Sexual harassment is nothing new in today’s world. It wasn’t new 100 years ago; and it might not ever be only a thing of the past. As long as there are men who feel they have a right to impose themselves on women against their will, there will always be that predominantly hidden and unspoken, yet very prominent while often ignored crime that such men choose to believe is not a crime at all. The more rich and/or powerful the man perpetrating this crime of sexual harassment is — and we have to believe and understand that it not only IS a crime, but can also be so devastating as to stay with the woman for many years, if not her whole life, impairing her natural sexual expression — the less he may ever be willing to acknowledge his deed and the harm it may have done.
True, there are acts of sexual harassment committed by women against men, and by either sex against their own sex. There is no limit apparently, except one’s imagination, to how one can inflict or insinuate oneself sexually into the space or life of another. And age, position in life, religious affiliation, fame or anything else does not seem to prevent the offender from offending.
Over the years accusations of sexual harassment that ranged from mild to very grave, from barely worth mentioning — since no one did mention it — to bringing it to the police, have surfaced, and often almost immediately have faded into the shadows until the next big incident — perhaps involving a different man — came to light. We generally discovered that somehow the rich and/or powerful man involved used his power and wealth to keep the accusations at bay, often with threats and non-disclosure agreements forbidding the woman from speaking of the “incident” or bringing it to the attention of the police. How sad it was for America to learn, not so very long ago, of the downfall in this very regard of someone who presented a decent, fatherly, and loving husband image on TV. We have come to see that no one is beyond or above this kind of thing just because of his image on the big or little screen. Bill Cosby left a big dent in his life’s work, to say nothing of the dent he left in his own family. I certainly don’t enjoy knowing what he did.
Yet sexual harassment, complete with charges of rape, has once more come into the light, this time riding the coattails of Harvey Weinstein, a rich and powerful man in the biggest circles of Hollywood and politics — friends with the Clintons and many Hollywood stars — but whose power has been on the wane of late. It is apparently this waning of power, this lessening of his ability to hurt those who did not and never would allow his sexual advances, that makes it easier for those many women to come forth and acknowledge those unwanted advances.
The women that seemed to give in to his advances and demands were likely under heavy threat of losing a job, losing work, losing their pay, being concerned with ever getting work in those particular circles again. Many people might simply judge the women and in some way put all the blame on them — thinking they really are looking for his money or his favors — rather than realizing that this kind of situation is far more common than they realize. And while the women fell into Weinstein’s trap each for their own reason, whether fear or being overpowered by his physical strength, or anything else, fall into his trap they did; and the more women he trapped, the more he felt he could go on doing what he did and getting away with it.
Perhaps we will never know how many women were involved in the Harvey Weinstein circle of sexual harassment and perverse suggestions for his personal enjoyment. Perhaps we will never know how many women have had to put up with this kind of harassment on a daily basis in just trying to survive in a world or a circle where men still believe that women are there to be their own personal playthings. But we do know that his behavior is not easily tolerated or condoned by the general population. His own brother and others in his company, which he had apparently co-started, had to fire him. His wife can no longer stay married to him. His friends and coworkers paid no heed to his last ditch effort of begging for their support — ostensibly to get him through this current situation so he could be allowed to go through therapy to help him avoid the devastation of the consequences of his own long-standing behavior.
Most of us are well aware that there are women who might enjoy or encourage sexual advances of any kind, and may even have started Harvey Weinstein on his path of self indulgence in the sexual arena. But this is not about the women in his life; it is about Harvey Weinstein and all the men that have taken advantage of women in a similar fashion. Whether they really believe that the women they approach are interested in them, or are interested in something they can do for them, the outcome is the same. For one thing, these are usually married men. They are also men who think far too highly of themselves, believing their money, fame, or power can turn any woman’s head in their direction. How little they know.
All in all, those who live only for themselves, for their own pleasure, regardless of the cost to others; those who think somehow that their lives are far more important than the lives of those they take advantage of; those who expect others to do their bidding; those who in the eleventh hour, just before it all comes crashing down around them, try the old “begging for forgiveness and mercy” routine, to gain time in which to look like they’ve made a big change in their life and are a new man, deserving of forgiveness and another chance to prove that they’ve learned their lesson, and yet somehow their change of heart and desire to give up their selfish and even perverse ways never entered their consciousness until the accusers came out of the shadows and started to strip them of everything they hold dear: their work, their reputation, their friends, their family, their money, their self-worth (whatever is left of it), and of course the one thing that got them into this mess in the first place — their power, or belief in their power, or belief that their power would get them anything.
Well, we must remember that it’s called sexual harassment because it’s not wanted; and if it goes beyond that to rape, it’s a crime worthy of punishment, from which one might never return to any semblance of one’s former life.
Would that this latest sexually-related scandal will serve as a lesson to those who still believe that their actions will not come back to haunt them, and ruin the good life they once had.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.