We have to be very careful living in a society in which the voices of reason are constantly being shouted down and drowned out – a society that values, almost overwhelmingly, vice at the expense of virtue. Because no one is immune to the influence of their surroundings. It is like second-hand smoking. Regardless of whether or not you are the one that is “lighting up,” if you continue to inhale, even involuntarily, it can still kill you. So be careful. If the room you are entering is figuratively “smoke-filled,” it’s probably safe to assume that it’s not your interests that are being considered. In other words, find the nearest exit. Save yourself the heartache of learning the hard way that the room is more than just stuffy, it has become downright dangerous.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is never a (good) reason to sacrifice our integrity for personal or professional pursuits. I don’t care what pot of gold is promised at the end of the rainbow, leprechauns aren’t real. Or as one sage once put it, “Wickedness never was happiness.” So it really doesn’t matter if it’s for a movie deal or a million dollars, our souls shouldn’t be for sale. If someone propositions us to reconsider our position, prison should be preferable as Joseph demonstrated in fleeing from Potiphar’s wife.
But these are values that are being lost on many people, particularly within the entertainment industry. That is why Hollywood remained silent in the face of rampant sexual abuse. And as much as I hope that the recent revelations of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk serve as a kind of catalyst to reform Hollywood’s culture of corruption, the sad reality is that Hollywood has no foundation upon which to build. To Hollywood, sex is transactional – a tool for profit and pleasure. Nothing more.
As long as sex serves to gratify our pride and vain ambition, we’re fooling ourselves if we think fundamental change is possible. And this isn’t just true of Hollywood. It is true of literally every one of us. Until we learn to see sex in its proper light, which is only possible if we see people in their proper light, we will continue to perpetuate the problem. Indeed, this isn’t just Hollywood’s problem. This is a problem plaguing mankind. Culturally, we have devalued sex to the point that its meaning is only ever measured in dollars and cents. In other words, at least spiritually, we’re poor indeed.
Harvey Weinstein isn’t the problem, either. He is simply a symptom of the problem. The real problem, and this might be hard for our collective ears to hear, is that we are not, by and large, a moral people. Now that might offend certain sensibilities. But, much like Hollywood elitists who are now desperately trying to feign ignorance, I too would be remiss if I turned a blind eye to the harsh reality of our current predicament. Because let’s face it: if we participate in pornography, which is nothing more than legalized prostitution, on any level, we are, on some level, complicit in the exploitation and objectification of human beings. And last I checked, we have a serious problem on our hands. So for someone to conclude anything other than that we have a morality problem, for starters, I’d question his definition of morality.
Hollywood is burning because Hollywood likes to play with fire. They pour gasoline all over the place and then throw raucous bonfire parties thinking it’s only ever going to be other people that get burned.
But lest we get carried away in our righteous indignation, I question whether or not we are any better. Could it not also be said of us that we are likewise ignoring the sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse of thousands of women “performing” for money and “movie deals.” I’m not sure you’re going to find much of a distinction between what Harvey Weinstein was doing to aspiring young actresses and what pornographers do every day in coercing desperate young women to sell their bodies. So we might think that only Hollywood can’t be trusted to do the right thing. But are we really so different from the actors, artists, and agents who did and said nothing in the face of such evil? Are not millions of us willing participants even? If we hold up a mirror, would it be all that surprising to learn that Hollywood is nothing more than a reflection of ourselves?
And if we aren’t at all disturbed by what we see, particularly by what we see staring back at us, then, in truth, there is no difference between us and them. We are them and they are us. And like them, we will publicly condemn these abuses for purposes of self-preservation while privately entertaining them for our own profit and pleasure.
Now, some of you might be thinking that if people “consent” to this kind of treatment then others are justified in mistreating them. To help clarify, ask yourself these questions:
If I consent for you to shoot me, are you justified in shooting me?
If a woman consents for a man to punch her in the face, is he justified in punching her in the face?
If a woman consents to being abused sexually or otherwise, are you justified in abusing her?
The answer to all of these questions is, of course, a resounding NO! So the question isn’t really a matter of consent. Consent, at least as it relates to this debate, is nothing more than a ruse designed to distract us from what should otherwise be obvious. This is a matter of right and wrong. It’s a question of morality.
The question is simple: Is it right to sexually exploit and objectify human beings?
The answer is similarly simple and straightforward: No. Never. Not under any circumstance whatsoever.