Sexually aggressive creeps like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and — yes — Donald Trump seem to think harassing women to the point of unwelcome groping or worse is a male prerogative. It's just boys being boys and men being men the way nature intended. Maybe they are right if we believe men have not advanced beyond primitive cave dwellers.
However, for every Stone Age, brain-in-his-pants male running loose in a fraternity, locker room, construction site, executive suite or Trump casino, there is at least one man — and, I would argue, many more — who knows how to be a gentleman in the fullest sense. These are real men who respect women, not just with fatuous words when everyone is listening, but in private when a man's real character shows its face.
Disgraced movie mogul Weinstein now insists that he deeply admires and honors women. After all, isn't he a card-carrying Hollywood liberal? A major donor to the Democratic Party? A big supporter of Hillary Clinton? Well, if his many accusers are correct, it seems his admiration and respectfulness and progressive politics fell away on quite a few occasions when he was alone with females over whom he held substantial power. Like Bill Clinton before he was chastened by impeachment, Weinstein's sole priority was to satisfy the wolf inside him.
Metaphorically, casting couches are not confined to executive offices in Hollywood. They exist in all kinds of workplaces, from the military and college campuses to big-box stores and fast-food restaurants. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, hundreds of thousands of American women have been logging into social media with the hashtag "#MeToo." The message from each of them is, "I, also, have been sexually harassed" — by male bosses, by male co-workers, by male cops, by male teachers, by male relatives, by male family friends, by male strangers.
Women who have suffered harassment need to know that the old cliches, such as "all men are alike" or "all men want the same thing" are fallacious. There is an army of men who are very different from the brutish stereotype. When I think about the males of various ages that I know well — my friends, my closest work colleagues, my son and son-in-law and their good friends — I can testify that there is not one among them who would harass a woman at work or sexually exploit a women under his supervision. This is not because I live in a hippy-dippy West Coast bubble. These men include cowboys as well as cartoonists; Republicans as well as Democrats; Christians as well as atheists and agnostics; a college soccer coach, an electric car engineer, a state governor, a high-tech entrepreneur, an airline pilot, a musician, a police officer, a personal trainer, a banker, a philanthropist, several attorneys, a couple of professors and, not surprisingly, a gaggle of journalists.
These guys are not wimps or losers or in any way less than male. They are quite accomplished. At least some of them are pretty darn buff and attractive. Certainly, they are all sexual beings with the usual desires, but I cannot imagine any one of them forcing himself on a woman who did not welcome his attention. I cannot picture any of them making offensive remarks to pretty women walking by, let alone claiming license to fondle a female because of some sick sense of entitlement. They just do not live that way.
It is not just that they respect women, they also respect themselves. They do not want or need to be the kind of guy who is driven to prove his illusory sexual prowess by aggressive targeting of any unlucky woman who arouses his animal instincts. Neither I, nor the many admirable males I know, claim to be perfectly enlightened, but I do not think that is what most women are demanding. What they want is a man who gets it; a guy who masters his carnal urges and aspires to be a fair, compassionate, civilized human being.
Women need to be assured there are men they can count on as allies when some jerk with more authority than he deserves and far more self-regard than is justified tries to exert his droit du seigneur to exploit a woman in a workplace or at a party or on the street. There are good guys. We are here. And, if you are looking for someone to stand with you, we say, "me, too."