I'm still digesting reactions from Weinstein on down, from a lot of different angles.
But I was asked to chime in on a question about intimidating men and active consent.
I remember the days of "no means no." Which was hard enough to get moving in the U.S. Trying it internationally had to suck royally. From Japan (where a direct "no" is considered rude) to the middle east (where nobody believes you truly said "no" until you've said "no" three times) to Gods only know what other cultural interpretation is out there.
But time has passed. And fearing to say no because of what some will do when rejected is all too understandable for someone who grew up scary.
So here's where I chimed in...
I was going to stay out of this, but since I've been summoned...
I'm huge. 6'7", north of 300, built like a padded bank vault.
I have two wars as a machine gunner under my belt and the chest candy to prove it.
I'm the guy big guys come to play with so THEY can be the little guy for once.
And I work in the film industry.
And I'm so hetero male I can set off a pheromone sensor in the next zip code.
So yeah, this has been hitting home. A lot.
What has been working for me so far is this...
Step One, keep it out of the office. Completely.
I'll admit this one was fucking painful. I'm a seriously addicted hugger. I'm also a renfaire brat. I was totally that theater kid with no earthly idea of personal space.
Would I back off when told? Godsdamned right I would. And instantly the apology would kick in. And I wouldn't do it again.
But for every one of me, there's ten who get angry at being "misunderstood."
Which meant the number of people willing to tell me to back off kept getting smaller without me ever noticing.
Nowadays? Few who acted with me as an undergrad would recognize me stepping onto a set. I'm painfully polite and standoffish, rapidly approaching Rupert Giles levels of stuffy.
And I do that because I've seen and increasingly noticed over the years how much more bullshit the girls have to take from the guys.
When you're on the entertainment industry food chain, you know that networking is everything. You want people to like you. You don't want to make waves. You don't want to be that guy. Because your life is the job hunt. And you never know who has the ear of the next person that could fire you.
Which means you take incredible amounts of shit.
Even after years in the industry, I've had my "this might suck royally, but the bills are due," moments recently.
And if I'M still having those conversations with myself? What the unearthly fuck must be going through the heads of the SCORES of pretty young ladies that pour into this business every month?
That goes double when I'm teaching or advising. I walk into a classroom or on a set with those titles, I am walking into a room full of people trusting me to keep them out of a hospital. How the fuck are they going to do that if they can't trust me not to be a crude jackass? Fuck that. They walk into my classroom or onto my set, they're off fucking limits. Period.
Added: "But work is the only place I meet people."
The patchwork, one day here and another day there nature of the industry means that individual workers are even more susceptible to this kind of crap than corporate folk who've actually seen an HR rep.
I didn't say it was easy.
Gods know I've worked with some brain-meltingly attractive people in my time. I'm talking move over Helen of Troy here.
But NOT drooling on them while they're trying to do their job shouldn't be a tall order to fill. Maybe there's an on set position that can be performed effectively with your eyes firmly centered on someone else's ass, but I never fucking heard about it in or out of film school.
Now, that's work. Let's talk about play.
Gods love the kink community for all the patience, active consent, and good priorities they've hammered into my skull over the years.
For the longest time, I mangled some swordfight wisdom from a stupid 90's movie into two things:
One, never lie.
My response to "you're married" is "yes I am. Here's her number, you'll have to ask nicely for anything else."
No guile. No little white lies. No omission.
Two, disappointment is the worst reaction you're allowed.
If rejection makes you angry, your triggers are what's fucked up, not the world.
And you have to fucking mean it.
There's literally no magic words. I've had to explain deadpan that I don't have some cheat code that drops panties at my will. I have to enter the dance with the mindset that going home alone at the end of the night is perfectly OK, with NO hard feelings afterwards.
The words you use to express it don't matter. What matters is that you mean it.
Because then, your body agrees with you.
I always used to say that insisting that your intentions are honorable is useless because your own body will call you a liar. Humans, to a degree, can smell emotions. Usually the base ones: rage, fear, and lust.
So when you're insisting you're not trying to pick someone up and your own scent is calling you a liar? That, I believe, is one source of the "he didn't really do anything, he just felt creepy."
So yes, a simple admission of, "I'd love to go rattle the walls with you. But you're not interested, so I'm not going to bother pursuing." goes so fucking far it's ridiculous. It's acknowledging both the desire and the decision to back off. And if they're both honestly meant, that comes across.
And that builds both trust and rapport. And I don't say that in terms of goodwill or karma you can save up to buy ass later, but I say that as good things in and of themselves.
But patience is a part of it. If you don't get any that night, so fucking what?
Priorities: there are greater ones than your dick. Don't just halfheartedly agree, know it and live accordingly.
And active fucking consent.
Not to get explicit, but when there's honestly not a malicious thought in your heart at the time, you have NO IDEA how much fun it is having someone greet you with an enthusiastic "yes," only for you to then take the time to make them say, "please?" first.
Yeah, it's a scary, tumultuous, changing time.
There's no consensus on the rules anywhere.
(fuck, there's no consensus on definitions anywhere, for that matter).
But in the meantime, you keep your honor clean as best you can, apologize for honest missteps, atone for your actual fuckups, and strive to do even better. For whatever that's worth.