she had been a victim:

Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”

One can ask where a female freshperson got the idea that it was good to get blind drunk and then to have sex with a stranger. One suspects that the counsel did not come from the patriarchy, or even the girl’s mother.

Frankl then addresses the issue of personal responsibility:

Even an abnormally unreflective person will be able to come up with examples of occasions when their own foolish decisions have contributed to their misfortune. In a liberal society, we are free to make our own choices. But when those choices predictably increase personal vulnerability or risk, we are usually expected to take moral responsibility for shouldering the possible consequences of that risk.

Feminists insist that a woman should be able to behave as she pleases. If she suffers an assault, it is not her fault. Of course, no one ever thought it was, so we happily concur. And yet, Frankl reasons, if you fail to wear a seat belt and get into an accident where the other car was clearly at fault, does it provide you with any consolation to know that it was not your fault?

I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.

She continues:

In the modern day West, we rightly accept that men and women ought to be able to dress as they please without being subject to moral opprobrium. But that doesn’t alter the fact that revealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose. Because this effect is indiscriminate, a foreseeable consequence is that it will attract both wanted and unwanted attention.

The issue has become so fraught that it is worthwhile to read Frankl’s sensible approach. There is no such thing as a human being who is ever able to do exactly what he or she pleases, without being responsible for some of the consequences.

After all, if nearly five decades of feminism have produced a war between men and women, the chance are good that someone is going to get hurt. If you want fewer people to get hurt, call off the war and return to proper decorum and even dating.

In Frankl’s words:

To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’ If identifying and acknowledging such behaviors is to become taboo, then how are people supposed to mitigate the risks associated them, or to make informed judgments about whether a particular risk is worth the benefits it affords?

It’s all about infantilizing women… relieving them of all personal responsibility and moral agency. Who knew?

But by demanding that women renounce personal responsibility, contemporary feminists and sexual assault activists reduce adults capable of agency and choice to children capable of neither. This is a disempowerment trap, and it was only once I was able to accept responsibility for my own actions that I was able to reclaim my sense of autonomy, repair my shattered self-esteem, and move forward with my life. Instead of embracing a distorted view of the opposite sex, or blaming my upbringing, or surrendering to the passivity of inert victimhood, I emerged from the experience stronger and freer, with a greater sense of self-worth, and a more realistic understanding of the world.


James said...

The "Obvious" is "Banal"? Well, someone has a sense of humor.
Here it is in it's proper place. Gotta watch were I'm commenting.

Jack Fisher said...

There have been powerful women in Hollywood and in politics for decades. Why did they contribute to the norm where sexual harassment wasn't called that, but was an expected albeit unspoken way of pay to play? They taught each new crop of young, naive and gullible actresses and interns to bend over and take it. They led by example of silent acquiescence and are as guilty as the men they enabled, of whom Weinstein and Bill Clinton are only prominent examples of an entire culture.

James said...

Certain abstentions.

Ares Olympus said...

Two decades ago I participated in a mock-jury for an accident where someone had severe injuries in a collision with a truck going the opposite way doing a left turn in front of her. I wanted to know if she was wearing a seat belt, and was surprised neither side mentioned the question, and so I presumed she wasn't, and so in my mind, she was partially culpable for her injuries. Later I asked and the defense lawyer said my presumption was correct, that she wasn't wearing the belt.

Victim mentality certainly seems destructive, but it exists because there are rewards, and it is more convincing if you believe yourself, that you were unaware of the risks, or your means of self-defense.

I recall Camille Paglia's version of feminism. She didn't like the protective environment colleges were providing for women, and was willing to be responsible for what happens to herself. That seems a fair summary of the anti-victim mentality. It doesn't mean you can't hold people accountable. It means you can get past something you didn't like whether or not accountability is achieved.

The starting point is to give up the illusion of innocence. If you want to be an adult, innocence is a bad deal. If you want to be innocent, that means you really want to wear a burka and have your male family members escort you through the world.

dfordoom said...

@Jack Fisher

"There have been powerful women in Hollywood and in politics for decades. Why did they contribute to the norm where sexual harassment wasn't called that, but was an expected albeit unspoken way of pay to play?"

Lots of those powerful women in Hollywood benefited from the system. They were only too happy to trade sex for career advancement. There's little doubt that plenty of women in politics have reached the top by the same means.

If you don't like the smell then don't jump into the cesspit. And Hollywood and politics are both cesspits.

These women only start complaining when their careers start to slide.