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Mayim Bialik and the politics of sexual harassment and personal responsibility

Mayim Bialik and the politics of sexual harassment and personal responsibility

And then there’s the yetser ha-ra

Actress Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory” waded into the Harvey Weinstein scandal by stating that she conducts herself in a manner that is neither immodest nor flirtatious.  Bialik has since felt the wrath of social media for expressing her position on female modesty she notes is rooted in her Jewish heritage and faith.

As a result of the backlash to her statements, Bialik has apologized for her statements.

In [a NY Times] op-ed Friday, written [by Bialik] in response to allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the observant Jewish actress said she has long made decisions that she considers “self-protecting and wise.”

“I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with,” Bialik wrote. “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”

Social media users said that Bialik was insinuating she had not been sexually harassed or assaulted due to her choices and that she was contributing to victim blaming. The op-ed was published as countless women around the world recounted their instances of sexual harassment and abuse using the hashtag #MeToo.

On Monday, Bialik defended her column in a Facebook Live video event with the Times. But on Wednesday she changed course, writing on Twitter that she was “very sorry.”

“What you wear and how you behave does not provide any protection from assault,” Bialik wrote, “nor does the way you dress or act in any way make you responsible for being assaulted…I support…women as we seek out and demand accountability from the only ones responsible for for assault and rape: the people who perpetrate those heinous crimes. I am truly sorry for causing so much pain, and I hope you can all forgive me.”

Bialik is an actress who has described herself as an “aspiring” Modern Orthodox Jew as well as a feminist. She also happens not to  be conventionally beautiful. What she has stumbled on here is an old, old issue that has to do with much more than Harvey Weinstein or the conditions faced by Hollywood actresses who were assaulted by him.

The issue is whether there is anything women themselves could or should or can or cannot do that would make them less likely to be sexually harassed and/or sexually assaulted.

The answer to that question has changed over time and is different in different societies. There are—as even those women who were angry at Bialik must be aware—societies on earth today in which women are supposed to cover themselves in shapeless sacks with only slits for their eyes, in order both to demonstrate their own modesty and to refrain from inflaming the desires of men who might pass them on the street. There are also nudist camps existing in very different societies, with extremely different rules. And there is just about everything in-between, including the mores of my own youth, in which about 50% of the women walking around today would have been considered to be dressed in a very provocative manner.

I suspect that many modern feminists would say that any woman should be able to walk down the street naked at high noon and run no special risk—with nary a criticism either—and that Hollywood actresses should be able to appear nearly-naked in public and trade frankly on their sexuality in terms of getting roles, without anyone ever getting the wrong idea and hitting on them.

It’s also obvious that any man who rapes or otherwise assaults or harasses anyone, or acts as Harvey Weinstein did, bears 100% of the responsibility for his actions. Funny thing, though, Bialik actually stated as much in her original op-ed, the one that caused all the furor:

While she acknowledged that “nothing—absolutely nothing—excuses men for assaulting or abusing women,” she also continued to suggest, “We can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.” And in an especially self-righteous line: “As a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer, I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms.”

Bialik is actually saying two things. The first is non-controversial and very widely accepted in Western society: that a man (or any person, actually) is wholly responsible for whatever rapes / sexual assaults and/or harassment that person commits. But the second is that if you look like Bialik and present yourself like Bialik (who is not your average Hollywood babe, and who dresses modestly as well), you’re unlikely to get propositioned (or assaulted) all that much by Hollywood executives.

These are actually two quite separate thoughts, and it’s the second one that’s apparently unconscionable to modern feminists. However, are they actually suggesting that Weinstein’s predations were completely random, and had zero to do with age or attractiveness? And do they really think that Bialik was saying that if you dress modestly or are less than optimally attractive you’ll never be harassed, attacked, or even the recipient of an unwelcome proposition? Are they suggesting that there is nothing whatsoever women can or should do to reduce their own risk, and that to suggest that there might be something incumbent on women would be to absolve perpetrators of responsibility for their own actions?

What’s more, a great deal of sexual harassment is not of the extreme Weinstein variety. It exists in a much grayer zone that includes what is often thought to be playful flirting or jokes. And in that zone, it’s not always clear what is consensual and what is not.

Another fact that is undeniable—although I suppose people deny it all the time—is that sexuality of the consensual kind often contains a hint of aggressiveness. We don’t want it to be real aggressiveness, destructive or unwanted aggressiveness. But I don’t see how one can ignore the fact that we face a dilemma in trying to do away with the unwanted type while keeping the desired type. It’s not impossible to do so—and in fact I think most people manage to do so. But we have to be very very careful not to take all the—well, let’s just call it the “yetser ha-ra”—out of life:

The ‘evil inclination’ [yetser ha-ra in Hebrew] is frequently identified in the Rabbinic literature and elsewhere with the sex instinct but the term also denotes physical appetites in general, aggressive emotions, and unbridled ambition. Although it is called the ‘evil inclination’, because it can easily lead to wrongdoing, it really denotes more the propensity towards evil rather than something evil in itself. Indeed, in the Rabbinic scheme, the ‘evil inclination’ provides human life with its driving power and as such is essential to human life.

As a well-known Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 9: 7) puts it, were it not for the ‘evil inclination’ no one would build a house or have children or engage in commerce. This is why, according to the Midrash, Scripture says: ‘And God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good’ (Genesis 1: 31). ‘Good’ refers to the ‘good inclination’, ‘very good’ to the ‘evil inclination’. It is not too far-fetched to read into this homily the idea that life without the driving force of the ‘evil inclination’ would no doubt still be good but it would be a colourless, uncreative, pallid kind of good. That which makes life ‘very good’ is the human capacity to struggle against the environment and this is impossible without egotistic as well as altruistic, aggressive as well as peaceful, instincts.

It follows that for the Rabbis the struggle against the ‘evil inclination’ is never-ending in this life. Nowhere in the Rabbinic literature is there the faintest suggestion that it is possible for humans permanently to destroy the ‘evil inclination’ in this life…

So although it’s important not to wink at or excuse sexual harassment, we don’t want to do away with the yetser ha-ra altogether, either. Let’s not pretend this is a simple matter. It’s the sort of thing people have wrestled with for just about as long as we’ve been fully human.

A great many feminists wish for a certain a world, a world in which human sexuality and male aggressiveness bend to their will. It lies quiet and remains peaceful when they want it to be quiet and peaceful (that’s part of what civilization is all about, after all, and I’m all for it, too). But they want it to be activated on their behalf when they summon it up, when it’s desired by them and they give the signal (that sounds like a good idea, too, and I second the motion).

But funny thing, humanity isn’t at our beck and call, and sometimes glitches occur. In just about every society that has ever existed, both sexes have been expected to conform to standards of behavior that attempt to harness the awesome power of human sexuality so that it does the least harm while retaining enough of its driving force that such a society remains viable. The rules are sometimes very rigid and restrictive and sometimes rather lax, and sometimes they fall more heavily on one sex and sometimes on another. But these rules always exist, and they exist for both sexes. Our society is currently in a state of flux over what our rules will be.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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However, are they actually suggesting that Weinstein’s predations were completely random, and had zero to do with age or attractiveness?

Yes, that is exactly what they are saying. It is a dogma of modern PC feminism that rape is a crime of violence and power, not of sex, so all women are equally vulnerable and there is nothing a woman could or should do to minimize her risk.

This is obviously too ridiculous for words. If it were true then 80-year-old nuns would be raped just as often as 18-year-old beauties. Everyone knows that simply isn’t the case. Every once in a while an 80-year-old nun is raped, because she had the misfortune to run across the rare rapist whose tastes run that way. But since such rapists are few and far between, women who don’t appeal to the ordinary man are unlikely to be raped. Everyone knows this, but the PC religion requires pretending otherwise.

    thalesofmiletus in reply to Milhouse. | October 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    If rape were about power instead of sex, the primary victims would be 50-year-old CEOs instead of women age 18 to 30.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to thalesofmiletus. | October 23, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      It can sometimes be about both though.

      thalesofmiletus: If rape were about power instead of sex, the primary victims would be 50-year-old CEOs instead of women age 18 to 30.

      That’s exactly backwards. A 50-year-old CEO has independent power to protect herself. A 15-year-old aspiring actress or country music singer may be desperate for a break, with few alternatives routes to success. The powerful typically prey on the vulnerable, not the strong.

      CZ75Compact in reply to thalesofmiletus. | October 23, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Evolutionarily speaking, the typical rape is about sex, not power. Putting aside the mega deviants who rape the 80-year old nun or murder their victim afterwards, rape is an evolutionary strategy for the frustrated and unsuccessful male. Thus, the typical rapist hits a home run when he impregnates his victim. And young, attractive women are more likely to be raped because youth and beauty are signs of fertility. Thus, it stands to reason that using makeup and attire to project an image of youth and beauty, and behaving seductively are behaviors interpreted by the typical rapist as “invitations.”

      The effective countermeasure for a society that values public displays of youth and beauty is regarding rape as a capital crime — if a loser crosses the line, he loses his life, a great eugenic policy. One of the problems with modern liberal-progressive society is it has gone far to dysgenically decriminalize rape.

    You’re trying to analyze the illogical with logic. It’s like trying to take somebody’s temperature in radians or oranges.

    Leftist ‘logic’ on sexual abuse is fairly simple. If they say it’s abuse, it is, and any attempt to determine just *why* they made that decision is abuse too.

    Certain ‘woke’ individuals get a pass on blatant criminal acts, while others who happen to object to their leftist creed or just happen to be the pinata of the day get clobbered. People in the second category who dislike being metaphorically beaten are permitted to make sacrifices to the un-gods of the left, with money being their favorite and submission to the diktats of abortionists, feminism, and male inferiority being next on the list.

    In short, Harvey Weinstein having his way with an actress in his hotel room is ignored. Mr. Unnamed Male College Student who happens to get caught on camera admiring the buns on a busty co-ed walking by will be excoriated in public, his name revealed, and his life trashed.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | October 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

To para-phrase a Barry Minkow quote,
“Do you know how many more Harvey Weinsteins there are out there – in Hollywood?”

thalesofmiletus | October 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Bialik is, of course, completely correct — a women of deliberate modesty is unlikely to find herself laying on a casting couch.

To say otherwise is just to mollycoddle women who’ve decided to lay on the casting couch.

While she raises a valid reality in her original post. We as a society are better off treating sexuality the same as we do free speech; no matter how provocative, you have no right to violate one who expresses it.

    Milhouse in reply to Andy. | October 24, 2017 at 3:10 am

    Of course you have no right to assault someone, whether sexually or physically, regardless of how provocatively they dress or speak. But we nevertheless recognize that if you dress or speak provocatively you are likely to be assaulted. If someone walks into a black bar and starts mouthing off about n****rs, or into a cop bar and starts going on about BLM, they’re exercising their right to free speech but they’re also asking for trouble.

I am reminded of the media’s mocking of Mike Pence for saying he wouldn’t have dinner with a women who was not his wife–without his wife. Sounds like a good policy to me!

She had nothing to apologize for. Never apologize to SJW’s.

Isn’t it striking that men who control their sexuality in a manner that the left should celebrate, like Mike Pence or Mitt Romney, are vilified. Yet the men who are celebrated, like Kennedy, Clinton & Weinstein, are the antithesis of everything feminists hold dear.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Icepilot. | October 23, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent article on exactly the point you made. It explains why the “Left” (Democrats) are driven crazy by the “Mike Pence Rule.”

    “Feminists Furious as More Men Adopt the Mike Pence Rule”

    “No man in business or academia with an ounce of common sense is going to let himself be alone with a woman who isn’t his wife in the current social climate. A single allegation of inappropriate behavior — whether legitimate or not — can and will destroy a man’s career. This is the climate Feminists have created as their movement morphed from demands for social equality into a litigious Cult of Man-Hatred and quest for political power.

    Now, they’re angry (who am I kidding, feminists are always angry about everything and always lecturing men on how to behave) because men are unwilling to set themselves up as victims…..”

    thalesofmiletus in reply to Icepilot. | October 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    The Left despises the “Pence Rule” even though it is totally consistent with their rhetoric.

    Massinsanity in reply to Icepilot. | October 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm


    There is a very simple explanation to this apparent contradiction. The sexual predators you list all support unfettered access to abortion from conception to delivery. In the eyes of may feminists this is all that matters.

Feminist doctrine HAS to ignore basic human biology in order to be successful. It ignores physiological and psychological differences in men and women and replaces them with wholly false premises.

The mating practices of human beings are based upon the female attracting the male’s attention through physical display. Women are usually passively aggressive in this endeavour. The male is expected to be aggressive in this. If this was a false analysis of the process, then there would be NO multi-billion dollar cosmetic and women’s fashion industry. Ms. Bialik has committed the ultimate sin of women’s society, she spoke the truth about this.

Society regulates what level of aggressiveness is appropriate in the arena of mating. There are pretty clear rules established in this area. A clear and unequivocal NO is sufficient to withdraw any potential permission to begin, or continue, any sensual acts. If a man fails to honor these rules, then he is subject to penalties to be applied by society. However, the woman has to actually avail herself of the protective mechanisms provided by society. They have to report the violation of the rules to authorities.

So, while the male has an unequivocal duty to respect a woman’s desire not to be sensually or sexually harassed, the female also has a responsibility to follow the rules and report the harassment. If a woman dresses provocatively, then men will respond as they are programmed, by nature, to respond. It then becomes the woman’s responsibility to communicate her lack of desire for any type of sexual relationship with the man in question. If the man does not honor the clear verbal communication that the woman is not interested in any sensual encounter, then he is subject to the penalties imposed by society.

Now, what seems to happen in Hollywood, is that the rules on this subject are at odds with those held by the rest of society. In Hollywood, it is apparently acceptable, to many women there, for a male to violate the established societal rules governing behavior in this area, if the woman is compensated. And, herein lies the problem. When you willingly operate under one set of rules, you lose the moral standing to be protected by other rules which are in opposition.

Societal rules are established for a reason. And, as the rules of our Western society are designed to protect women, it is counter productive for women to ignore those rules.

She also happens not to be conventionally beautiful.

Not with those glasses, for sure.

Perhaps they’re part of her plan to look gawdawful. In which case, acknowledge it as a brilliant success.

4th armored div | October 23, 2017 at 1:46 pm

watch Marjorie Morningstar

Marjorie Morningstar is a 1958 melodrama film based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Herman Wouk. The film tells a fictional coming of age story about a young Jewish girl in New York City in the 1950s. The film’s trajectory traces Marjorie Morgenstern’s attempts to become an artist – exemplified through her relationship with the actor and playwright Noel Airman. The film’s cast includes Natalie Wood, Gene Kelly, and Claire Trevor.

after watching this comment on hoe little has changed in 50 years.

DINORightMarie | October 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Of COURSE she had to apologize. She wants to work again.

See how that INTIMIDATION works, people? It is NOT the same as sexual harassment or abuse (so lefty trolls do not claim I conflate the two), but it is indeed IDEOLOGICAL bullying that makes it impossible for her to speak the truth, for her or anyone…..unless a person never wants to work again in “the business.”

Black listing. Bullying. Intimidation. Threats. All for one purpose: shutting down the ability to speak out, to speak up, or express your views.

Intimidation and PC ideological oneness: still alive and well in Hollywood, and ALL performance genres, today.

How about we get rid of ALL of it, the sexual AND ideological harassment?! It’s ALL poisonous.

You have the right to walk through Harlem, at midnight, with a net full of $100 bills. Anyone who takes even a single bill is guilty of theft. Anyone who punches you out and takes your net is guilty of battery (and theft). Anyone who kills you is guilty of murder (and theft). Their criminal act does not diminish your right, just as your adventurism doesn’t remove any responsibility from them.

Still, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Look who is telling her “metoo” story?

The fake Indian with yet another phony story. Chased around a desk… how pathetic.

I’m reminded of the grade-school lecture on the subject of, “opportunity makes the thief.” The point was that you shouldn’t just leave your stuff lying around, because if you did it might get stolen. And one of the reasons it might get stolen would be because even though the thief hadn’t intended to steal it, the thief might see the opportunity and just take it. And, there would never ever be enough teachers or other authorities to keep watch all the time over stuff you left lying around.

Certainly no one was saying that theft is OK, they were just recognizing there’d be less of it if everyone made it a little bit more difficult.

Going back to Criminal Justice 101, there are many who would not commit a crime even if they could be sure they’d never be caught, and others who will commit crimes (e.g., murder-suicide) even if punishment is certain, BUT there are some who will be deterred if punishment is both unpleasant en0ough and probable enough. And so, too, there are those who will commit crimes against persons (not just property) if the opportunity presents itself and the risk of punishment seems low. Even if the punishment for doing so is harsh (for who cares how harsh it is if you’re not going to get caught?).

Yet somehow even those who fully understand the folly of leaving valuables lying around in public spaces (and understand that the world will never be so perfect that it would not foolish to do so) insist they should never ever have to take any precautions at all to reduce the probability of crimes being committed against their person.

Because, well just because I want it so, therefore it should be so?

    Conservative0317 in reply to Albigensian. | October 24, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Not to minimize your statement, but as a corollary, I learned to pick locks in high school (a useful skill!) and was reminded “Locks are only meant to keep honest people honest.”

What an interesting article – very well written.

“A 50-year-old CEO has independent power to protect herself.”

A 50-year-old female CEO is unlikely to be muscular and skilled in streetfighting. Perhaps some XYs who identify as women and also happen to be 6 feet tall and 250 pounds ex pro wrestlers, but this is not what we are discussing. Now if the attacker and Victor know each other that one has a decent job and presumably legal help could make a difference, assuming the attacker intends that the victim continues to live afterwards.

.Trading sex for favors, with various levels of coercion involved is probably degrading. Obtaining an entire Hollywood career for one unpleasant episode is not a trade available to most people.

But worse things happen to ordinary deplorables, outside the elevated paths trod by the privileged media/protester class. Look up the last moments of Jessica Chambers’ young life. There have been no marches no protests, no new laws for the Jessicas and Britanees, nor will there be. The same people protesting would throw themselves at Bill Clinton were he a few years younger.

I was sorry to read her “apology” but I understand how she got browbeat into it. I also noticed the snide implication in some of the backlash against her that implied it wasn’t how she dressed but how plain and unattractive she was that protected her.

Women who push that position don’t realize that they are also supporting the idea that how they dress/act encourages men to harass them. It is naïve to pretend that the beauty/youth of the women might not increase the likelihood she will get hit on and in today’s world it is a short hop from flirting/making a pass at to the land of sexual harassment.

I can’t believe women are so completely brainwashed by the feminists that they don’t notice that looks do matter as least for first impressions. Too bad mothers not longer tell their daughters not to dress or act like “floozies.’


There is a deeper truth about the left contained in your statement.


On second reading it’s clear that I missread your original post. Oops

Bialik: act; don’t pontificate.

Our concept of what is morally permissible, and what is reprehensible
is constantly swinging back and forth,
from the hardly-defensible licentiousness
to the prudery of the 19th century, and, no doubt, back again.

Not so, you say? Well, I was a young man when Woodstock went down, in the ’70’s. The liberal side of the US population thought that event to be fabulous.
A lot of the so-called “sophisticated” people thought it was chic to have “Playboy” on their coffee tables. (it was the stuff of such good conversation)
Today? Well, Playboy is not cool anymore, it’s rather sexist.

Other societies’ customs regarding sex do not fluctuate much. Take the Muslim countries: Women are concealing their sex appeal behind sack clothes and veils.
This was clearly thought it would shield
a man’s wife from the eyes of others, and it would shield the young girls from all premarital sex.
God forbid we follow that custom. What a loss it would be, not to be able to set sight upon a pretty woman!

Perhaps what we need to do, is just “tone it down” a bit. Female beauty need not be of such open sexuality that it incites
men to commit crimes. Let’s just get sex out of advertising ( yea, I know, how??)
and get good old “Harveywood” to quit trying the turn every pretty female into a whore.

The atheist left denies the inherent sinfulness of human beings and insists that we are perfectible (except for the bad ones, who should be reeducated or eliminated).

When you deny reality, things don’t go well. Reality is one of the names of God.

“What you wear and how you behave does not provide any protection from assault.” Oh really? In what world does she live in? Does she really believe her recant? In my real world what you do does have consequences. I don’t walk down a black alley after midnight in the middle of Detroit or Baltimore. I don’t get drunk in certain bars. I don’t visit Iraq of Somalia or…. Real actions do have real consequences. Everyone, including feminists and pretty young girls wearing short skirts, tight tops and drinking too much, needs to recognize it.