Saturday, November 11, 2017

These Stories Are True

I have learned much about masturbation in the last week, things I never dreamed. Almost 50 years of age and there are still a few important distinctions that have thus far evaded my own knowledge of self-pleasuring tactics. 

It seems you can teach an old dog....

No, I should not flourish or play with language here. There arrives a point when interacting with another human being that their consent is and should be the line that you do not cross. I have crept right up to that line and sniffed it.

Okay, I'll stop it.

A very close friend reached out to me and asked if I really believed what Louis CK did was wrong or just a sexual deviance. The answer is both and yes. Without moralizing, or inflating my own sense of moral value, I think that most people would agree that simply asking is not enough. You must obtain and maintain consent throughout your interaction with a person. This is not always easy to determine, and no two people will always feel the same about when it is required, or perhaps when it has been given verbally but then revoked silently. This is where humanity should prevail, though I would not always rely on the humanity of others. It requires that both people be responsible and communicate, if the intention is to interact. 

That was my friend's point. She said, They were adults, they could have walked away or said No. They didn't. 

She is right, in a sense, but there is more to it and I think that only addresses the legality of what he did. Based on what I have read it does not seem that he crossed that line. But what he did placed those women in positions of inclusive subservience to his sexual interaction with himself and them. He thrust upon them a predicament they did not invite. The reason the terms "sexual misbehavior" and "sexual harassment" exist are to describe situations that are ethically wrong or compromising, circumstances that do not necessarily fall into the area of law. These were women who worked in his field and admired him. He used that to subject them to his sexuality. 

Not a capital crime, but CK did not know these women's histories. They could have been genuinely terrified. The one woman who did participate but then "felt weird afterwards" should be removed from consideration, unless she was a child when the interaction happened. You don't get to revoke consent after that fact. She is an adult. Yes does not get to mean no, ex post facto.

There are a few verbs that keep being used in much of the writing about Louis CK and Harvey Weinstein. He forced them to watch him masturbate. That is a very verb-heavy sentence. If you remove the verbs you are left only with: He them to him - a situational predicament. Another word that gets used is trapped. It does not sound as if the word force or trapped applies to CK, but it does to Weinstein. 

That is a broad assessment based on what was publicly reported. It could be wrong. 

From what I have read, and only recently, the thrill of this type of sexual behavior is in springing the act upon unsuspecting women and trapping them in a false sense of complicity, making them watch when they showed no signs of wanting to see that man masturbate. One article even went so far as to suggest that this is the nice guy's version of rape. I'm not so sure there, but the argument was made and I can see how there may be some merit to it, though the sexual dynamic is too broad to apply intended violence to an act you conduct upon yourself. 

But once that point was floating around in my head, I realized precisely why this type of behavior is so unsettling for some women. It could potentially be terrorizing. Part of the detectable shock in the viewer is the thrill that the onanist is seeking.

Again, maybe not a crime, but it is predatory behavior.  It's the misuse of at least two different types of power. Male power, and its misuse, is the subject of much consideration. We are reminded of this daily, and yet still there are important unanswered questions. It is an ideologues play field, but that does not erase the need to create a better understanding. 

I have been involved in at least two situations where there was a lack of consensus afterwards about the nature and intent of the interaction. It serves no purpose to outline the details here, though my recognition of the impulse to do so is one that I acknowledge and am very wary of.

I still know one of the women and have apologized, while maintaining that there was a lack of necessary verbs in the description of our interaction, and no requirement for consent. It was situational and we each feel differently. At the end of our talks I was left with the clear understanding that I had been disrespectful, something I knew but maybe needed to hear from her for it to matter more. That should not have been the case. I recognize that the presumption of my own innocence is not good enough, and does not in any way address the resulting feelings for her. She feels differently and it seems there may not be a middle ground to agree on and then to move past. 

I just don't know, though I hope so. 

To her: I am sorry.

The other woman I do not have contact with. I have considered reaching out and apologizing over the years, but was never sure how self-serving and possibly uninvited that apology might be, or appear. Reaching out after many years may only reignite some unpleasant feelings for her. I can never be sure how much doing so would only be to absolve my own feelings or justify my actions. There is no amnesty program, or even a reach-out-to-talk system, in place that might facilitate this kind of interaction. 

In addition to that, I would be lying if I claimed there to be only a sense of wanting to apologize. The details are murky based on our differing descriptions and I have always wished to declare my innocence with "my side of the story." I do not believe she would be very interested in clarifications of blamelessness now. I could be wrong.

Drugs and alcohol were involved; it seems there are no entirely reliable witnesses. 

I suppose it may be as easy as saying, If you're willing to talk then so am I. I would like to bring some possible closure to this, for both us. Again, this might be entirely uninvited and self-serving. There are no easy answers. Situations have no responsibility to speak the same truth to all participants.

What do you say to a person that has accused you of wrongdoing or impropriety? You reach out to them to be re-accused, only to explain to them why and how they are wrong about their feelings? The potential for defensiveness runs very high. That can not possibly be the best step forward. Do you simply accept another person's accusations? 

This is where many men feel that there is no equality whatsoever between the sexes and they want only to avoid this potentially disastrous dynamic of the ages. If a person ducks it is not always from guilt, it can simply be to avoid unpleasant conflict and the continuation or expansion of another person's pain. No person is automatically right in any given misunderstanding. This is where the court of public opinion gets everything wrong, and part of why so much is kept private. This is true for both women and men.

It seems that with the #MeToo movement women want very much just for men to listen. That seems easy enough, yet many men I know don't want to listen at all. They do not wish to acknowledge this type of pain. They may be incapable of handling it, or they only wish to not believe its ubiquitous veracity. That's not good enough. 

That being said, how easy is it to listen to any accusation or assertion and to respond only with an apology? That may be the high road and the best road. I am not entirely confident that I have it in me to do so, but I would be willing to try. 

If women are able to publicly state that they have been subject to unwanted interactions then there should be no shame for a man to state that he has done things that he is not entirely comfortable with, regardless of blame or how much time has passed. If women are still enduring these feelings then it should not be alone and in a vacuum. To touch a woman but then not care at all about the effect that touch has should be something that cautions you from touching that woman.

In a perfect world.

Perhaps she will read this and reach out to me. I do have an apology for her, one concerning the situation and how it made her feel. I also have some clarification on my understanding of our interaction, though it may not be necessary after all of these years. 

Those sentences above might not be not very inviting. What can be done? 

If she does read this: I am sorry. I could have done better.