“She believed she was raped.”
Is that the best you can do, Morgan Spurlock? Let us hope for one thing in 2018: perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment will apologise with decency, humility and genuine remorse.
So far this winter, we have seen dozens of high-profile men craft their own narratives once they have been accused of being predators – or, in Spurlock’s case, outed themselves. They have been accused of crimes, but they are determined to shape the story, to dim the lights and to prepare their comeback, a la Mel Gibson on the Graham Norton Show. Gibson was caught on tape in 2010 informing his then-girlfriend that she deserved to “raped by a pack of n*****s” and admitted that he had assaulted her and she “f***ing deserved it”. He seems to have re-assimilated back into Hollywood life with ease in 2017, although it is worth pointing out that his alleged offences were non-sexual.
Those who are accused of sexual misconduct release wily statements apologising to women “if” they were offended, and promising to go to rehab or donate to charity. They throw in supposed bombshells as a means of distraction, ranging from infidelity (Spurlock, cheating on your wife is not the same as rape) to coming out as a gay man (Kevin Spacey). The PR spin has become positively formulaic.
Compiling a short round-up of recent apologies makes for despairing reading.
I came of age in the Sixties and Seventies – that was the culture then – Harvey Weinstein
Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions – Louis CK
Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterised, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed – Matt Lauer
It is not reflective of who I am – Dustin Hoffman
This decision, which was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts, was a terrible mistake – Ryan Lizza
The “dog ate my homework” generation has lived well beyond primary school. And it’s not just the old dinosaurs such as Donald Trump that have whole lifetimes of bad behaviour to contend with – men in their thirties and even their twenties have been accused of rape and assault, from the editors of established literary magazines to the young guys acting in our favourite television shows.
But now, thanks to courageous reporting and brave victims coming forward, we know they all have one thing in common.
How could we expect any better of the younger generations of men, when women are objectified more explicitly than ever before? (One look at Karen Gillan’s outfit in Jumanji, and the refusal of Warner Brothers to replace Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts, after the Amber Heard allegations, are plenty reminder of women’s worth in Hollywood and the perceived priority of male audiences.) And how could we expect better from younger generations when supposed liberal comedians like Bill Maher joke that men assault women because they have a bad sex life at home?
Matt Damon insists we live in a “culture of outrage”. He has already talked about his four daughters to highlight how his view on misogyny has changed. Maybe if he had a fifth daughter he would have said that we live in a culture where women and men are feeling increasingly empowered by a collective sense of anger – yes, we are allowed to be angry – to challenge predators and to say enough is enough.
This year will hopefully be the last one that men like Matt Lauer can press a secret button to lock the door when a woman walks into his office. It will hopefully be the last year that MPs get accused of watching porn when they are supposed to be serving the public that voted them into office. And hopefully, 2017 will be the last year when a wave of men, in politics, Hollywood, the media and the literary world will issue pathetic, grovelling and dismissive statements, saying they are heading to therapy.
While there are those who apologise badly, there are those who simply refuse to understand what they have done wrong. At the time of writing, Brock Turner, the 19-year-old Stanford student who spent just three months behind bars for sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman after a party, is appealing his conviction, absurdly arguing he did not assault the woman “behind a dumpster” as stated in court documents – it was in a three-sided enclosure which happened to house a dumpster.
At the end of 2017, none of these men are, at the time of writing, facing punishment by law. Most are likely hoping to return to their careers. The other perpetrators – and there will be more – are likely crafting their apologies as we speak. We should always let them have a right of reply, but we shouldn’t let them write their way out. Not until they learn the old-school lesson – say you’re sorry, and mean it.