Since the New York Times exposed to the public what everyone in Hollywood already knew, that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is a serial sexual abuser, high-ranking Democrats who accepted donations from Weinstein are scrambling to prove their purity, and avoid the appearance of hypocrisy, by giving some of the money to charity. Included in the list of powerful politicians disgorging Weinstein money are Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senators Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Martin Heinrich, and Elizabeth Warren. Politicians can always be relied upon to look silly in a crisis. If it were me I wouldn’t give back a cent. I don’t see how taking money from Weinstein in the past and donating to charity now have anything to do with each other. Even if I received money from Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock, or the devil himself (as Trump is alleged to have done), I wouldn’t give it back. I don’t give money back.
As to the charges against Weinstein it’s important to make a distinction between garden variety “sexual harassment” and sexual abuse. So called sexual harassment includes flirting, making inappropriate comments, or telling off-color jokes. As I’ve argued before this is relatively harmless, and may be protected by the first amendment. Or it could be dealt with in other ways, short of making a federal case out of it. Alternative remedies could include telling your boss’s wife, telling his boss, telling the news media, telling your boyfriend, husband, or brother, or slapping the jerk across the face as women used to do in movies back in the 1950’s.
However making a girl watch you take a shower, or tying her promotion or success in Hollywood to sexual favors, both of which Weinstein reportedly did, rises to a higher level of assholeness. Pressuring a girl to watch you take a shower is stupid and perverted. Stupid because few women are likely to be turned on by watching a middle-aged guy take a shower. Perverted because a normal guy would require the girl to let him watch her take the shower. If the sexual abuse is done through force or the threat of violence, it’s a serious crime, and the remedy is to tell the police. And don’t be scared because it’s some Hollywood big shot, ladies. The police love busting big shots.
If there’s no force involved, only a quid pro quod, it’s a different crime. It’s called “soliciting prostitution.” However, for some reason no one other than me recognizes that that’s what this is. If a man in a position of power, an employer, prospective employer, or movie producer, offers a woman something of financial value in return for sex, i.e. a job, a promotion, or a part in a movie, and she complies with the offer, that’s prostitution on her part, and soliciting prostitution on his. Legally I don’t see any difference between giving a woman a remunerative job or movie role and giving her cash in exchange for sex.
Or if you don’t think prostitution should be a crime, you may see the trade of career advancement for sexual favors as, in the words of Michael Corleone, “just business.” In that case you might characterize the settlement money that these women subsequently demanded from Weinstein as “just business” also. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing prostitution decriminalized, but as long as it’s illegal, I don’t see why both parties to such transactions aren’t prosecuted. Alternatively Hollywood moguls and pretty young actresses could sign “sex for a job” contracts in Nevada where prostitution is legal.
BTW, tip to prostitutes and their Johns: if you want to make trading sex for money legal, videotape it. Filming the sex act effectively converts prostitution into pornography, which the Supreme Court says is protected by the first amendment. Go figure.
Serving all humanity, but mainly serving myself, this is Jim Greenfield.