I will admit that it is richly satisfying to see one alleged pervert after another get exposed and go down. I say “alleged,” though it seems like nobody doubts at this point that Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Terry Richardson, Mark Halperin, Louis C.K., Roy Price, and many other men actually did what dozens of women say they did. Indeed a number of these men have either outright admitted that they are perverts or else tactfully denied being perverts in a way that seems to affirm their pervo credentials.
Two things come to mind with each new revelation. The first is that, contra the insistence of many opportunistic conservatives, these nasty behaviors are not likely the result of the sexual revolution. Rape and groping and exposure existed well before the idiot cultural profligacy that started midcentury and continues today. Cultural licentiousness likely did not create more rapists and sexual abusers—the number of sex crimes has actually fallen since the end of the century, even as sexual immorality has become more fully realized.
The sexual revolution didn’t turn ordinary men into rapists; it rather made adulterers and fornicators out of ordinary men (and women). It is far easier to convince a man to cheat on his spouse, or a co-ed to give it away at a frat party, than it is to convince either of them to become sexual abusers. We should all work to undo that revolution and the damage it wrought, but we would be kidding ourselves if we pretended that it would solve our national pervert problem.
The second, more dismal thing we have discovered in the wake of these exposures is the utter and calamitous breakdown in community that they signify. It is somewhat understandable when we discover that a young woman—traumatized, afraid, frightened by a powerful man—kept her mouth shut about a rape for twenty years. But it’s not just the victims that kept quiet in these cases. With each new scandal we hear the same old story, almost as if by rote: “Oh, sure, everyone knew about it.” The locals in Roy Moore’s town apparently knew he had a habit of hanging around malls and talking to teenage girls. Quentin Tarantino knew about Weinstein’s kiss-the-birdy routine. Seth MacFarlane joked about Kevin Spacey’s deviant behavior on Family Guy. Comedians kept their mouths shut about Louis C.K.’s behavior for years. “Everyone knew,” we’re always told—but nobody said anything. What is happening here?
There are usually two types of explanations: either a fear of personal repercussions (as many women have said about Roy Moore, a powerful figure in his hometown) or a fear of professional fallout (as was the case with Weinstein, Louis C.K., and other celebrities). The first is somewhat more understandable than the second. But neither excuse holds up in the long run. All that it would have taken was an anonymous phone call to, or a guarantee of anonymity from, a sympathetic newspaper reporter. In Weinstein’s case, his victims included numerous powerful, influential female celebrities, women who could have easily banded together years ago to expose their attacker; what’s their excuse? What about the people who clammed up about Louis C.K.—was it worth a middling career in back-end comedy writing to run interference for a sick masturbatory flasher? What did looking the other way on Roy Moore’s mall haunts ever get anybody?
We are called to do better than this. It is not always easy to do the right thing, and indeed there are sometimes negative consequences for speaking out. But, as we have seen time and again, the consequences for not speaking out are generally even worse. If the accusations against Roy Moore are true, then a sick man who once tried to have sex with a fourteen-year-old girl is mere steps away from the United States Senate. Louis C.K. has a net worth of $52 million, a fortune he amassed fifteen years after he first exposed himself to a pair of women in a hotel room. Harvey Weinstein has upwards of six times as much money as that, and he’ll probably never see the inside of a prison cell. Keeping silent allows dangerous men to amass power and influence and very likely continue their predatory behavior in the process. There is no reason to stay quiet—not out of fear, not for money, and certainly not for a career purchased at the cost of more victims.