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Arts Columnists Features Julie Burchill

Why do prettier sex-pest men get away with it?

Because we're living under the New Misogyny

It’s quite commonplace now to say that people’s lives and careers have been ruined by #MeToo ‘witch-hunts.’ But witches weren’t ever real; sexual assaulters are.

Like many women, I love the idea of Me Too as a relay of shame; that every victim who stands up and names what happened passes on the blame to an assaulter who will have to remember that he was so undesirable he felt it necessary to force himself on someone who didn’t want him – feel the fear and pass it on!

In most cases that hasn’t happened. The big ugly New York ones – Weinstein, who conveniently looks like the archetype sweaty sex-pest and Eric Schneiderman, the ghoulish attorney general – are thrown overboard. The younger, prettier ones have basically got away with it.

James Franco, days after winning a Golden Globe and wearing a ‘Time’s Up’ pin, was accused of ‘sexually exploitative behaviour’ by five women. He has a new film out this month. Aziz Ansari – the subject of a long article by a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct at the start of this year – returned to his regular TV role last month. Some witch hunt!

Effectively, these players have simply taken extended holidays before resuming their careers. And far from being shamed and shunned, they never even properly said they were sorry (Justin Bieber, hardly a beacon of humility, managed it twenty times in his last hit record) but rather issued weasel words through lawyers about ‘misunderstandings’ – and it’s business as usual. It’s as if we’ve pathologised the sexual marauding of these younger men, regarding them more in sorrow than in anger, and they’ve emerged as Lost Boys – albeit pretty overgrown ones in their thirties, but then so many males are past masters at using that icky Man-With-The-Child-In-His-Eyes shtick to get away with inadequate behaviour. 

Men are often accused of dividing women into two types – the Virgin/Whore Complex, as Freud had it. And maybe women, because we live with men, work with men and love men, have to divide men into two types, to preserve our sanity – the Monsters and The Good Guys. The danger of this is that – like the growing abomination of Left-wing misogyny which has thrived under the auspices of ‘kinder, gentler’ socialism – far too many liberals seem to believe that once you’ve ticked the Brotherhood of Man box, you have the right to behave any way you like towards women. (See the strange alliance between equality-preaching socialism and woman-oppressing Islamism currently disfiguring Britain’s Labour Party – and fuelling its anti-Semitism, something else which, like misogyny, had been smugly written off as a right-wing vice.)

This so-called left now approves the inclusion of ‘self-identifying women’ (people with penises in bad wigs and stripper shoes) on all-women short-lists and provides a home for those charmers who threaten biological women in ‘defence’ of female impersonators at public meetings.

The Jung line ‘You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do’ has been inverted in our virtue-signalling times – and if people with penises can call themselves women, of course porn-users and woman-abusers can call themselves feminists. Just as Labour found a way to make anti-Semitism fresh’n’funky, so has it souped-up misogyny.

How has this New Misogyny come about, uniting the ‘brocialists’ with the sex-pest-feminist-men? There is without doubt a great deal of fear and loathing involved, as exemplified by the homicidal wallflowers of the Incel (Involuntary Celibates) circle-jerk but also a good deal of confusion on the part of many men.

Germaine Greer once wrote that ‘women have no idea how much men hate them’ which I’ve always thought was a bit hysterical, but men certainly have no idea how little women fancy them – though the historical prevalence of prostitution and pornography to mop up the excess male sexual incontinence which civilian women cannot stomach should be a clue. 

I personally am a great fan of the penis but in every female friendship group I’ve ever been in, from teenage to post- menopausal, the horrified mocking of male genitalia has been a constant.

Eyes and bums always come top in the lists of what women find attractive in men; then there are those somewhat sinister stats about men’s pleasure centres lighting up when they see pictures of naked women while women’s pleasure centres light up when they see pictures of naked babies. It was summed up most succinctly by the scientific survey which concluded that ‘most men find most women at least somewhat sexually attractive, whereas most women do not find most men sexually attractive at all’.

Historically, all but the most attractive men had to get married or pay money in order to have sex, so they couldn’t help but get this point. But to the first generation which has watched more porn than had actual sex, this fact seems hard to grasp as women in such scenarios are invariably gagging for it. What’s striking about lots of the Hollywood predators is that they weren’t just straightforward creeps – in their pathetic porn-led way, men as disparate as Weinstein and Ansari really believed they were ‘pleasuring’ the repelled women they committed cunnilingus upon. As the Sunday Times recently reported:

‘They are the generation who came to adulthood with the ease of being able to find a lover — or hardcore pornography — at the swipe of a phone. But millennials have been revealed to be shunning sex in unprecedented numbers. One in eight 26-year-olds told researchers that they are virgins, a sharp rise from previous generations, for whom one in 20 was the norm.’

One can’t help but surmise that this flight from fornication is fuelled by women who have grown up inundated with what I believe the youngsters call ‘dick pics’ and feel jaded before they even feel jiggy.

When I was a little girl, a schoolfriend said plaintively to me ‘Julie, what’s ‘sex’? Is it anything to do with ‘sexy’?’ This really stuck in my mind all down the decades, and recently I’ve thought about it more than ever. For whatever reason, we seem to know almost everything about sexy and very little about actual sex. And just when it seemed we could work it out, the battle of the sexes has suddenly never been more vicious: men and women apparently having been at cross purposes all along and now seeing each other as imperfect strangers. My side are screaming ‘You told me you were nice – but you lied!’ and their side are screaming back ‘You told me you were nasty – but you lied!’ Punch-drunk with love, we grapple, engage and stagger away to fight another day.

But it’s not all bad news. After centuries of being demonised, ostracised and condemned for their alleged confusion, it has surely never seemed a more sensible time to be homosexual, thus avoiding further misunderstandings.

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