DAVID PENBERTHY Be­hav­iour is in­ex­cus­able

Sunday Tasmanian - - News -

SOME years ago a prom­i­nent Aus­tralian sport star and his wife were the vic­tims of a bur­glary.

I won’t name the bloke be­cause he copped enough snig­ger­ing from the public and me­dia when it tran­spired that one of the items stolen from his house was an, ahem, home video, in which he and his wife were ex­press­ing their love for one an­other in a phys­i­cal way. He held a press con­fer­ence where he un­der­stand­ably pleaded for pri­vacy, ar­gu­ing the video he and his wife had made was no dif­fer­ent to those made by “many other cou­ples”.

Aside from mak­ing me re­flect on how mun­dane my own life was, this sports­man’s com­ments were a good ex­am­ple of how peo­ple will at­tempt to rope in the rest of us when they find them­selves in a bind. I mean, who can hon­estly say they haven’t made their own porno? Ev­ery­one does it, right?

Hav­ing said that, good luck to them. There’s no crime in what they did. He prob­a­bly had a whole stack of fun pre­tend­ing to be the pizza de­liv­ery guy who couldn’t be­lieve what hap­pened after he dropped off the Su­per Supreme.

The big­gest sto­ries of 2017 have in­volved sex. Not sex in the lov­ing and con­sen­sual way as ex­pressed by this de­cent cou­ple, but un­wanted and aber­rant sexual ad­vances, the use of sex­u­ally ag­gres­sive lan­guage, sexual as­saults per­pe­trated by men in po­si­tions of power. Men who are of­ten so ugly in ap­pear­ance and char­ac­ter that they would be flat out pulling a you-knowwhat in a brothel if they were forced to bat­tle on like the rest of us, armed only with our looks and per­son­al­i­ties.

The de­bate and anal­y­sis of all these sto­ries has been driven to a large de­gree by fe­male com­men­ta­tors, and fair enough too, be­cause it is the women who are suf­fer­ing here, and who have suf­fered silently for far too long.

As a bloke, one part of this whole sor­did se­ries of scan­dals that I find re­ally galling is the at­tempt by the men at the cen­tre to rope the rest of us into their con­duct.

This ex­cuse-mak­ing mind­set was epit­o­mised by Don­ald Trump dur­ing last year’s US elec­tion cam­paign upon the re­lease of the so-called “pussy­gate” au­dio, in which he was heard boast­ing that when you’re rich and pow­er­ful like he is you can get away with in­de­cently as­sault­ing women.

Trump’s in­sult­ing sub­se­quent ex­pla­na­tion was that this was just “locker room talk”, sug­gest­ing that when the rest of us guys aren’t dig­ging ditches, teach­ing school­child­ren, pro­gram­ming computers or writ­ing news­pa­per col­umns, we are sit­ting around with our mates guf­faw­ing about how many women’s skirts we’ve stuck our hands up lately.

Har­vey Weinstein used the same ap­proach with his piti­ful dec­la­ra­tion “Guys, I’m not do­ing OK, I need help” — the cringe­wor­thy use of the word “guys” be­ing a shame­less plea for mis­placed sym­pa­thy, as if we were all some­how meant to re­late to what the poor guy was go­ing through.

It is prob­a­bly only a mat­ter of time be­fore Matt Lauer pops up for a tell-all in­ter­view, where he asks who can hon­estly say that they haven’t in­stalled a but­ton-op­er­ated lock­ing de­vice in their of­fice so they can keep fe­male col­leagues trapped while they get their dongers out?

From a crowded field of ex­cuses — in­deed he used al­most ev­ery ex­cuse that has ever been used since the dawn of time — Don Burke de­serves a spe­cial men­tion for his as­ser­tion that his use of ripe lan­guage and sexual im­agery was sim­ply part of some graphic comic ban­ter that many of us knock­about Aussies cher­ish.

I’m not a prude and nor are any of my mates. I know plenty of dirty jokes that would be re­garded in some cir­cles as in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

But I don’t think I know any men who would talk the way Don Burke did to Susie O’Neil, or Jes­sica Rowe, or An­nalise Braak­en­siek, or Ali­son Piotrowksi, and try to laugh it all off as a bit of play­ful lock­er­room ban­ter.

There are many is­sues that arise from the afore­men­tioned scan­dals that re­flect very poorly not just on the per­pe­tra­tors but the men around them who did noth­ing.

One of the most shame­ful as­pects of these sto­ries is the vol­ume of women who had their careers in­ter­rupted or even aban­doned as gut­less man­agers forced them to tip­toe around peo­ple such as Burke, where the non-so­lu­tion to be­ing groped or bom­barded with pro­fan­i­ties was to move the woman to a dif­fer­ent shift or a dif­fer­ent show.

These blokes have plenty of ex­plain­ing do. It’s no dif­fer­ent from the Catholic Church’s de­plorable modus operandi of shift­ing prob­lem priests from one parish to the next, rather than ad­dress­ing and own­ing the fact that they had sex of­fend­ers in their midst.

But I would part com­pany with those who ar­gue that the be­hav­iour of Burke, Weinstein et al is part of a spec­trum of male be­hav­iour.

It doesn’t strike me as a spec­trum, rather a sick cul-de­sac that most of us have never even gone near.

I sim­ply do not know these men, and I’m not up for help­ing them con­coct their rub­bish al­i­bis.

QUES­TION­ABLE: Don­ald Trump, main pic­ture, and, inset from top, Har­vey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Don Burke.

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