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Identity Politics Gets Into Our Pants

Gender Politics and Political Justice

In defense of my liberal apostasy, let me tell of my personal experience with sexual misconduct when I was a reporter over 30 years ago for a Philadelphia newspaper. (If all this is too-much-information, feel free to move down three paragraphs or stop reading entirely.) I was sitting at my desk talking with a female freelance photographer I liked. We’d been talking for a while, following a job we’d both worked on together. Without even an “excuse me,” the 50ish foxy mainline blonde who was the editor of this business publication came over and perched herself atop a desk at eye level directly in front of both of us and provocatively spread her legs. We could see her panties. Thanks to the unanticipated excitement of the moment, I have forgotten what she came over to say. My photographer friend quickly remembered she had another place to be and said, “See y’all later!” Again, I forget the rest. Eventually, the woman fired me -- alas, not because of anything sexual, but because by then I was too much of a leftist sympathetic to the underdog and was not sufficiently inclined to do the sexy boardroom battle stories she wanted. I wanted to write about black Philadelphians boycotting Coca Cola products because the Coke plant exhibited racist employment habits.

The persistence of this shaming cycle has provoked in many males the rewinding of tapes to reexamine one’s own sexual history. In my case, going back 30 years, I feel I did assert myself too much upon one woman whose name I have forgotten. In her case, I was aggressive and took too long to realize she just was not interested. I don’t think she was harmed by my fumbling efforts, and I was always embarrassed later when our paths crossed. On a comic note, there was the date in the late 1970s I took to see Taxi Driver; on the ride home I told her I understood the Vietnam vet played by Robert DeNiro. Until that moment, things seemed to be going nicely. All of a sudden, she seemed to pull away; I dropped her off, and we never went out again. Which brings up my youthful stint in the United States Army. In Vietnam and in Mexico I paid a pittance for sex with young women politically and economically forced into prostitution; this is something I’m not proud of and something I’ve confessed to in some depth for a serious film on the military and prostitution, a film by an Academy award-winning filmmaker with whom I worked as a cameraman on a trip to Baghdad. In 1975, I published a short story called “Polyorifice Enterprises” centered on the epidemic of prostitution in Vietnam, some of it supervised by the Fourth Infantry Division where I served outside Pleiku. Joseph Heller said his novel Catch 22, my bible at the time, was a mixture of his experiences as a bombadier and his experiences working in advertising in Manhattan. Similarly, my story was about prostitution in Vietnam overlaid with the details from a pitch meeting I'd landed in looking for work; it was for vacuum cleaner salesman jobs. In both cases, it was a case of mixing war with commerce, something that seems a very American satiric cocktail.

story | by Dr. Radut