Monday 23 September 2019

Dr Ciara Kelly: Weinstein-like plot twist that became a reality

Attackers seek to normalise abuse
Attackers seek to normalise abuse

Ciara Kelly

One of the most interesting things about the whole Harvey Weinstein litany of alleged abuse was hearing the recording of him attempting to coerce Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a young model he had already groped in a business meeting the day before, into his hotel room. She had reported that assault to the police and while she was filing a report he rang her and begged her to meet him again. The cops suggested she wear a wire so they could listen to what happened. It was like a plot twist in one of his own movies but hearing a serial sexual predator at work was oddly fascinating.

His wheedling entreaties. His almost frantic desperation to get her into the room. His attempts to manipulate her with suggestions she was embarrassing him and causing a scene. His attempted use of her own innate politeness against her.

He tried many different approaches to coax and bully her into entering his bedroom, none of which ultimately worked, and so he left her in the hall with a combination of irritation and feigned hurt. It was an unexpected recorded example of what appears to be a specific pattern of behaviour where Weinstein seemed entirely indifferent to the distress of his female victims and appeared to get off on exerting power over them - as much as on the sex acts themselves. He masturbated as women barricaded themselves into bathrooms and as he blocked their exit from hotel rooms, offices and restaurant basements. Bringing himself to climax while cowed and horrified women stood trapped before him was clearly something he had a particular predilection for. That and demanding massages that no one wanted to give. He didn't ask for sex straight out, he pretended that wasn't what he wanted - he just wanted them to help him relax. But then the massage would turn aggressively into something else.

From the numerous accounts given by women, repeatedly saying no was absolutely no barrier to him pressing ahead and it could probably be concluded that it actually added something to it for him. And all the while as he dangled the carrot of career success in front of these girls, they knew the stick of career destruction was never far away.

What came after was also interesting. He often followed up with phone calls suggesting - despite the assault - that they should get together again soon. He had a pattern of behaviour that attempted, post-attack, to normalise the situation and protect himself in quite a cunning way. He is a bully. An arch manipulator. A ruthless operator. A sexual predator. Those first three characteristics made him good at his job which gave him the power to carry out his sexual assaults with impunity. Weinstein's disgusting treatment of women brings Jabba the Hutt with Princess Leia on a leash to mind. It's likely that he is not nearly as attractive to women as he would like to be. He clearly felt a sense of entitlement around women but equally he perhaps knew that in reality none of the women he preyed on found him attractive. That may have fuelled some of his anger and aggression towards them.

The assaults have left a depressingly long list of women who came into his sights, with lasting distress from his actions, with allegations of sexual assaults and rapes stretching back decades. When you broaden it out from that though it isn't merely a list of survivors. It is a list of women whose careers and lives he ruined. Many of his accusers left the movie business altogether in order to avoid ever meeting him again. Many others say a career trajectory that was going well, as was evidenced by the fact that they came into Weinstein's orbit in the first place, was sent into oblivion after rejecting his advances or after becoming unwanted evidence of his alleged crimes.

Harvey Weinstein didn't only sexually assault women, he destroyed them - professionally and financially as much as emotionally. People are saying there are still questions to answer as to how that was able to happen. But many of those people are also blaming women for not speaking out. Alas, if it was so easy to speak out it wouldn't be so easy for the Harvey Weinsteins to get away with it. So much still needs to change for women.


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