On distinguishing creeps from abusers, Weinsteins from Spaceys; female strength vs. male fragility

Creepo? Yes. Abuser? Ehhm.

For some reason, the Harvey Weinstein scandal has given victims the “courage” to come out against their accusers. Why they need media hype is somewhat baffling. Many of Weinstein’s accusers didn’t need it; they had already gone to the police and had received thousands of dollars in settlements. Others had tried going to the press, but had been intimidated by his lawyers or his hired ex-Mossad agents. Some, working in an industry where he could squish them, put their careers first, as one does when bills must be paid. Hence, the reasons for the stalling of the Weinstein intrigue were mostly economic, and had little to do with “courage”. Women aren’t actually that timid. And they seek justice. 

Hence the stark difference between the Weinstein and the Spacey scandal. Latching onto the actions of women who had been battling a harasser for years, dozens of men have now had the “courage” to denounce one of Hollywood’s finest: Kevin Spacey. There had been no settlements, no intimidations, no ex-Mossad agents. Yet these men compare their new-found “courage” to that of women who had endured years of torment. Asia Argento was raped. Rose McGowan was raped. Unnamed women were raped. They told Weinstein to stop. He went on against their will. They wanted to work. He made work contingent upon sex.  Setting aside very American measures of morality, we should ask:

Did Spacey rape anyone?

Did Spacey make work contingent upon sex?

Did Spacey force someone to do anything after they had said “no”?

These three questions are all answered in the negative, if one examines the evidence so-far provided. What is in the affirmative, however, is that he groped men’s genitals, which has become manifest beyond question. What really ought to be judged here is how acceptable is groping in a social context. Not the groping of a stranger, which is obviously wrong, but the groping of someone one knows and one believes to have a possibility of sexual chemistry. Here is the thin line, the thin line that the outraged public morality has refused to acknowledge. There’s the regular creep on the train who presses his hand against a woman’s butt: the police is promptly called, and the matter taken care of. Such is the case of Donald Trump, who touched the breasts of a random woman on a plane after she had repeatedly told him to stop (hey, why isn’t he getting ostracized?). But what if both parties knew each other? And instead of the train, it’s the bar? And if both parties were socializing, and one party thought this was flirting? The woman might put her arm around the guy’s shoulder: is that already inappropriate touching? If she decides to be forward and put it on his crotch, is it sexual assault?  In any case, what do these bar and club stories have to do with Weinstein, who serially harassed women in professional settings?

Much of the content of the accusations and subsequent moral judgements against Spacey involve cultural, not ethical, standards. He has been called a “pedophile” by news media, even though all his accusers were post-pubescent and hence by definition not children.  When he came out as gay as part of his new turn to honesty, he was lambasted for “conflating homosexuality with pedophilia”, when he had done nothing of the kind (–it was in fact in the mind of the very news media which had accused him). He has been accused of giving drinks to an 18 year old, but the U.S. is an oddity in its high alcohol age limits. He has been shamed for groping a teenager “while his father was in the room”, but many people might find that a turn-on. There has been no objective ethical evaluation of each act in of itself. Using ethics, and not morals, as my meter, I shall now analyze the various accusations on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 meaning “no harm done”, and 10 meaning “this was an unethical act”.

  1. Anthony Rapp

Spacey pinned him down to a bed and tried to kiss him while they were at a party. The fact Rapp was 14 makes no difference on an ethical plane. 14 may not be the age of consent in the United States, but the law is not concerned with ethics (and ethics are all that matter in ethical judgement, not the law). Attraction to a 14-year-old is not pedophilia, it is ephebophilia, and is quite common, and sex with a 14-year-old is legal in many countries such as the U.K. and Brazil. It is only socially awkward for a 26-year-old to show up with a 14-year-old boyfriend

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 5/10. Bad behavior at a party and way too forceful flirting.

  1. Robert Cavazos

Spacey had reportedly prepared a “picnic with champagne”. Seems eccentric, not rapey.Cavazos reports Spacey “touched him”. Where exactly? Patting the shoulders, the arms, even the legs are commonplace for people in performance arts; soccer players routinely grab each other by the balls. Do they ask each other’s permission first?  

Harassment in the workplace: Semi. Depends on where the touching happened.

Assault meter: Ranges from 1/10 to 7/10, depending on where he touched him.

  1. “John”

The man came to Spacey’s apartment willingly at his invitation, to spend the night. He declined sexual advances, slept on the couch, and awoke to the actor hugging him.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 1/10. If a guy came over to my place and declined to have sex but I still (mistakenly) thought there was chemistry between us, I might go and hug him. Then get pushed off. More embarrassing for me than for him. True story.

  1. The anonymous boyfriend

The accuser had a “relationship” with Spacey when he was 14 and Spacey 24. 10 years age difference (personally, I’ve never had a relationship that wasn’t less than 8 years difference). He then says Spacey “attempted to rape him” without specifying further.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Ethical scale: 1/10 if it was just the consensual sexual relationship between a teenager and an adult. 8/10 if there was attempted rape. But where are the details? Rape accusations presented to the media without criminal investigation are ethically murky.

  1. Anonymous production assistant

Spacey allegedly put his hand “down the accuser’s pants”. The language is not specific: is it under the pants? Under the underpants? Down as in over the pants and downwards? All these are possibilities, and change the nature of the cruising attempt.

Harassment in the workplace: Yes.

Assault meter: 4/10 (if there was genital grabbing then 7/10). Not enough details provided.

      6. Anonymous British journalist

They both went to a club together after an interview, hence it was not in a professional context. Then Spacey grabbed his genitals.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 7/10. It’s a good idea to only grope someone’s genitals in a club after at least kissing the person. Though some people with more fun club encounters than mine may disagree.  

  1. Daniel Beal

The bartender tells of how he was “disgusted” by Spacey attempting to flirt with him, then flashing him. The actor, out of embarrassment, shame, confusion, then gave him an expensive Swiss watch, which he showed off in the photo below. Is this the face of someone who has been traumatized by sexual assault? Or a man basking in his five minutes of fame?  

Capture d_écran 2017-11-09 à 10.54.16

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 5/10 because that man does not look traumatized in that photo.

  1. Justin Dawes

Spacey invited him to his house and played pornography on the TV. As Dawes called it in his statement, “awkward”. Awkward. If a date did that to me, I’d leave and have a story to tell at dinner parties. Not a sexual assault about which to be traumatized.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 1/10. Not assault, just weird.

  1. Mark Ebenhoch

The man accuses Spacey of soliciting him for sex. I’ve solicited people for sex. It’s not a crime everywhere, you know.

Harassment in the workplace: Semi (depends on whether one considers asking someone out “harassment”).

Assault meter: 1/10. I don’t even see why this is an accusation.

  1. Harry Dreyfus

Spacey groped his genitals (adding “when he was 18” and “when his father was in the room” are forms of morally judging the circumstances; groping someone’s genitals when they’re 18 and with their parent in the room can be fine, if it’s consensual). Not cool. Completely inappropriate to do that to someone you don’t know. Should you go to jail for it? Eh. Dreyfus himself “told jokes about it at parties”.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 7/10. Groping is weird.

  1. Tony Montana

Another case of genital grabbing, this time in a drunken state at a bar.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: Another 7/10. No ethical difference between it being at a bar or with someone’s father in the room.

  1. Kris Nixon

Genital grabbing in a drunken state at a bar.

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 7/10. Creepy groper.

  1. Heather Unrah’s son

“Got her son drunk” then groped his genitals in a bar. Yes, 18 is not yet the legal drinking age in the U.S., but no, that does not matter on the ethical plane. Only the groping matters. Groping is bad, but it is not the same as attempted rape (which is what his mother has called this; she also emphasized that her son is straight, which makes the attempted rape charge seem kind of homophobic).

Harassment in the workplace: No.

Assault meter: 7/10. Spacey obviously has a groping issue, manual fixation. I don’t think people should be sent to prison for manual fixation.

Spacey’s accusers and various commentators have said that the actor’s position and fame have allowed him to go on with impunity. It is precisely the opposite fact. If Spacey weren’t a famous actor, he’d just be another awkward groper, banned from clubs and bars. The incidents have only come to limelight because he basks in it. Otherwise, they would have been brushed off with the comment to a friend: “can you believe some weirdo came and grabbed my crotch?”. If there was any distress of the possible occurrence of assault, the truth would come out: “no, I backed away and he backed off”. The incident would rest. The night would go on. Spacey’s fame means it doesn’t, for instead of “some weirdo” it was “Kevin Spacey”.

Kevin Spacey is a weirdo. A weirdo like any other. I, like most women, have had my share of weirdos trying to awkwardly make an advance. The owner of a farm at which I worked informally gave me an unsolicited back rub while I was sitting for lunch. It was weird. I didn’t ever let it happen again. Yet does he deserve to be stripped of his job, publicly humiliated, ostracized from polite society for it? Private whispers “that dude is a weirdo” to mutual acquaintances seems fair punishment enough.

Distinguishing between creepos and abusers is something to which women have become finely attuned. We don’t send every guy who asks to have sex with us out of the blue to jail. That would be preposterous, and would make most Tinder conversations criminal offenses. We do call the police when they won’t back off. Creepos are to be ignored, abusers are to be tried in court. Men, it seems from these accusations, have not learnt the difference. Spacey’s accusers are treating a weirdo as a rapist. One plausible explanation for these men’s outcries is that men are not accustomed to blows to their ego. Women get catcalled, we find it infuriating, we wish it would stop and hate the men who do it, but we brush it off. We don’t go to the police for it every time. All the catcallers together make public space a hassle for women, but the individual catcaller doesn’t traumatize a woman. The explosion of the Spacey scandal illustrates what happens when men get catcalled. They aren’t protesting the harassment, they are protesting their emasculation.  

Spacey is weirdo who does his day-job well. Until true ethically compromising charges are pressed (those which warrant 10/10, an actual non-consensual rape), then we should allow him to keep doing his job. And release that Gore Vidal biopic, because if anyone had anything sensible to say on the sexual dynamics of power between men, it would him.

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