In her op-ed column in Wednesday’s Times, Bari Weiss, staff editor and writer for that section, reacts angrily to a recent addition to the #metoo complaint catalog, an account of someone’s hookup with Aziz Ansari. The young woman who posted her grievance objected to the comedian’s ignoring her non-verbal cues and her discomfort with his advances. There was no molestation, no assault, just a young woman with some unsatisfactory sex. Bari Weiss objects to the fact that the woman didn’t act on her own feelings, that she relinquished her own agency and then was blaming someone else. Surprisingly, Ms. Weiss doesn’t mention an article that preceded this one in the Sunday Times entitled, “For a Hookup, Just Use Your Words” by Gabrielle Ulubay, a writer who recently graduated from college. Here, the author is not offended at being used just for sex since she herself had invited the man over only for that purpose - her discontent is that he confused her with his disarming compliments such as calling her “smart, funny, creative and the girl of his dreams.” He told her that he’d see her later but never called again. This naive young woman is is asking not for better sex or more intimacy but less flattery and ghosting (disappearing without explanation). How someone can be comfortable with the zipless sex first described by Erica Jong (Fear of Flying) but hypersensitive to the eternal lack of truth in seduction is a by-product of the message with which young women have been indoctrinated since the 70’s.
Neither Bari Weiss nor Gabrielle Ulubay is concerned with the essential problem of today’s hookup culture. Originating in the 70’s on campuses which had begun to offer co-ed dorms and bathrooms and heralded by the Women’s Movement which viewed casual sex as another entitlement affording girls the same freedoms that boys had, hooking up has been a disaster for both sexes. Obama’s imposition of Title IX university sex patrols tied to eligibility for government aid only added to the fiasco, creating a default system in which women were absolved of responsibility for engaging in unwanted sex. Only males were held responsible in situations where both individuals were drunk, and males were presumed guilty in situations where sex between the two had occurred before but where the woman claimed not to have given consent on this occasion. The message was loud and clear: women are not required to take care of themselves - they have the school watching over them in loco parentis and they could get blotto to their heart’s content and still blame someone else for unwelcome consequences.
The Feminist Movement that began with the aim of giving women their VOICE has degenerated into infantilizing them instead. #metoo is an extension of that, praising women for speaking out years after the fact, allowing anonymity, disclaiming the factor of memory distortion over time and refusing to make distinctions between assault and awkward behavior. It is the opposite of brave to simply join a mass movement when it’s trendy and easy to do. It should never be anyone else’s job to mediate in a private he-said she said sexual encounter with no assault, no biological evidence and no witnesses. If a girl is assaulted on campus, that should be reported to the police, not a grief counselor or an academician. If a girl has experienced unsatisfying casual sex, she needs to question what judgment got her into that predicament - often the answer is excessive drinking and the destructive culture of hooking up. Not every experience can be adjudicated - some must remain regrettable incidents we may learn from.
The same applies to the workplace where many protective rules and laws have been in existence for decades. Women who are old enough to work, vote, join the army, raise children certainly should be expected to refrain from putting themselves in harm’s way. Going to someone’s hotel room or apartment should set off an alarm that you will be alone in a private space with someone you may not know very well, if at all. Some of the complaints that have cost men their careers involved two women and one man - all unarmed. What prevented the two women who sat and watched Louis C K masturbate from simply leaving the premises? What prevented the young woman who was uncomfortable with Aziz Ansari’s advances from leaving his apartment? Why are any of us privy to these examples and why isn’t our reaction one of annoyance at a complaint from someone too foolish or insecure to do the obvious - stand up and leave.
#metoo glorifies very childish behavior; as early as kindergarten, students are encouraged to settle their own disputes before running to the teacher and tattling. Women have had agency for a long time and have made impressive strides in professional and public life. Now is the time to stop confessing victimhood, stop whining and be competent adults who know how to discourage unwelcome grope, use existing laws to ensure fairness at work and walk away from unpleasant people or situations at the time that they appear or occur. hashtag#ALL GROWN UP.
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