I have not followed the catastrophe of Harvey Weinstein with any special care or concern, but some of the wreckage has naturally washed up on my lonely island, as some has, no doubt, on yours. It appears that Mr. Weinstein is a man addicted to lechery, which with pride and covetousness made what medieval theologians regarded as the trifecta of mortal sin. And from the little I know of Weinstein, he seems to have been no slouch when it comes to pride and covetousness. He has indeed lived what Plutarch described as a life of “furious lechery and wriggling after glory,” very much like you and I.
That is, perhaps, too charitable, since Mr. Weinstein’s lechery appears to have been rather more furious, and his wriggling after glory rather more efficacious, than mine at least have been. And this is why he is now learning that Aristotle knew whereof he spoke when he said, “dishonor, shame, evil end, and damnation, wait upon lechery.”
Whatever crimes are eventually proven, it seems now fairly certain that Mr. Weinstein made what is known to the law as indecent proposals. The one that caught my attention, as I’m sure it did yours, was his proposal that an aspiring actress watch him take a shower. Watching Mr. Weinstein shower would not be pleasant under any circumstances, and in this case of the aspiring actress, there was, I gather, a distinct promise that it would involve some degree of lewdness.
Proposing a lewd performance to a person who has not indicated a desire to view a lewd performance is an indecent proposal because it insults that person’s character. Decent means “fitting,” or “appropriate,” so by proposing to shower in her presence, Weinstein suggested that the aspiring actress was the type of woman who relishes, or at the very least is willing to endure, just this sort of spectacle. This suggestion is the gravamen of the crime of making an indecent proposal.
(Let me here admit that my legal knowledge is limited to a quick reading of the legal opinion in Mart Shields vs. Texas, an 1898 case in which an “unchaste women” named Tex Lynn suffered a “sense of shame” owing to a proposal made by Mr. Shields. The court found that she had “by her conversation and conduct . . . invited a proposition of carnal intercourse,” and so had suffered no injury.)
Brooding over Mr. Weinstein’s peculiar habits of personal hygiene, a couple of things occurred to me, both of which sort of relate to my recent post on the Tarquin of Texas A&M.
The first is that there must be any number of actresses who are now nervously remembering the day when, hearing the same proposal, they eagerly answered, “Sure Mr. Weinstein, let me get a chair.” If Mr. Weinstein were much younger, his proposal of lewdness might have been a youthful indiscretion—like Jean Jacque Rousseau wangling his member before those grisettes in the cellar passageway—but Mr. Weinstein is not a young man. So, we must suppose that holding up a loofa and winking has worked for him in the past.
This is not to say that all aspiring actresses are on the order of Tex Lynn, but that watching a fat man play tricks with a bar of soap is a price that some are willing to pay.
The other thing that occurred to me is that the whole notion of an indecent proposal may not make much sense in our sexually liberated world. Of course, a woman can make it clear that she is not the kind of woman who enjoys lewd acts, even by a man whose wriggling after glory has placed him in a position “to do her a smooth” (as I understand the young folks say nowadays). But until she does this, isn’t it an outdated prejudice to assume that she is addicted to this sort of Victorian prudery?
Some unknown portion of the female sex would, we know, think it very decent of Mr. Weinstein to give them a break in exchange for this trifling indulgence.