On Friday night’s edition of Real Time, host Bill Maher dedicated the final of his “New Rules” to the ongoing crisis in Hollywood: powerful men exploiting their positions of power to allegedly sexually harass and/or assault young women and, in the case(s) of Kevin Spacey, boys.
The first alleged serial offender to be exposed was film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who stands accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct with close to 100 women; he was followed by independent filmmaker James Toback and his pal, hack studio director Brett Ratner.
“You probably have noticed in America lately that there’s something wrong with dudes. The recent stories of sexual harassment are about many things—like misogyny, and white privilege, and old-fashioned being a pig—but I’m telling you, there is something toxic about this male laziness,” offered Maher on his HBO program.
He continued: “If Harvey Weinstein had made even a minimal effort—joined Jenny Craig, shaved, listened, generally tried to not look like a Russian cab driver—he could have attracted women the old-fashioned way: by being rich and not entirely repulsive. With all these creeps, there’s no wining, no dining, no game, no effort to be charming or witty. Just open the bathrobe and, ‘Say hello to my little friend.’”
To recap: Maher is attempting to blame these men’s sexual predation on their being lazy. But sexual assault isn’t about passivity—it’s about power. Laziness, it seems, has very little to do with why these men did what they did.
In fact, what Weinstein stands accused of doing took considerable effort. He wined and dined many of these women, and invited them to events. Sometimes, he would prey on a woman for months on end, as in the case of Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, who claims that as a Yale graduate student she was invited to Weinstein’s home in Connecticut, to “dinner meetings,” you name it. He would often attempt to inveigle and manipulate these women—to establish a rapport, to earn a degree of trust—before he allegedly violated it, and them. He had no issue attracting “women the old-fashioned way,” as Maher claims. Rather, most of these alleged sexual assaults occurred while he was married to striking women. Heck, Brett Ratner dated Serena Williams and Mariah Carey.
The Real Time host went on: “And when they get turned down, what is with this epidemic about, ‘I give up, you win, I’ll just masturbate in front of you.’ Cosby didn’t even want his women conscious. Apparently [journalist] Mark Halperin’s m.o. was just to rub his erection against a woman in the office, like he’s some horny spider monkey that dabbles in political analysis. Someone needs to write a book called, ‘How to behave with a woman like you’re not an asshole.’”
Now, these men are certainly assholes. But it’s hard to believe that they preyed on women out of laziness or their inability to get laid. Most of these men, according to the women’s (and boys’) horror stories, felt that their positions of power entitled them to the privilege of their bodies.
It would also be remiss not to mention that Maher himself has long stood accused of a certain degree of misogyny (though, to be fair, there is a great deal of distance between the comedian’s casual misogyny and sexual harassment or assault). His good friend Ann Coulter once remarked on his program that the proof of it was in “every single thing you say about women”—like, say, constantly referring to Sarah Palin as a “bimbo”—while one of Maher’s exes, Karine Steffans, said of him, “Bill wants someone he can put down in an argument, tell you how ghetto you are, how big your butt is and that you’re an idiot. That’s why you never see him with a white girl or an intellectual.”
If this Hollywood reckoning has taught us anything it’s that all men need to do better.