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a blog by Ann Althouse

"The question at the trial was: What did Weinstein do? But its subtext is an argument about female ambition: What should a woman want?"

Writes Dana Goodyear in "Harvey Weinstein, the Monster of #MeToo/If Weinstein is acquitted in L.A., it will be tempting to conclude that #MeToo is over. But, even if he is convicted, some may reach the same conclusion" (The New Yorker).

The jury has been deliberating for 3 days so far. Today is Day 4, so the prospect of acquittal is real.

Many of Weinstein’s accusers are women who sought access to an industry over which Weinstein held sway, and who continued to strive for it in spite of his alleged abuse. They still wanted the job, the chance....

Two of the witnesses... like many other Weinstein accusers, kept in touch with him afterward...

When the defense told [one witness] that no one had forced her to go to Weinstein’s hotel room on a subsequent occasion, when she had set up a business meeting between Weinstein and a male friend of hers, she parried, “My ego forced me to.”...

[Natassia] Malthe, a frank and salty witness—Weinstein, she said, was a “fat fuck”—suggested that, having already been raped, she “wanted to make the best of this situation... He has you by the fucking throat, knowing that, if you don’t comply, that your career is down the drain, knowing that this thing you’ve worked on for months . . . and that’s not right.”...

If Malthe’s and other similar accounts are true, this is Weinstein at his most diabolical: violating women and then dangling phantom go-nowhere gigs to create an elaborate fiction of an exchange for some future defense, or perhaps to better defend his own conscience from misgivings and moral pangs....

Will a jury find that a woman’s desire to work undermines her account of being sexually violated in the process? Will it believe that these women, participating in a criminal case, are gleefully jumping on what [defense lawyer Alan Jackson] called the “2017 dogpile”? Arguing that Jane Doe No. 3 and Siebel Newsom both engaged in consensual relationships with Weinstein for their own benefit (“He benefitted, and she benefitted”),  Jackson said that after 2017 they were “desperate to relabel their relationships with Harvey Weinstein.”

Siebel Newsom, he said, “cannot square in her mind the idea that she’s a successful, well-educated, well-bred, refined woman who had consensual sex with Harvey Weinstein in exchange for opportunity and access.”

It was “transactional sex,” he said, and Siebel Newsom had buyer’s remorse. But, he said, “regret is far from rape. You don’t get to rewrite your own history, no matter who you’re married to.”

ADDED: Let's look at that question I put in the post title: "What should a woman want?"

Weinstein's lawyers weren't questioning women's ambition. They were acknowledging and crediting women's ambition. As I read those quotes from the defense's closing argument, they were characterizing the women as individuals with full agency, choosing to pay with sex to get what they wanted.

That is, there was consent. Obviously, that doesn't mean a business should be run like that. But in the trial, it is only proffered as a defense to the criminal charge of rape, not as a reason to think transactional sex is not a problem.

But it's easy to condemn rape, and very hard to get into the complex problem of transactional sex. But in the good old days of radical feminism, we did get into that problem. Once you are there, you will be critiquing all the relationships you want to feel warm and romantic about — including the marriage of Siebel and Gavin... and your own marriage. 

AND: What would a rule against transactional sex look like? The only permissible sex would be sex for sex — an equal exchange. Both (or all) parties want the sex precisely because they want the sex and nothing else. That's a high ideal. You might want to try to adhere to it as a matter of personal ethics, but I can't believe you'd want it as a legally enforceable standard of conduct. I'll bet you wouldn't even accept it socially as a basis for judging other people.

"In 1964, Gloria Szymanski, a recently divorced mother struggling with the sexual and behavioral strictures of her new status, was filmed as a patient of three renowned therapists..."

"... Carl Rogers, Frederick Perls, and Albert Ellis. The film was produced and narrated by the psychologist Everett L. Shostrum, who was Szymanski’s personal therapist and who recruited her for this starring role.... 'He told Gloria that the films would only be used in schools and colleges to teach psychology students so imagine her surprise then when making her breakfast pancakes a year or so later to see her interview with Dr. Perls on TV and then she found out that the films were going to be shown in full in movie theatres all over the country.'... She talks, with frankness and charm, about her daddy issues and her pinings for smart, authoritative men. If not for the clinical setting and the disapproving gaze of the therapists, her desires would seem normal—which, of course, they are...."

From "Gender Critique Meets Lewd Spectacle in 'The Patient Gloria'/Gina Moxley’s play examines the sexual and behavioral strictures on women through the lens of psychotherapy circa 1964" (The New Yorker).

Even as disease could be perceived as health — see the first post of today — health could be perceived as disease.

ADDED: I believe it is a terrible invasion of privacy, but nevertheless, I found the original film on YouTube, so I present it here: 

"Seriously, you are the first person who seems to have noticed the sexual framework from intromission to last spasm," wrote Stanley Kubrick...

... to LeGrace Benson, a Cornell art history professor, who had written him a letter in 1964 detailing her observations about "Dr. Strangelove."

Now, Benson, who is 92, is interviewed in "My Coffee With Stanley Kubrick" (NY Magazine).

I sat through it three times before I wrote that letter. That was a time when there was a tremendous interest in the difference between the sexuality of real, ordinary people — real life — and the prudery of Hollywood. I don’t think prudery is a good idea ever. So I forced myself to go even to pornographic films. I couldn’t stand them, but I did it... But that was the background from which I wrote that letter.
If I were to write a letter about Strangelove today, I would want to talk about the sexuality in the movie and its connection to politics. I see it around us all the time right now — it’s seamless. You can’t take them apart. They feed on each other, and I believe I see that in the far right....

Yes, people are not talking enough these days — not deeply, anyway — about sexuality and politics. Somehow, there's more of a sexual quality to the right wing. According to Benson!

While we were walking together before coffee, he said, “I’m making a film about outer space and aliens. What do you think aliens look like?” I have never forgotten that question, because I had never thought about what aliens look like. The question just sat in my mind, and recently I thought, Now I know the answer to the question. Too bad Stanley Kubrick’s not here to hear it.

Here's that letter she wrote:

"The court said they found him guilty of rape as well as of the crime of assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity."

From "China sentences Canadian pop singer Kris Wu to 13 years in jail for rape" (NY Post).

What is the crime of assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity?

I found this discussion in a 2019 blog post "Law and sexual repression in China" by Yinan Shen (Feminist Legal Theory):

According to Article 301 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, group licentiousness is a crime based on the view that assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity reflects public contempt for state law and social morality. Specifically, it refers to a gathering of three or more people (men and/or women) engaging in sexual activity and other promiscuous activities.

The activity of the participants must be voluntary. The state views such behavior as violating the public order. Those who gather for promiscuous activities shall experience criminal detention or public surveillance or imprisonment for not more than fives years [sic]. There has been much talk of the law being repealed.

Legal experts argue that there are no victims from voluntary group sex which generally takes place in private and hidden places and does not endanger public order. Why, then, should the law punish such harmless acts?

There are opposing voices say that these group sex acts can’t match the traditional Chinese morality. In my opinion, law is the lowest standard of morality. We can require the public to respect the law and use the standard of law. But we can not ask the public to act following all the traditional morality whatever it is correct or decadent....

"But the new flood of money — and the way many female athletes are attaining it — troubles some who have fought for equitable treatment in women’s sports..."

"... and say that it rewards traditional feminine desirability over athletic excellence. And while the female athletes I spoke to said they were consciously deciding whether to play up or down their sexuality, some observers say that the market is dictating that choice. Andrea Geurin, a researcher of sports business at Loughborough University in England, studied female athletes trying to make the Rio Olympics in 2016, many of them American collegians. 'One of the big themes that came out is the pressure that they felt to post suggestive or sexy photos of themselves' on social media, Geurin said.... Scroll through the social media posts from female college athletes across the United States and you will find that a significant through line on many of the women’s accounts is the well-trod and well-proven notion that sexiness sells."

From "New Endorsements for College Athletes Resurface an Old Concern: Sex Sells/Female college athletes are making millions thanks to their large social media followings. But some who have fought for equity in women’s sports worry that their brand building is regressive" (NYT). 

1. Is it regressive of the NYT to illustrate that article with many photos of scantily clad lovely young women?

2. Once we're following sports at all, we're staring at the bodies of people with great bodies. We're talking about spectator sports. What part of spectating is superior to other parts of spectating? 

3. When you participate in sports, isn't some part of what you are doing about trying to look good?

4. The article conflates good looks and sexiness. The only "sexiness" it's talking about is good looks. Ironically, that's retrograde. If a woman is just being seen looking great, to say she's using her sexuality is sexist.

"... the bozo insisted."

I'm only blogging this article because I love the frank admission that this isn't journalism that is revealed by the use of the phrase "the bozo insisted."

The article, in the "Living" section of the NY Post, is "I busted my boyfriend for cheating — when he lasted too long in bed."
A jilted woman is going viral after revealing how she figured out that her boyfriend was cheating — when he unexpectedly got better in bed....

“I feel pretty bad and I’m disappointed in myself because there’s something I haven’t told you,” [he wrote in response to her TikTok]. “One of the boys invited two girls on our cabin trip, and I ended up sleeping with one of them.”...

The remorseful man went on to claim that he had no “desire to do anything” with those women, but things took a turn after one of the gals “had to sleep over because they couldn’t get home” — and there were only two beds, he claimed.

“She slept in my room, and it went as it did, but that’s no excuse anyway, I thought it was stupid of me,” the bozo insisted.
For the record, the bozo got a second chance and she now says he's "a very sweet and nice boy."

"I was surprised. Yeah. I thought we’d colored inside the lines. But I think if you’ve got a bunch of men and women in a boardroom talking about sexual behavior..."

"... maybe the men are going to be worried about what the women think. It’s just a weird time. It’s not like depictions of happy sexuality. It’s depictions of situations that are ambiguous. And Americans are really strange when it comes to sexual behavior, don’t you think? I don’t know why. They make more porn than anyone else in the world."

Said Andrew Dominik, the director of a new movie based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel that is based on the story of Marilyn Monroe. He's quoted in "Ana de Armas Confused by ‘Blonde’ NC-17 Rating: Other Films Are ‘More Explicit’ and ‘Have More Sexual Content’" (Variety).

I'd like to know what he thinks "the lines" are. Should it be easy to "color inside the lines" or is it good that there's nuanced analysis of what might be appropriate for minors. I haven't read the book, but I'm guessing there is manipulative and coerced sex in — as Dominik said — "situations that are ambiguous."

The star — Ana de Armas — is "confused," but shouldn't children be protected from confusing sexuality?

The director believes "Americans are really strange," and he doesn't know why we are strange. He used a coloring book metaphor as he talks about making something that would allow children into the theater to be affected by confusing, manipulative, coercing sex, and then he brings up porn. But the movie-raters don't let children see porn! Some things are for adults, including serious movies that look into sexual exploitation.

Here's the quote from de Armas, which shows no awareness that the issue is the exclusion of children: "I didn’t understand why that [NC-17 rating] happened. I can tell you a number of shows or movies that are way more explicit with a lot more sexual content than ‘Blonde.’ But to tell this story it is important to show all these moments in Marilyn’s life that made her end up the way that she did. It needed to be explained. Everyone [in the cast] knew we had to go to uncomfortable places. I wasn’t the only one." 

Is it "important" that children learn the story of why Marilyn was how she was? Why would children understand it? For all I know, the presentation in the movie is titillating during scenes of rape and quasi-rape. Perhaps it's not sexy, just depressing and rough, demanding that viewers harden themselves and face harsh "reality." That's not something to do to children. 

But wait. This is a Netflix movie. The NC-17 rating will only exclude kids if parents have figured out and set the "parental controls." 

"As the righteous energy of #MeToo fades into a more ambiguous debate, we’ve reached a point where it’s become obvious that consent and figuring out what you don’t want..."

"... is just not enough. What does it mean to go beyond consent and discover what you do want?...  Understanding our authentic desires has long been hopelessly stymied by politics.... 'Every woman here knows in her gut,' wrote the writer and anti-porn feminist Robin Morgan in 1978, 'that the emphasis on genital sexuality, objectification, promiscuity, emotional noninvolvement and coarse invulnerability was the male style and that we, as women, placed greater trust in love, sensuality, humor, tenderness, commitment.' If male-centered ideas about sex hardly encouraged self-actualization, neither did this new strain of feminism."

Writes Nona Willis Aronowitz in "I Still Believe in the Power of Sexual Freedom" (NYT). The words that follow "neither did this new strain of feminism" are so convoluted and abstruse that I almost ended the quote with the Robin Morgan quote. But consider whether Robin Morgan said it better than anyone else as you read Willis Aronowitz's effort to say it was wrong. I'm beginning with the very next sentence, and quoting without ellipsis, because I want you to experience how weirdly impenetrable it is. Sorry to bias you, but I'm begging for help. I'm struggling to read it:
Its subjective judgments about what women should know in their guts did nothing to acknowledge women’s realities and only added to their internal shame machines. A group known as pro-sex feminists warned against the dead-end politics of focusing only on sexual violence...

But that's not what Morgan was talking about.  

... which just made women the “moral custodians of male behavior,” as Carole S. Vance put it in her landmark anthology, “Pleasure and Danger.” Besides, the suppression of female desire, they argued, had long been a tool of the patriarchy. “The horrific effect of gender inequality may include not only brute violence,” she wrote, “but the internalized control of women’s impulses, poisoning desire at its very root with self-doubt and anxiety.”

Okay. I must break in to say that the word "internal" is driving me up the wall. Willis Aronowitz kicked Morgan to the curb over something she called the "internal shame machine." Then she cued up a "pro-sex feminist" who talked about "the internalized control of women’s impulses." Is this just another way to refer to psychology, some idea about fake feeling — something from the outside that somehow got inside (shame/control) — that hides the real feeling? Are we saying over and over again that women can't figure out what they want? Maybe like the "pro-sex feminists," Willis Aronowitz wanted to jump ahead to the premise that you've got to be pro-sex, and that's why she imagined that she'd disposed of Morgan.

To continue with the Willis Aronowitz text:

Fighting against this control and instead advocating pleasure, intimacy, curiosity and excitement were key to expanding women’s autonomy and their ability to live full lives. A lot has changed since then. Women’s right to sexual satisfaction is taken as much more of a given; most people are now aware of things like clitorises and vibrators.

Speaking of the "internal... machine"... the vibrator is the external machine. But come on, women in the 1970s were completely aware of clitorises and vibrators. And "[w]omen’s right to sexual satisfaction" was just as much of a "given" back then as it is now. Let's not delude ourselves about how much progress has been unfolding over time.

But extracting what we actually want from a mess of cultural and political influences can still sometimes feel like an impossible challenge.

Yes, that is the impression I'm getting. I want to see more carefully worked out ideas and more clear writing. I wish she'd just say I don't know what women want or even what I want. Why hedge it with words like "actually" and "still sometimes"?

How did I find myself in a marriage filled with bad sex?... I idolized Samantha from “Sex and the City,” and I also wished my sex was more meaningful.... ... I do believe that reaching for more sexual freedom, not less — the freedom to have whatever kind of sex we want, including, yes, casual sex and choking sex and porny sex — is still the only way we can hope to solve the problems of our current sexual landscape....

Well, there you have it. She is clinging to a premise she won't examine. She's a pro-sex feminist. Why is it "still the only way"? Because it simply must be? In my view, this is an admission that you are not a feminist. You have a more fundamental idea that determines where you are willing to go in the name of feminism.

"One lesson of feminism, surely, is that being like other women, rather than a shining unfettered exception, isn’t such a terrible thing."

Writes Michelle Goldberg reacting to this line in a 1981 essay by Nona Willis Aronowitz: "I secretly wanted monogamy, that I was just like every other woman who wanted to tie her man down."

The Goldberg column is titled "When Sexual Liberation Is Oppressive" (NYT).

She's bringing up a 1981 essay by Nona Willis Aronowitz, because Willis Aronowitz quoted herself in her new book "Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure and an Unfinished Revolution."

Willis Aronowitz is the daughter of Ellen Willis, who was — as Goldberg puts it — a "pro-sex feminist writer."

Don't you have to choose what to put first, sex or feminism? If you set out to put them on equal footing, what do you get? I must be a feminist and I must be pro-sex.

Well, maybe you thought it all out and began with feminism, let yourself think about it from all angles, and arrived at the conclusion that the true and best feminism entails active positivity toward sex. And then you carve back the concept of sex, so that only the sex that fits with feminism counts as the kind of sex you're in favor of.

Or maybe you start out with the sex. You want to be positive and enthusiastic about sex, to have an active and powerful sex life. And then, with that in mind, you craft a version of feminism that supports your primary goal of vigorous, plentiful sex sex sex. 

There's a third option, where you keep sex and feminism at a rigidly equal level, and you really try all along to give them equal importance. Or maybe you just think freely and independently, and, over time, sex and feminism find a place in your thoughts, and they coexist and don't conflict, because you like them both, and you don't test them to see where the conflicts are or which is more important. It's more about your internal life of self-esteem in which, sure, you're a feminist, and sure, you're pro-sex.

See how long you can keep that going.

Goldberg writes:
Willis Aronowitz discovered that her mother was devastated by the infidelity of her father, the socialist organizer and scholar Stanley Aronowitz. Pregnant with Nona, Willis wrote in her diary of hoping that a baby would help heal her relationship. “It seemed to ‘tear my mother’s very vitals’ to look herself in the face and admit that what she wanted clashed with a politically perfect idea of herself,” writes Willis Aronowitz. 
Yet Willis Aronowitz still sometimes hesitates to question whether her political ideas about sex are serving her. Philosophically committed to nonmonogamy, she’s taken aback by her overwhelming jealousy when a man she’s in love with and with whom she has an open relationship sleeps with someone else.

Oh, come on. Pick feminism and take a chance that you might be one of those women who aren't pro whatever the currently fashionable view of sex is. Pro-sex feminism ought to at least mean that the women gets to decide what kind of sex she's pro. If it's monogamous sex, why is she trying to convince herself that she wants nonmonogamy? As a thinker, she resembles the women who think that monogamy is the only choice and force themselves to believe that's what they truly want and believe in. 

Ironically, that's not pro-sex and it's also not feminism!

I've got 11 TikToks for you tonight, and it's quite possible you will love them all.

1. Detailed calligraphic artwork.

2. Gifting the Italian husband with Italian snack foods

3. How to style your hair. (For men with hair.)

4. "Going for a hoon in the Austrian Alps." (I had to look up "hoon.")

5. Now that's a wetsuit.

6. Crossing a difficult footbridge with a goat

7. "She's a rat girl, and you just fell in love."

8. A funny use of "Jump Around" (with a red scarf and a freckly horse).

9. "Are there dating sites out there for people that just don't...."

10. "... a new attitude towards life...."

11. The kid that just wanted to hear the same three U2 songs over and over in the car.

"In 1964, Gloria Szymanski, a recently divorced mother struggling with the sexual and behavioral strictures of her new status, was filmed as a patient of three renowned therapists...""Seriously, you are the first person who seems to have noticed the sexual framework from intromission to last spasm," wrote Stanley Kubrick...

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