Saturday, 13 January 2018
Abuse isn't romantic. So why the panic that feminists are killing eros?
Jessica Valenti https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/12/abuse-isnt-romantic-feminists-eros-me-too?CMP=share_btn_tw Catherine Deneuve and others have publicly worried that the campaign to end sexual harassment has gone too far but the truth is there is no war on romance ‘Trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not [a crime],’ Catherine Deneuve’s letter read. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images Contact author @JessicaValenti Fri 12 Jan 2018 11.22 GMT Last modified on Fri 12 Jan 2018 15.34 GMT The #MeToo backlash is here, and it’s very worried about your love life. Iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve says the movement is puritanical and men should be able to “hit on women”. New York Times writer Daphne Merkin wants to know “whatever happened to flirting?” The Hollywood Reporter bemoans that #MeToo could “kill sexy Hollywood movies” while Cathy Young at the Los Angeles Times believes it will end office romance. Ross Douthat is even worried that the push to end sexual harassment could stunt population growth. Who knew that humankind’s very existence depended on women’s silence in the face of abuse? The truth, of course, is that there’s no war on romance: the majority of outed abusers are being accused of rape, serial harassment and exposing their genitals to unwilling women. Not exactly the stuff of office flirtation. We created the #MeToo movement. Now it's time for #HerToo Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano Read more Still, somehow we’ve reached a point where any behavior short of violent predation – let’s call it the “not as bad as Weinstein” standard – is characterized as misunderstood seduction. Merkin says, “stripping sex of eros isn’t the solution”. But whose “eros” are we really worried about? As Vox journalist Laura McGann put it this week at a media event, “I don’t see this uprising of 22-year-old women saying, ‘I want the right to sleep with my boss.’” As has been the case for so long, the backlash to #MeToo is about what men want and protecting their right to have it. If it wasn’t, we’d see a spate of panicked articles about teenage girls being arrested and charged with distributing child abuse images after sending nude photos to their boyfriends. Unlike the men outed by #MeToo, none of whom have been held to real account, these young people are actually being criminalized for consensual romantic behavior. Where is the open letter on their behalf? There’s a reason so many people are conflating bad and sometimes criminal behavior with romance: traditional ideas about seduction rely on tropes of women witholding sex and men working hard to get it. It’s a narrow notion of heterosexuality – one that does a good job excusing abusive behavior. “Trying to seduce someone, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not [a crime],” Deneuve’s letter read. Not always, that’s true. But when it’s considered “natural” for men to doggedly pursue women – even those who have made it clear they’re not interested – we make it easier for a predator to claim he was just following a normal romantic script. Perhaps instead of mourning the loss of office “flirtations”, we should consider the idea that some women never liked them much to begin with. When will we have more concern for the women hurt by abuse than the men accused of it? One of Roy Moore’s accusers had her house burnt to the ground – arson is suspected. Harper’s magazine was on the brink of publishing the name of a woman who created the Shitty Media Men list before a feminist Twitter campaign stopped it. Some women won’t see justice for years, some ever. This moment isn’t about romance, it’s about abuse. Perhaps the fact that so many people can’t tell the difference is part of the problem. Jessica Valenti is a Guardian columnist