Blog

Is sexual harassment lookist?

  Time’s Persons of the Year are the sexual harassment whistleblowers and Amen to that. Image via  TIME .

Time’s Persons of the Year are the sexual harassment whistleblowers and Amen to that. Image via TIME.

In Larry David’s extremely awkward “Saturday Night Live” appearance a few weeks back, he worried that the recent rash of sexual predators was all Jewish – which is not true, but anyway, what I thought he was going to say was that they were all unattractive. (This was before Matt Lauer was added to the list of sexual harassers.)

Not that I’m equating good looks with goodness. Consider serial killer Ted Bundy – a man handsome enough to have been played by Mark Harmon in a TV movie of his crimes – who used his personable aspect to lure women to his lethal lair.

But many of the men who are accused of sexual harassment are no Apollo Belvedere. They’re not even Novak Djokovic (love his new ad for Lacoste), Rafael Nadal or Colin Kaepernick. Which got me wondering if male beauty makes it easier for men to get a foot in the door, so to speak, and thus mitigates against the need for force or crudeness. After all, in the animal kingdom, it’s the bird with the most brilliant plumage, the lion with the biggest roar that garners the mate.

Male beauty can be a kind of power trip, too, colleagues point out to me. But, of course, men have long ceded the beauty game – the beauty trap, I would call it – to women so they can concentrate on political and financial capital. The Donald doesn’t need to do something with that bloated, scowling appearance – in his mind. That’s why he’s got Melania.

Or is it, as several of my colleagues wonder, that the men seek political and financial capital, because they’ve never had the looks to persuade to begin with? We do what we do in this world, because of who and what we are but also because of who and what we are not.

My own sense is that the Harvey Weinsteins, James Levines and Matt Lauers of the world harassed attractive, younger, more vulnerable people because they could. They had the material power. Being attractive both in the sense of looking good and acting gracious is for “the little people” – you know, what Leona Helmsley said about paying taxes.

And now the little people have risen up to claim the cover of Time and a place at the table.

As I said on WVOX this morning, it’s like a snake shedding its skin.

It’s going to get a whole lot uglier before it gets better.