The international swell of sexual harassment and abuse allegations has the potential to be a revolution. Although it is primarily women who are coming forward, people of all genders are bravely telling their stories. The revolution is wake-up-call for people in power—primarily men because they are the gatekeepers of that power— to stop equating how fuckable a person is with their innate qualities as a human being. Although it’s hard to imagine a society of any kind where the powerful behave benevolently, it shouldn’t be so hard to imagine one where the powerful behave justly.
But for that to happen, we all need to acknowledge our relationship to power. There is no doubt but that for many people, their power is forcibly taken away. In situations of harassment, intimidation, and rape, there is no consent and these situations need to be publicly aired and taken to court.
However, for every person who has told a story of sexual harassment or intimidation there are those who have consciously wielded their sexuality to get a job, a part in a movie, an article published, a review, etc. Should those lucky people also come forward—without fear of judgement or reproach—to at least acknowledge that this power play happened and it worked for them? This is a Capitalist society, after all—and the message that gets hammered into us is that there is nothing wrong with perceiving a game and then playing it until you get what you want. I personally did not choose this path but I also can’t begrudge those who did.
Of course, the game is rigged. Which means that for every person who submitted to the power play and advanced in their career, there are hundreds who tried and failed to get the part. These people now have to bear the shame of playing the game willfully and consciously, but in the end, getting nothing. Those people also need support because rejection, bitterness, and envy are horrible energies to carry around. Trump’s election played into these energies; they make people cruel, un-compassionate, and shut-down as human beings.
Then there are those who, like me, saw that the game was rigged and tried really hard to live on the outside of it. But even that is complicated. Looking back on my youth, I was always suspicious of women who flaunted their sexuality because I had been raised to believe that expressions of female sexual desire were expressions of a false personae—dressing the part to appease men in power but never able to achieve that power in themselves. This viewpoint was supported by women friends in various fields of work who would talk scornfully about how so-and-so had gotten that job, or that publicity; that publication, or that part.
But the disdain I felt for “those women” really meant that I was disdaining myself; I had suppressed my own femininity and sexuality because I was afraid that if I expressed it, I too would become one of the hated false women. This suppression affected my relationships, and it affected my career. I was so fearful of being scrutinized by men in power and so in horror of what I perceived them to want from me — that I put up a shield every time I walked into a room.
Looking back I can see many opportunities missed because of this.
In my 40s—well, let’s just say it was the return of the repressed, or in my case, the return of the false woman. (I unpack this idea in my unpublished book “Killing the False Woman Keeps the Live One From Breathing,” and I talk about it on the Commonplace Podcast.) She came out with a vengeance in ways that, looking back, were self-destructive and destructive within my relationships.
Now 50, I have a new found confidence in the balance between my intelligence, my sexuality, and my femininity and finally feel balanced and in “my power.” But I do wonder about my youth—all those years where I rejected my femininity and demonized my sexuality—where would I be now had I felt able to express it?
I read an article in the Times saying that some men are reacting by hunkering back into their old-boy networks—canceling Christmas parties and being cautious about what they say to women. But for them to do this is to entirely miss the point.
The point is that this is a revolution in which power itself is being questioned and yes, it’s a reaction to Trump and the white male supremacy that he has unleashed. For this reason, Men in power who consider themselves enlightened seriously need to walk through the world and evaluate people not as fuckable or not fuckable, but as human beings. Gender is not the only issue—rather, I think it’s about how people in power abuse the sexual expression of others for their own gratification; and how people who want that power behave in relation to it.
Thanks for reading! Stay human! Expand in love.