The Last Days of America

In matters of male-female relationships, my working-class brother is fond of saying, “It isn’t the bulge up front that counts – it’s the bulge in back.”

Judging a man by the size of his wallet is kind of like measuring a female by her cup size. Except now it’s a lot easier for a woman to enlarge her breasts than it is for a man to raise his income.

And it’s a lot easier for some women to make a grab for the bulge in back.

Why shouldn’t the Harvey Weinsteins, the Kevin Spaceys, the Charlie Roses have to pay? They can afford it.

Can the rest of us?

So much is being made about this “national conversation” we’re supposedly having. The media have targeted some easy villains – rich, white, male celebrities. These famous men will go through whatever treatment sounds good, pay off their victims and donate to appropriate charities.

The recent scandals keep revisiting Donald Trump’s old Hollywood Access video where he is caught talking frankly about females: “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

For all the outrage directed at Trump, there has been little criticism aimed at the women who are so besotted over famous men. There’s boasting in Trump’s comments, but there is also an element of surprise, as if even he can’t believe it – “they let you do it.”

Years ago a Democratic friend of mine was elected to the California State Assembly, a position of some note. He went to Sacramento, lined up an apartment and attended some introductory get-togethers for new legislators. He told me later:

“They say your social life can be whatever you want it to be!”

Translation: Females will now throw themselves at you.

Even a little bit of power can be a great aphrodisiac. Imagine the lure of serious power and celebrity. Had Bill Clinton been the White House janitor, would Monica Lewinsky have gone down on her knees for him? No way.

There are legitimate reasons for this. Until relatively recently, women didn’t have the same economic opportunities as men (and still don’t in many cultures). Females are biologically wired to seek out good providers, just as males are biologically wired to seek out the young and fertile. Politics – passing new laws – isn’t going to change biology.

The feminist revolution of the 1960s-70s morphed into cultural changes that aided and abetted the Harvey Weinsteins and Charlie Roses. Look at what became popular entertainment. Young women could be as lewd and lascivious as men like Weinstein wanted them to be.

In her 2005 book, “Female Chauvinist Pigs,” writer Ariel Levy explores women and the rise of raunch culture.

Levy attended Wesleyan University in the 1990’s. When she visited as a high school senior, she was taken to a Naked Party.

“I remember giant crepe paper penis and vagina decorations. Group sex, to say nothing of casual sex, was de rigeur. By the time I was in college we heard considerably less than people had in the eighties about ‘No means no,’ possibly because we always said yes.”

We now have more women occupying important roles in our major institutions – law, academia, medicine, business, media, politics – than at any other time in American history.

Part of the “national conversation” should address this question: How come things haven’t gotten better with so many more women in power? Last century we figured out that Father doesn’t always know best. Could it be that neither does Mommie?

Levy’s book includes one reference to Trump. It’s in a section on reality TV and women’s eagerness to bare all:

“NBC’s smash The Apprentice, a show that supposedly hinges on the financial acumen and professional cunning of America’s future business leaders as assessed by Donald Trump, culminated its first season in a thonged flurry of exhibitionism when four of the show’s female cast members appeared in their underwear in the May 2004 issue of (For Him Magazine). For free. As Trump put it to Larry King, they ‘did this for nothing. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t win the contest.’”

Of all people, even Donald Trump understands the importance of women valuing themselves.

In the 12 years since Levy’s book was published, America’s raunch culture has only gotten raunchier. (Imagine what Levy would make of Portland’s “Hump!” Festival.)

It’s too bad America’s feminists couldn’t muster the same outrage against their own complicity in raunch culture that they have shown in their giant hissy-fit since Hillary Clinton lost the race for president.

Now we have these sexual harassment scandals rolled into one huge, misguided outrage. The males and females involved should be regarded as individuals – not as representatives of entire groups.

Roy Moore is not Al Franken. A man in his 30s, who preferred the company of teenage girls, should rightfully be challenged on his character now that he wants to be a U.S. senator. But spare some distaste, too, for America’s obsession with youth.

Franken’s photo of him pretending to grab Leeann Tweeden’s breasts while she slept isn’t even shocking in the context of the entertainment business.

I had never heard of Tweeden so I googled her and found young photos of her showing off her breasts in see-through tops. No wonder Franken thought she would be game. Tweeden needs to acknowledge her own contribution to raunch culture. Her sudden embrace of innocent victimhood probably has more to do with her now middle age. She knows her foxy days are coming to a close.

If any of these high-profile cases trickle down to ordinary, working-class men and women, it might be as a reminder to employers that they are vulnerable to lawsuits if anything approaching sexual harassment occurs. This could also make employers more apprehensive about hiring young women or having men and women sharing a work place.

Most likely the sexual harassment scandals will devolve into a boring rerun. Something new will come along to capture the media’s and the public’s imagination. (We’re overdue for a pandemic. And North Korea has threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the West Coast. That would take American minds off sexual harassment.)

Ultimately, if history is any indication, not much is likely to change.

Last month, I joined other procrastinators who crowded into the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for the final day of “The Last Days of Pompeii,” an exhibit of artifacts from the ancient Roman city destroyed by a volcano.

It could just as easily have been called “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in Pompeii.” Most of the artifacts that had been cleaned up to show off were from the wealthy. The poor, after all, didn’t own much.

The most depressing part of the exhibit was a section of artifacts and a video reconstructing life in a Pompeii brothel, “where men went to buy love.” (Would it have been too offensive to honestly say “where men went to buy sex?”)

The video tried to recreate a day in one particular Pompeii brothel. This brothel had been home to 20 females and had been run by two men, Africanus and Victor.

Two male pimps and one of them black — in 79 AD.

How 21st Century.

– Pamela Fitzsimmons

From the archives:

Lessons in Faking It

8 Comments

  • Retd. teacher wrote:

    Prostitution is called the oldest profession in the world for a reason!

    I enjoyed the OMSI Pompeii exhibit. I understand where you’re coming from. I saw the exhibit on a beautiful summer day with four friends inlcuding one of the friend’s daughter who’s in college.

    She thought the whole thing was troubling. She didn’t like the references to slaves. She thought the mold of bodies were treated like entertainment. I thought it was done in good taste. The brothel segment got to her. The descriptions of how awful the girls’ lives were.

    We went to a restaurant afterwards and sat out on a patio enjoying ourselves. I think that’s what bothered her, comparing her life with their lives. That’s why people need to learn history! We’ve progressed. The world doesn’t have slavery to the extent it had in Pompeii.

  • Retd. teacher wrote:

    I didn’t mean to go off topic. Is sexual harassment worse? I know in my first decade of teaching we didn’t have to deal with some of the things that came up later. Raunch culture has had its effect on both sexes. Parents, especially the break up of the family, has to figure in there.

  • Raunch culture? Jessica Cutler and Washingtonienne, anyone?

    Or how about this bit, hot off of the press from the WaPo:

    While I looked at the top of Blake’s dark-blond head between my knees…”

    That’s from an essay called “My life as a divorced woman is nothing like ‘Wild’ or ‘Eat, Pray, Love'” in a section of the paper called “Solo-ish.”

    Or, to lift from Althouse once again:

    “Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him.”
    “Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference.”

    Said newswoman Cokie Roberts, speaking about John Conyers.

    The question, of course, is why didn’t she or any of the other women in the press corps say it out loud? And what are you still not saying out loud? Are you just waiting until somebody else exposes one of the politicians you have been protecting or is there no one else you’re just hanging back not talking about until the day comes when you’ll be saying, once again, oh, yeah, we all knew that?

    What’s that old SNL line, to paraphrase: Cokie shut up you ignorant slut?

  • Occasionally submarines will fire practice torpedoes or wartime armed torpedoes and they loop around and come to sink the submarine.

    I’ll refrain from drilling down into Trump’s behavior as a capitalist tool, but only recall that this whole thing gained momentum from a desire to destroy the “unacceptable” president. “The Resistance” drove this from the get:

    Veteran radio host and writer Garrison Keillor confirmed Wednesday that he was fired by his longtime broadcast home, Minnesota Public Radio, over accusations of improper behavior.

    Augean Stables meet river and pass the popcorn.

  • They’ve been wanting to get rid of Garrison Keillor for a long time. He has never been a safe, public radio-approved liberal. He is independent and irreverent. Several years ago the local NPR affiliate dropped Keillor’s “Writers Almanac,” five minutes of wisdom. We need more history, not less. Unfortunately, the local public radio decision-makers probably wrote Keillor off as just another old white guy.

    I occasionally post comments on NY Times’ stories and op-eds. Last week, I posted a comment on one of the numerous stories about America’s sexual harassment orgy: “When Jon Stewart falls, ‘Fresh Air’s’ Terry Gross will need therapy.”

    It will take accusations against a Jon Stewart or Barack Obama before the media finally realize they’re fixating on the wrong dangers. North Korea is probably enjoying the show.

  • I’m the dad of two sons and a daughter. You raise a question their mom and I’ve been asking. Can our kids afford what’s happening to this country? Nobody can afford health care or housing.Now it looks like we can’t afford relationships.

    I held my nose and voted for Clinton. When she didn’t make it to the finish line my daughter in college on scholarship threw as you call it, a hissy fit. She was on scholarship. I had to tell her, you forget the protests and get your grades up. Or its community college. She blames men because Clinton didn’t get in.

    My oldest son is in high school and he’s cynical about girls. “I don’t want anything to do with them,” he says. His mom says he’s too young to be a cynic. She’s right. America’s been on the road to ruin for a few decades. Helluva note if it takes N. Korea to kick us in the butt.

  • Your son’s reaction may not be indicative of cynicism. He might have other priorities, and at his age that’s a good thing. One of my young nephews had the same reaction a few years ago when his family moved to a different town, and some neighborhood girls were overly friendly. He wanted nothing to do with them. Smart kid.

    I have friends who are strong Hillary supporters, and even they think the claims of sexual harassment resemble the Salem witch hunts. It’s crossing all political lines now. A friend sent me this:

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/11/30/four-men-allege-sexual-misconduct-senate-president-husband/40ABgRdciNITE1kAYrWsUN/amp.html

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