WASHINGTON -- "Sex is a beautiful thing." Remember that solemnity being intoned endlessly by the sex prophets of the '60s, '70s and '80s? Of course, the more recent prophets were preceded by the sexual psychopaths of the '20s and '30s. There is a long history to the absurdity of sexual utopia.
Yet by the 1960s, the sex prophets were on the hem of marketing their balderdash to a mass market, and by the early days of the 21st century, they had their market. The "sex is a beautiful thing" crusaders had found their followers in the public school system, pop culture and even churches. Now, however, the solemnity is being shut down almost overnight by the fair sex. Anyone caught intoning it in the present moment will be in danger of ostracism, especially if the intoner is a male.
It is increasingly clear to those of us who study such phenomena -- some call us sociologists; others use less flattering terms -- that something wholly unexpected has taken place in American society. Grievance has trumped the "beauty of sex" poetry. The aggrieved women of Hollywood were the first to let out a holler. The main source of their grievance was Harvey Weinstein, the Bathrobed Romeo, whose quest for the beauty of sex allegedly led him to fondle, abuse and otherwise commit felonies on the bodies of dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of unwilling maidens and pursuers of Hollywood contracts. My guess is he is destined to spend the rest of his life in court with greedy lawyers picking his pockets.
Now, other erstwhile disciples of the beauty of sex are being hounded by a pack of aggrieved women. There is the Hollywood screenwriter and director James Toback, who is being pursued by at least 200 women. There is Ben Affleck, the Oscar-winning actor and director who has thus far attracted just one raving woman, though there may be more. And there is Mark Halperin, the political journalist and author who has acquired at least a dozen hectoring women. But again, his hour of anguish is still young.
Perhaps the most arresting of the present moment's Casanovas is Leon Wieseltier, the longtime former literary editor of the New Republic. An indignant lady by the name of Michelle Cottle, who once worked with Wieseltier and even drank with him, has chronicled his 30-year stint at the magazine, making it sound like he mistook the women on his staff for applicants to his personal harem over the years. She evaded his grasp, but others were not so lucky. Wieseltier is now 65 years old and actually looks rather like someone's grandmother, with his flowing gray hair and wattle of flesh beneath his chin. A more he-man specimen turned up over the weekend: the magazine's publisher, Hamilton Fish V. With perhaps as many angry women staffers pursuing him as Wieseltier, he has "taken a leave of absence." If he returns, perhaps he will rechristen the 103-year-old progressive magazine as a journal of sexual therapy or sexual hygiene.
Which introduces an important point: This rebellion of indignant women is pretty much a problem for progressives to deal with. Conservatives are mostly exempt. Usually, the ladies are on the left. As are most of the guilt-stricken men, whom there will be many more of before the hysteria exhausts itself. Oh, I know every list of miscreants includes the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and President Donald Trump, but this is merely another case of the media's tendentiousness, or as the president says, "fake news." When he was alive, Ailes denied wrongdoing, and the evidence against him was sketchy. In the case of the president, there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and there are no credible witnesses. Of the accused conservatives, only O'Reilly has suffered monetary loss. As for the progressives, they have all lost a fortune, and some will be spending time in court, or worse.
Actually, I consider this a very good thing. Many young women have obviously suffered at the paws of Weinstein and company. A lot of them have been duped into believing that all men participate in such boorish antics. No one I know acts like a monkey on monkey island at the zoo. Ladies, bear in mind that the current age of ithyphallic men began with President Bill Clinton and was enabled by his lovely wife, Bruno. It is now coming to an end. To what end I cannot predict. All I would say is let us bring back romance and retire the Clintons, the Hollywoodians and, forget not, former Rep. Anthony Weiner.