Eventually, all roads lead to Santa Barbara, even movie mogul and sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s. No, authorities are not investigating whether Weinstein grabbed, groped, or otherwise sexually assaulted any Santa Barbara women. Instead, it involves Thomas J. Barrack Jr. — again. Santa Barbara’s peripatetic multibillionaire and sometime resident Barrack — most famous perhaps for being one of the single largest donors to the Trump presidential campaign — is now in negotiations to buy up the smoldering ashes of Weinstein’s once formidable business empire. Why not? Barrack has a knack for buying up high-octane distressed properties from sellers facing serious sexual assault charges. Back in 2008, Barrack bought out Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, shortly after that pop star super genius had been acquitted of criminal charges for plying a young boy with Jesus juice. Barrack, who now owns the Happy Canyon Vineyard, also ran Trump’s disastrous inauguration and recently turned down a cabinet appointment. But given Trump’s own well-chronicled history as a sexual predator, Barrack’s political investments can be seen of a piece that started with Jackson and has ended with Weinstein. Kind of a grim MO. It’s worth noting the Trump election campaign was just this week served with a subpoena demanding any documents relating to a woman trying out for The Apprentice in 2007 who has since filed sexual assault claims against the president. She claimed he touched her breast and kissed her at least twice on the lips, open mouthed. For the record, the president denied everything and dismissed the allegations as “fake news.”
A week ago, I’d never heard of actors Rose McGowan or Alyssa Milano. I still haven’t seen any of their films. But it turns out McGowan worked on the movie Scream, which was produced by Harvey Weinstein. Its title is too fitting. McGowan has accused Weinstein of rape. Milano, who costarred with McGowan on the TV series Charmed, reinitiated #MeToo, a 10-year-old social-media campaign launched by activist Tarana Burke for victims of sexual harassment and assault to acknowledge what’s happened to them. #MeToo has been successful the way a runaway train is said to be successful — it’s both mesmerizing and horrifying.
The question — pathetically — has never really been about how many women have been sexually harassed or assaulted; it’s always been about how few haven’t. The answer, abysmally, is way too low. Yes, I know that not all allegations are necessarily true. But I’d bet the farm that for every false charge leveled, another 20 have been kept secretly bottled up in the victims’ attics. Now the genie is out of the bottle. In Sacramento, more than 140 female lawmakers, legislative staffers, and lobbyists issued a manifesto this week denouncing the “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment. In France, a similar movement has caught fire via spontaneous combustion. It’s called #BalanceTonPorc, which, translated, means, “Expose Your Pig.” Very catchy, but a little unfair. Pigs never did anything to anyone.
New York City cops are still angry local prosecutors didn’t file charges against Weinstein after he all but confessed to grabbing the breast of Filipino-Italian fashion model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who was wearing a wire at the time. In the tape-recorded exchange, she demanded to know why he’d lunged at her and grabbed her breast. “I’m used to that,” he replied. “You’re used to that?” she demanded. “Yes,” he said. “I won’t do it again.” Prosecutors argued they didn’t file charges because they couldn’t prove Weinstein’s intent was his own sexual gratification. He and Gutierrez were discussing her interest in becoming a lingerie model. At issue was whether her breasts appeared authentic. In a highly theoretical universe, I suppose, that makes sense. But why would Weinstein say, “I’m used to that” and “I won’t do it again,” if it was really just a clinical examination?
Weinstein’s most frequently discussed violation involved reporter Lauren Sivan, who charged Weinstein invited her to a New York City restaurant in which he invested, and then blocked her exit when she refused his more direct advances. According to Sivan’s account, Weinstein gratified himself as he blocked her way, eventually climaxing into a potted plant nearby, though the restaurant’s sous chef thought Weinstein had used a kitchen pot rather than a potted plant. As always, there’s two sides to every story.
Let’s get something straight: Foisting an unbidden schlong — whether a verbal facsimile or the real deal — at unwilling targets should never be confused with desire, attraction, lust, or love. It’s not sexually playful. It’s not all in good fun. It’s not in the same ballpark or even universe. It’s psycho-sexual extortion with an armed and loaded penis. Boys — it is too often said — may be boys, but at some point men are supposed to behave as men.