The Drama Review (December 2, 2017)

Dear here-we-go-again drama watchers,

Well, it had been my plan to meet my self-imposed Friday deadline for The Drama Review and I obviously missed it due to travel busy-ness. But as Mel Gibson has been known to say so often, “Sorry about that.”

Do you sense a repetitive theme in the news these days? Some famous guy, somebody you’ve admired perhaps, is relieved of his duties for sexual transgressions. It could be a coach, a player, an actor, a producer, a singer, a business executive, a preacher, an anchor, a journalist, or yes, even a politician.

A common denominator is the misuse of power, using it to gain personal sexual gratification at the expense of women. It’s barbaric, really. “I’m going to use them to satisfy me, regardless of the effect on them,” the twisted thinking goes. And we just hear about the famous ones. As Stuart Stevens recently observed,

Let’s don’t kid ourselves there is anything unique about Matt Lauer. Sure, he makes a ton of money and is famous, but I just heard about a small-town executive who had a little bit of economic power locking a woman in his office. Until more men are held accountable, it will continue.

If you’re of the mindset that humans are an ever-improving species headed toward the sunny uplands of perfection, this would argue against your thesis. Immanuel Kant once said, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” The perverse intersection of sex and power is one of the places the crooks in the timber show up.

While each situation has it particularities, there are at least three characteristics shared by these men who operate like potentates, using women to satisfy their insatiable sexual appetites.

Empathy-deficiency

If I get angry enough at you to consider twisting off your head and spitting in your neck, empathy would help restrain that impulse. On some level, I’d think, “Sure, I’m mad at you but I don’t want to actually hurt you.” That’s an empathy thought. Empathy is what enables you to understand the effect you have on the other person and to use that understanding to govern your words and actions.

These men of power may be empathic individuals in some realms of life but empathy is nowhere to be found when women are used to provide sexual gratification. He’s not thinking of what’s best for her—obviously. He’s entirely self-focused. Not to be crass, but the stance being taken is, “I want to use her body to make my body feel better.” That’s why I say it’s barbaric. And de-humanizing.

One of the tenets of the post-sexual revolution world is: (Part 1) You can do whatever you want, with whomever you want, whenever you want, and (Part 2) As long as nobody gets hurt. These revolutionaries religiously embrace the first part but self-servingly disregard the second part.

But the abused women aren’t the only ones damaged. There are: wives on the receiving end of broken vows; children now forced to cope with the confusion of Daddy’s misbehavior; admirers who can’t reconcile the person they thought they knew with the person who now is. Or admirers who corrupt themselves by defending or making allowances for the corrupt predator.

Recklessness

The brazen self-regard that drives these men is off the charts. They assume the rules don’t apply to them. They take chances with seemingly no concern for potential consequences.

I had a neighborhood buddy growing up who had no fear whatsoever of heights. An interstate highway was being constructed close to where we lived and we’d go play in the area. Like one of the Flying Wallendas, my friend would walk atop a railing of the newly-constructed overpass with an 80 foot drop to the concrete below. My fearless buddy never fell but I thought that was crazy.  (Note: Comedian Steven Wright once said, “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”)

Fear is a good thing if it alerts you to the dangers up ahead and you avoid the hazard. These sexual predators disregard their fear alerts.

Compartmentalization

I watched a documentary once on the Kennedy men. For the most part, it was very favorable to the Kennedy legacy but they didn’t disregard the Kennedy’s infidelities. One family friend put it this way: “There was no tradition of monogamy among the Kennedy men.”

A friend of John Kennedy was interviewed for the documentary who described a conversation she’d had with the President. She asked him why he took such chances, bringing women into the White House when Jackie was gone or leaving parties with other women. She asked him why he would jeopardize everything the way he did. She said he paused and then said, “I guess I just can’t help it.”

I found her comments about that comment particularly enlightening. She said he’d always lived his life in compartments. There was the public compartment we all got to see into in real time. This was the Kennedy of history—the PT 109 skipper and our leader in the Cuban missile crisis. But then there was this other compartment that was concealed from the public for many years—the one in which he was repeatedly unfaithful to his wife and children. And then there was the compartment in which he was devoutly religious.

She then said this about the Kennedy men: “I think they knew there were differences between the compartments. It just didn’t bother them that much.”

The opposite of compartmentalization is integration. Guess what word we get from the same root—integrity. Sexual boundary-crossers have no integrity. They appear one way to the public but are different in private.

Scott Peck had a word for that public-private incongruence: evil.

8 replies
  1. Beth
    Beth says:

    Living with these people is like living in a nightmare… things are twisted so that you wonder if your crazy, or over dramatic, or playing the victim. Are things really as bad as you think they are? So hard, so sad, so sick…

    Reply
    • Alan Godwin
      Alan Godwin says:

      You’re exactly right. They get inside your head so that it’s easy to lose the distinction between what’s real and what’s not.

      Reply
  2. Adele
    Adele says:

    Often times their remarks and actions are so subtle.that one could easily think that surely you might be taking something the wrong way. At first you may decide to just ignore it. And It is all so confusing,crazy making, and inappropriate that it can take a while to process. They groom people first so you are totally duped into thinking of them as a good person.
    I like the way you put all these examples together. I never thought of the incongruity (as Peck said ) as evil. Of course it is because what evil person is not going to try to disguise what they do. I think their enjoyment of the confusion and problems they creates for their
    prey is part of their control. They enjoy watching people suffer. Empathy is foreign to them and they take no responsibility.

    Reply
  3. Pam Smith
    Pam Smith says:

    I have been thinking about the sexual harassment and predation of women by men. I think a part of the creepiness and enduring damage that these actions have on women (and therefore, on all of us) has not been adequately talked about. Specifically, I am referring to the self-gratification aspect of the predation. Let me explain.
    As a woman, unfortunately, I have experienced more than a few creepy encounters with men, who, at first presented themselves as interested in my writing, or my opinions, or scholarship, and who, after engaging in conversation with me for a while, somehow steered the talk toward wanting sex. Each time, I felt such surprise; we were talking about sonnets, for chrissake. And each time, I felt my personhood and my precious intelligence had been erased by the man. That he had not been interested in our conversation, but that it had been a pretext for him to maneuver a sexual encounter. In fact, that, to him, I did not exist as the intelligent, competent individual that I knew myself to be, but for him, I was a thing he could manipulate for self gratification. A masturbation toy, really. It was for me, always, the process of realizing that I was a thing for his fantasies that was so disgusting to me. And painful. It’s sneaky, furtive, selfish, creepy, exploitative behavior. And part of the enduring message that women get from receiving these behaviors is that a lot of men see females as things and not real people.

    Reply
    • Alan Godwin
      Alan Godwin says:

      That’s so well-stated, Pam, and I thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. It’s a deep, egregious violation not just of a woman’s body but of her personhood. I’m not sure there are enough negative adjectives to adequately describe the experience.

      Reply

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