We women are blamed for exciting desire.
We are blamed for killing desire.
In summary, anything that happens with desire – it’s on us.
So many harassers. Falling like domnioes as their victims, backing each other up, are finally ready to speak out. Among all of them, there is something about Al Franken’s photo – hands poised over the breasts of a sleeping model – that enrages me specifically.
The photo tells us that breasts are an object of desire, always kept just out of reach, until a bad little boy sneaks a feel, or pretends to sneak a feel, while mugging for the camera. That the more beautiful the woman, the more unobtainable her body parts, and therefore the bigger the coup when one gets to feel them up without her permission.
As if those body parts, and those bodies, are commodities. Objects. Put on display and sold to the highest bidder. Or stolen by the most sneaky little boy, who can get the goodies without paying, and then counter righteous rage with boyish helplessness.
Or, hidden away from display and fetishized. Obsessed over as the forbidden fruit, until, value preserved, they’re sold to the highest bidder, or stolen by the most sneaky little boy.
The displaying and the hiding are the inverse of each other, inextricably linked. “Bad” women display, and tempt, and taunt. “Good” women know to keep it all under wraps, lest the temptation becomes too much and something happens to them, which will be their fault, because, see above, when we excite desire, it’s our fault.
The common thread, the inextricable link, is that above all, we are responsible for the desires of men. Even though the desire happens within them, it is caused by and must be managed by us. Or not managed, with disastrous results.
But the Franken photo, and Weinstein’s rapes and gropes and harassments, and Charlie Rose’s naked pool parties for two, and Rump’s pussy-grabbing. What they’re saying is that they’re stealing something they’re not supposed to have but they waaaaaant it, and where does she get off being all pretty and model-like and busty, and making them feel things that they can’t help feeling and must act on, less they spend 20 seconds feeling powerless.
And then Weinstein wormed his tentacles into our culture. Think about Hollywood. Think about what movies would be like without the fetishization of women’s bodies. Without the pornographic panning over parts.
Back in the days when I listened to Dr. Laura (yeah, I know …) she posited that women feel threatened by strippers and playboy models because they’re more beautiful and their bodies are more attractive. This never felt quite right. I say that we feel threatened, not by the women, but by what the status that their bodies give them tells us about our own worth.
The threatened feeling is a feeling of knowing that I’m so much more as a human, but that the best I can hope for is to be treated as the object of the highest desire. How this contradicts what I want from life, and what I believe I have to offer; intelligence, compassion, creative talent, fire. Images in which women’s’ bodies are treated as objects tell us that our talents matter less, so much less, because a woman’s relevance is so often centered in the desire she can provoke, and at the same time, the desire so often becomes a liability.
I’m not a man, so I can’t know for sure what they’re thinking while they’re groping, or feigning a grope for the camera, or raping, or shoving their tongues in some woman’s mouth. Or grabbing her ass. Or masturbating in front of her on the bus (yes, this happens! It happened to me!) All I can know for sure is those that do it want to do it, and then they do it and the woman’s bodily autonomy is a non-starter.
The rest I don’t know, but based on the cultural signals we get, I’m going to take an educated guess. Straight men desire women’s bodies. Unfufilled desire can be uncomfortable. Some men take what they want. Other men don’t take it, but they resent the desire, and so they find a way to corral the objects of their desire in a way that enables them to hide their own powerlessness from themselves. Evolved men understand that it’s best when it’s mutually desired, and deal with it when their desire is thwarted.
In the end, it comes down to this. Just keep your fucking hands to yourselves unless you’re asked to do otherwise.