The judge’s decision of not guilty of sexual assault in the Jian Gomeshi case has brought young women into the streets, with banners in their hands and rage in their hearts. They believe that the cause of equality between the sexes has been ill served. In their angry minds, Gomeshi deserved jail for being sexually aggressive, and at the very least, the end of his career. They succeeded in the latter. Gomeshi is a discredited entity who will never host a high profile show on TV again. Since nobody is interviewing him, we can only imagine what his state of mind is these days. In spite of his ‘acquittal’, he has lost not only his income and his reputation but also been made into a kind of monster. The hysteria about ‘rape culture’ that this case unleashed shows no signs of abating. And please note; he didn’t actually rape anyone. Men everywhere are watching this unfold and from what I know, they are deeply dismayed and feel accused as men. Being a man in our society just got a lot more difficult, and I don’t believe that the further fraying of Eros is a good thing. We all lost something in this sorry spectacle, but perhaps it is opening the door for a deeper conversation about the modern dynamics between sex and power.
The first question that needs to be asked is about whether rape and rough sex are the same. I think not, but apparently, many young women can’t tell the difference between rape and a rough sexual encounter. Anyone who actually experienced true rape trauma would likely find that what happened to these women wasn’t especially terrible. No, it’s not what we would like to happen, nobody condones rough conduct, but is it a question the courts should be considering? Does marching in the streets help? Or put another way, does taking our sexual issues to court further our collective wish for good, erotic, happy relationships?
I do not think so. And believe me when I tell you; I am very experienced in this matter. I had a lot of lovers in my prime. Maybe I just got lucky, but not once did I experience even a whisper of violence. From what I know about men, they are not so different from women in what they crave; they want the sexual connection and will go to great lengths to get it. And some will go to any length. But only some. The point is, men as well as women are highly diverse in how they express their sexual nature. Gomeshi, according to the rumour mill, was known to be a rough sexual customer. Women are not stupid; they spread the word, especially at at place like the CBC. His predilections were known; if you still got involved with him, that was your lookout. Grow up, take some responsibility. The way the CBC fired Gomeshi and thus declared him guilty until proven innocent also raises troubling questions about how far an employer can go into their employees’ bedrooms. It was the current Trudeau’s father who famously opined that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Neither does the corporation, in this case the CBC, which will likely be sued for wrongful dismissal.
After all, Gomeshi is innocent, and that decision probably did not endear the judge to our venerable public broadcaster. And it certainly made everyone at the CBC look like fools or part of the Trump empire, the ‘poorly educated’. The only person who emerged from this mess looking good and playing her part perfectly is Gomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein. Here was grace under pressure as she calmly explained to Mansbridge that her feelings had nothing to do with anything, that she was simply doing her job. Which he certainly wasn’t doing. He utterly failed to put this case into a larger context; instead, he asked her how she felt about being called ‘a traitor to her gender’, which is a slur. It was the final nail in the coffin of the CBC, at least for me. I can’t and won’t watch such drivel anymore.
I and many others agree with the judge who ruled that the three women accusing Gomeshi of being rough in bed or even on a park bench, were not credible. They continued to flirt and even consort with him after the alleged ‘attacks’. As their emails to each other show, they simply wanted revenge–but not for sexual misconduct. That was just the symptom of a much deeper malaise: envy and anger at his towering success, his power in the corporation and the media in general, which they perhaps craved for themselves. They were out ‘to get him’, and sex was a convenient vehicle. They used the climate of confusion and anger over ‘rape culture’ to their advantage. Or so they thought.
And there’s the rub. The anger against inequality is justified, though using sex to wage war is not pretty. Using sex to manipulate and gain power has always happened, but until now, it was discredited. The movie Dangerous Liaisions was a hit because it explored this sex/power dynamic in the eighteenth century. In that movie, both sexes engage in dreadful power games. The Gomeshi affair is proof that in the twenty-first century, the sex/power fulcrum has become so intense that it is incendiary. Twitter wars and protest marches in the streets about rape really are something new. But do they help? No. They show just how confused we are. They show that Mansbridge missed a rare opportunity to engage in an intelligent way with a huge issue underlying this case: the shifting power balance between men and women and how it impacts our sexual lives. That’s the iceberg beneath all the hysteria. Had he done that, he would have opened the door to a long overdue, public discussion. We might have talked about the ongoing deformation of boys’ sexual expectations via internet porn. We could have begun looking at the rather interesting stats that show most rapes are perpetrated by a handful of repeat offenders who give all men a terrible reputation. We could have discussed the wide range of gender expression so typical of humans. The CBC did none of that. Instead Mansbridge just asked dumb questions based on slurs. Shame on you, CBC, you used to be better.
We inhabit a different place now where the old rules no longer apply, but the new ones haven’t been worked out yet. But you can’t engage in a discussion by marching. A little empathy will go a long way. How about admitting that this kind of thing happens to men as well; they too are used and abused in unequal work/sex situations. Women are not above this type of behaviour; we are not angels. Men are not devils. We find ourselves in a world where power is abused; we should not allow this to destroy the erotic bonds between men and women. But that is what’s happening.
The court case is over; the conversation continues. But please, enough of marching. That’s not a conversation; it’s just a shouting match. And we all know where that leads: more shouting.