Since when was gambling not synonymous with sex and vice? Marketers may position casinos as family-friendly but the ogling of pole dancers and free-flowing booze at the gaming trade show in London this week, reported as outrage by The Daily Mail, thwarts that spin. Revelations of decades of sexual harassment by Steve Wynn was also of no surprise to many, but his resignation in response is driven by similar concerns as London’s criticism over gyrating hostesses.
Much of the difference between unwelcomed sexual advances and harassment hinges on a power imbalance. Wynn is now caught up in a cultural shift that rightly has no tolerance of the latter and is gaining intolerance for the former.
Even before investigations, alleged perpetrators are being denounced. Should the shame not be with their cronies for not guiding them with wise counsel? Or, with the community for not developing moral outrage earlier?
In our era, acceptable sexual behaviour is broad, based upon personal values rather than highly prescribed community mores: where university orientation camps provide “buddy rooms” for coupling; where school auditoriums giggle at skits about marital infidelity; and where radio call-back shows discuss the benefits of first-date sex versus playing the man for relationship longevity. These conundrums are but irrelevant for the diehard “not out of wedlock” unicorn found under a blue-moon.
Within this freedom to hold personal values and act as guided by conscience, navigating appropriate methods of approach cannot be easy.
Not so paradoxically, in this ‘liberated’ world of flexible and opaque sexual boundaries, anger has seethed and spilled over into #MeToo-like movements, followed by hasty retreats by prominent personalities as seen in this week’s resignations of Steve Wynn and the mayor of (ironically) the world’s friendliest city, Melbourne’s Robert Doyle. Both resigned amid decades of innuendo and rumour. Advice to victims has typically been to “be discrete” for the good of careers and the business. ‘Discretion’: such an insidious word in its implication of the victim as complicit.
Personal sexual liberation requires each to know his own morality and to be aware that others unlikely share it. I fear that what we are experiencing today is not moral-cultural shift from a liberal stance but a power unleashed from indignation fuelled by popular moral outrage, but one unhinged from personal experience.
Sexual liberation must mean that what is improper is not someone’s approach per se but the persistent use of power in the approach. There is now a real antipathy and time-worn intolerance of powerful people behaving badly.
It is one thing for an individual to abuse their power, for eventually they are likely to get their comeuppance. It is entirely different for the populace – and those entities who fear them – to take their newly found power legitimacy to condemn those yet to be investigated. Both Wynn and Doyle resigned this week under such circumstances.
Cases like these are profoundly sad for all involved. We have seen many artists, visionaries, politicians, and celebrities, and their works and memories destroyed. Their brilliance in other spheres of their lives have been negated and invalidated because the time is now and not when influence pardoned their misguided proclivities. In reference to the WSJ article on Wynn’s resignation is a poignant comment: “A year ago you could have published the same article and the world would have shrugged.”
Proven vile actions should be punished. But, how did we become so intolerant, so simplistically puritanical, so totalitarian in our views that we would obliterate an entire fruit-bearing tree for a likely disease in one limb?
Our liberties are more at risk from the lynch mob than from those miserable men who will be called to account for their basic urges and corrupt use of influence causing debilitating injury to the powerless.