I used to think America needed a parent to help it behave. Now I think it needs a grandparent. Our culture has been so confused for so long on so many essentials, and has gotten so crosswise on the issue of men and women, that we need more than ever the wisdom of the aged.
That was my thought as I read this week’s sexual-harassment story, about the 30-something TV star, the girl in her 20s and their terrible date.
The woman in the story, recounted on the website Babe.net, went unnamed, and it doesn’t feel right to add to the man’s social-media misery. Nor is it necessary to assign blame since they were both such hapless representatives of their sex.
They had one thing in common: They were impressed by his celebrity. He deploys it to get what he wants, she wanted to be close to it. They met at an industry party, flirted by text; he asked her to his apartment and took her to a restaurant where he rushed her through dinner. They returned to his home, where he immediately made overt sexual advances, which she accepted but did not want. She seems to have had no sense that any outward show of respect was due her. Taken aback by how quickly he was moving, she tried to slow things via “nonverbal cues.” Among them was allowing him to perform oral sex on her, and performing it on him, which in fairness he might have interpreted as an indication of enthusiasm. She is an articulate person but was for some reason unable to say, “Stop, this is not what I want. I have to leave.” At no point does she allege he threatened her, either physically or professionally, or tried to bar the door.
He was boorish, a slob, what used to be called a wolf. He wished to use her sexually and didn’t understand her reservations. Isn’t that what first dates are for?
Is he a creep? Of course. She has been accused of trying to jump onto the #MeToo movement, painting herself as a victim, and exhibiting no sense of “agency.” (Though she is at least competent at revenge.) She expects us to understand why she didn’t walk out. Why did she stay, and expect such a gross figure suddenly to show sensitivity? In his interactions as she reports them, he never pretended not to be a pig.
Here is why we’re discussing this. All the stories we’ve read the past few months about predators—not those accused of rape and sexual assault, which are crimes, but of general piggishness, grabbiness, manipulation and power games—have a common thread. The men involved were not gentlemen. They acted as if they’d never heard of the concept.
We have lost track of it. In the past 40 years, in the movement for full equality, we threw it over the side. But we should rescue that old and helpful way of being. The whole culture, especially women, needs The Gentleman back.
Read more from Peggy Noonan.