So there’s a film that can’t be finished, right now at least, because the director is alleged to be some sort of sexual predator and all the attention and speculation is giving the predator “health issues.” The details of this particular story, for the sake of my inquiry, don’t matter. This is just one of the many stories circulating in media and political circles right now.
I can’t help asking all those without any scriptural, spiritual rudder: “What did you think was going to happen?”
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, growing up in a religious home, the Los Angeles Times constituted one representation of the studiously secular, humanist, Brave New World we were all being asked to embrace. The Sunday paper included a regular ad in the Calendar section. It featured a hugely buxom model demanding, I think, “sexual freedom now.” If memory serves, there was a gathering of naked human silhouettes behind her, joining in on the chorus. The live burlesque show it appeared to be advertising appeared right alongside advertising for major feature films, and it must have run for sometime, because whenever you checked for new movies, there was the Viking love goddess insisting on sexual freedom.
When you’re a thirteen your old boy, it’s not just the image of a nearly naked woman that gets you thinking. It’s the improbable notion of her demanding sex that hints at some nirvana out there—some club everyone knows about but you. And it’s not just the stuff of weird Hollywood side shows. When your English teacher in 7th grade excuses the whole class to watch a nurse putting a condom on her finger, giggling awkwardly, as she says, “well, sorry, you can tell I’m not a boy,” you get the sense that your public school, your representation of the state, is hinting that the entire world regards sexuality as something you just consume, casually, buffet style. The birth control, and the STD material, was something like a licensing procedure for the adult world. Everyone is having lots of sex. Right? I mean the Viking woman in the LA times is demanding it, and she’s doing it right next to the ad for The Poseidon Adventure and True Grit.
On the other side of this, the church world was doing a minor freak out. Caught unready to respond to the science of birth control and disease prevention, it responded, in many cases, by demonizing sex itself, when it should have been demonizing selfish, careless, emotionally shallow sex. (The bible is a responsible, celebratory sex manual, after all.) Economic maturity was taking longer to achieve and religious teenagers were being asked to put it all off until their late twenties. Play some basketball. Work on your savings account. Get through college, and try to forget about the Viking maiden hungry for love.
The truth is that there is no Viking maiden hungry for indiscriminate sex. In a world without betrothals and the formal courting rituals of the past, in a world drunk on the fiction of pornography, in a world demanding the normalization of formerly taboo and disgusting appetites, people—men mostly—find out that sexual hunger is not satisfied by an objective request. Would any reasonable woman respond positively to a man who simply asked, “can I have sex with you?” Almost by design, that sort of surrender feels cheap. It begs failure. This chase is a weird dance, a melody without a score. They call it “seduction” for a reason, so men test the waters. They experiment with their aggression tool box. Some of the aggression is more or less benign. A compliment is unappreciated and the gentleman takes the hint. A drink is offered and it is accepted or rejected. Some men, realizing that wealth and power constitute an asymmetrical advantage, go full stop wild boar. They clutch and grab and force themselves on their prey, and to make matters worse, some of their victims simply offer themselves up, in return for jobs, or status, or acceptance. Without penalty, the Harvey pigs go feral.
More broadly, among a generation promised unlimited sexual fulfillment, of every imaginable sort, without any provision made for the timeless reality of asymmetric desire, and the emotional barriers against promiscuity built into us, I repeat my question: what did you think was going to happen?
The standard you threw away is something you should reconsider. The ancient Biblical sex manual is pretty handy. Marry the girl. Give her a home. Love your wife. Put on a sexy show for your husband. Make each other omelettes and bacon the next morning.
It actually works, and you wind up with fewer predators hiding in their hotel rooms, unable to finish the movie about the weirdo no one wanted to hear about anyway.