As they used to be euphemistically called. Of course they ain’t all feminine or all wiles. And naturally, they’re roughly as clearly defined and well understood as ‘flirting’ and ‘sexual harassment’. The precise same action or words from two different people addressed at one individual can be ‘flirting’ and ‘sexual harassment’. The individual can be upset because person A didn’t do it, and upset because person B did. It depends on just how attractive individual C finds A or B as to how they feel about it. This is important. It’s the feelings of those on the receiving end that define what it is, and how dare you question that, based on the intent of perpetrator, or the inconsistency… unless of course it is a footballer taking the knee at the US anthem. Then it is their intent, not the feelings of the offended that is important… Yeah well. It is confusing to the old empirical scientist.
Humans are nearly as confusing as English, which makes it a fine choice for communicating the nuances of human thought and emotion – a sore trial to the writer.
Now, it is true that sexuality colors a lot of that human interaction. If it didn’t this would a very brief post, written perhaps in stone, because that’s really the only comment extinct species make. Reproduction (which really has involved sex between male and female humans for 99.99999% of the species) and survival to do so, are somewhat more primal necessities, traits selected for, more than anything else, including philosophical appreciation of the color ‘taupe’. This may seem less than true if you’re shopping for carpets with your partner, but that is merely because appreciation of ‘taupe’ is necessary both for your survival and sexual success.
Human interactions with humans are shaped by these basics. Ask any carpet salesman. People – on all sides of it, often without even realizing they’re doing so, ‘play’ for their advantage – From the fellow going deep into debt for the sports car to ‘impress the chicks’, to the woman applying makeup, from the individual showing off his wealth with an expensive dinner, to the individual showing… well almost everything – a lot of this is genetic fitness signaling – and receiving of those signals. We can turn around and decry some of this (usually the bits that don’t suit us, or are coming from a person we don’t want to receive them from) – but it is like gravity. It’s there, unless you pull some very special stunts to fool it, and that’s temporary. Believable human characters in books will be shaped by it too.
So it is kind of the same level of shock as the revelation of gambling in Rick’s Casino that I read of Harvey Weinstein harassing actresses for sexual favors. It’s as surprising as Bill Clinton… And the reality is, in an environment where there are 100 (or 10 000) nearly equally qualified eager applicants for a job, and Harvey or Bill or Mary or Sally… have got the power to decide which of you gets that break, and you expect none of the deciders to use that, and none of applicants to use that either? I don’t know where you find such humans, but it isn’t Hollywood. I’m not excusing it, but let’s try and pretend we understand the basics of evolutionary genetic selection: AKA survival of the fittest. Such tactics must have succeeded-on both sides, probably with a substantial number of directors (or people in positions power, be they kings or tribal medicine men or Company directors or presidents) and substantial part of Hollywood’s A-list back when they were no-list or low-list. Let’s be real here, Harvey didn’t keep trying because he failed every single time. But maybe I’m wrong: Who knows, perhaps all those eager pussy-hat wearers who became vastly wealthy, famous and successful due to Weinstein never ever gave him what he wanted, and he just kept right on trying…
Oddly, now, many years later, some of them are complaining. None of them have yet volunteered to give back the tainted money and awards… And some of his award winners aren’t complaining, or at least yet.
Look… take the sex aspect out of it, and many an author is no less of a slut, willing to do whatever necessary to please an editor or publisher, and many an editor, publisher or agent, is not much of a moral step up on Harvey. Let’s not get sanctimonious about it. It’s mercenary, not admirable behavior perhaps, but realistically many an author faced similar choices – and not just authors. The two aspects are that the honorable mercenary (or individual of negotiable virtue) stays bought, and secondly doesn’t pretend they’re the soul of virtue. Looking at Hollywood’s A-list (and their all too public private lives) they seem to make a big deal out of telling the world – or at least those who disagree with them, just how wicked and without virtue others are. Yeah, the bimbo who had sex with something that resembles Baron Harkonnen, to get her success, with the intellect of lard, who has a personal life that resembles a psychological and social train-wreck… preaching morality. Telling the public – for example – that guns are bad, and abortion is essential.
But the scary part is…
Some people listen.
And this is where this and the author intersect. Because what you’re seeing, being shown, rather than told, is an essential part of the fantasy the reader wants. He (or she) does not want their heroine or hero to be where they are because they’d have threesome anal sex with Jabba the Hutt if that is what it took to succeed. Then they’re no hero. So we delude ourselves.
We all want to believe in things like honor and merit. They do exist, and most of us accept they’re coin of more value (even in the reproductive stakes) than wealth, fame or even good looking faces and bodies. When it comes to parental care making sure those genes get the best chance – we’d like the wealth, fame, good looks, AND the honor and the ability succeed on merit (with all the things like intelligence, ability and tenacity that go into that). So it’s no real wonder our heroes even if they only have any one of the fame, wealth and good body set – get ascribed the latter. It is wish fulfillment – and that is a large part of why people read and pay money to do so (and most of us writers are willing to take their money. Some come along later and abuse the payers… )
We’re riding a balance here: coquettish behavior is (unless you really don’t like the individual – in which case they’re not a serious contender as a hero) is as natural as breathing – and desirable acceptable to those it appeals to. Of course… it’s harassment if it doesn’t.
No one said it was easy or made sense.