Wednesday, 10 January 2018

I was recently a guest on a television programme which had sexual harassment as its theme. Afterwards I wrote what I intended to be a blog and then decided not to publish.

It is difficult for a man to talk sense at the moment. I’m not a coward, but I did think: I have several battles at the moment, do I need another one?

Then I saw this:

And this:

And it made me want to go ahead. The blog is below.


A response to being abused on social media for “defending” Kevin Spacey on TV.

Oscar said “there’s only one thing worse than being talked about …”

35 years ago there were two blokes, both over the age of consent, alone in a flat together. The first bloke made a pass at the other bloke, who wasn’t interested and said no. The first bloke then went and slept in another room, and the other bloke slept on the sofa. In the morning the first bloke took the other bloke to the bus station and made sure he was ok.

This wasn’t news on the day it happened but, according to the BBCs Victoria Derbyshire show a few weeks ago, it was breaking.

The reason is that the first bloke was Kevin Spacey and the other bloke had suddenly, after three and a half decades, seen fit to share the memory with the world’s media.

The programme had engineered a situation where it appeared to interrupt the broadcast, which had sexual harassment as its theme, to bring us this revelation. I know this because they told us it was going to happen about two hours before it did.

The Old Vic, where Spacey was Artistic Director for 11 years, released an icy statement saying that there had been about 20 allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour by Spacey during his time there, and then went piously silent. This is raising the storm and staying in harbour. What does inappropriate mean? It sounds like someone’s opinion to me but the use of it does allow lurid imaginations to run riot. They should provide exact detail or shut up. As it is they are merely smearing, and covering themselves pending whatever further is to be revealed. Even if Spacey turns out to be guilty of a crime it is still cowardly behaviour by his ex-employers.

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein have been largely non-anonymous and detailed. His method was to find a young actress at a party and start chatting encouragingly about her career and then without breaking tone say “now go to the bathroom – I want to see your tits”.

If I heard a man saying that to a woman I would hit him, or at least empty my glass in his face. The main gratification is gained, as with all abusers, from the discomfort of the woman than from any subsequent sex.

Many of those women would have gritted their teeth and gone through with it thinking “this will be over soon and it will improve my career”. I don’t blame them at all. The women I most admire are those who told him to fuck off. Probably we have never heard of them.

When I was 15 I was hitch-hiking in Derbyshire. A man in his 30’s gave me a lift. He immediately began talking about sex (had I found any local girls to my liking was the gist, only his choice of language was exceptionally crude). “Um … no” was my naïve and virgin response. The next moment his left hand grabbed my crotch with some force. I tried to prise his hand away with my right hand and, with my left, swung a punch at him. It connected but the position I was in meant that there wasn’t much force. He then removed his left hand, put it on the wheel and with his right swung a punch back. I asked him to stop the car. He pulled in and apologised. I also apologised and got out.

I consider that experience to be one of the mild traumas by which we grow up and become adult. I think what happened was that he, in an exceptionally clumsy way, asked me out. I said no and he took no.

Three years later, when a student at The Bristol Old Vic, experience at declining advances from middle aged homosexuals came in very handy. By today’s hysterical standards, where an unwanted finger on the arm can be construed as Sexual Assault, I have been a “victim” about 60 times. I am not remotely scarred or traumatised. Dealing with people who annoy you or, sometimes, threaten you, is part of growing up. One can’t, or shouldn’t, outsource one’s development to the State or the Police.

Anton Chekhov knew a thing or two. Astrov, his altar ego, commits what would now be called Serious Sexual Assault on Yeliena in Uncle Vania, in that he comes on to her using some force. What, to Chekhov, was two confused people trying to make sense of their passions is now to us an open and shut case. Five years in gaol for him, anonymnity for her. Who’s right, the greatest writer who ever lived, notable for his profound understanding of and pity for all humanity, male and female, or us? It’s one or the other.

Rape, when violence or threat of it or use of drugs is used to have sex with someone against their will, is an exceptionally nasty form of assault in that it steals from someone something that is only theirs to give.

It can be very difficult obtaining a conviction for rape, it being a crime to which there are usually just two witnesses, both of whom will give different accounts. Many guilty rapists go free. The answer we have found to this problem is the wrong one.

There are now certain questions that the accuser may not be asked and the latter often embraces anonymnity. This means there are 100s of men in gaol now for sexual offences who are innocent. No-one convicted on anonymously given evidence and who has been prohibited from asking questions has had his guilt proven. This is such an obvious truth that it must be why no-one says it. It directly contradicts The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11.

A man once murdered his wife. They lived in town A, he worked in town B and she in town C, where she was killed. His defence was an alibi that he hadn’t been to town C that day. But the sat-nav in his car proved he had. He was guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, we know. Some years ago two young footballers went out on Saturday night after a game to a bar where they knew young girls hung out in the hope of meeting people like them. They picked up a girl, got drunk, and the three of them went to a hotel in the early hours. The story is that three people behaved in an alcohol-fuelled non-admirable way. One was set free, another given anonymnity and the third sentenced to five years for rape. How are we so wise as to know what actually happened between those three? We know the man with the sat nav was guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but here? The hysteria means that juries are more likely to convict and that judges more inclined to impose the severest of sentences, for fear of being bombarded with criticism by lobbies whose only agenda seems to be “the more men in gaol, the better”. After doing his time his sentence was annulled. He is no longer a “rapist”.

Another footballer is doing 7 years for performing a consensual “sexual act” with a 15 year old girl. A shame for him he doesn’t live in Germany. Why? Because in Germany, a country not known now for its barbarism, the age of consent is 15 and there would be no case against him. Naturally he was stupid but Socrates, amongst others, has explained why sex and sense are often strangers.

I accept the need for an age of consent, an age below which any sexual activity is illegal irrespective of consent, but the current hysteria demands guilt be absolute and cries for simplistic vengeance like a vicariously eroticised lynch mob. The mob is actively encouraged by all the media, who know that sex sells papers and makes people turn on the TV. In many US States, however and for example, there are grey areas, applying to children as young 12, where each case is treated on its merits. And there is no proportionality. A cyclist in London riding an unsafe bike too fast knocked down and killed a pedestrian. He then arrogantly tweeted that she should have had more respect for cyclists. 7 years for the footballer, 18 months for the cyclist who killed.

Someone once dropped the date rape drug into my drink. They weren’t intending to molest me – it was their idea of a joke. There followed several hours of which I have no recollection. In that time I left the pub, crossed a busy road, caught two buses, walked home, sat in the garden for an hour, and went to bed. In the morning my last memory was the pub. I can see why the drug “works”. Someone using it to have sex is guilty of rape and should go to gaol.

There is a distinction to be made between an abuser, someone who gains gratification by discomforting others, or a rapist, whose satisfaction is derived from a phoney sense of power and the fear of his victim and is indifferent to the harm he causes, and an ordinarily confused human, struggling to make sense of his or her feelings, making occasional mistakes in the process. Our culture admits no distinction, the media makes no distinction and the courts make little distinction.

We are scared to talk sense on the subject. We know that others have lost their jobs, their friends and worse for doing so.

The hysteria means that an allegation is taken as proof, leaving the accused with the burden of proving his innocence. There is a case for keeping the names of those accused secret until conviction. This would shut up the press and the BBC would have to report real news. Weinstein is alleged to have committed rape, although he hasn’t been charged. If he’s guilty send him to gaol.

When the first allegation was made against Spacey he was immediately airbrushed from a movie, removed from this or that position, his films made unavailable. We know why, people are scared of guilt by association. But why stop there? Joe Orton boasted in his diaries of paying for sex with underage boys in Morocco, the reason he and Halliwell went there so often, usually with Kenneth Williiams, and the reason middle aged English ladies have been fond of the place for well over a century. Why don’t we burn all Orton’s plays? Michelangelo was in the habit of buggering boys in his local pub in front of the customers. Why don’t we descend on Florence and smash up his David?

In Salem in 1692 it was the fashion to hang anyone alleged to be a witch. Guilt was assumed, innocence had to be proved. Arthur Miller had something say about it: “Are the accusers always holy now? Were they born yesterday as clean as God’s fingers?” That’s Proctor in the court. Within 30 years, as Miller wrote, “the power of theocracy was dead in Massechusetts”. People rebelled and explained to the church that it should stop terrorising them and it worked. That will happen here. The more sense we talk, without fear or with indifference to fear, the quicker it will come to pass.

I’m alleged to have defended Kevin Spacey. Actually I would defend anyone pursued by a lynch mob, on principle, innocent or guilty. The BBC gets four billion pounds a year from the taxpayer; I saw them pre-meditating and then fabricating a newsflash that wasn’t a newsflash, that contained no news.

Oscar also said something less flippant, that it didn’t matter what was said of a person, just who said it. I am therefore very happy to be trolled by cowards…


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