BOSTON, UNITED STATES – Is bum-pinching acceptable in the workplace? That seems to be where the conversation veered here in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, which were followed quickly by the UK Tories’ ‘dirty dossier’ scandal. Famous women (and a few men) are coming forward to say they’ve been sexually assaulted by male actors, directors, and politicians; meanwhile our proletarian brothers and sisters are helplessly declaring #MeToo on social media.
Of course, there’s inevitably some silliness. George H.W. Bush has been accused of touching an actress’s rear end while posing for a photo. Bear in mind that Bush is a half-blind, wheelchair-bound nonagenarian. Maybe he could be forgiven for accidentally brushing her buttock while putting his arm around her waist, as gentlemen usually do with ladies during photographs. Alas, no.
Yet, as always, the counter-hysteria task force is overcompensating. Lionel Shriver – a newly-minted columnist at our London flagship – worries that ‘in the extremity of our reaction to the Weinstein case, we women are frightening men to such a degree that they will never venture an off-colour aside in mixed company (since none of us prudes have a sense of humour).’ I wonder what kind of grown-up can’t think of anything funny to say unless it’s also a bit filthy.
Even worse, it could put folks off infidelity altogether. ‘Much less will they ever dare to lean over a dinner table that tad too far,’ Shriver continues, ‘when you’re both married and ought to know better.’ Imagine: a world where people don’t do what they know they oughtn’t. Sweet Jesus, just take me now!
Allison Pearson’s also here to reassure everyone that we’re over-reacting. After all, ‘A man who snogged me at the office party became the father of my children,’ she brags. Yet I can’t help but feel bad for her co-workers. This is the kind of thing that makes ordinary people dread socialising with their colleagues outside of business hours. Those drunken hook-ups generally don’t end happily ever after. There’s usually all sorts of unpleasant consequences, and plenty of awkwardness to go around.
Ah, well. This is the world we live in now. Half of us are scared to death of any kind of intimacy; the other half can’t tell the difference between a workplace and a nightclub (as evidenced by our ever-falling standards of ‘business attire’). Please join me in a moment of silence as we mourn the death of professionalism, marital fidelity, and old-fashioned British reticence.
Michael Davis is US Editor of the Catholic Herald.
Illustration: Paramount Pictures.
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