There is so much in the Harvey Weinstein story to find infuriating and disgusting and sad. But one of the things that gets me most is the injunction to people that “you shouldn’t have put yourself in that situation.” The superb awfulness of this idea is hard to convey to someone who has never been told that something that was not their action was mysteriously their fault. But that’s what women and victims of sexual assault get told all the time.
Picture, for a moment, the restrictions of a world where anything bad that someone does to you turns out mysteriously to have been your fault. Where you are held responsible for other people’s behavior, so you act accordingly. Here are just a few stories that may never have happened.
Star Wars: You sit down for a private session with Obi-Wan Kenobi, your father’s old mentor, a man who works in the field you would like to enter. There are no other humans present to witness what happens next. What happens next is that Obi-Wan shows you how to wield a lightsaber and provides you with valuable life guidance!
The Empire Strikes Back: Next, you show up on a remote swamp planet for what you thought might be a school for Jedi. It turns out to be just a hut where one very old individual lives by himself. He gives you helpful mentoring and never once mentions your looks, even though you have just been in a disfiguring accident.
The Matrix: You meet with Morpheus, an older man who tells you he is impressed with your work. He offers you one of two pills. You don’t know what is in them, but you take one anyway. It does what he says it will do, and you go on to have a fruitful and mutually fulfilling mentor-mentee relationship.
Batman: A very wealthy man who works in your dream industry invites you to his home, Wayne Manor. He tells you that he wants you to move in with him and learn how to do what he does. You do. It’s fine.
The Lord of the Rings: A powerful man who knows your uncle comes to the Shire. After a party, he corners you and tells you he has a secret for you. It turns out to be a ring of power that he wants you to destroy. He assembles a team to work with you, gives you good advice, and — except when orcs attack — you are never made to feel unsafe.
Back to the Future: An old man you consider to be a genius, if slightly eccentric, offers to let you join his experiment. You get in the car with him, he keeps his hands on the wheel and the car takes you back to the past, or future, as expected.
Harry Potter: You unexpectedly become a celebrity and are whisked off to a magical place you are told not to mention to your family. You spend one-on-one time with the people in charge and they are uniformly respectful of your boundaries. You get to fulfill your destiny.