You may have noticed that as this extremely depressing and never-ending “celebrity sex abuser” storyline plays out, there are at least a couple of patterns. One of them, which no one has had the courage to fully examine, is that almost all of the most high-profile alleged abusers from the world of media/entertainment/politics are men who would not be generally considered physically attractive. Some might even be called ugly, and not just because of their behavior.
I am always very skeptical of when the media takes a few stray data points and weaves them into a convenient narrative, but there is clearly something to this. Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Mark Halperin, Louis C.K., Roy Moore, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Glenn Thrush, John Conyers, John Lasseter, and Jeffery Tambor all clearly fit within this description.
So, is this just a coincidence, or is there a connection between a male celebrity lacking good looks and him being more likely to be accused of sexually inappropriate, or even criminal conduct? I have a theory that there is indeed an association here, one which may play a role in multiple directions.
Given the highly sensitive nature of this subject matter and the incredibly toxic current environment surrounding this topic, I want to first make very clear that I am not looking to in any way to excuse the very bad behavior, which, as the father of two young girls, I obviously abhor. Instead, I am only trying only to explain a portion of what is really going on here and make sense of what seems to be an overwhelming level of insane news stories all coming out at the same time.
Charlie Rose, in his ill-fated “defense” against allegations which led to his instant and shocking downfall, said, “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize that I was mistaken.” While the nature of the allegations, some of which he is denying, makes his perspective difficult to believe, let’s, for a moment, take him at his word. If one understands celebrity and power, this assertion may not be nearly as preposterous as it first appears to be.
Having spent a lot of time around many rather famous and powerful people, I believe that “celebrity” is effectively a disease. It completely screws with a person’s brain and often makes them quite delusional (which is why making someone whose whole life has been about achieving celebrity, the president of the United States, was a REALLY bad idea). In short, a person begins to believe, quite literally, that their crap does not stink.
This creates a situation where they really believe that they can do no wrong and that the people around them, who never tell them “no” and praise nearly everything they do, actually adore them. Much like animals in a first-class zoo, they begin to live in a world with no actual connection to reality and their ability to properly gauge personal interactions becomes greatly diminished.
Inevitably, this impacts their contact within “romantic” relationships, especially if they are heterosexual men. As Harvey Weinstein’s gorgeous and soon to be ex-wife proves, it is well known that some women are extremely attracted to–or at least pretend to be–celebrity, power, and money.
It is hardly a stretch then that these same men, who probably got no female attention in their formative teenage years, in their adulthood as a “celebrity” want to take their new fancy sports car (if you will) out for a ride as often as possible. Inevitably, this means that they will eventually drive this car too fast/recklessly, causing them to crash and burn.
In other words, these men get used to the idea that some women really will, just as Donald Trump infamously told Access Hollywood, “let you do anything” if you are a “star.” They start to think that they are George Clooney because some women actually really do treat them that way (and they are too egotistical to realize that these women are probably mostly faking it). Effectively, they end up WAY “over punting” their “coverage” and bad things, sometimes very bad things, end up happening, especially since these men also tend to have massive entitlement issues.
I know that a lot of people, especially liberal feminists, will be outraged by this analysis because they will wrongly perceive that I am minimizing these widely varied acts of abuse, but I am not. They will also say that I am portraying the motivation of the act incorrectly because sex abuse, to them, is all about power and not about sex.
As an actual heterosexual man, who knows a lot of other real heterosexual men, I believe that this perception is, for the vast majority of cases, way off. The reality is that these men want to have sexual relations with women more beautiful than their own level of attractiveness would normally allow. This is why they pursued the very attributes (fame, power, money) which would make this possible for them to achieve. (Part of why I know this is because, as teenage mega-geek, I started my career as a TV sportscaster for some of the same reasons and, after initially enjoying the “perks,” quickly matured enough to realize they weren’t worth the downside.)
It is instructive here to see how men view sexual abuse when it occurs in reverse. Take, for instance, female teacher sex abuse cases, which are shockingly common and which, not coincidently, get a lot of media coverage, at least when the teacher is considered to be “attractive.” There is zero doubt that the average male, whether they admit it publicly or not, judge the heinousness of these acts based solely on how good-looking the teacher is. For instance, right or not, I have never met a man who thought that the crimes committed on a teenage boy by “hot teacher” Debra Lafave were particularly horrible.
This phenomenon does not generally work the same way with women because biologically they tend to see the role and significance of attractiveness very differently than men. However, that doesn’t mean that physical desirability is irrelevant in judging and interpreting the actions of men in the realm of sexual harassment and abuse. I am convinced, for instance, that if Al Franken looked like Brad Pitt, no one would have ever taken Leeann Tweeden’s charge remotely seriously.
As Tom Brady memorably taught us in a 2012 Saturday Night Live sketch, the rules to follow for not sexually harassing women in the workplace are: “Be handsome, Be Attractive, Don’t Be Unattractive.”
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is a documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.