S.E. Cupp is considered to represent views on the right side of the political spectrum, for reasons that evade me. A few days ago, I read something of hers lamenting that girls in bikinis and stiletto heels (the participants in the Miss America pageant) were being chided by other conservatives for sharing their #MeToo moments, as they seem to have done during the contest’s few seconds dedicated to rhetorical skill. The crusty right-wing position of default is that girls who wiggle lots of bare skin in public should expect the occasional pinch or lewd proposition. Unlike Ms. Cupp, I don’t find this association of ideas pernicious; I’m afraid I find it perfectly sensible. By way of analogy, say that I claim a right to walk in any part of town I choose at any hour of the day or night without fear of molestation. I may indeed enjoy that right in abstract; but in most cities today, no sane adult would dare to act as if it were in effect. In a fallen world, rights must be tempered with common sense.
Cupp, however, is among those younger female intellectuals who don’t understand why a woman shouldn’t be able to wear whatever she wants (more or less including the wardrobe choices of Lady Godiva) and still endure no wolf-whistles or fanny-pats. I deplore bad manners as much as anyone, and probably more than most; but I also find something marginally insane about supposing that a girl should be able to engage in displays and behaviors explicitly designed to arouse men—then enjoy complete insulation from any little expression of arousal. If a lion-tamer loses an ear after thrusting his head into an ill-tamed lion’s mouth, who’s at fault?
Full disclosure: I paid my “gentleman’s dues” many times over during the Seventies in dark scowls and snarled rebukes after holding doors open for “ladies” or offering them my seat in a crowded space. In other words, men of my generation remember the days when women were wholly uninterested in mannerly conduct, and even aggressively opposed to it. The “enlightened” girls of those days also, all too often, refused to shave under their fully exposed arms or to use deodorant on a hot day. That, too, was their “right”, and to begrudge it was to cast them in the bonds of cruel servitude. So to hear of supermodel-caliber lasses now seething because their generation has decided to flip all the male hormonal switches to “on” instead of “off” while expecting every onlooking man’s vital signs to flatline… I’m confused. If a girl’s wearing a skimpy bikini, does the revised feminist code now allow you to hold the door for her? Does it now require you to do so?
Of course, I don’t think most of the confusion is on my side. I think the #MeToo tornado has been largely generated by decades of circular thinking on the part of women themselves. Girls don’t seem to understand men nearly as well as their grandmothers did.
But even many a grandmother, if she was a revolutionary in her youth, was probably making the same errors. Poor judgment may be less a sign of the times than of ideology. In the wake of the Weinstein and Schneiderman scandals, Rush Limbaugh lately opined that leftist men are quite often sexist pigs who talk the feminist talk just to have their way with their marks farther down the road. This is very droll, and probably somewhat true; but it doesn’t come close to the heart of the matter. Leftist males, after all, subscribe to an ideology every bit as self-contradictory as that of leftist females. If the feminist female wants to be treated indistinguishably from a male in all circumstances yet also expects insulation from bad manners, the “feminist male” wants his women to be “pals” yet also to understand that, as females, they have something he needs. That something is a cozy garage for his little sports car. It’s not a lifetime of conjugal bliss, or even a shared apartment for two weeks (unless she pays the rent); it’s not children to bounce upon the knee and to comfort one in one’s declining years. It’s sex: it’s “pleasuring”. It’s a need on the same level as having to go to the bathroom. You go, you relieve yourself… then it’s over and you can get on with your life.
The female “pal” is supposed to get all this. Several characters in Jules Romains’s epic series of novels about the twentieth century’s first decades, Les Hommes de Bonne Volonté, model the behavior from within Bolshevik cells or nihilist artistic circles. There’s no God, no life after this one, no values except those created by society, no society except what power and privilege have assembled. Truth, therefore, lies where the last layers of conditioning have been stripped away: at the primal level, where male and female are beasts with needs and urges. A man needs a woman to have sex. A woman who embraces the revolution lends herself to satisfying a comrade’s need, even if it means being passed around in the group like a bottle of cheap wine. In my day and long before, much of avant-garde feminism was invested in the idea that women have identical sexual needs—and so “educated” women were supposed to scratch their itches with the same indifference to circumstance and consequence as their hairy-ape counterparts.
The inequity that cannot be eradicated from these arrangements, however (and has hence fueled an explosion of lesbianism among “educated” women today), is the essential quality of sexual pleasure. For the fully initiated leftist male, the woman remains a toiletry, though she be ever such a good “pal” about it. Use, flush… and get on with the revolution’s business. Though female initiates may also approach this state of depravity, they cannot redesign their role as receptacle in the exchange. They are the object into which the maddening poison must be discharged—and, as such, they acquire a certain guilt by association with the interlude’s inconvenience and vileness. They are the consumed butt of the smoked joint, the empty bottle after the last drop of whiskey is coaxed out. Empty whiskey bottles rarely end up in curio cabinets.
What a man gets from sex is release—and the man of action wants a quick release. What a female hopes to get from sex, even in its most degraded form, is a sustained experience of pleasant sensation. The difference is very like that between a flask drained in a foxhole and a glass of rare Château Mouton-Rothschild savored over a candlelit dinner.
Given these irrefragable facts, the leftist male has not even the degree of sentimental affection for his casual sexual partners as he might feel for a dog. With the dog, there is no physical contact in the relief of a burdensome need (after the fashion of a sheet of toilet paper), but rather the side-by-side warmth of a good blanket, unfailing devotion, and unthinking self-sacrifice in moments of high danger. And the dog’s big loving eyes show a dumb oblivion to the future that a woman might try to imitate but can never match.
Now, to the extent that our contemporary, self-styled Che Guevaras in the broadcast-entertainment-legal complex have to mouth proper phrases about health care or gun control to keep their human puppies in a fawning posture, I’m sure they do so without a qualm. What’s false in these professions, after all, is not so much their content as their degree of concern. A Harvey Weinstein probably does believe that women should have condoms paid for by public health care—not to preserve their personal health, however, but to render them more readily amenable to his “needs”. And what revolutionary would not vigorously endorse the confiscation of all firearms from law-abiding citizens? A lion who bites off ears is all in favor of Q-Tips and aural hygiene.
I wish I could see young women making some progress in figuring this all out. Hey, if you want to show off your beautiful body, fine… but it’s beautiful especially (if not uniquely) to males, and most of them are not sculptors. Among men who claim to champion your long-denied rights as a woman, in particular, exercise caution. Many tracks lead into the lion’s cave, but you will find none coming back out.