Is 2017 the year of the sex pest?
"We live in a time when viral posts and hashtags can bring about real change – as we
know, the power of social media is real. Sexual harassment will never cease to exist,
because it’s not actually about sex, it’s about power – specifically, male-dominated
“2017: The Year of the Sex Pest” - the short and succinct Facebook status of a well-meaning male friend of mine, underneath which several other men all discuss, aghast, the most recent celebrity sleazes to have been outed in the media. Kevin Spacey! Dustin Hoffman! Michael Fallon! There are cries of this being just the tip of the iceberg - shock, horror! What further fuckeries are we going to unearth?!
At the time of writing, the post elicited no responses from women, because, I assume, any woman with half a brain and eyes to see knows that every year is the year of the sex pest. Women are largely unsurprised by any of these revelations - sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination is regular, routine, run of the mill. From street catcalls to ‘friendly’ bottom pinches in clubs, to the ‘grab her by the pussy’ style banter (note: NOT banter) dismissed as ‘locker room talk’ by not only the President of the United States, but scores of men, everywhere – these are standard, everyday perils. It doesn’t make them any less disgusting.
In terms of numbers of sex pests, no more or less currently roam the planet than at any other point in the last century. Only now, they’re getting their comeuppance. Revelations about the misconduct of embattled super-producer Harvey Weinstein (Hollywood’s ‘open secret’) opened the floodgates for a rush of accusations. Let’s face it, we all know a Harvey Weinstein. He’s the salacious, over familiar company director; he’s the close friend that always oversteps the mark; he’s the pervy, rich uncle-in law at every wedding you’ve ever been to and he’s finally subject to a metaphorical parade of shame that would have even Cersei Lannister grinding her jaw.
Well, it’s about time - for years allegations of sexual misconduct by men in power have been swept under the rug – those against Terry Richardson, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill O’Reilly. Are we surprised at any of these new complaints? No! Are we surprised that as yet no legal action has been taken against any of them?! No! Since time immemorial, there has been little point in reporting claims of sexual harassment, because nothing changes. Victims are dragged through the mud - she’s a prude, she’s a drama queen, she’s a slut, she’s a liar - fuck, she might even be a feminist! We’re only really shocked when actual punishment is meted out. That there might finally be consequences for these crimes is the unfamiliar part of the story.
On home shores, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently resigned (reportedly at the behest of Theresa May) and there are calls for his resignation as an MP. Fallon commented that he’s at the wrong end of a culture shift; behaviour that was considered appropriate ten years ago is now completely unacceptable - a bleating response, in anyone’s book.
The Prime Minister, spying a chance to come down hard, called for the “serious, swift, cross-party response this issue demands”, suggesting party leaders come together to implement a new grievance procedure for all those that work in Parliament. Given the current climate, one gets the feeling that this particular sexual harassment scandal is only just beginning to unravel. A rumoured Excel Document circulating Whitehall, originating from a covert Whatsapp group between whistleblowers, is said to detail historic acts of assault - if touching a knee ten years ago is cause for resignation today, I reckon there’ll be few MP’s left in office by Christmas.
Whilst shock punishments have so far largely taken place outside of the legal system (Netflix cancelled production of House of Cards post Spaceygate), we’re promised that police on both sides of the Atlantic are investigating the crimes of both Weinstein and prolific director come predator James Toback. Understandably, these things
take time, but how long? And will the accused actually be brought to justice (cough: Bill Cosby)? We live in a time when viral posts and hashtags can bring about real change – as we know, the power of social media is real. Sexual harassment will never cease to exist, because it’s not actually about sex, it’s about power – specifically, male-dominated
power structures. It will take more than just awareness to unseat that, but maybe, maybe this is the beginning of the ride - the end point of which is a cultural utopia whereby women are more empowered and better protected.
No, 2017 is not the year of the sex pest – 2017 is the year of change, and a time for sex pests everywhere to crawl back to wherever they came from, wishing, hoping, praying for judgment to be swift.
Written by Charlotte Ruth