I really find it bizarre that cheater apologist Esther Perel is having a moment at exactly the same time as #MeToo. When the zeitgeist on workplace sexual hijinks is “Touch my ass and you’ll pull away with a bloody stump,” we’ve got this barmy Belgian defending sexual entitlement. (Perel, you’ll recall was the deep thinker who gave us the affair euphemisms “quest for aliveness” and “exuberant acts of defiance.”)
But hey, she’s got a new book to shill — “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.” Hats off to Perel’s publicist who must have balls the size of ostrich eggs.
Sorry Esther, a lot of HR departments already had a good rethink about infidelity. All those creepy married dudes who got handsy with the staff Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O‘Reilly, ad infinitum… lost their jobs. I guess the quest for aliveness wasn’t worth the $32 million lawsuit settlement.
When you’ve made a name for yourself defending adulterers (the title of Zoe Heller’s review of Perel’s book in the New Yorker), railing against monogamy as “captivity,” and calling Americans puritanical, untangling sexual defiance from deviance must be tricky.
Not if you are a word salad savant like Perel.
“These are not sexually powerful men. Sexually powerful men seduce. They don’t harass. These are insecure men who leverage their social power” says Perel on the men felled by #MeToo. Enjoy the spin here:
How do you get around the obvious POWER DYNAMIC of sexual harassment? You call the men weak. Poof! They have no power. “These are not sexually powerful men” is entirely missing the point. They are abusing their power. Harvey Weinstein was a kingmaker in Hollywood. Of course he was HUGELY powerful. Which is exactly why he felt ENTITLED to harass women.
You asked Harvey Weinstein what he was doing whipping out his dick? He’d probably tell you, “I am a sexually powerful man seducing women.”
“These are insecure men who leverage their social power.” There is absolutely nothing “insecure” about forcing a woman to blow you. This isn’t some pencil-necked geek who can’t ask a girl to the prom. This is a man drunk on power.
Sexual abuse — whether it’s harassment or infidelity — is about ENTITLEMENT. Not sex or insecurity. (Cue the Timid Forest Creature excuses.) Entitlement — I get what I want, fuck you — Your pain/fear turns me on — The game is rigged in MY FAVOR — is the driving force behind abuse. Weak people don’t abuse. Bullies are not sad and misunderstood — they are narcissists who lack empathy for their victims.
Perel has made her career off of excusing entitlement and no one calls her out on it. (Well, Stephen Colbert had a good laugh at her expense. God bless him.)
One reason, of course, that crises of infidelity attract such vampiric interest is that they lift the peacetime ban on judging other couples’ complex relations. For a moment, the wall of privacy around a marriage is breached and everyone gets to peer in and make assessments. The outrage and moral certainty expressed on such occasions can be comforting for the betrayed spouse, but they are largely “unhelpful,” according to Perel. In order to come to any adult reckoning with an affair, the betrayed must avoid wallowing too long in the warm bath of righteousness. For a period immediately following the revelation, a certain amount of wild rage and sanctimony is permissible, but after that the rigorous work of exploring the meaning and motives of an affair must begin.
Can’t you feel the empathy for chumps here? Moral certainty, wallowing, warm bath of righteousness, sanctimony.
The contempt isn’t even thinly veiled. Quit WALLOWING and GET OVER IT. It’s not what I did, it’s your reaction to it. Stop with the sanctimony.
Gosh, it all has a certain victim-shaming quality that I’m just sure victims of sexual harassment can’t relate to one bit.
But hey, the important takeaway here is to get down to the rigorous work of exploring your cheater’s motivations! That’s what matters! Not your pain. #littlepeopleannoyme #suckmydick #feelthemotivation
Those who show willingness to forgive infidelity risk being chastised by friends and relatives for their lack of gumption. Women, Perel notes, are under particular pressure these days to leave cheating spouses as a mark of their feminist “self-respect.”
Don’t you just hate all those feminists with their self-respect agendas? Here’s a new idea deserving of a TED talk — Stand by your man! Reframe his fucking around as natural and monogamy as complicated. Nothing patriarchal about that, no sir!
I suppose Perel’s defense to the femi-nazi self respect diktat is that women are free to be entitled assholes just like men. Hey, ladies go get drunk on power and seduce a coworker. Progress!
Excuse me now, I have to go draw my warm bath of righteousness and have a wallow. Toodles.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, whoisjohngalt “Esther_Perel_in_Boston”