It’s been my fate to live at this crossroads, not the kind where the devil teaches me how to be the best blues-guitar player in exchange for my mortal soul, a bargain given how badly I play. The crossroads where I stand is where women’s demands intersect the patriarchy.
Of course, my crossroads looks more like a Los Angeles freeway interchange, all knotted crisscrosses and loops. There’s the mayhem of the political moment, about which I need not add my comments. There’s that slight matter of nuclear war, which quite literally blows away the whole intersection. There’s the slower but just as destructive environmental crisis, which will also blot out all other concerns. There are the cries of “God is great!”, a noble sentiment when not accompanied by slaughter. There are the mass shootings at which neither God nor greatness is present. There’s a lot more, but what I’m addressing here is the toppling of male idols from all walks of public life, kings of kings now colossal wrecks.
Were I higher up the food chain, I too might topple. Mea culpa (Mea Cuba, to quote a writer whose quips on this matter I’d love to hear). But, mixing muddled metaphors, these issues are above my pay grade and, shamelessly carrying on with language if not with women, that was in this country, and besides, the stud is not dead yet but mostly out to pasture.
Sexual harassment. The most obvious is: sleep with me and you’ll get promoted, don’t and you’ll get fired. Or, as a woman told me after getting hired at one of those all Latin American and mostly Cuban enterprises in Miami, a male colleague let her know that aquí hay que templar — here one has to fuck. Simple.
From there things get foggy. Groping. Like it or not, one need socialize with colleagues, which often involves drinking, which lubricates mischief. Have I groped? Sure. Was it welcome? Often. Have I been groped? Yes. Was it welcome? Usually, though sometimes it was embarrassing, particularly if it came from a guy. The fogginess in these cases came from alcohol — and other shit.
Innuendo. There’s a thin line there. Some people of different genders and orientations generate a flow of innuendo, which if witty is mostly tolerated and even admired. Others lack grace, and some — the blatant harassers — are about as subtle as the guy who said aquí hay que templar, hoping for a response like yes, fuck me now. Then there are the ones who push it, who are not dissuaded by obvious rejection or even disgust. Though I’ve certainly indulged in innuendo, I've backed off quickly at signs of rejection and most certainly disgust. Political correctness? Nah. Ego.
Have I used the leverage of my rank for seductive gain? I don’t know. Honest. It’s in the nature of one’s standing in a hierarchy as embedded as male dominance that one doesn’t have to think about privilege. Same as race: of course all lives matter, but the point here is that black lives matter, fool; many white folk can’t and certainly don’t want to figure that out. So here I’ve been, a male, surrounded by comely females, with some programming urging me toward them. Do I stop to ponder gender and hierarchical inequalities? Didn’t I already pay my dues as a consciousness-raised man by changing diapers? I stop to ponder nothing. I don’t stop until stopped. I get stopped easily — that ego thing. Some men don’t.
Consider Harvey Weinstein, a gargoyle in (as he saw it) a harim. A veritable Quasimodo, but powerful. In a way, I pity him. I was never that unlovable, and I never worked in an environment full of females one of whose functions was to stoke male desire. All those women on the screen I’ve lusted after precisely because their presence was calibrated to excite me (Gwyneth Paltrow climaxing as Ethan Hawke strokes her pussy over her panties in Great Expectations, for example), those women are there, live, in the sweet flesh, at arm’s reach of the powerful gargoyle. He stretches his arm. What would I do? In my job as an entertainment journalist I’ve met some alluring women. For the length of an interview. I succumbed to their charms, but if I stretched my arm it was to take notes, and later, still bedazzled, I channeled the energy of my turn-on into my writing, holding the reins tight to avoid a misstep. No modesty: I did a fine job. Did I entertain propositioning them? You bet. Did I ever? No way.
The patriarchy crumbles around me. No worries. I’m a patriarch only in having progeny. Otherwise, I’m just an observer. Should I be summoned for past offenses, I’ll save my inquisitors some effort right now. Yes, I wanted all of you, and God knows what fairness I violated in the pursuit of. . . what? Happiness, for that’s what I always thought of sex. I’m too old to break at the wheel; the breaking is happening by itself. Carry on, female warriors. I sympathize, even though I must not always have been so simpatico. Men are getting their comeuppance and rightfully so. Me? I’m still trying to figure out those Robert Johnson licks, and no devil is coming around to teach me.