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A Natural History of Sexual Harassment: Darwin to Lauer

Well, good heavens!  It seems every morning we’re waking up now to news of another masculine celebrity accused and smacked down careerwise for, you guessed it, “sexual harassment.”  Yes siree.  Ailes, O’Reilly, Weinstein, Spacey, Rose, Louis C. K., Franken, Conyers, Seagal, Hoffman, Halperin, Keillor, Stone, Affleck, Lauer, James Levine, even old daddy H.W. Bush—and all that’s just for starters on the long and growing list.  Holy smoke!–could the pope end up there, just for “touching an angel”?  Where we used to have that Republican men’s “war on women,” we now have the liberal Democrat women’s “war on men,” with the finger-pointing barrage (of the painted-nails variety) coming on hot and heavy and that pendulum thing swinging wildly in reverse.

I got to thinking and pondering a good bit that it might behoove us, just for clarity’s sake, to examine the roots of sexual harassment through the distant and turbulent ages of “male-and-female-kind.”  Or, it might not, but that’s what I intend to attempt here anyhow.

Now, right off we have to choose between Darwin and the Bible.  But since the scriptural record doesn’t imply Adam harassed Eve (maybe the snake did, but that’s a stretch and could get really complicated), we’ll go with Darwin and the caveman.  Considering the hundreds of cartoons I’ve seen with the caveman holding a club and dragging a cavewoman by her hair back to his cave, I’ll take that as archetypally accurate.  Whether it was the club or the hair-dragging that became frowned upon, that all eventually fell out of favor and was replaced by a form of “let’s make a deal.”  Not exactly like Monty Hall’s version (no cars or vacations were involved, of course), but more like “I bring meat, you cook on fire.  We eat meat, then boom boom.  No boom boom, no meat.”  This seemed mutually workable unless said cavewoman found said caveman to be boom-boom unappealing while said caveman kept persistently dangling his meat.  Then it could reasonably be surmised that historically the first brave spark was struck for the concept of sexual harassment.

It should be noted, however, since we mentioned Darwin at the outset (not in conjunction with him being accused of sexual harassment, so far as we know, but considering these contemporary revelations that can’t be totally ruled out), that not all creatures as they evolved adopted the “let’s-make-a-deal” paradigm.  I give you the rooster as a prime example.  Have you ever seen a rooster mate a hen?  Wow!  Ka-pow!  Ka-whamo!  No please or thank you.  Then he’s got the gonads (somewhere, but they’re really hard to find) to climb up on a fence and crow about it!  Nevertheless, the hens seem not to have ever lodged a protest as I’ve never seen a rooster in jail.  Wire cage, yes; jail, no.

Moving along up the historical trail, we come to Egypt and the pharaohs.  About the time Norman Mailer wrote Ancient Evenings with all that Egyptian research, he explained in an interview about the vast importance culturally of the phallus in early Egyptian politics.  It seemed that as a seasonal ritual, the throngs gathered before the “king” and at a predetermined stage of the proceedings he slowly lifted his robe to reveal (hopefully) a fully erect male member to the celebratory masses.  This symbolized virility of the nation, victory in war, a favorable growing season, abundant harvests and the efficacy of Egyptian Viagra.  However, if the ceremony at that point displayed a certain “limpness” (if you get my drift), panic might ensue among the people and certainly a new pharaoh could be in the offing.  Anyone who doubts this should check out the most prominent feature on a statue of the Egyptian god Min.  And I’m not talking about his feathered crown or the flail.  But the main point here is that by modern standards, the old boy was sexually harassing a whole nation in one fell swoop!  That, by golly, could be labeled a quantum leap ahead for the guys’ team.

Most historical authorities surmise that a goodly amount of sexual harassment occurred during the Dark Ages; however, it is difficult to pinpoint with statistical accuracy because most of it was conducted in the dark.  In the 16th century, it was said that Erasmus advocated for women not being harassed, but his message got blunted because he also considered women “emotional, conceited, jealous, greedy, impudent, and garrulous.”  Finally, creeping up into the modern era, that old rascal George Bernard Shaw was famously said to have propositioned a female dinner companion with the lines “Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” “Well,” she supposedly said, “maybe for a million I would, yes.” “Would you do it for ten shillings?” said Bernard Shaw. “Certainly not!” said the woman. “What do you take me for? A prostitute?” “We’ve established that already,” said Bernard Shaw. “Now we’re just haggling over the price.”  Yep, by Gloria Allred’s criteria, that would qualify.

Then everything more or less culminated in Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony against Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to SCOTUS revolving around the compromised Coke can.  That was a quantum leap forward for the girls’ gang because tons of workplace sexual legislation ensued.  But those nasty boys kept up their distasteful antics in spite of the law (the hall-of-defamer Bill Clinton, for example) right up until the election of Donald Trump.  And that’s when all hell broke loose and the “feminine empire” of pussyhatters struck back with an heretofore unbeknownst vengeance!

Now, it seems to me the central question remaining is simply what accused male transgressor will qualify for the distinction of the “greatest-harasser-in-chief”?  And the most deserving of female enmity for all time?  Harvey Weinstein comes immediately to mind for the alleged magnitude of his offenses; however, Matt Lauer craftily sneaked into the lineup (having cleverly employed the technology of button doorlocks on his desk) and even left female colleagues “processing” the whole situation on-air.  Nevertheless, I think Louis C. K. merits the most serious consideration for having “stood up” in every sense like a man and in effect embodied that revered tradition of the magnificent Egyptian pharaohs.  That “ancient evenings” spirit is powerful stuff!

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Mark Scheel

Mark Scheel grew up in east-Kansas farm country. He attended both Kansas State University and The University of Kansas, majoring in psychology and English. Prior to writing full time he served overseas with the American Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, West Germany and England, taught at Emporia State University and was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines including The Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The Kansas City Star, Heritage of Kansas, Samisdat, and Poet as well as many sites online such as Common Ground News. His literary activities have also involved membership in The Kansas Authors Club, a seat on the board of directors for Potpourri Publications Company and an editorial position with Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River: the Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr., and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. His most recent book is titled The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom.


7 comments to A Natural History of Sexual Harassment: Darwin to Lauer

  • Mark, as a practicing Catholic, you should look at the bright side: this glut of celebrity sexual harassment has relegated the scandal of pedophile priests to semi-permanent “old news” status — though it was probably already there, despite occasional flare-ups. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t even trust Santa Claus anymore. I plan on keeping a shotgun by my bed on Christmas Eve evening to protect my wife from any extracurricular goodies he may have in mind.

  • Ricardo

    I admire well-researched humor, Sr. Scheel. Not so much as to bother with research myself, but I admire it.

  • Muse,

    Understandable, but don’t bump a toe on the trigger! 😉

    Correction in order–I’m not a practicing Catholic, rather a “peripheral” one. My dearest Dee is the Catholic, but I don’t receive communion there–rather I go once per month to a Methodist church to do so. Now, are you ready for the irony? I did take the RCIA training (intensive study to convert to Catholicism, but I didn’t do so) and the priest our group studied with was brilliant, but later was defrocked for accusations of pedophilia years ago! So you’re definitely on to something there! Ha.

    Mark

  • Ricardo,

    Well, I consider that high praise coming from the “humor master” himself. Thank you, good sir. I’m just hoping there’s no backlash from the “pussyhatters,” who may not see the humor there, researched or otherwise! So far so good, however.

    Mark

  • Mark, my apologies for calling you a practicing Catholic, which is what I was until I fell out of practice — or, should I say, until I found that practice didn’t make perfect (didn’t make the Church perfect, that is — I’m always perfect….except when I fall short. Ha ha).

  • Mark,

    I love that line about sexual harassment kept in the dark in the Dark Ages. So much so I might steal it at some time in the future. Now not to get into conspiracy theories but I do find it kind of amazing that all this stuff is coming out now. A whole lot of it has been known for decades yet no one in the Mass Hysteria dare touch it with a fork. Should we begin to wonder just who would be behind it all? Could it be The Trilateral Commission, The Illuminati or maybe even The Watergate Burglars?

    Don

  • Don,

    You’re welcome to it, Don, and no need to credit me. Ha. Yes, the journalist Bernie Goldberg just spun an interesting conspiracy theory on the whole thing, but he didn’t mention The Trilateral Commission or the Bilderbergers. Personally, I’d go for the Illuminati as some Catholic friends think they’re behind everything dark and evil!

    Thanks for your input. 😉

    Mark

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