Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, warned us last month that #metoo would destroy women’s chance of finding love. She’s also stated that she’s never been sexually assaulted because she never makes any decision — drinking, going home with someone she didn’t know — that would make her vulnerable. Because if you’re never alone with people you don’t know, you’ll never be vulnerable — oh, wait, most attacks are by acquaintances, friends and partners, not strangers. As in 75 percent. Which makes it next to impossible to take precautions: as law professor Mary Anne Franks puts it, nobody’s going to keep their finger on the trigger of a gun when they’re sitting with their husband. Oh, and she’s also dismissed the assaults Weinstein is being tried for as “regret sex … having voluntary sex with someone, even if it’s a begrudging act, is not a crime after the fact” which is an undead sexist cliche I’ve written about before.
Rotunno may be figuring that spouting rape cliches is the best way to get her slime of a client off the hook (I have no doubt she’d bring up “look how they were dressed” if that was still an option in assault cases). Or she may genuinely believe all the rape-culture cliches about sexual assault. I don’t care: they’re blame-the-victim bullshit either way. And in her closing arguments she specifically blames the victims: “In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they expect, the jobs they hope to obtain … In this universe, they aren’t even responsible for sitting at their computers and emailing someone across the country… In this script, the powerful man is the villain and he is so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him. [Allege victim Jessica Mann] made a choice that she wanted to be in his world … She made a choice that she wanted the life that he could potentially provide her.”
Implicit in the argument that it’s “his world” is that Weinstein, in exchanging sex for roles and punishing women for refusing him, isn’t doing anything wrong. That’s the price he set for getting women parts, so if they chose to submit, hey, that was their choice. This is the argument Rebecca Traister ripped into effectively in Good and Mad. Women shouldn’t have to pay with sex as the price of their career. Women shouldn’t have to leave their jobs to avoid sexual harassment. The real issue with sexual harassment isn’t whether they sacrificed their virtue, it’s their ability to work in their chosen career and support themselves without being raped, felt up or forced to watch porn on the boss’s computer. As a person with massive power in the film industry and the willingness to use it ruthlessly (Traister describes him assaulting a reporter in full view of the press corps, without a word of it making the news), Weinstein did indeed wield power over who got into “his” world. That doesn’t justify using it on women this way.
It’s worth remembering that according to the Ronan Farrow exposé on Weinstein, women didn’t just walk up to his hotel room knowing what was coming: Weinstein frequently arranged to be there with one of his assistants in tow, then the assistant would leave, thereby making it that much more awkward for the victim to walk out. And contrary to Rotunno, it’s not surprising if some of them kept up communications with Weinstein afterwards. It’s a safe bet that if they’d been openly hostile, it wouldn’t have helped their careers.
And of course Rotunno’s not making arguments in court alone: she’s gone on the assault in the press spouting rape apologist and harassment apologist cliches in interviews. Even if it doesn’t get Weinstein off, she’s shitting on rape victims by recycling this bullshit.
No wonder people hate lawyers.