The “aholification” of society, otherwise known as the increase in the number of a-holes in the world.
That was what I was going to rant about this week.
You know, the people who just don’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. The people without manners. The loudmouths. The whiners. The bullies. The bullshitters.
I’m talking about the people who treat the world as their trash can. The folks who cut you off as they weave toward the next stop light. The ones who always skip the line because they’re so important. The people who love to criticize but never contribute. The ones who believe the world owes them everything, and the rules don’t apply.
I’m thinking of the blamers, the willfully ignorant, and the folks who hide behind screens as they troll their way into social media with poisonous pens, racist ideas, and bad spelling.
Then the Weinstein scandal broke, and I had to add a whole new group to my list: the pigs, the perverts, the abusers of power, the ones preying on vulnerable and impressionable people, the horny sickos in bathrobes, the catcallers, the womanizers, the humiliators, the guys who think a short skirt is an invitation, and the men who can’t keep their hands in their pockets.
I call them the Players, the creeps, the sexists, the intimidators, the ones who pretend not to understand the meaning of the word NO, and those who believe that money and power can buy decades of silence.
As a man, I am utterly horrified and shocked by all the #MeToo messages, and sickening stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Judging by my Facebook timeline, a-holes are everywhere! They hold respectable positions: teachers, doctors, therapists, members of the clergy, managers, casting directors. Some just have a bit more money and influence than others. Many of them are friends of the family, and helpful neighbors.
The question is: would you recognize a sexual predator if you saw one?
FIND THE BAD GUY
Years of television typecasting has taught us how to spot a criminal, right? There’s the unibrow. The scarface. The ever-present five-o’clock shadow, clothes that don’t fit, and -in some cases- the British accent. Reality is very different. I bet you wouldn’t be able to pick a pervert from a police lineup. Fathers of five look too normal. I met one of them once, and I was utterly clueless. Here’s how it happened.
When I was seventeen, I got an opportunity to produce and present youth radio and television programs for a national broadcasting company. It was the chance of a lifetime, because all the teens that were chosen would be coached by industry veterans. Some of our coaches turned out to be minor celebrities with major attitudes, but my favorite teacher was a jolly guy in his sixties. Let’s call him Hans.
Grandfatherly Hans had been a producer of beloved children’s programs for years, and he knew everyone in the business. I learned a lot from him, and as we got closer, I asked him if he missed being involved in the day-to-day production of TV shows.
“I never really retired,” he told me. “I run a small production company out of my home, making low-budget movies. Come to think of it,” said Hans, “I wanted to ask you… would your girlfriend be interested in doing some acting?” At the time my girlfriend was in the same coaching program I was in, and apparently, she had caught his attention.
TAKING THE BAIT
When I told my girlfriend about the acting opportunity, she was flattered, and she thought it might be a good experience to work with a renowned producer. One quick screen test later she was hired, and within a month she heard that the first shoot would be on a remote location. “How do I get there?” she asked, because she was too young to drive a car. “Don’t worry, I’ll take you,” said Hans. “It’s quite a drive, but I have a fast car.”
At this point you probably hear the sound of a million alarm bells going off, but this was years and years ago, and we were quite naive. Hans loved everybody, and everybody loved Hans. His professional reputation was stellar, and there was no reason to doubt that his intentions were less than honorable. He always told us that he “wanted to pay it forward,” and pass his knowledge and experience on to younger generations.
Little did my girlfriend know that she was on her way to a porn shoot.
What really happened during the drive I still don’t know, but after an hour of grooming, patting, and sweet talk, it became quite clear that the budget for this production wasn’t going to the costume department. My girlfriend was furious, and at a stoplight she started screaming her head off. Drivers in other cars took notice, and an embarrassed Hans offered to turn around. What a gentleman!
THE OFFICIAL DENIAL
When we told the head of the coaching program what had occurred, he said my girlfriend must have misread Hans’s intentions. It couldn’t possibly be true. After all, “nothing happened.” Those were his words. Later on, we learned that they were old pals looking out for each other. Sounds familiar?
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you know that there is no such thing as “nothing happened.” There’s the shame, the embarrassment, the violation of trust, the anger, the disbelief, the self-doubt, the cover-up, the nightmares, the bitter taste of betrayal.
Back then there were no hashtags, no social media, and no reporters interested in the story. Today is different! Thank goodness so many courageous women are speaking out against the a-holes who are now on notice. They will be named and shamed in public. Their reputations will be ruined. Their families will be torn apart. Their businesses will pay a hefty price.
If that’s what it takes to create a safe, respectful society, so be it.
It won’t happen overnight, but all the Weinsteins of the world should know this:
Karma has no deadline.
If you knowingly and shamelessly dig yourself into a hole, Karma will come and find you!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Three months after publishing this story, the voice-over community was rocked by the news that 16 women have accused New York voice talent and coach Peter Rofé of sexual harrassment. CNN broke the news. Click here to read the article. Since then, another 13 women have stepped forward with similar experiences. If you were the victim of sexual harrassment in the voice-over community, you may confidentially share your experience or ask a question. Please contact email@example.com.
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Paul Strikwerda says
Absolutely. It was a terrifying experience.
Thomas Varhol says
Paul, thanks for the clear thinking about this and the interesting creation of a NEW word, “aholification”. It’s about time someone called out these butt munchers in public and pointed out what they really are….a scourge on polite society and civilization. Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks like this. T Varhol Voices.
Paul Strikwerda says
On one hand I hate to generalize because reality is seldom black and white. But especially on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse there is no grey.
As far as the other types of behavior I listed at the beginning of this story, part of me said: “Oh, you’re just getting older. Every generation thinks the previous generation was better, more considerate, and more respectful. Could it be that I am turning into my dad?” Perhaps I’m more sensitive to these issues as I am aging, but I really do notice a coarsening of society as I encounter more and more people who don’t give a sh*t about this planet and the people on it… until something happens in their backyard.
Rick Lance says
Nice job of outlining the “a-hole!”
I’m just waiting for the ultimate, womanizing, sexist a-hole to be de-throned. It’s coming! Harvey.. you’re in good company!
Paul Strikwerda says
I think I know the guy you’re referring to. I think he spends a lot of time golfing and tweeting. Here’s the scary thing. Our president outperformed Clinton among white women, winning 53 percent of voters in that demographic. He beat Clinton among white women without college degrees by 27 points. In the three states that decided the election — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — that margin was enough to send Trump to the White House.
Jan Eliot says
Paul, another great article, thank you! Sadly my thoughts went immediately to “but here we have a president who is without a doubt a sexual predator!” I was shocked and saddened back then when it first came into public view but then people still voted him in! ugh In his own pathetic words “sad” … when you say “here’s the scary thing…” I completely agree! I sure hope Karma comes soon for these guys.
Paul Strikwerda says
Tell me about it, Jan. Regardless of political affiliations and preferences, I want a president I can look up to as an example of moral behavior, integrity, and decency. Right now, such a person dos not live in the White House.
Paul Payton says
Another good one, Paul. I understand and agree. I also hope that this wave of awareness doesn’t turn into a witch hunt where anyone with any sort of power suddenly becomes a new demon. We as a society have gone in extreme directions too often, and in the current political climate of black and white with grey noticeably absent, I am afraid it could happen again. On the other hand, as with the aftermath of every stupid mass shooting incident, there can be a lot of sound and fury followed by no action whatsoever. That’s no good either. It’s tough to follow a path of righteousness these days (or at least, one of right-on-ness).
Paul Strikwerda says
I totally get where you’re coming from, Paul. We’ve had these scandals before, and yet, they keep on happening. Based on the number of #MeToo messages, sexual harassment has reached epidemic proportions. What do we do about it? I think society has to keep on moving toward real equality between men and women. Victims need to be taken seriously, and perpetrators must get therapy. If bystanders see something, they must say something. I, for one, will speak up whenever women are denigrated and taken advantage of.
Kent Ingram says
Exceptional, exemplary blog, Paul! Like you, I was shocked and saddened by the “Me Too” posts on Facebook. And, I’m sure you were raised in a similar way to mine, that is, we were taught to be gentlemen, have impeccable manners and, above all, treat girls and women respectfully. There were times, in younger days, when I behaved inappropriately, but not to the extent of a Harvey Weinstein (or a Bill Cosby). Maturity and a sense of shame made me get my thinking on the right track. A question remains, why does this behavior start, in the first place? Is it a symptom of being in a position of power and letting it warp your mind? Or, is it a symptom of something more twisted, say from childhood? I wish I knew the answer. Thanks, Paul.
Paul Strikwerda says
Finding the answer to your question means we’d need to probe the mind of a pervert, and I’d rather not go there. In general, I believe any type of behavior is intended to serve a positive purpose. The behavior itself might be negative, but the person doing it gets something positive out of it. It feeds a need. Take smoking, for instance. We know it is bad, but smokers smoke anyway, because it gives them something they desire. It relaxes the body and perhaps the mind. Sexual thrill seeking might be similar. For some, it is definitely an addiction (and addiction is the opposite of freedom). One of they keys in these cases is the lack of impulse control, the kick of being in power, and a set of values and beliefs that justifies this type of behavior.