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Editorial: On power, men and the trickle-down theory of sexual economics

“There comes a day when I don’t have to be a Princess. No rules, no expectations. A day where anything can happen. A day where I can change my fate.” – Merida, heroine in “Brave”

“Worse than Franken, but not as bad as Charlie Rose. Think of it as a Jeffrey Tambor.”

That was the description given to one of the Index-Tribune staff members Tuesday afternoon who hadn’t yet seen the Hollywood Reporter story on allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct by Glen Ellen resident and Pixar founder John Lasseter.

The Lasseter story, the latest in what has become a string of media figures publicly shamed for a variety of sexual indiscretions, features multiple sources – most withheld their names for fear of damaging their careers – who allege Lasseter honed in on attractive young female Pixar employees and subjected them to leers, leg gropes, long bear hugs and unwanted kisses – to the point where some devised pre-planned strategies in order to avoid inappropriate contact with the multi-Oscar-winning animated filmmaker.

Lasseter on Tuesday announced a six-month leave of absence from Disney, which owns Pixar, and issued a memo to staff saying he’d “fallen short” in his leadership responsibilities “if any members of the team don’t feel valued.”

Let’s be clear. Woody from “Toy Story” didn’t “feel valued” when Andy decided Buzz Lightyear was his favorite toy. This is different; these women aren’t simply saying they’re feeling undervalued at Pixar. According to the Hollywood Reporter, they’re saying they were subjected to unwelcome sexual advances because of their gender, age and junior position within the company.

While there are miles of difference between the current Lasseter allegations and those of such predatory sexual assaults as, say, Harvey Weinstein or President Trump, there’s a sad commonality to it all that begs a single question nonetheless – a question that the media hasn’t yet adequately touched upon: What are men thinking?

I’m one – and I’m completely baffled. What. Are. Men. Thinking.

What precisely is the goal in, what appears to be a clear pattern, of whipping it out in front of the ladies – as is Weinstein, James Toback and Louis C.K.’s chosen method of woo? Or, flashing one’s post-shower granddad-bod, as modern-day Dons Juan Charlie Rose and Weinstein prefer? Perhaps they imagine the beautiful woman in the room will be overcome with desire and take them then and there. They certainly don’t seem concerned with the far-likelier scenario: that she’ll be revolted, intimidated and convinced of your perversity beyond a shadow of a doubt. And if any hanky panky is forthcoming, it’s based in coercion, shame and self-loathing.

You don’t see many Hollywood directors making rom-com’s based on that scenario.

Yes, yes. It’s about power, wealth and fame – who’s got it and, for those who don’t, who wants it bad enough?

But it’s about more than that. It’s about the trickle-down theory of sexual economics – in which for decades and decades the American media has glamorized the leering, double-entendre spewing lothario and it’s resulted in a generational cycle of men who viewed the late Hugh Hefner more as an enlightened raconteur– and not simply the world’s most successful pimp. From Benny Hill and Pepe Le Pew to James Bond and Donald Draper, that the ogling lech is to be bemused and emulated is hardened in the male psyche. Pun intended.

Locker room talk. Guys being guys. If anyone was offended, I’m sorry. The oft-heard excuses aren’t cutting it anymore. It’s taken 26 years, but Anita Hill is finally having her rightful day in court.

A man I know recently had to stop himself from laughing at an inoffensive gender-stereotype joke a woman had made. “It’s a dangerous time to be a man,” he explained.

I guess that’s one thing men are thinking. And maybe it’s about time. Too many women have had to think the same about themselves for far too long.

Email jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.