DISCUSSING in the Times the latest #MeToo allegations involving indie singer Ryan Adams, Hugo Rifkind asks: ‘Was that old world, of lusty men doing as they wished, somehow fairer? Obviously not. For generations, if not for ever, it was powerful men who dictated the rules whereby they, whatever the flavour of their supposed exceptionalism, were allowed to do whatever they liked.’
What’s that now, I wondered. This kind of abuse of power and sexual exploitation has been going on for ever? Well, I’m not sure about that.
Indeed, powerful men dictated the rules of the game for sure, but that was not the experience for all men until about 1960. Before that it was women who were the gatekeepers: they, at least on paper, were the ones in charge of any sexual encounter. Then the revolution hit.
Kay Hymowitz explains in City Journal: ‘Now, #MeToo’s counter-revolution is exposing other unintended consequences to the triumph of sexual deregulation. In every human society, powerful males take advantage of their positions to procure sex partners – the younger and prettier, the better. The radically laissez-faire sexual attitudes that Americans set in motion five decades ago didn’t give permission to predators to have their way, but it did help them convince themselves that they weren’t monsters. More modest sinners – stealth kissers, gropers, and flashers – could well have thought, hey, who wouldn’t want to have sex with a pretty young thing and, after all, women are as hot for sex as any guy, aren’t they?’
Hymowitz explains that it was the sexual revolution of the 60s that placed any limiting rules on male sexual desire on the barbecue. The results are what we see today; the internet awash with pornography, men being exposed as sexual predators and worse.
Until the #MeToo counter-revolutionaries understand that the rot started with the sexual revolution, they will fail in their attempt to rein in predatory men. If consent is the only limiting principle to sexual relations, then we can expect very little to change. This doesn’t mean that we must return to the ‘way things were’ but it surely means there must be something more than consent, and the very real differences between the sexes must be recognised.
Rifkind believes the #MeToo revolution ‘has moved faster than men’. But it hasn’t got that far in setting new standards. It will be used to take down political opponents, it doesn’t respect due process, and it can be leveraged to get more women into positions of power.
But I doubt if it will act as a controlling force on men’s sexual behaviour.
The last words to Hymowitz: ‘The sexual revolution stripped young women of the social support they need to play gatekeeper, just as it deprived men of a positive vision, or even a reason, for self-restraint. Recognizing those losses is where any reformation has to start.’