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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Sacrifice Is Critical in the Age of #MeToo

It's not complicated: "No" means no. "No, I don't want to do that." "No, stop that." "No, I don't think that is funny."

Persistent advances—kissing, groping, or worse—after somebody has made their "No" clear is bullying or assault. End of story.

Good guys can do this. They can get their photos snapped doing it. And rather than defend them as good guys and attack the victims for being "coached" by your opposition, realize they were doing something a woman had clearly rejected.

Talented guys can do this: brilliant actors and directors who have long-dirty reputations in closed industry circles, yet they've gotten away with it and their predation escalates.

Presidents can do this, and they appear to be Teflon-covered.

But the only way any of these men will never pay the price is if people balk at surrendering their idealized heroes and they refuse to condemn their behavior, rendering the #MeToo movement selective.

How does a man go from pranking and playful sexual banter to bullying and assault? My guess is that it's a process.

I worked in the theater for more than a decade, and show biz is sexually charged. There are jokes. Creative energy is sexual and so the energy flows. Something can easily start as joking but quickly escalate to something else. And the first time a man gets away with it, he learns this is acceptable.

Once I worked with an actor sexual bully, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful director (who was married to a shrink). He took me aside and pointed out that I was inadvertently inviting the bully's advances. This was spot on: I was so freaked by the actor—he triggered old traumas—that unconsciously I was inviting it in a kind of PTSD-induced craziness to re-create experience in the childlike belief that I could make it come out differently. I was shocked enough by the truth to stop my end of it. Yet he persisted—even doing something when we were on stage. And I was mad. But the show was short-lived and it never went far enough to be a real trauma, so I haven't thought about it until now, in the age of #MeToo.

When a man starts small, and then brings this behavior into other parts of his life, he can often get away with it. Because he is so admired, people are afraid to believe it is what it appears to be, and/or they are afraid or reluctant to confront him. They will not risk losing his favor and attention, his approval, friendship, perhaps reflected glory through the relationship, possible work or money. They will not sacrifice whatever would be sacrificed if they were to call him on his wrongdoing.

And so they are part of the perpetuation of this behavior. And on it goes.

The only way to ensure that the #MeToo revolution really changes things is by ensuring we do not become selective in the heroes we sacrifice. A real revolution requires sacrifices that may hurt, but how much better to hurt than to continue this culture of bullying and assault.

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