Harvey Weinstein and the Matter of Sexual Consent

Google+ and Face Book are all a twitter (especially Twitter) over the Harvey Weinstein news. No one in this second decade of the 21st Century should be surprised there is sexual predation (of various kinds) in the entertainment industry, (of course not only entertainment, and not only in the U.S). This sort of thing has been going on for thousands of years, and “entertainment industries” (along with a few others) are particularly known for it. There were casting couches long before women were even allowed to act on a public stage! Joseph Goebbels of Nazi propaganda fame had perhaps the most infamous casting couch in all of the world for a decade or so. Now it’s Harvey’s turn. The surprise here, like that of actor Bill Cosby, was not that such behavior occurs, but rather the lengths (depravity and illegal acts) to which it went and the time over which it was able to remain only rumor in the public view.

My question here is not ethics. I am not aiming at what should be the case but at a description of what is the case. What is the case includes a cultural context. It assumes that adult men and women understand (either by direct experience, experience passed down from peers or mentors, and by other indirect means) the cultural context in which they have grown up and now circulate. My question is, given this cultural context, and in particular the cultural context of the modern global “entertainment industry”, at what point in a social encounter between a man and a woman (this might be a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Sexual orientation is immaterial) has there been a sexual consent between the parties involved?

In particular I have the following scenario in mind. A man and a woman run into one another in some public place (typically this turns out to be a big hotel or convention center with hotel attached). They engage in conversation. At some point in the conversation the man (typically) invites the woman to a private meeting in his room. For now I leave open whether the invitation was open ended, “come in for a night cap”, or given some specific non-sexual rationale, “I would like to talk to you about project X”. But this certainly makes a difference to the implications of consent.

In the context of present western culture, an open ended invitation to a private meeting strongly suggests a sexual motive on the part of the inviter. It doesn’t matter if the inviter is a person with whom the invitee has no prior relationship, or they are related as (roughly) employer/supervisor (presently or in the future). If the invitation is open ended, sex is implied and consent is at least provisionally given if the invitation is accepted. ‘Provisional’ comes down to “awareness and assent to the [future] possibility of some sex. The later is signaled by accepting the invitation. I’m not going to be specific about what ‘sex’ comes out to. For my purposes any non-accidental contact between bodies still clothed is the beginning of sex.

Even where there is explicit consent, “consent to what exactly” remains unspecified. Human sexuality can take some strange turns. I am going to accept the principle that a genuine sort of free will is in play on the part of each of the parties. Philosophers call this compatibilism. It means “you are free if no one is forcing you to choose by putting your physical well being in jeopardy. If one party has been incapacitated or is otherwise unable to make a knowing (not necessarily rational by all standards) assent to subsequent behavior amounts to rape. A sexual encounter that isn’t rape tends to unfold in stages. If there is provisional consent it must be remade at each stage of the process. Provisional consent becomes actual consent when each and every step of awareness of possibility is accepted. Either party may “withdraw consent” at any stage. A sexual encounter need not begin as rape to become rape.

Does any of this change when the invitation is not open ended? A non-open ended invitation typically involves an excuse to  meet in private that isn’t sexual. The difference in terms of our subject depends on the legitimacy of the excuse. It is not enough that it is not a lie. To make a difference there must be good reasons why the matter cannot be discussed or seen in a more public place. If the excuse is to look at art, and the invitee is an art dealer, there is diminution of any consent  (implied, provisional, or otherwise) of a sexual nature. Yet each person must, under the circumstances, be at least aware of the potential for sexual engagement. But in this case, awareness and accession in the form of accepting the invitation need not imply any sexual consent.

In the supervisor-employee case the invitation itself is, at least now in the public face of American corporate culture, including the entertainment industry, already ethically compromised. Supervisors (and employees or potential employees) are just not supposed to do that. That it is done must only strengthen the sexual implications of the invitation from the cultural perspective. In the physical context in which these meetings typically occur (Western hotels) there is almost no reason why business cannot be discussed in a place other than a private room.

Excuse or not it remains true that such an invitation must remain suspicious from its inception. Being given an excuse is not justification for being blind (or turning a blind eye) the the strength of the socio-cultural implications of such an invitation. While we should not assume that a motive (desire for the job) by itself implies even a provisional sexual consent, cultural norms have to count for something! It cannot be that young women older than about 16 can be unaware of sexual predation.

It might be illustrative here to examine this situation where one party is a child. The presumption here is that, if not sufficiently old (and so culturally experienced), the individual concerned will lack the capacity to make a knowing decision as concerns either a private meeting or for that matter anything proposed or attempted in such a meeting. This is especially true precisely because it might be very difficult for a child to resist even purely psychological pressure to consent from the adult even knowing, however vaguely, some of the proposal’s implications. Can this consideration (which to everyone seems reasonable) not apply to the power relation between a significantly powerful adult employer or supervisor and a much younger, if still technically adult, person? It seems reasonable to say that it could. There might be a continuum of provisional consent from a “vague notion something sexual is intended” to “full knowing assent” depending on both the experience (taking age into account) and motives of the invitee. But the achievement of adulthood itself implies “some knowing” consistent with the social circles in which one travels.

Of course sexual harassment (and propositions that are not harassment in the legal sense because they are not unwelcome) happens in many contexts outside hotel lobbies and rooms. Literally on the street it occurs between the harassed party and an unknown person we call a “pervert”. But it also occurs in more formal social settings, an office, or restaurant perhaps where an employer speaks the words “the promotion is yours if you sleep with me (in some as yet unspecified private setting)”. Of course, intent is (or should be to an adult) clearer in these cases. Accepting the offer (because the sexual motive is so strongly implied or even made explicit) in these circumstances amounts to more than mere provisional consent. It does not mean that consent is open ended. It remains true that what the proposing party has in mind might, when the time comes, be unacceptable to she (typically) who accepts the initial proposal.

This last consideration does not change merely because the propositioning party holds potential (present or future) power over the invitee. The degree of “provisional consent” being given depends, in the final analysis, on the strength of the implied sexual motive. That information is cultural. When the proposal comes from a party who has power (financial, political, or otherwise) over the invitee cultural conditions, especially in but not confined to the entertainment industry, virtually guarantee that some sexual motive is implied even where there is an ostensible, non-sexual, excuse. There remains a potential continuum of “provisional consent”. Even where knowingly given it is not open ended.

Given a powerful manager-employer the degree of consent comes down to capacity (affected by age and innebriation) and prior experience. A 60 year old employer propositioning a 25 year old employee (who accepts) might imply a minimal provisional consent. The same acceptance on the part of a 45 year old employee implies a much more robust consent. The 25 year old might not have (though she is presumed to have) “an awareness” that there is a sexual implication in the invitation. The 45 year old will of a certainty be aware.

So I ask how does this all apply to what Harvey Weinstein did to young actresses for years? On Harvey’s side, the first proposition (to an adult actress) is not, technically, harassment. To be harassment, the proposal must be unwelcome and there is no way for the proposing party to know this until he (typically) is rejected. Once rejected, further proposals constitute harassment as understood in today’s corporate culture, including the entertainment industry.

Harvey’s [metaphorical] crime was not propositioning young actresses in exchange for favors. It was the extent, frequency, and blatancy of his proposals followed (sometimes?) by sexual requests of a aberrant nature after provisional consent (actress goes to his room) is secured. There is a saying that goes back to the twelfth century when the Catholic Church decided that celibacy was to be the order of the day among clergy: “If you cannot refrain, be discreet”. Harvey is guilty of being indiscreet.

Did Harvey commit an actual crime? If he propositioned anyone under age, he did. If he incapacitated his intended even by merely permitting her to drink too much “of her own free will” (if one or both parties are incapacitated, subsequent sex is non-consensual anyway), he did. If he talked his way into an actress’s room and raped her, obviously he did. Harvey stands accused of all of these literal crimes, but the most of the complaints against him do not include any of these. Men (including Harvey) inviting women to hotel rooms without accompanying criminal behavior is far more common than any of these crimes. The issue comes down to what, by culture, adult women should know when a man invites them to a room.

There is a recent story of an actor doing an interview in a crowded hotel restaurant. Noise made the interview difficult. The actor suggested the interviewer (a woman as it happened) come to his room to finish. Here is the punch line: he was so concerned about the implications of the invitation that he offered to bring a third party of her choosing to the room. Here we have a legitimate reason to leave the public place and no sexual implications were intended. This story, heart warming as it is (and true the actor is David Schwimmer), is a rare exception. Young actresses invited by senior authorities in their culture to a private meeting should know by the time they get to be young actresses, that some sexual motive is implicit in that invitation.

Can I be wrong about this? Can it be, perhaps, that the most I can claim is that these actresses were aware of sexual implications, but were not thereby consenting (even provisionally) to “some sex”? I do not think so. Awareness plus acceptance of a proposition likely to have sexual intent amounts to, if anything ever does, consent to the possibility of some sex. It is by no means a final consent to sex, but the excuse that one simply “had no idea” is patently absurd.

Hoyo La Amistad Silver

Hoyo La Amistad Silver

I reviewed the original Hoyo La Amistad (HLA) as a part of a 3 cigar review. In 2017 this new “Silver” version (HLAS) appeared so I decided to try it. The blend uses the same Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and this time binders and fillers, all Cuban seed, from the AJF farms in Esteli and Condega Nicaragua. If this is true, the HLAS blend leaves out the Ometepe and Jalapa leaf found in the HLA.

I bought the Robusto size in both cigars. As you can see from the pictures, they are a little different. At first glance the labels are pretty close, but if you look at the big picture above (the HLAS is on the left) you can see that there is a little less red, and more silver in the HLAS label. When the HLA came out in 2016 they cost between $6 and $8 per stick (single). At the moment, Cigar International is selling the HLA (box) for $3.75/stick while the HLAS (box) is $4.20, both very good prices for an AJF cigar.

The HLAS robusto has the same ring gage as the HLA (I measure it to 52). The HLA measures out to 4.75″ long while the HLAS is 5.25″. For the extra $0.45 you get a longer cigar! Like the HLA, construction on the HLAS is superb. Caps are nicely done, the wrapper is a beautiful medium brown, no veins, tight seams. The HLAS is a little more densely packed than the HLA. I have smoked a whole box of the HLA and a few of the HLAS. I have yet to have one crack, split, burn funky, or draw poorly. The draw on the HLAS is a little tighter than the HLA, but still comfortably easy. Smoke production on the HLAS is great too.

The cold smells are different. The HLA has almost no smell at all, very light (see description at link above), but the HLAS is richer, barnyard and fresh oat hay. Flavors in the smoke are not all that different. Some pepper here but not a lot, floral, nut, earth, and cedar like the HLA. There is a little more sweetness in the HLAS compared to the HLA, but all the flavors remain very light just as they did in the HLA. Flavors last a bit longer in the HLAS, down to the last inch or better. In the HLA they were gone at that point. Perhaps for this reason (and it’s a bigger cigar by a half inch) it seems stronger. The HLA ended as a medium, but the HLAS is more medium full.

For the extra $0.45 I like the HLAS better. The flavors are a little sweeter and bolder (very little but you can tell), the cigar is stronger, all in all a more enjoyable experience. Good paired with coffee and a variety of rums. I haven’t found any outstanding pairing here yet, but that will come…

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

I first encountered Hamilton rums late in 2016 when I tried the Saint Lucian 2006, an ester fueled funky rum in the Jamaican style. Since that time I’ve found and tried three others, the ’86, the Pot Still Gold, and now this latest and best of all by far the Navy Strength.

At 57% ABV this is a true “navy strength” rum. This phrase comes from the fact that at 56% and above, a gun powder wet with a little rum will still light (it doesn’t explode, but burns something like a sparkler) while below 56% it will not. Given this much alcohol (and I am assuming there is no added sugar here, an implicit promise of the Hamilton line) I expect some heat. I was not disappointed.

This from the Ministry of Rum website and here is a direct link to the page on this rum. There is a lot of information there about the history of this blend. Would love to do what Ed Hamilton does!

“60% Guyana rum at 154 proof and 40% Jamaican rum at 170 proof are blended together and slowly stirred for 48 hours before dilution to 114 proof with filtered well water at the Five & 20 Distillery in Westfield, NY. “

Color: Medium dark, copper red.
Legs: A few fast thin legs, and a lot of slow thick drops suggests a creamy experience.

Aroma: Dark fruit, prune, raisin, apricot, alcohol, molasses, oak, and burnt caramel (treacle).

Sipping: Lots of heat from the beginning to a long smooth and sweet finish. You get the dark fruit, molasses, burnt brown sugar, strong sherry notes, oak. Very creamy. I put a little water in this (1/4 t-spoon in a dram lowers the ABV from 57% to 55%, not very much) and it stands up well to it. The heat is a little reduced, bringing out coffee and chocolate notes from the rum while all the dark fruit remains. The heat is still there is a little reduced and the rum gets even creamier. The treacle turns into a less burnt brown sugar.

At around $44 this rum is on the expensive side for me, but only one of the Hamiltons I’ve tried (the ’86 at $24) is under $40 anyway. This is a superb rum. Think of Foursquare 2004 (for heat) with the rich flavors of their Port Cask, and more of them. If you like the higher ABV rums, this is one to try, the richest, thickest rum I’ve had with an ABV above the 40s. As far as I know, the Hamilton rums are available only in the U.S. Considering how many great rums we cannot get here are available to Europeans, it’s good to have a line like this on my side of the Atlantic.

Pairing with cigars? Of course! This rum works best with the less sweet cigars bringing out nutty brown sugar sweetness in the smoke. Highly recommended.

Warped Corto Cigar Review

Warped Corto Cigar Review

A box pressed robusto officially 4.5″ x 50 but measures 4.75″ x 48 (how do you measure ring on a box press anyway?). Wrapper, binder, and filler are all Nicaraguan. This more elaborate Cigar Coop review says “The Warped Corto is a Nicaraguan puro consisting of entirely of Casa Fernandez’s signature Aganorsa tobacco”. The cigar is made in the TABSA factory in Esteli, the same place as the Aganorsa Leaf TABSA I reviewed here. That was a $6 (retail) cigar and I wasn’t impressed. This one is much better!

Normally about $9 this cigar is outside my budget range but my friend George of Rodrigo Cigars came up with a discount a few months ago (what you are not on his mailing list yet?) that brought the price down to $6. There’s been a lot of very positive talk about this cigar on social media, actual smokers not marketing suits, so I took a chance on a box. This is one of those “glad I did” experiences.

I’ve smoked a half dozen of these now. Cold smell is very light, almost nothing there, but what there is speaks of sweet flowers, maybe even strawberry. Very strange. Never got that from a wrapper before. Construction is excellent. Wrapper a medium brown sometimes getting a bit dark going down the leaf, few little veins, almost invisible seams. Very smooth wrapping. With a straight cut I much prefer on box pressed sticks, the draw of every cigar has been perfect for me; easy, but not too easy, and best of all it stays that way throughout the smoke. This cigar is packed perfectly with no tendency to clog up behind the lit coal. Smoke output is great throughout, one of the creamiest sweet smokes I’ve ever had. The burn line on all these sticks stayed pretty straight. Not perfect, but close enough. All of these cigars remained flavorful down to the last half inch.

Flavors here were rich and sweet. The stick begins with a little pepper, nut, sweet wood and light tobacco. A half inch in something like cinnamon sugar appears, and something sweet and floral reminding me of honeysuckle. Midway a transition to leather, more sweet flowers, something like wintergreen, fresh hay and more brown sugar. A little later something fruity like the strawberry I smelled on the wrapper. In the last third the pepper comes up, there are more mints and the brown sugar becomes a little burnt like a caramel. The retrohale is still filled with sweetness. The transitions here are notable and the sweetness never leaves the smoke. Strength starts out to the medium side and progresses to the full side of medium-full throughout the smoke.

So are these cigars worth $9 retail? I can only compare these to other cigars from My Father, Drew Estate, Arturo Fuente, LADC, LEAF by Oscar, and others selling at this price, and yes the Warped Corto are as good as those other excellent cigars. You can see this particularly in the construction, the well done wrapper, perfect pack and draw, clean burn, smoke output, and so on. The other “sign of a good cigar” like those of other manufacturers mentioned, is that the blend stays flavorful down below the 3/4 inch line. While beyond my budget at retail I will grab another box of these if a deal comes along. If you love Aganorsa and haven’t tried these, this is a really good one and you should grab a few where ever you find them.

I’ve paired these with coffee and various rums. The less sweet rums work better letting the cigar’s sweetness come through. Coffee brings out roasted nuts. A great cigar, highly recommended!