Can We Talk About George?

In the fire-hose of stories about men (well, mostly men, there was Mariah Carey, who I gather is a popular singer) abusing their social and professional leverage to inflict themselves sexually on relatively underpowered members of the gender of their choice, the George Takei story seems to be provoking wind in the grass, and crickets.

It bothers me. The story, the denial, and the silence. Briefly, a model and actor named Scott Brunton suddenly went public with a story he claimed to have “been telling [privately] for years,” in which Takei secured his phone number during or shortly after a breakup Brunton was enduring, later invited him over for drinks, and then, while Brunton was in an intoxicated haze — seeming to suggest a Cosby-like drugging — committed what we shall call manual sexual interference. Brunton says he pulled himself together, resisted, objected, and left.

Takei’s response is right out of a familiar playbook. He is “shocked and bewildered,” he has “wracked his brains” trying to remember who Brunton is, and such conduct is “antithetical to his nature.”

I want to believe Takei, the creator of a beloved sci-fi character, snarky gay activist of a dozen PSAs, hero of the Resistance to Trump’s America. But I can’t wriggle away from the observation that he sounds like the Mayor of Casablanca here. Or like scads of men with moral, social and political leverage who have discounted accusations of sexual bad behavior.

Let me hasten to remark that the world is not black and white. In my teens, I was a little on the ruthless side. The Bard College Campus Christian (we only had one) could have lodged a complaint against me for sexual harassment. His evangelizing was obnoxious and his bony frame was toothsome, and he oozed dick-in-a-knot sexual thwartedness at every pore. But really, it would have been classier not to put the blocks on him after he said he wasn’t interested, even if he kept sending mixed messages. On the other hand, I was nineteen, and had imbibed the myth that all men really, really want to get laid, just as some men have apparently internalized the idea that all women really want it. I grew up.

Takei, at the age when this allegedly happened, was forty-two or -three. At that age I was going through a divorce, had had a lot of time to grow up, and would not have forced myself on a carrot.

So if the story is true in whole or substantive part, even if it was half a lifetime ago for Takei, and something he would never repeat — part of a past self, say — it is something that a man should own. Maybe it’s not true and Brunton is an opportunist or has been put up to it, but then, that’s what Roy Moore says about his accusers. Maybe I will be able to go on enjoying my fondness for the man who satirizes homophobes and inspired a terrific musical and fenced his way through the Desilu sound stages. But I don’t like the story so far. And no one is covering it past the moment it broke, not even to the extent of the apparently well loved Kevin Spacey’s misdeeds (seriously: contemporary pop culture has long gotten away from me; I know he was something in something). This should not be the case; we love it when a Christian tightass founders, but a hero of social justice? Sorry, all flesh is grass.

The comic Louis CK — another showbiz person I wouldn’t know if I sat on him — issued a mea culpa that resonated over Twitter and hence into my news feed, to the effect that yes, he’d been an asshole; yes, he realized now what damage he’d done; yes, he was going to retreat and reflect. I don’t know if that’s redemptive, but it at least amounts to owning your own shit. Again, I don’t know the facts of the Takei case, but I may be the only person to react (on his Twitter feed) by saying that an apology of this sort would be the best stance if there is any truth in what Brunton said.  It all seems to be either “we love you George” or “you are a lying POS.” Meanwhile, most media seem asleep.

We live in a moral jungle, in which people are told that their sexuality is wicked and damning — the more so if they are gay or otherwise nonconforming — while other forces demonstrate the wink, the snicker, the implication that everyone says one thing and does another. Shit like this is going to happen until we have a social order in which an enthusiastic Yes is okay, a definitive No is respected, and everyone has learned the responsibility for seeking and abiding by the distinction.

George, I want it not to be true. But if it is, fricking own it. No one gets knee jerk exoneration, not Roy Moore, not Donald Trump, not you.

 

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