Am I the only one to find the #metoo-ing over Harvey Weinstein a little creepy? Bandwagons always make me want to jump off. And talk about kicking an asshole when he’s down. I resent being made to feel sorry for the man. Now that the confessional groundswell over sexual harassment has moved far beyond this one Hollywood toad, we seem to be losing the distinction between actual sexual assault and mere poor taste.
The theatre director Max Stafford Clark’s remark to a staff member that he would be ‘up her like a rat up a drainpipe’ in his friskier days sounds like the arm chancing of an earlier generation, and at 76 he was unlikely to have made a young woman feel threatened. He was in a wheelchair, for pity’s sake. So was George H.W. Bush, when rumoured to have patted the odd behind. An increasingly senile old goat with reduced inhibitions couldn’t have been that scary. Bush Sr doesn’t have much power to abuse, either. There’s a big difference between the ‘sex pest’ whom you can bat away, and the kind you can’t. I worry, too, that in the extremity of our reaction to the Weinstein case, we women are frightening men to such a degree that they will never venture an off-colour aside in mixed company (since none of us prudes have a sense of humour). Much less will they ever dare to lean over a dinner table that tad too far when you’re both married and ought to know better. I treasure a little lightheartedly suggestive banter that you both realise will never materialise into anything dangerous. I savour the playful electric frisson between sexes — the passing dalliance, the fleeting reciprocal attraction that will evanesce, but which still puts a spring in your step walking home. Mutual flirtation could become a bygone art, and a bygone pleasure.
This is an extract from Lionel Shriver’s column from this week’s Spectator, out tomorrow