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When the culture pushed aside the gentleman for Hugh Hefner, it paved the way for Harvey Weinstein
Sometimes we deserve their anger, guys, and it's because too many picked the worst people to exalt and glorify.
(Photo credit: Andy Wright via Flickr)
Just a few weeks before Hollywood commenced one of its toughest acting jobs - pretending to be shocked over the creepy behavior of Harvey Weinstein - much of American culture grinned and snickered over the recently concluded life of Hugh Hefner. Even though it's hard to detect much difference between the two.
One lived in a mansion with women much younger than he, paraded them around like sexual objects and obtained sexual favors from them in exchange for his continued beneficience.
The other ran a film company and treated women like sexual objects, often making their willingness to give him sexual favors a condition for their continued career success.
You can nitpick the subtle distinctions if you want, but you're really not going to find much. Hefner and Weinstein were two examples of the exact same species of creep. The only difference I can see is that Weinstein's objectification of women was more ham-handed and clandestine, whereas Hefner somehow managed to do it with enough style that he made the deal - let yourself be objectified and I'll make it worth your while - seem liberated and cool.
You remember this. Your dad had a stack of Playboys stashed away somewhere. He thought you didn't know about them, but of course you did. It might have been your first exposure to female nudity, all a product of Hef's handiwork. A whole generation of American men came of age thinking the ultimate experience involving the female form was all about boobs and pubes, accentuated with bunny ears for whatever reason. And they started measuring their experiences with actual women against what Hef presented to them.
Come on, baby. Be like the chicks in the centerfold.
The J Geils Band even did a song about it. I once heard about a parish priest tapping his feet to it. I want to think he wasn't really paying attention to the lyrics.
And the more we mainstreamed Playboy - out from behind the cashier's counter and on to your cable system with its own premium channel - the more we pushed aside a dying breed of American male:
Oh there are still plenty of gentlemen. I know lots of them. Hopefully I am one. I probably wasn't always in my life, but I certainly try to be now. But the gentleman is not a hero of today's American culture, nor is he a hero of the modern-day millennial social scene. That's the guy who's bagged more babes than you have ever even met. He's the hero. Let that guy write a piece for Maxim about how you too can sleep with all the women you want, and watch that piece get 1 million uniques on Maxim.com.
Good luck to the poor schlep who submits a piece on how to treat women like a gentleman. His wife will read it and say, "Good job, honey." That will have to be enough for him, and if he's really a gentleman, it probably is.
More than 20 years ago I met a woman and I fell in love with her. She was beautiful then and she's beautiful now. She's also an astonishingly special person in her spirit and in her mind. She was the one I wanted. And because I recognized all these things about her, I believed I owed to her first of all to treat her with respect, like a gentleman would. I didn't do it as a ploy. I just thought it was right to do. It was the minimum she deserved.
The result of that has been . . . really good. I'll just leave it at that. There's nothing the imitators of Hugh Hefner and Harvey Weinstein are experiencing that I envy. My life is better than theirs. I am happier than they are. I'm confident about that. So are all the true gentlemen.
But the culture considers the gentleman a sap, a wet noodle, an emasculated shell of what a man should be. That started with the sexual revolution, which made sex much more available to men without requiring the commensurate commitments of marriage, fidelity and so forth. The men driven by their raw carnality took full advantage. And Hugh Hefner glorified their conquests, presenting other men with the images of what it might be like if they too could bag babes with this kind of prowess. He was followed by other, equally detestable men, like Bob Guccione and Larry Flynt. But Hef was the trailblazer. He was the one who scorched what was once the good earth.
And the more it became acceptable to sexually objectify women and call it entertainment, the more fully the culture laid the groundwork for Harvey Weinstein's behavior. Listen, sweetheart, this is what the business is all about so you might as well surrender your innocence right here. Give it up.
I know, I know, the casting couch has been around since the 1920s. I get it. I'm not suggesting it started with Hef or with Weinstein. But lots of other things have been going on since time immemorial. Something still changes when the culture stops shunning it and starts treating it as respectable. It's one thing to do it in secret. It's another thing to do it to just about every woman you meet, and to have everyone around you know about it, and have them just wink and shrug and say, "That's Harvey."
That isn't possible unless the soul of the culture has become so darkened that a man like this quite reasonably feels no repercussions for his behavior. Harvey's fall didn't come until the people who had the goods on him no longer feared him, and that didn't happen until his influence and his ability to make money had waned. We're not having this conversation today because we've suddenly become more virtuous. We're having it because the dollars-and-cents proposition that protected Harvey for decades changed.
I criticize a lot of things about modern feminism. I think there's much wrong with it. But when I see what's become of modern men, I cannot entirely begrudge them their antipathy toward us. To a large degree, modern men have earned it. As women across social media come forth with their #MeToo hastags this week, I don't look at that and think, "Oh great, another left-wing social media fad."
I think: They're telling the truth. Men have earned this because they lost sight of what it means to be a gentleman, and of why they should be gentlemen.
The entertainment industry needs to be cleansed of this evil, and some of us are working on that. But more importantly, the culture needs that cleansing.
I saw a few guys the other day talking about "double standards." Why, strippers flash their goods in front of us all the time. We don't get offended or upset. Women can tease us and be as flirty with us as they want and they face no consequences. It's a double standard!
We could talk a lot about double standards, but let's not, because that would be stupid. Let's say this instead: The only standard that matters is the one to which you should hold yourself. You know what's right. Do it. Other standards don't matter.
One young woman I know has talked a lot in recent days about how much this has happened to her in her life, but she's also emphasized that people don't have the right to demand the details. "We don't owe you our stories," she says.
She's right. That's entirely unnecessary. Our responsibility as males is to view women as God commands us, and to treat them accordingly. You don't need to hear endless stories of how not to do it to figure out how that works. You should have an inate sense of decency already in you. Follow it. And if you don't have one, then stay away from women, because they deserve better than to have to deal with the likes of you.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!