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Harvey's Hollywood

Allegations and revelations continue to roll out surrounding the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Audio of a reptilian Weinstein attempting to seduce a young model against her will was just released. Gwenyth Paltrow accused him of aggressively attempting a pass when she was a young actress, which she refused, and which her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt later confronted him about. Rose McGowan has alleged both that he sexually harassed her and today called out Ben Affleck—who was in the process of denouncing Weinsten—for making light of the harassment when she told him about it. The common thread running through each new piece of information is that his behavior had long been known and an "open secret" in the Hollywood community, but he was able to get away with it by way of pay-offs and a complicit culture of silence in Hollywood.

This emerging narrative, even among liberal elites who tried to evade or forestall it, is becoming the main story, even moreso than Weinstein himself. How, people wonder, HOW could such a thing, not only happen, but no one speak up and expose it?

The issue presents a bit of a conundrum for many Hollywood elites. On the one hand, a scandal like this presents a golden opportunity to flout their feminist bona fides as they make an example of Weinstein and put on a show of deep soul-searching. They are certainly not shy about boasting of their deeply progressive values and commitment to justice. Watch any of their awards ceremonies and they'll tell you all about it.

The problem is that the more skeletons come tumbling out of these proverbial closets, the more dirt is exposed to the light, the more this fuels the right-wing stereotype about Hollywood. Namely that it's a cesspit of left-wing ideological crusaders, degenerates, and subversives, out to undermine all that is good and holy in the world. And it's not only a few fat cat producers (though they may be the primary culprits), but rather an entire culture of filth, in which no one—not even victims whose decades of silence endangered other women—is free from blame.

There's the rub. For the full scale of the problem to be revealed would undermine their conception of Hollywood as a shining beacon of light to the world, on the frontlines of the fight to deliver the planet from imminent doom, save Tibet, and punch Nazis in the face. Not because there is one powerful lecher in their ranks, but because they are all part of the problem and must face the truth: the right-wingers had their number all along.

Given this reality, we should expect that the reckoning will not, in fact, come. The repentance will be superficial. Weinstein will be offered up as a scapegoat for the sins of the community (a particularly effective one, as he is especially guilty and repellent), but the interests of the Hollywood machine dictate that it not go much further or deeper.

But even beyond self-interest preventing such a reckoning, there is another blindness which couldn't be addressed even if they wanted to. The problem of predatory Jewish males in positions of power in Hollywood like Harvey (click the link; Jews themselves are pointing out the relevance of his Jewishness) is only one of the more extreme manifestations of Hollywood's depraved sexual culture. But there are many others. Fundamentally, it is a culture that actively undermines traditional norms of family and society in the name of "art" (which, in its modern forms, must always transgress every boundary).

A scandal like this one will (rightly) arouse indignation and repulsion around instances of abuse of power, and sexual harassment and assault. But ultimately the root ill will be misdiagnosed. For had Weinstein merely acquired "consent" in each incident, he technically would have done nothing wrong. And with a sexual ethic that hinges on something as flimsy and insubstantial as mere "consent", the deep rot will never be expunged.

Consent is a necessary but insufficient condition for a robust sexual ethic. The fact that it is insufficient is brilliantly apparent in the incidents surrounding Title IX kangaroo courts and "affirmative consent" on college campuses, as consent is defined in bizarrely inhuman ways (it must be explicitly verbal and constant at every step of a sexual encounter, for instance, and neither party can be even slightly inebriated). Having lost traditional sexual norms and expectations, bequeathed by a particular religious heritage, where consent is necessary but acquired chiefly in marriage, secular society—in Hollywood and academia—attempts to reconstruct a purely negative and monodimensional sexual ethic from scratch. The folly of such an approach is self-evident, if not at the level of theory, then certainly in the fruit it has borne.

The system of incentives, expectations, and responsibilities for men in the sexual market has broken down, not despite, but at the behest of feminism and the sexual revolution. What will undoubtedly be bandied about as the solution—a more complete application of feminism—is in fact one of the primary culprits in this transformation of sexual culture. One outcome of which is high-status males acquiring large amounts of sex at high rates (and at the expense of lower status men), without so much as serious divorce laws or social taboo standing in their way. Assault and abuse of power are not incidental but inevitable in these conditions.

Consent is no panacea. Failing to obtain consent may transform a regular pervert into a sexual abuser or rapist, and is a vital factor in any individual case, but it can't be the basis of an entire sexual ethic. And most of the decay and sorrow associated with this breakdown of traditional norms, in Hollywood and the broader culture, would persist even if there were total consent everywhere. Weinstein isn't the disease, he's a symptom. And the cure will remain elusive until Hollywood thinks outside, far outside, its typical box.

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