SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Dylan Farrow’s Open Letter

I’m actually really busy working on two other projects, so I didn’t want to write about this.  But I have to.  Too many issues close to the heart here, and people’s reactions to the letter have been eye-opening as well. Let me first say that as a victim of child abuse (not sexual, but physical, mental and emotional), I believe Dylan. It’s a gut feeling. Up until this letter was published, I believed Woody was innocent of molesting a small child, though I always bumped on his marrying Soon-Yi. Still, I was willing to forgive that.  I love Woody Allen’s movies and because of that, as Dylan so aptly points out, I chose to give him more than the benefit of the doubt.

Dylan’s letter, however, cannot be ignored. Its passion is stirring; the details arresting in their authenticity. I’m so impressed by Mia Farrow who torpedoed her career to protect her daughter. My mother used me as a human shield, causing me to catch the brunt of the abuse. I know how brave it was for Mia to do what she did, and hope her story inspires other mothers who are too often complicit in the abuse.

There’s no motivation for Dylan to lie. Being a victim of sexual assault is stigmatized – somehow talking about it is even more so. In my own life, I’ve been date raped countless times.  I didn’t even realize it was “date rape” until last year when I joined a women’s therapy group for a different reason entirely. Date rape, like molestation from a family member, is so confusing because you trust that person. You know that person, you probably like that person. And then that person does something to you that doesn’t feel right. What do you do? Cut yourself off from them and admit to yourself you were wrong? Or do you try to believe the best and give them another chance, the truth being too painful. Even Mia had a learning curve – it took a while for her to digest fully what Dylan said, and by her own admission she didn’t want to believe it. But thankfully, her desire to protect her daughter overcame the fear and sadness she felt facing the truth. She still woke up in the middle of the night feeling guilty for bringing Woody into her children’s lives at all. Sadly, the people who hurt us most are often those closest to us, those we also love and want to be with. So arguments that Dylan still loved her father and wanted to see him are completely consistent.  We have to face these things, painful as they are, because they are also incredibly common. Statistics say one in five women have experienced some kind of sexual assault, but I put the number much higher.  Anecdotally, it’s closer to four out of five.

Another disturbing facet of this case has been watching people’s reactions.  Some of course are wonderful and inspiring (see Aaron Bady). But others reflect the culture of rape we live in. The mythology of false memory has arisen again. There seems to be a type of man (like Stephen King, Alec Baldwin) who is outraged by Dylan’s letter. As they rail against the “palpable bitchery” of sexual assault victims everywhere, may I gently suggest “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Woody’s response to the allegations has always been a brief, blanket denial that blames Mia and even Dylan. That doesn’t surprise me.  His failure to take any responsibility for the incident, even as the father of a delusional child (if we are to believe him which we don’t) illustrates his lack of compassion and scapegoatism.  Does Woody ever take criticism without reacting in a burst of anger and blame? My guess is no, because the ability to examine himself doesn’t seem to be in his repertoire. We thought he examined himself in movies – maybe he does. But that examination appears completely divorced from his day to day behavior. Otherwise, he would understand that even if he were completely innocent (for argument’s sake) he would still be responsible for his minor daughter’s anguish to some degree.

I still love Woody’s movies but already I am seeing his struggles with right and wrong, criminal behavior, love of younger women through a different prism. Like most of us, Woody is deeply flawed and I hope he gets the help he clearly needs. Mostly, however, I worry about those two young adopted daughters of his, especially Bechet. Check her Twitter – she sounds confused. Like Dylan and I, she may not even know the definition of sexual assault – but she’s learning about it now. It’s highly unlikely Dylan’s his only victim. Did he marry Soon-Yi because it was a misdemeanor and a distraction from a crime?

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Pressuring Girls for Sex is not Cool

The depressing coverage of the systemic sexual assault problems in the military, recalled for me some of my own past experiences as a civilian. I recently asked my little brother, who is 27, if he ever pressures girls to fool around after they say no.  I was so impressed when he responded, somewhat offended, that he would never do something like that.  He’s not interested in convincing a girl to do something against her will – he’s above that.

Would it be that all men were the same in that regard.  I, and most of my friends, recall many sexual experiences wherein we wished someone had listened. I’m not talking about pushing someone’s hand away.  I’m talking about when you’ve sat up and said no and he tries to convince you that you owe him “something.”  Do some men get off on the coercion factor or are they really that desperate?

The irony is that you have to make yourself vulnerable to go out on a date in the first place. We do that because as humans we are desperate to connect to each other. When we find someone we like, we want to hold on. So we go out, and often enjoy ourselves.  Enjoy making out too.  But the experience is completely ruined when he starts a hard court press for penis in mouth/vagina/ass after you’ve said no.  It makes it seem like everything that came before it was just a means to an end. And often, these are the same guys who never call again after.  Hopefully it’s because they’re ashamed. Once the sexual offensive starts, it begins to look an awful lot like date rape, especially if he tried to get you drunk first.

We are well into the 21st century.  The sexual revolution has happened, people. Men trying to guilt and shame women into sex are out of excuses. If you want sex, and you never want to talk to the person again, you have an option: pay for it.

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A DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Obama Most Disappointing President in US History

We are well into Obama’s second term now, so anyone waiting for him to take the gloves off can stop waiting.  Did everyone think he was going to be an incredible humanitarian, just because he was the first black President? Remember, he got the Nobel the day he was elected. He spoke a lot about “hope” on the campaign trail – a suspiciously vague platform in hindsight – but ironically I feel more hopeless than when he took office.

In fact, it may be that my hopes were up for an Obama presidency, and that’s why it’s felt worse than Bush 2, whom we all knew was kind of a jerk. Obama had a very short political history before attaining the highest office, and many argue that’s why he doesn’t have friends on Capitol Hill.  Still, he had questionable relationships with bankers and pharmaceutical companies when he was a senator, and he has rewarded both interest groups with half-hearted reforms that will only guarantee their success and protection in the long run.

He’s also been surprisingly cocky.  He clearly doesn’t understand much about economics or our financial system, but he’s chosen not to listen.  Instead, he puts trust in his Harvard cronies to shape policy and doesn’t think more about it. The result is status quo. In fact, he doesn’t reach out to people generally – not diplomats or leaders from other countries, or people within his own party. Journalists report that he’s confident making his own decisions. He tells people he meets with what he thinks – he doesn’t inquire about their concerns or ask for their advice.

And speaking of journalists: he’s come down on them much harder than Bush, doing secret wire-tapping and email raids in the service of detecting “leaks.” In other words, spying on American citizens for “security reasons.” He has aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers, most notably Thomas Drake, the case against whom has since collapsed. He’s also responsible for stepping up the drone strikes, both in this country and abroad.

Further disappointments include: stepping up the raids on legal medical marijuana shops and encouraging publicly funded universities to give money to for-profit Silicon Valley startups to replace classes with cheaper online derivatives, helping rich people get richer, and poor get dumber. It’s crazy that much of what Obama has done has widened the gap between the haves and the have nots. I understand that you sometimes have to join them, to beat them. But do you have to beat yourself too?

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MONEY IN THE COUNTRY: MOOCs Look Like Sub-primes From Here

I hate to use the word “conspiracy” because it connotes craziness, but sometimes it really feels like one exists. There seems to be a dumbing down effort by the elites in this country – and by elites I mean the 1% – who want to make sure they are the only ones to get a fine education. The steep incline in prices at both public and private institutions, have found parents discouraging their kids from going to college and instead to get a job out of high school.

Lack of a college education almost invariably means a lower-paying future. So what’s come along now, the panacea to all our educational & financial woes, is online learning, built on and in conjunction with the for-profit college model.  Though for profits have been shown to have huge drop out rates, a much lower quality education and lower quality teachers, and higher prices to boot, they are being marketed as gateways for people who would otherwise not have access to higher education. A boon to democracy, that also has the all-American profit motive behind it.

Hold up: that sounds like how the subprimes were and are currently still being marketed.  Interest only loans offered to people with low incomes and bad credit, with high default rates end up costing the buyer far more over time than a traditional mortgage.  That seems to be the formula here, and whether it’s a conspiracy or not, it’s definitely a profit model to exploit the weak, the poor, the uneducated in order to make profits for the already wealthy so we can widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Not surprisingly, for profits generally attract poor minorities, just as subprime loans do. Yet both are being endlessly touted from Charlie Rose to the New York Times to the endless commercial bombardment on television as democratic levelers. Now MOOCs have joined in: billed as offering education to “people in Africa,” the truth is, MOOCs are mostly being used on our own soil to replace the traditional college experience, that is one on one learning.  While the idea that something is better than nothing is appealing, the truth is that in practice, the MOOCs are inherently a poor replacement for in class learning. And a universe in which MOOC learning dominates will surely be a less educated one than we have today, and our nation is already in an educational crisis.  Our literacy numbers alone are embarrassing for a developed nation.

MOOCs are another case of something that sounds too good to be true – because they are.  Of course, some form of online learning can help as an adjunct, but corrupting education with corporate capitalism leads to oligarchy. Isn’t that what they’ve got in Russia? To think all the angst of the Cold War has only led both countries to the same corrupt place. Do old white men get together and plan these things out or is it simply the honest result of like minds thinking alike?

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Successful Women Want to Date He-Men?

I’m so confused. Yesterday, I read that women who are successful in their careers want to go to bed with lunkhead construction workers. Is that true?

The piece went on to say that alpha women generally don’t pick these types for relationships.  So basically, (God, does this date me), Mallory’s boyfriend Nick on Family Ties is not marriage material.  He’s only fuckable material.  For marriage, or even long term relationships, these women pick more intellectual, mild-mannered types.

So women have their dumb blondes too, that they just want to fuck and then roll over and forget about. These types of stories come out every once in a while, and it’s true that women sometimes do just want sex and nothing more. But a whole date with a Repub construction worker, even if he does have nice muscles, seems like a long time.

For me, I’m not interested in dumb or ignorant.  I’m turned on by a smart guy. Perhaps I’m not alpha enough. But there is something in men occupying a traditional role – opening doors, bringing you flowers, cherishing you – that is consistently appealing. In order for me to feel free to do this stuff, they have to feel respected. How can I respect someone who is empty-headed?

Apparently, gays have an edge on straights when it comes to picking partners: same sex couples don’t have half the problems straights do in maintaining long term relationships – and keeping it clear when it’s love ’em and leave ’em sex. Is that because if you date the same sex, it’s easier to communicate? Or is it so hard to be gay, that the impetus to stay clear is stronger.  Maybe they should teach straights about marriage, not the other way around.

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SEX IN THE COUNTRY: Does Everyone Cheat?

Watching Mad Men last night, set me to wondering if everyone cheated on their spouse in the 50s and 60s. Must have been because it was before the sexual revolution, I thought. But looking around, it seems that many people I know, here in 2013, have either cheated or been cheated on. We thought we obviated that now by getting married later, but that doesn’t seem to work either. Is monogamy doomed no matter what? Are we no better than animals when it comes to our sex drive, as the infamous sociobiologist Helen Fisher posited? Truly, if Don isn’t happy with Megan, who stands a chance?

Sex is the opposite of death, so immortality seekers tend to pursue more sex.  Most of us don’t want to die.  Still, that seems too simplistic. On a chemical level, nothing, I repeat, nothing compares to that first rush of falling in love with someone. And it makes sense that can be addictive.  But not everyone is falling in love with their sexual partners:  look at Pete.  He made a hideous mistake not making sure the woman he dallied with was on the same page. If you fuck everyone, you’re bound to get some negative feedback in time.

Still, as a society, we cling to the idea of monogamy. Not just because it makes it easier to raise kids and be taxed, but also the romance of loving just the one person for all time.  I was recently at a wedding and was struck at the fairytale notions of love being espoused. One look at Mad Men calls all that into question.

So if we are doomed to cheat, are you a Don or a Pete? Are you into numbers or into quality? Do you fall in love or do you fall in lust? Do you feel guilty or do you give yourself a pass, saying it’s biology? Do you admit it, or do you lie about it?

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MONEY IN THE COUNTRY: Grad School May Only Be for Dumb Rich People

While distracting the public with no brainers like same sex marriage and whether more guns will kill more people, Obama is making sure that the gap between the rich and poor gets deeper and wider. Not only are banks today bigger than they were during the housing crisis in 2008, they are back to their same old tricks, making record numbers of LBOs and selling subprime loans to anyone who will buy them.  As I’ve said here before people:  take your money out of the stock market.  In fact, do as David Stockman advises in his new book The Great Deformation: take your money out of all markets. There are bubbles everywhere. (And this coming from a former Reagan White House staffer.)

Today, I was reminded of something even more depressing: Obama is also set to increase student loan rates to adjust to market rate. So now students have to decide if an education is “worth” going into life-crippling debt for. (Though, at this rate, everyone is going to have bad credit and debt problems so jump in, the water’s fine.) Recently, the blog post “100 Reasons not to go to Grad School” gained traction for advising students it’s just not worth the money.

So – our government is effectively preventing higher education. As Stockman states, such policies leave us both fiscally and intellectually bankrupt. Do we really want to discourage higher learning? Is every American citizen simply, and only, as good as their economic contribution to society? Newsflash then to stay at home parents and NGO volunteers – you’re nothing. Even if you make a little money, and are part of the growing lower working class demographic, over 69% female, you’re still just next to nothing. That includes teachers, who may be increasingly out of work as national educational values erode.

In a list of 141 countries, the US is fourth from last, above Russia and the Lebanon, in terms of wealth inequity.  So all you who were worried about the evils of Communism a generation ago can put that to rest: Capitalism, as practiced here anyway, has had the same effect as Communism vis a vis destroying the middle class.

One encouraging note: there is a new generation of college professors have begun teaching “History of Capitalism” courses, to explain to our youngsters how we got to this sorry state. Democracy it ain’t. But if higher education disappears, this won’t matter either.

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