Even if #metoo, we've got better things to do


I was attacked by my driving instructor when I was 17.

My dad had just died, so I was a newly unprotected, naive young girl, and he was a 40-something sleazebag.

Looking back, I realise he was grooming me.

He was trying to convince me that everything was normal. "I'm just a friendly guy, I like to have good vibes in the car", "There's this one girl that's suing me for sexual harassment, but she's crazy, she's misinterpreting things, I'm just an easy going guy". Just a straight up cool dude.

I was young, and I was scared of this adult man who was in a position of authority. He took me driving far outside the city so I couldn't leave because I didn't know where we were. I played along for fear of what he would do if I got feisty. When things got out of hand, I managed to scare him enough by crying to take me home. But he thought he had charmed me so well that I'd go on another of these trips with him, where I might not cry because it was all so normal. I went home, told my boyfriend at the time about what had happened and never saw the guy again.

I'm not going to say that I'm not angry about it. I sincerely wish he gets hit by a truckload of Ebola infested knives.

But, I'm ok.

I'm better than ok - I'm excellent.

I don't think about it more than I think about that time I got accidentally punched in a bar brawl, or when I got in a car crash because a ditzy teenager in an SUV didn't stop at a red light.

Shitty times, now it's done.

But according to everything I see in our current culture, I have legitimate grounds to make my #metoo moment the central narrative of my life.

I could easily decide that this one day is day 0 and I could give a pathetic creep the power to control my life, a good 13 years after it happened and, ideally, from now on to the end of time.

I'm even encouraged to do so because I'm a special victim, a “survivor”, which sounds like I've narrowly dodged the Holocaust.

My story is trending.


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A bit of history

We're in an extremely confusing territory with sexual politics at this moment in history and what's missing is a sober assessment of what all of this means.

Ok, let's start with the obvious.

Alongside monogamy and polygamy, where men are chosen by either women or their families for their physical and status characteristics, rape is also one of the evolved mating strategies that our species employs.

I know, that sounds absolutely sick.

But after a short and harrowing conversation with your Grandma, you'll probably soon realise how much of a problem this was just a few generations ago. My grandmother told me that in 1930s Moldova, they had an underground hiding place specifically built to hide the girls from invading armies, in this case, guarding specifically against the Red Army's notoriously prevalent tickle-fests.

Rape is a human universal.

Women have traditionally been protected from it by their families and arranged marriage through gatekeeper-style families was the norm for most of human history, across cultures. There was always massively more demand for fertile young women than there was supply, and different cultures devised methods to deal with this awkward fact of reproduction.

In Hindu and Muslim cultures, Purdah was the most common method - the covering, or screening of women from the gaze of strangers. In Classical Greece, the women were confined to their own chambers in the house, the gynaikonitis. Different forms of chaperoning and fraternal protection were common across history.

No casual frolicking in the fields without supervision and no sideboob OR underboob, ladies.

For a man to get access to a woman of reproductive age, he had to have sufficient status and resources to be able to "afford" the privilege of marriage and either explicitly pay the woman's family or at least be worthy of her.

Especially in polygamous societies which were extremely common across human history, high-status men had multiple wives, and low-status men had no chance of reproducing the "honest way". So, if they wanted their lineage to continue, they had to resort to more opportunistic behaviour.

Women who were orphans, or came from very low-status families were often prey to opportunistic rape, as the risk of retaliation from family members was low. In wartime, the threat of retaliation is minimal for an invading army, and, unsurprisingly, rape seems to be near universal.

Modern discourse about rape, heavily influenced by feminist theory, asserts that rape is a crime of power, an act of dominance. The fact that rape befalls almost exclusively females of reproductive age would lead us to believe that attractiveness is a factor, and that this is essentially a ploy for reproductive access, as evolution would have you expect.

In the game theory of reproduction, this is one of the ways in which people are made. Just look at the fact that one in 200 people alive today are direct descendants of Genghis Khan, and you'll have a feel for how rape was responsible for shaping the world.

It exists because it works.

Rape culture vultures

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via Giphy

One of the constant mantras of modern media is that we are living in a rape culture.

I think the evidence points to the fact that it's exactly the other way around - the only thing restricting this particular mating strategy is culture.

As virtually universal as rape is across societies, it is also universally loathed and incriminated through culture. Since we've noted the first stirrings of codified law in antiquity, rape was considered one of the most egregious crimes, partly for the severity but mostly because it was seen as a crime against the parents, as their daughters had value in the marriage market. Even though viewing your children as property under the law is not a glittering height of morality, even in the darkest moments of antiquity, rape was not a "culture", it was a big no-no.

One thing is unavoidable in any discussion of rape: the simple fact that most men want sex more than most women and women are the gatekeepers to sex. Rape is one of the few ways you can get sex as a man.

But there is no secret handshake or guys elbowing each other with a wink in some sort of societal secret rape fan club. Nobody is culturally pro-rape.

To get a feel for how our culture relates to rape, consider that even in prisons, amongst some of the most predatory people in society, there is special treatment reserved for known rapists among the inmates, mostly to be paid in kind. Even in the darkness of prison, men aren't chuckling in agreement about rape culture. Instead, they are punishing the people that went against the norm, that went against the culture.

Some people will still rape despite society, not because of it.

Low status, low education, low "culture" men will revert to rape disproportionately because they don't know any better. Civilisation has failed them.

But we *have* been teaching men not to rape, and it's been working like a charm if you look at the plummeting rates of rape across the 20th and 21st century.

Why is rape getting rarer? Because of a widening circle of empathy . In the past, the limitations on rape were set exclusively by the expected consequences for the act. Now, given a more empathetic, universalist view of the world, there are more altruistic barriers to rape. If you've been educated enough to see every person as potentially part of your in-group, the thought of subjecting someone to an act as dehumanising as rape is absurd. But people are tribal, they instinctively think in terms of group belonging. That's why an ISIS member can make a distinction between an in-group pure Muslim girl and an out-group impure Yazidi girl so that the latter seems to deserve a sub-human sex slave status.

Luckily, this is a minority view, and the majority view keeps expanding, as more and more people fall into our sphere of empathy through travel, familiarisation and worldwide communication.

Blurred lines

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#Metoo is a tricky one because, for the most part, we're metooing about abuses of power, rather than men ambushing us at night in dark alleys.

Many of the crimes the movement is highlighting are outgrowths of the fact that putting humans that have both professional and sexual motives in the same playground will be, of course, messy.

There are good things about the movement. It blew the lid off abuse of power and seediness at the highest levels of society and drew attention to the screaming hypocrisy of the entertainment industry. For a group of people that are known for their holier-than-thou morality posturing, #metoo was a well deserved and sobering blow.

Men like Harvey Weinstein have spent decades using power to get what they want, and in his case, it was pretty young actresses.

But it's not like he invented the casting couch.

Louis B. Mayer, of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer fame, was known for bedding every aspiring actress that wanted what he had to give: the promise of fame.

There is an entire genre of porn based on this premise, people.

Those that feign horror and clutch their pearls at what Weinstein's accused of doing are either painfully naive or insincere. Everyone in Hollywood knew about it, including scores of women, and they did nothing. The most jarring thing about the scandal isn't the scope of the crimes uncovered, it's the screeching hypocrisy.

There is a side of #metoo that's not much talked about.

As much as men use their power to gain sexual advantages, women use their sexuality to gain advantages. There are two sides to this coin, supply and demand.

The fact that it took decades to out Weinstein could be a sign that what he was trading had a market. He's an easy guy to despise because he looks like a river corpse with leprosy and every recording that surfaces of him talking to a girl makes him look more and more pathetic. But the fact that he's a convincingly disgusting boogie man doesn't really explain one thing:

What about the women?

How many actresses have built a career by being friendly to Hollywood's own Jabba the Hutt? Is it still abuse if you've never told anyone and now you're tap dancing with Ryan Gosling at sunset for 5 million dollars a pop?

In the mainstream narrative of #metoo, women have no agency.

Things just happen to them, and men do these things. Cut and dried.

One of the most complex, culturally loaded and sensitive acts that humans engage in has been reduced to a two-bit stick figure animation where man=bad and woman=victim.

For a culture and a feminist rhetoric that is so tolerant and encouraging of sex work, you'd think that the idea that some women use sexual favours as currency would be accepted as a reality. Strip clubs and Bunny Ranches where women choose to sell sex in bulk for chump change are "Yass, Kween" territory, million dollar stratagems featuring Harvey Weinstein are abuse.

Women aren't trusted to be able to make conscious decisions about sex.

You can see this in how alcohol is treated in cases of sexual assault: Men get drunk - they're frat boys. Women get drunk - they're completely incapacitated ethereal beings with no power to make decisions.

This women's movement has more in common with the female ideal of fainting couch Victorians than with the sexual liberation movements of the 1960s. Women do have a choice, and sometimes they choose to knowingly participate in the sexual power games that men lay out. Or they invent some themselves.

Movements like #metoo can't face this fact because it would blow a huge hole in the subsequent #believewomen hashtag because it would mean that things aren't so clear-cut. It would mean that women are people first and

#believewomensometimes doesn't have as much of a ring to it.

There is much more freedom in accepting responsibility for the fact that sex is by nature ambiguous and that both partners can make mistakes, than in blaming these immutable facts on some sort of universal secret society of rape apologists.

Concept Creep(s)

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Movements like #metoo have an even bigger problem - something that in psychology is called concept creep. This is the expanding of a concept to encompass more and more marginal phenomena. It's like a pulsating amoeba, engulfing more and more territory as it expands.

Someone jumping out of a bush and raping you on your way home at night is one thing, having a guy put his hand on your knee is a very different thing. Yet, they're all sexual abuse.

The concept has expanded to be universal, and it's mixing up the confusion of awkward encounters with actual violence. The quintessential example here is the Aziz Ansari scandal, which is nothing more than a bad date that got shoehorned into the sexual abuse category. This is obviously a woman that didn't get sufficient attention from a famous man and decided to write a bad Yelp review of his bedding skills and the fact that he assumed she'd like white wine instead of red. Lady, you're making us all look bad.

If you look at the difference between what women consider flirting and what we consider an unwanted advance, it's mostly a function of the attractiveness of the person doing it.

A "Hello, baby" is either catcalling or just charmingly confident depending on if he's 5'7" or 6'3". A man touching your arm is either creepy or charismatic depending on where he's located on the Steve Buscemi - Jon Hamm spectrum.

This is the kind of thing women giggle about after a few glasses of wine. We all know it's true.

In the olden days, women weren't taught how to become leaders of industry. True. But they were taught how to negotiate ambiguous situations with men.

Now, the expectation is that men just intuitively know our boundaries and act within them - proportional, of course, to their expected attractiveness to each and every woman. If you're fairly unattractive, stay away, rapey man.

So, if you're a guy, you either are very attractive, extremely cautious or are Mel Gibson in "What Women Want".

Rather than play this insane game of chance, a lot of men opt out of it completely. Actor Henry Cavill was maligned for saying that he was afraid to date in the era of #metoo for fear of being called a rapist. Some thought he's exaggerating or being a sexist jerk, but after Aziz Ansari, Mattress Girl, the infamous Rolling Stone gang-rape and a plethora of ambiguous, unprovable but ultimately life-destroying accusations, it's no wonder that the whole act of dating has got a whole new litigious sparkle that many men don't want to deal with.

#metoo is sexist

Via Giphy

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Though on the face of it trying to be liberating, #metoo, like other moral panics involving fragile women is just another call for protection.

In its unidimensional, pathetic view of women, we can't be self-interested, we can't be deceitful, we can't be confused. We can only lie there and take it from the malevolent monolith that is "man". Women are flat characters, blushing caricatures that say: "Oh, gosh, mister, I don't wanna get raped".

Really, women are more than crumbling fairytale creatures.

There might be a great deal of delicious sympathy to be gained in pretending women can do no wrong, but it's a prison. Women are and always have been both perpetrator and victim. Because, before being women under any definition, women are humans. And that's where the dignity lies.

That's where the honesty begins.

Women do fart, and yes, women do lie.

Women are self-interested, and yes, some women might trade sex for advantages.

Women are stronger than you might lead them to believe.

Women are stronger than the worst things that happen to them, and as much as you'd like to marinate them in victimhood, women will see their way out.

And that leads me back to my own story.

I now know how I should have dealt with my driving instructor.

But, obviously, now, I'm not in his demographic anymore. He's a predator, and I was his ideal prey - young and naive. Society didn't protect him, even a relatively patriarchal Romanian society over 13 years ago. He had to hide me, groom me, talk me into it at every step. He was hedging his risk at every corner, studying the probability of me making a complaint.

He was circumventing both the law and the culture we were living in because he thought there would be no repercussions. His expected return was higher than his expected punishment.

I'm not making any apologies for him, but I can understand him as a case study.

He was just another feral primate, failing at civilisation, failing at empathy.