The only thing more hideous than the list of men at the wrong end of sexual misconduct finger-pointing are the ridiculous explanations these men make for their behavior. But while they are irritating, the non-apology apologies tell us something about what men – or at least these men – think about sex.
We might think, for example, that men have short term memories when it comes to sex. They simply cannot recall ever misbehaving in the presence of a woman. But let’s get clear: this isn’t a memory problem, it’s an understanding problem. It’s not that they don’t remember doing anything wrong; rather, they really do not believe that what they did was wrong.
Clearly, many men are woefully unprepared to behave like decent, respectful humans. Each time I ask a man “What were you taught about sex, sexual intimacy, and respect for women?” he looks at me like I asked if he wanted to have his balls deep fried and served to him for dinner. In other words: speechless.
As a public service, then, to all those men who are confused and struck stupid by yet another wave of #MeToo moments, let’s examine the growing catalog of Male Apologies to separate delusion from reality. It may be too late for the apologists, but it just may help some men avoid the mistakes of their fathers.
Let’s start with this gem from the Lion of Sexual Assault, Mr. Harvey Weinstein:
“I came of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”
No sir, the rules were not different then. For millennia, human decency has generally been understood to mean “keep your bloody hands to yourself, asshole.”
Charlie Rose, whose workplace rules easily predate Mr. Weinstein’s, at least had the good sense to say that he was just confused.
“I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”
Yes, those “shared feelings” are often difficult to assess, but here’s one clue: if you are the only one in the room who is naked, your feelings are not shared.
Perhaps, then, a man might think that he should ask directly in order to validate his “feelings”.
“I said to myself that what I did was ok because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first.” – Louis C.K.
I’m sorry, Louis, but you would be wrong. If one must ask if it is ok to masturbate, then there is at least one more person in the room than necessary to get the job done.
Some men, of course, simply don’t understand the nature of sexual harassment.
“None of the women who came forward were ever in a position where I could make or break their careers. Sexual harassment requires that I have such power.” – Robert Scoble
Sorry, Robert, but that’s not how it works. You can be guilty of sexual harassment even if you’re just an ordinary asshole. And, as a bonus lesson, Robert, when you start a sentence with “I hate to be the person who outs [a specific woman] for her own abuse,” I’m guessing that you really don’t hate doing it at all.
Deflection is often an effective strategy, but as employed by Kevin Spacey, it is just plain wrong.
“I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Do not blame the gays! You are not a sexual predator because you were a closeted gay man. You are a sexual predator because you are a sexual predator.
Of course, one’s bad behavior can be written off as just a fluke.
“I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.” – Dustin Hoffman
First, remember that we must interpret a phrase like “anything I might have done” or its cousin “if I did anything” to mean “I am a clueless halfwit.” Which then makes it clear that “It is not reflective of who I am” actually means “It is exactly who I am.”
One sure sign that you are as reckless as you are clueless is the sweeping apology.
“To all those I may have offended in my life, I sincerely apologize.” – Gilbert Rozon, founder, Just For Laughs
Masseur, you are a comic; half of your job is to be offensive. Please do not equate sexual misconduct with so many other minor offenses. This one is a biggie. How it didn’t make the Ten Commandments is beyond me. Thou shalt not grab women by the pussy, nor grope them, nor place upon their flesh any part of you that they do not want. Seriously, that’s far worse than graven images or working on Sunday.
And speaking of the 11th Commandment,
“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything… grab them by the pussy.” –Donald J. Trump
No, Mr. (gag) President, you cannot. No star is that bright or entitled, not even yours. And that you have yet to feel the consequences of your foul behavior is one of the great political mysteries of our time.
Finally, we can’t let sexual predators set the agenda.
“I hope we can use this moment to begin a constructive dialog on these issues, which are real and need to be addressed.” – Jeremy Piven
Perhaps, Jeremy, you and your entourage should just shut up and listen. Men have set the rules for sexual predation for eons. Men have used power and intimidation to buy women’s silence. Finally, women are speaking up, and they need to be heard. Women can’t allow their experiences with sexual misconduct to be mansplained, and certainly not by some cretin who will gaslight his victims to paint himself as an upstanding and caring man.
So here’s your “constructive dialog,” Jeremy and the legions of men dodging between their private recollections and public denials: Own it. Acknowledge it. Apologize. Make yourself accountable. That’s the only side of the dialogue that anyone needs to hear.