Entries Tagged as 'sex'

Overlooked Clue in Cain’s Sex Harassment Story

David Frum October 31st, 2011 at 2:44 pm 118 Comments

Here’s the most neglected detail in the Politico story on Herman Cain and the sex harassment charges:

Both women received separation packages that were in the five-figure range.

In the context of late 1990s sex harassment litigation, that is a small settlement.

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The Prowl: The Pervs of D.C.

July 22nd, 2011 at 5:21 pm 10 Comments

So last week I speculated that some of our firms’ clients’ various legislative agendas might be better advanced if I were willing to whore myself out .  This week, though, things escalated and I was literally propositioned for sex.  Twice.  Well, sort of … Let me explain.

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The Prowl: There Are Bigger Weiners Out There

June 17th, 2011 at 6:28 pm 12 Comments

The very day I returned from my leisurely vacation in Argentina–having perfected the phrase “una cervesa por favor” and had my fill of dancing til 6AM and Iberico ham–I came back to an America in which Anthony Weiner is no longer a Congressman.  I guess that shows how much I know about anything …  Regardless, while Anthony Weiner was trying to survive with the Tiger Woods methodology of taking a leave of absence and entering “treatment” for a very unclear ailment, I was discussing with four of my closest friends a claim that one made: “I don’t have a girlfriend, but there is a girl at home who would be upset if she heard me say that.”  Let me explain.

Not always the classiest of fellows, my friend decided to declare that several girls sitting near us on the beach had “amazing bodies” and were “so fit” in a decibel that creeped them out so much that they physically relocated.  A little while afterward, he commented that he would very much like to get closer to one girl’s exposed “tatas fritas.”  Besides managing to be pervier than the guy offering massages for five euros or the other guy trying to sell us henna tattoos and/or mdma (although less than former Congressman Weiner), the rest of us felt the need to point out to him that he needed to keep it in his bathing suit.  Plus, his level of excitement was somewhat baffling as we all thought he was seeing some girl?  He replied emphatically that the girl he has been sleeping with regularly is not in fact his girlfriend, as much as she would probably like to be.

His argument as to why his very regular bed-fellow was nothing more basically rested on the grounds that he had not made her breakfast.  Breakfast makes boyfriends (or girlfriends in this case) and he was very careful to only have her come over on nights before he played baseball early in the morning so as not to encourage any daytime lingering.  I remain unconvinced that he actually plays baseball, but having known him for some time I am likewise unconvinced that he is crafty enough to maintain such an elaborate web of sports-related lies for a lengthy duration just to avoid entering coupleland.

My friend met his non-girlfriend/aerobics partner, who is technically his boss, when she began with his firm late last year.  After the office Christmas Party he lobbed the gob–code for seizing the moment and kissing her–and invited her back to his place to “look at etchings.”  As an aside, he did not actually say that and this disappoints me to no end. Regardless, she has been meeting him sometime after midnight every weekend since at what I can only describe as the absolute dirtiest bar in all of DC.  Others who have witnessed this ritual note that they act like a unit when they are together, somewhat indicative of people who actually like each other and each others’ company in more than a purely physical way.  My friend will only admit however to being a pair insomuch as it is clear they will leave later and “bang it out.”  These are his words, not mine.  This is not exactly the stuff of high romance, especially given that zero amount of wooing is involved.  There is no wining or dining or signs of affection.  In seven months, he has taken her on exactly zero dates.  He tried to argue that he bought her tampons once, and this made up for everything, but he also admitted that this was more in defense of his white sheets.  Instead, she simply meets him on Friday nights for certain activities and that is that.

Ordinarily, this would not bother me in the slightest.  As long as both know the parameters of the relationship and are satisfied within those parameters, they are consenting adults and should do whatever they please.  What bothers me in this instance, as was vocalized by the entire group throughout the trip, is that my friend’s pillow buddy clearly would like to evolve into something more and my friend clearly refuses to let this happen.  Instead of letting the whole thing go, he keeps appeasing her so that she rolls over and continues to wait for an outcome that will never happen.

How do I know she would like a greater commitment than my friend is willing to make?  Well first, I just know things.  More importantly though, he reported that almost on a weekly basis she tries to issue an ultimatum that she is finished with the whole thing unless he can give her something more.  Her position is that they spend all of this time together that they are basically dating so would buying her a drink one time kill him?  Rather than accept this logic, which at this point seems sort of reasonable, he instead will make a token effort to make her forget about it and then carry on with the status quo.  In her latest flare up he bought tickets to some event at the Zoo.  The consensus in Argentina was that instead of perpetually making these small gestures to keep all of this up, he should let he end the whole thing so they both move along.  As a relatively good looking guy, he can easily find meaningless sex with far fewer complications if that is what he is into.

I do not necessarily think my friend is a bad person, and also, for the record, I think this girl needs to grow a spine, but I do think that in this instance he is not being entirely forthcoming and this bothers me.  I fundamentally do not understand why someone would string another person along (and why she would go with it) because that strikes me as rather cruel to be evasive about certain intentions.  It also strikes me that perhaps this type of scenario is simply the byproduct of modern relationships in which the end goal is not necessarily marriage as it once was and this changes what are essentially the rules of the game.  I am not remotely making a value judgment on this change, as I firmly think there are different types of relationships for different times and all can be enjoyable in their way.  In the context of my friend though, for someone who prides himself on being a stand-up fellow, in this instance, he is really being somewhat of a cad.  Being intentionally evasive with intentions as feelings either evolve or not is nothing more than inconsiderate and cowardly.

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Hey Weiner: Sexting Isn’t Sexy

June 6th, 2011 at 5:14 pm 66 Comments

Two of the lessons constantly drilled into the female psyches of my generation are, cialis saleNothing is private on the internet, especially privates’ and ‘Never sext. Ever.’ The fact that Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee missed these memos points at a fundamental gender difference in the way sexts are perceived.

Men seem to view sexting differently than women do.  Most girls understand the dire consequences of sending a suggestive picture, yet men like Weiner and Lee seem to believe that they are immune from the same judgment that follows around the young women who expose themselves.

Not only does male sexting demonstrate a lack of understanding of consequences, but it shows an extreme arrogance and fundamental lack of understanding of women.  The implication that a woman would want to see an image of Weiner’s erection (insert name joke here) is not just misguided, it is almost predatory. It’s like a modern day version of flashing — pulling open a trench coat on the subway has evolved into adult male sexting. Even if a girl likes a guy she does not want to see explicit images of him. In cases where men solicit random women, perhaps they would be better served texting images of private planes than private parts.

Most girls nowadays learn from a young age that any explicit image sent via Facebook or text can, and probably will, be seen by far more people than the intended recipient.  If maternal lessons in self-respect aren’t convincing enough, most of us have heard sexting horror stories that ensure that we will remain forever chaste on the sexting front.

I know of a girl who sent a naked picture to her boyfriend at the time, and within weeks almost everyone from every neighboring high school had seen it. The picture was saved on computer desktops, shown to others with abandon, and texted around until she had completely lost control of the image. Her infamy served as a warning to us all.

It should be clear to everyone by now that sending explicit pictures of oneself is a categorically terrible idea. Politicians like Weiner and Lee should not only understand that sexting is as dangerous for their reputations as it is for those of young girls, but they should also understand that the implications of their images are much more aggressive.

The experiences of these two men should provide the much-needed sexting horror stories for men that countless middle and high school girls have provided for women.

Weinergate: What’s the Big Deal?

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:53 pm 48 Comments

Has there ever been more manufactured and phony hype about a certifiable non-issue than so-called WeinerGate? If so, then I’m hard pressed to recall what that issue might be.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York), of course, is accused of… Well, it’s not clear what, exactly, Weiner’s being accused of. His Twitter account apparently was hacked, or used by a trusted friend or employee for illicit purposes. And so, a close-up shot of a man’s crotch in underwear was sent from his account to a woman in Seattle.

By contemporary standards, the shot is pretty lame and tame. And, as soon as the Congressman realized the pic had been sent from his account, he disavowed and deleted it. The woman from Seattle, likewise, immediately repudiated the notion that she was some sort of love interest of Weiner’s.

“I am a 21-year-old college student from Seattle,” Gennette Cordova wrote in last Sunday’s New York Daily News.

I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I go to school in Bellingham where I spend all of my time. I’ve never been to New York or to DC.

The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his girlfriend.

Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions [of admiration and respect] about them via Twitter.

There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me.

Case closed, right? I mean, things happen; accounts get hacked (or sometimes misused by trusted friends and employees); we all realize that; and so we move on.

Well, no, because to impassioned partisan bloggers, both Left and Right, any such incident is a chance to score political points. It’s a chance to beat up the other side, bloody them politically, and pile on the points for your team. And so this non-story quickly — nay, immediately – became the latest “SCANDAL!”

The highly influential blogger Robert Stacy McCain, for instance, has been all Weiner all the time, with countless stories about “WeinerGate,” all breathlessly imputing wrongdoing or a cover-up by the Congressman.

Now, I genuinely like and admire Stacy McCain. He’s one of my New Media heroes. As a lone journalist, he’s done more with his own website, The Other McCain, than many newspapers and magazines do with a staff of twenty reporters and commentators. He is a force of a nature, a dynamic personality, a superb reporter, a sharp analyst, and a highly entertaining blogger.

But Stacy: Come on! Gimme a break! There’s nothing to this story! At worst, the Congressman is guilty of having taken and sent via Twitter a pic of his underwear-covered crotch. That may be tasteless, but it’s hardly a crime.

In any case, my friend, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Remember this pic of you, which is all over the Internet?

It’s clear, I think, that Weiner himself never sent this lewd pic to the 21-year-old college student in Seattle. However, others with access to his account or the pic perhaps did. We just don’t know — and we really shouldn’t care.

I do know, from personal experience, that Twitter accounts can and do get hijacked. That happened to me, in fact, not so long ago. All of a sudden I got a number of tweets and direct tweet messages telling me that my account had been hacked.

Apparently, a third-party Twitter application that I had adopted had enabled someone to access my account and to send my followers a lewd message. A kind Twitter follower told me exactly what to do to remedy the situation: Delete all third-party applications and change my password, he told me.

The point is that Twitter accounts are hardly Top Secret venues protected by inviolable, ironclad security protocols. In fact, quite the opposite: They are open-source, public venues that are quite transparent and penetrable. That’s why no one -– including especially the Congressman — uses Twitter to convey or protect national security secrets.

In the new social media, security and privacy are oftentimes non-existent, or at least severely limited. Fine. We all get that.

Still, that hardly warrants the type of breathless and intense media coverage of “WeinerGate” that has so consumed the blogs and even many legacy journalists.

Partisan and ideological blogging is fine and even welcome. In fact, I myself partake in the sport (here at FrumForum and elsewhere) on a routine and regular basis. But when you fire your weapon, you better be damn sure you’re striking a legitimate target. Anthony Weiner’s hacked or misused Twitter account is not a legitimate target. Time, then, to move on. Time to look and aim elsewhere.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.

Did Maid Fetish Prompt Alleged DSK Attack?

May 22nd, 2011 at 12:30 am 27 Comments

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair has prompted some sensible and some silly discussions about the extent to which sexual mores and arrest practices in France differ from those in the United States. But amidst French condemnations of the “perp walk”, revelations of DSK’s past sexual aggressions and Bernard Henri Levi’s claim that New York chambermaids always work in pairs unless a conspiracy is afoot, one subject has gone strangely unmentioned. It is a subject of which journalists on both sides of the Atlantic seem to be commendably ignorant – despite the way the internet has brought so many hitherto obscure sexual practices into the media mainstream.

It may be that DSK is merely an ordinary, common-or-garden sexual bully and rapist. But the early accounts of what his accuser says took place in his hotel room hint at something more – a very particular fetish that, if the internet is anything to go by, is not uncommon though little known or commented on in the wider world. Its adherents – and they have a subgenre of pornography devoted to their kink — are obsessed with the idea of being “surprised” while naked by hotel chambermaids.

It is a situational fetish rather than an object fetish, and if you care about the taxonomy of sexual obsession subcultures, it is presumably a refined sub-genre of exhibitionism.

Try googling the words “hotel maid walking in naked” or some variation thereof and you will find a surprisingly large number of sites and lists on which men (they are all men) discuss the erotic appeal of flashing the chambermaid, and what happens when they try to arrange what are for them, such erotic situations.

Indeed there is so much material on the subject that you wonder if each morning there aren’t scores or even hundreds of overworked and underpaid hotel workers nationwide rolling their eyes as they stumble on yet another excited chap who pretended not to hear housekeeping’s knock.

It is possible that the old fashioned uniforms that some hotel maids wear has something to do with their being an object of pornographic fascination. As everyone knows, here in the USA novelty shops, Halloween costume suppliers and lingerie stores all sell supposedly sexy versions of “French Maid” outfits just as they sell abbreviated costume versions of nurse uniforms.

It is not clear why sexy chambermaid costumes are always identified as “French”, though it could have something to do with the traditions of French theatrical farce. These plays often feature comic subplots involving a sexy housemaid being chased by the man of the (grand) house or one of his guests.

Whether French household servants or their modern analog – the hotel chambermaid — are or were more sexually available in real life than non-French equivalents is impossible to verify. It could be – and this would represent a particularly French twist on the maid fetish – that in France chambermaids are presumed (like all servants) to be more sexually available or active or vulnerable than their social “betters”.

The simplest and perhaps most convincing explanation of DSK’s behavior may have little to do with specifically French attitudes to class and sex, though it would hark back to the French farces mentioned earlier. It makes such sense that rumors along the same lines are already flying on both sides of the Atlantic. The theory goes that DSK ordered a call girl — as one might in Paris — and specifically asked for her to be dressed as a maid. And when the door bell rang, one maid was mistaken for another…


The Prowl: Sex in the IMF

May 20th, 2011 at 6:00 pm 20 Comments

Yesterday, I had lunch with a close, very attractive and very brilliant friend who works at one of the departments at the IMF.  Of course, like everyone, I wanted to know more about accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  After all, a major sex scandal with enormous political ramifications? That’s my beat!  While she did have some scathing comments about DSK and Bernard Henri-Levy’s ridiculous defense, most of which largely corroborated current popular opinion, she was more inclined to talk about the incident in the context of a culture of sexual harassment within the Fund.  While my friend’s experiences are likely not those of all female employees at the IMF, she nonetheless had some interesting insights.

I can’t stress how objectively awesome my friend is.  I met her through mutual friends while traveling.  She was conducting field research for her thesis, having just finished a stint in Europe where she worked as a translator. Later, we moved in together when she decided to do an MBA and I was working on my masters in the same college town.  Given our mutual love of utensil-less meals, the Eurovision song contest, and leotards, we have been friends ever since.  The point of this quick summary of her background is to underscore the extent to which, at least in my mind, she is the best.  She is a smart lady who will one day be an expert in her field, mostly because she has impeccable judgment and class.

Much of what she shared about life at the IMF has already been brought up elsewhere in the media, for example (stupid headline aside) here in the New York Times.  Basically, my friend’s experiences largely mirrored those shared in the Times article.  She talked about the long hours, cramped quarters, the travelling, the difficulties of spending so much time with such a select group of people, and the location of a pretty decent bar for happy houring in their building.  These things though are found in almost all offices and made me initially somewhat skeptical of how the IMF was such a harder place for women to work in than any other DC office.

Having myself been in precarious workplace scenarios, I asked her how the IMF was worse than other offices. She said that she frequently got the sense that many of the foreign economists and professionals were wife/mistress-hunting.  She caveated her next claim that she did not want or intend to sound culturally insensitive (and this is a girl who grew up in multiple countries and went to school in France), but at least many of the people in her bureau came from places that did not always have such a positive view of women and this shaped the way in which they interacted.

She said this created a very complex dynamic where they all worked together and everyone was mostly respected professionally (although the shortage of women in authority positions is somewhat staggering), but that at the same time, her division chief was sleeping with his assistant and this was well-known and not frowned upon.  One economist above her had frequently asked her to have coffee, an encouraged networking tool within the Fund – that is, until he found out she was engaged.  This sort of permissiveness and essential lack of agreement on sexual ethics at work at the end of the day just created an absolute free for all with no real guidelines (merely suggestions) about what was and was not okay.

What bothered her most, however, was not that her boss was sleeping with his secretary.  Maybe this was a genuine love connection?  I doubt it, but this is less important.  She said that so much of the way women were treated at the Fund was uncomfortable, yes, but not in any way that could ever be reported to an HR rep.  The economist that hit on her suggestively – but not blatantly – never actually touched her or did anything she could quite point to as out of line.  There was just an awkwardness and general feeling that something was inappropriate more than actually being so.

Maybe it’s that the collective employee base of the IMF, like much of D.C., just wasn’t cool in high school and now wants to exact revenge on women for their callous refusals of teenage advances.  Or, maybe it is just that a workplace filled with overly-competitive individuals who possibly never had a firm grasp of social norms to begin with (economists, seriously) just leads to some sense of entitlement and inevitable objectification of women as a mechanism to exert and exude power and influence.  Or maybe, the IMF is really just a bizarre and not overly pleasant place to work in desperate need of modernization and reform (please insert structural adjustment joke here).  Whatever it is, at least based on my friend, DSK’s departure from the top may not be the worst thing.


The Prowl: Sleeping Your Way to the Top

April 15th, 2011 at 5:25 pm 10 Comments

I have a crush on a Hill staffer.  This is something I would never do anything about, as I’m still fairly enraptured by my nice investment banker (who is visiting this weekend and who’s arrival I’m more than a little excited about), but I nonetheless need to admit to myself, and evidently the readers of FrumForum, that this certain Hill staffer is pretty dreamy.  By this, of course, I mean that he can speak procurement to me, which I am certain is how he woos all the girls.

“Where is she going with this?” you might ask, given that I have no intention of actually acting on said crush and don’t feel this is any sort of commentary on the state of my current relationship.  You dear reader may feel otherwise, but I frankly don’t care that much.  In discussing with my coworker though (who is mostly of the frame of mind that I should keep him around for a rainy day, so to speak) we entered into the ethically dubious zone of staffer-lobbyist relations.

There’s one female lobbyist who’s rumored on the Hill for sleeping her way into power and prominence for the sake of her clients.  I suppose this is one way to get that Dear Colleague letter out of an office, but not exactly how I would do it.  Her two-sizes-too-small suits and exorbitant amount of cleavage don’t do very much to cultivate an aura of respectability.  The way she physically presents herself does very little to tell the world that she is a serious person.  This is underscored by the lack of subtlety in what she’s doing, acknowledging that she has so little substance that she needs to rely on her sexual prowess to get things accomplished.

I’m not saying that all women need to adopt the Hillary Clinton approach of Nehru jackets or need to de-feminize themselves somehow to be credible, but there’s definitely an acceptable way to comport yourself so as not to come off as skanky or morally flexible (it’s also helpful in this approach to not actually be skanky or morally flexible in addition to not looking the part).  I could discuss at length what this all says about gender dynamics on the Hill or changing norms in female sexuality, but those are largely irrelevant for the moment.

I tell the story of the scandal-laden lobbyist mostly because this is a female that I would never want to emulate, ever.  She’s an extreme example but it does lead to the question of when would it be okay to be involved with someone working for a member?

The Hill staffer who is currently a source of much office entertainment given the amount of contracting-related sexual innuendo that’s been flying about (he wants to find my HubZone) is someone that I work with, and will likely need to continue to work with on behalf of a client headquartered in his boss’ state.  I would be very wary of jeopardizing this in any way whether from the vengeful ire of a relationship gone wrong or a perception of currying favor.

At the same time, this is also someone that I do know socially, which of course then blurs the lines of professionalism that I’m trying so hard to maintain.  I should hope that he would be helpful with our current work matter regardless of circumstance, but I’m also somewhat sure that he’s a little extra helpful because it’s a favor to a friend — one he’s interested in seeing with fewer clothes on (coincidentally, this is why people hire lobbyists).

I have yet to really reach any kind of resolution on this.  Thankfully, it’s also a moot point from a practical standpoint as while Hill staffer can whisper in my ear about GSA scheduling, I still much prefer my nice banker and how I would like to be his derivative so I can lie tangent to his curves.


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The Prowl: Shutdown? Why Not Have Sex?

April 8th, 2011 at 5:44 pm 4 Comments

Are you one of the 800,000 federal employees deemed non-essential and furloughed?  What will you do with your unpaid extended leave?  You can’t go to any of the Smithsonian Museums for culture or history.  You can’t go to any national parks or the zoo to enjoy nature and the outdoors.  You also can’t use your government-issued BlackBerry or do work of any kind.  How will you ever manage to fill your time?  You could park haphazardly in the District while meter-people are also off and reflect on what it really means to be non-essential (who is OPM to make that determination anyway?).  You could also do this at home and smell your trash that isn’t being collected.  Or, instead you could…

1. Day-drink.  It’s not like you’ll have work to do, and, even if you were so important that you did, that would be illegal.  You might as well enjoy the nice weather and scenic vistas at the Georgetown Waterfront.  You can perfect your skills at flip cup in a socially respectable way or, if you’re more melancholy about things, brood over how House Republicans are ruining your life.  Additionally, as if people need further incentive to drink, several Capitol Hill watering holes are having shutdown specials that won’t cause a personal budget meltdown and can save you from the doldrums of not working.  Beers for one cent are difficult to refuse …

2. Eat.  If you pursue option #1, it will be important to line your stomach.  You cannot drink heavily, especially in the sun, without sustenance.  Or, you could be more mature about this and take it as an opportunity to simply explore the variety of eating establishments D.C. has to offer other than your government building cafeteria.  You can use this time to catch up with non-work friends and maybe even try to facilitate a meal with that person you’ve had your eye on, now that you have substantially more free time.  So whether you get an over-priced burger at Good Stuff, head to Adams Morgan for Ethiopian, or even just eat some falafel out of a food truck, nourishment is both vital and can be enjoyable during this temporary cessation of work.  Again, many D.C. restaurants are providing perks to furloughed workers, including congressional staff, so that they won’t go hungry while not being paid.

3. A corollary to #1: have sex.  That special someone, whether a long term relationship or a nice person you bonded with during the afternoon’s festivities, might likewise want to enjoy some afternoon delight.  Again, without work, responsibility, or a paycheck, this is a free (you will pay in other ways though) and enjoyable activity that can help pass the time.  You can even try out some of these shutdown pick-up lines. I’m willing to put several dollars, indeed, only several, on a bet that the birth rate among non-essential federal employees nine months from now will be slightly above average…

4. Go to a baseball game.  This is the great American pastime.  More than love of the game though, this is really mostly just an excuse to be outside, eat fried food, and drink beer in the middle of the day.  Added bonus: tickets aren’t very expensive and won’t bankrupt you while you wait and hope that one day a vindictive Tea Party will nonetheless allow you to receive your back-pay.

5. Complete that do-it-yourself project.  Given the trash collection situation, this may be dicey depending on what your project is.  Regardless, this seems like an ideal time to repaint or retile something or learn to scrapbook or teach yourself Spanish.  It doesn’t really matter what the project is, as long as it makes you happy and eases your anxiety over being BlackBerry-less (which may enable you to actually have a conversation with a real live person).

6. Take a vacation.  Not a staycation, but a real one.  This may not be a viable recommendation if you are low on the GS scale, or if you aren’t willing to gamble over how long this might all last.  At the same time, seriously, the District of Columbia is going to smell like a dump with trash everywhere and no street cleaners, and people will be double-parked all over the place.  And, if people follow my first suggestion, while a valid way to pass the time if done responsibly, they will be drunk.  This will all lead to mayhem.  It will basically be like the Katrina Superdome here.  Why stick around through this?  FAA, TSA, and Amtrak employees will all still be working.  Exploit this.  Take your significant other, or even don’t, and get away from the partisan vitriol and disappointed tourists.  I hear Chicago is a nice place to visit.  You can go to the Aquarium, which will be open, in contrast to anything here.

I’m sure there are other things you can do in DC that don’t involve the federal government and I trust that those furloughed can be enterprising enough to find other tasks for themselves to fill their workplace void.  In the meantime, enjoy the weekend and hope for a quick–or maybe not so quick?–resolution!


Every Parent’s Online Nightmare

April 8th, 2011 at 5:42 pm 4 Comments

While Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow built solid careers on the silver screen, and Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry have lit up screens large and small in the seven years since the Friends went their separate ways, David Schwimmer’s career has been, while lower-profile, in some ways almost as deserving to note.   As would befit his nebbish alter ego Ross Geller, his specialty has been starring in and producing Broadway and Hollywood stage plays, and directing (and occasionally starring in) downbeat indies like Run Fatboy Run and Duane Hopwood.

This month’s directorial issue from him, Trust, is his most important post-Central Perk work yet – aided and abetted by In the Bedroom scribe Robert Festinger and Andy Bellin, and a powerhouse cast, including young Liana Liberato in what should be a breakout role. Trust me: Trust is an excellent movie, the kind of film that in the era of Ordinary People or Kramer vs. Kramer would have been a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination, and one that bears comparison to Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King in their prime.

The movie tells the story of Annie (Liana Liberato), the 15-year-old middle child of a white, well-off, attractive, and functional family in suburban Illinois, with happily married parents, doting grandparents, Mercedes and Volvos and swimming pools, and everyone headed for college.  This isn’t some Jerry Springer contestant’s abandoned daughter, desperate for male validation in an unsafe neighborhood.  Annie is wholesomely attractive, addicted to texting and Twitter and Facebook, and she just got her first Little Black Dress for her birthday – the better to help her swim in the fast lane with the sophisticated “cool girls” at school.

And Annie’s already taken the first step.  She’s in the middle of an online relationship with a “hawt and sXe boi” whom she thinks is a 15-year-old peer from California, but later reveals himself as a 20-year-old college athlete named Charlie.  That’s a little alarming, but it’s still a somewhat understandable age difference.  But wait — Charlie later reveals he’s 25 and a grad student.  Then again, Annie’s seen his blond, buff, and youthful picture, and while 25 is a little long in the tooth, it’s not like he’s icky-old, like her parents.  She agrees to meet him, turned on by the furtive thrill of this “older” man taking an interest in her.

Then she meets Charlie (played with serpentine charm by Chris Henry Coffey), and is appalled to find he’s well into his thirties (if not past the big four-oh.)  But he’s still very sexy for such an “old” man (his emailed pictures of gridiron glories were obviously from years ago).  And he makes her feel so sophisticated, so grown-up.  She’s living the dream that she’s seen on Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City and all her favorite movies and reality shows.  After a little prodding, Annie goes back to his hotel room, and you don’t need me to tell you what happens next.  (The movie is as non-exploitative and tasteful as it can be, and though Trust unavoidably veers into TV-movie territory at times, it overall remains a cut above.)

The major adult roles are played by Catherine Keener and Clive Owen as the parents, and Viola Davis as a saintly psychologist who is the only one to take Annie’s side during her nightmare ordeal.  With A-level actors on that level (Tony-winner Davis even managed to steal a scene from Meryl Streep in another sexual-abuse morality film, the excellent Doubt), the grownups could have easily mopped up the floor with teenage newcomer Liberato.  But in the ultimate exercise of acting generosity, they dial themselves back in her presence just enough to maintain their effectiveness while underlining that this is Annie’s story, and she deserves to tell it.  Director Schwimmer never forgets that she’s the victim here — even though everybody else does.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  In one of Trust’s most haunting and subtly disturbing scenes, a uniformed police matron leads Annie out in front of her whole school after her best friend outs her to the principal — past her hooting and hollering “friends.” The message is unmistakable: she’s the bad guy now.  Except for Davis’s therapist, the system “objectifies” Annie as much as a Larry Flynt layout, treating her as little more than a CSI evidence kit, not as a human being. Naturally and predictably, the more that Annie is psychically raped by the four-alarm response of the system, with every detail of her barely discernable sex life ransacked and laid bare to snoopy FBI agents and her own parents, the more she rebels, refusing to cooperate with the investigation and possibly even protecting “Charlie.”

And as all concerned know, while this was unmistakably sexual abuse, it also wasn’t some slasher-movie maskie breaking into her bedroom and savagely raping her.  Nobody put a stick to Annie’s head and made her go up to Charlie’s hotel room and model sexy lingerie.  As Annie’s parents willfully break into transcripts of her IM sessions, they recoil in horror as they read the cyberchat and phone sex that Annie largely initiated with Charlie.  That’s where Trust really earns its title.  Will they ever be able to look at their “innocent little girl” the same way?   Will Annie ever be able to trust her own family again?

Trust is a hard to digest but sumptuous political layer cake of the hypocrisies of how we view teenage sexuality today.  Hollywood puts “To Catch a Predator” specials to scare stay-at-home parents on Friday night, even as the latest teenage sex romp or slasher film hits the weekend big screen and the sexually active teens of Gossip Girl, 90210, and Glee keep hormones at fever pitch during the week.  As outraged as he is by his daughter’s assault, Annie’s father works for an advertising agency that makes Kate Moss-type ads with X-rated youngsters barely older than Annie is.

Yet as pornografied and sexualized as today’s society is, in some ways we’re more prudish about teen sexuality than anytime since the days of poodle skirts and sock hops.  A 40-year-old man who has sex with a willing 16-year-old party girl at Mandalay Bay might be morally lax, to put it mildly. But is he really a dangerous “pedophile” the way that the foaming-at-the-mouth Freddy Krueger who snatches a screaming, My Little Pony-clutching 10-year-old off the playground is?  Does he deserve to be on a “sexual predator” list for the rest of his life?

Family-values conservatives should rightly delight in the film’s savage satire of all of the above.  But they too have a few stones that can be thrown at them.  Even after Bristol Palin’s little faux pas, the Palin-Huckabee-Bachmann set still insist that sex-ed programs that aren’t all abstinence, all the time “will not find their support.”  It is their Scarlet Letter, “Bible believing” fundamentalism that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a mortal sin which animates their “True Love Waits” abstinence-only campaigns – not a primary desire to keep teens from unwanted pregnancy or AIDS in itself.  (In fairness, at least the hard core fundies are consistent on that point.  I’m sure if you asked John Hagee or James Dobson, they’d tell you that a 25-year-old career gal in the city who said yes to her 30-year-old casual boyfriend was just as ”sinful” and immoral as her 15-year-old kid sister, who didn’t “wait.”)

Back in the era of Norman Lear sitcoms and Jodie Foster’s Oscar win for The Accused, real-life rape victims sadly had to fear “blaming the victim,” being told that they “asked for it.”   Today, as Trust illustrates, a young victim has to fear being treated by the system (let alone by the zero-privacy internet) not as a victim, but as collateral damage.  As take-no-prisoners DA Sam McCoy used to say on Law & Order (it’s spinoff, L&O: SVU did a memorable episode based on the notorious Sam Manzie case, which Trust appears to be very loosely inspired by), “People who get in the way of my cases get run over.”  If a young girl (or boy) isn’t ready to play ball and cooperate with the police (to shut down a predator before he strikes again), they themselves might get “run over” by an overzealous, conviction-happy system faster than you can say “Paula Jones” or “Anita Hill.”

As Roger Ebert pointed out, the most disturbing thing about Trust is its message that Annie might have been better off not telling anyone what happened.  And to its credit, the movie never resolves that question — any more than our society does.  What David Schwimmer, Bellin and Festinger, and a top cast DO resolve is that Trust is this year’s The Kids Are All Right a visually straightforward, emotionally lacerating small film about an up-to-the-minute social hot button.  It’s a small film that deserves to get top recognition.


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