How cheering to find old-school feminists speaking out about the excesses of the #MeToo campaign. Canadian writer Margaret Attwood whose book The Handmaiden’s Tale led to a recent hit television series on Netflix has spelt out the risks of ‘guilt by accusation’ where lynch-mobs ‘throw justice out the window’.
‘In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion,’ Attwood warned. Ironically her Handmaiden’s Tale is all about extremists winning, a dystopian future with men firmly in control – whereas our lynch-mobs are privileged young women controlling men’s lives by claiming the victim role.
This week we heard from Germaine Greer arguing women should take direct and immediate action against the men preying on them. They should simply outwit them or slap them down, she suggested bluntly, pointing out that’s what women used to do to leering men in the old British Carry On comedies. Greer acknowledged it is different when a man like Harvey Weinstein has economic power over the women: ‘But if you spread your legs because he said “be nice to me and I’ll give you a job in a movie” then I’m afraid that’s tantamount to consent, and it’s too late now to start whingeing about that.’
Good to see the original saucy feminist encouraging women to consider their role in perpetuating the casting couch. Back in 1971 Germaine featured on the cover of Life magazine in pink lipstick and clinging knit dress as the ‘Saucy feminist that even men like’, happily rebutting many of the sisterhood’s claims that women could do without men in their sex lives.
A decade later she was attacking the sexualised Western culture’s ‘genital dabbling’ in her book Sex and Destiny and telling Rolling Stone journalists Steve Chapple and David Talbot that she was exhausted by the tension and jealousies of sexual love. Yet still male sexuality held a certain appeal. ‘I would love to lose interest altogether in the penis. I don’t know what’s the matter with me that I still think it’s so fascinating.’
But by then many of her feminist sisters saw male sexuality and male bodies as anything but appealing. Ferocious American anti-pornography campaigner Andrea Dworkin was in full flight, engaged in her mighty battle to close down video shops and adult sex shops. ‘Violence is male: the male is the penis, violence is the penis,’ she wrote in her book Pornography: Men possessing women. She saw intercourse as consorting with the enemy, pornography as ‘Dachau brought into the bedroom and celebrated.’
That’s what’s so odd about all the excitement around #MeToo, the idea that this is some kind of revelatory moment, a breakthrough in women’s march towards liberation. Those of us who have been around for a while have seen it all before.
#MeToo is simply the latest salvo in a long crusade by feminists to crush male sexuality – as I’ve explained in my latest YouTube video discussion with men’s rights activist Karen Straughan. It’s a very long campaign, dating back to 19th century suffragettes whose slogan – ‘Votes for Women. Chastity for Men!’ – linked the political equality of women to controlling men’s sex drive. Along with the vote, the suffragettes sought an end to their sexual subjugation to men, control over their bodies. They decided that required reining men in, putting an end to their tomcatting ways and keeping them on a very tight leash.
That was just the beginning. Second wave feminists were quick to hop on board. Kate Millet’s 1970 book, Sexual Politics, known as the ‘bible of women’s liberation,’ denounced raunchy male novelists like Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, slamming their depictions of sex as all about subordination of women. Sex was the expression of men’s misogyny wrote Millet: ‘Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.’
Ongoing feminist campaigns saw male sexuality increasingly publically reviled. Men were endlessly in trouble over sex. Men in trouble for not keeping their trousers zipped, for groping and harassing women, for looking at pornography, or gazing at women in the wrong way. Shame-faced men were paraded in front of jeering chat show audiences and forced to atone for their sins.
It left men reeling and silenced: ‘Like a man who sullenly withdraws to his tool shed to escape his wife’s temper and misery, American men simply opted out of the cultural dialogue,’ said Chappie and Talbot in their book Burning Desires, explaining that men became so far removed from the field of battle that the term ‘sex war’ seemed a misnomer.
Today the suffragettes’ crusade is succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. It’s not just the public display of male sexuality which is being so effectively curtailed. In private many heterosexual married men are living lives of sexual deprivation, with sex doled out to them only very occasionally or not at all. There’s research showing the desire gap between men and women is increasing, with most married women ending up going off sex.
Growing numbers of women are happily living celibate lives and forcing their husbands to just cop it sweet. Men who visit prostitutes are reviled – the push is now on to criminalise the customers of prostitutes, a campaign that has already succeeded in Nordic countries, Canada, and a bunch of European countries. Men know risking an affair could mean the end of their marriages and loss of their families. Even the man who resorts to masturbation is in trouble, particularly if he turns to the internet for fantasy material to make the process more enjoyable.
So #MeToo is nothing new. Rather it is simply the latest round in this relentless crusade to demonise male sexuality – as Catherine Deneuve and the 100 prominent French women spelt out in their letter denouncing the campaign as all about ‘hatred of men and of sexuality’.
The ongoing campaign finds a very receptive audience in a society with increasing numbers of sexually indifferent women. And then there’s the new generation of young women, raised by a culture which paints a sexual joke as an attack on women, which teaches women that a lusty gaze is sexual violence, which manufactures a fake campus rape crisis. The resulting fragile, wilting wallflowers are ideal fodder for the #MeToo campaign, eager to claim victimhood and tell tales of scary encounters with the dangerous sexual predator they believe lurks in every man.
‘Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist,’ said Camille Paglia. But that’s just what we have done.
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