Sex & Sexuality

The Problem with Male Libido:
Voices Weigh In

Matt Lauer is an example. He was one of NBC’s most “valuable” commodities. When the allegations of his abuse of women came out, I was surprised to hear the head of NBC News say he had had no complaints about it. I have been told directly by two employees at NBC/Universal that Lauer was known to be a danger to women. And while I did not know directly about his sexual misbehavior, it was obvious that he was dangerous to women by his degradation of his former colleague Ann Curry, and in his brutal questioning of Hillary Clinton (while he gave her male opponent the soft-glove treatment).

In fact, the accusations against many, if not most, of the men who have been accused of sexual misconduct are not surprising or shocking. Which brings us to Roy Moore: Who protests louder and harder about morality than the secret sinner? No need to mention the foes of homosexuals who have been found to have engaged in that very behavior. It’s an old story: Someone who dislikes something about himself projects that behavior onto others, then demonizes them for it.

What is the thread that runs through all these stories? Character. We have not been surprised by most of these stories because they jibe with impressions we have already established. Weinstein, for instance:: though his unfortunate appearance may contribute to this, everyone had heard that he is a brutal and piggish man, and many knew about his treatment of women. Roy Moore, as a judge, promised to uphold the law but has a history of hypocritical behavior.

Should we have a scale for evaluating the degrees of bad male behavior? Start with character. I have long advised women I work with to give the men they want to meet a sign of their interest. Why? Because the men who approach you without one are usually not the kind of men you would want to know. They are often insensitive to women’s needs, thinking only of their half of the equation. Not always, but often. Think about the last guy who made a sloppy, uninvited pass. Not someone you want to date.

Another reader responding to Marche’s piece summarized the issue nicely:

Immature and damaged people have allowed themselves to harass and/or assault targets they deem easy to conquer. In doing so they catered to their ego needs, not their bodily needs. It is reasonable to expect that by the time one reaches adulthood one can distinguish between needs driven by the body and those driven by the ego, and between a willing partner and a target. If a man — or a woman — can’t figure that out, control himself or herself, and act accordingly, he or she shouldn’t be left unchallenged in a position of power and influence.

HARRIET RENEE CAMPBELL
BROOKLYN

Ms. Campbell hit the nail on the head with the term “willing partner.” Not only must she (or he) be willing, there must be a level playing field. People in positions of power, who are older, more powerful, or who occupy positions of respect and authority, always have an unfair advantage. Add to that the problem that many women, when taken by surprise by an unwanted advance, “freeze” and find themselves unable to fight back, and this can create a toxic brew of circumstances that dictate that men must be very thoughtful indeed.

Time magazine has chosen its person of the year: the women of the “#MeToo” movement, who have changed our national conversation and hopefully have made significant changes in our willingness to tolerate sexual harassment and abuse. We can only hope that this watershed moment will lead us all to keep thinking and talking about this.

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