OK, men, this one is on us. No matter how evolved or retrograde any of us may be, we have work to do.

Surely, you weren’t shocked by the revelation that Harvey Weinstein, a film producer, and other men like him have for decades used their power to provide roles and paychecks for female actors in exchange for sex. Guys like Weinstein have kept the casting couch warm since a week or so after the first film was threaded through a projector.

Maybe some of the names (Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie) lifted your eyebrow a bit, but, face it, we’d have been more surprised if we had seen proof that some Hollywood big-shot had never used his power to get sex. And seldom before have movie women had the courage to stand up publicly.

Tippi Hedren was a star in the making when she filmed “The Birds” for Alfred Hitchcock. Only years later did she tell her story, that she was sexually abused by Hitchcock, using his power over her acting career to get sex. After two major films, she refused to keep surrendering to the abuse, and she but disappeared.

Now, the flood of stories of sex and power has begun.

The key word in these stories is not sex. It is power.

The continuing reality is that, despite more than 40 years of high-profile feminism and steps ahead in the lives of American women, most positions of power are still held by men. And men have for millennia been willing to use their power to get sex.

Nobody can stop it but us, the men. In general, we are physically stronger. (That’s not universal. My wife said she heard my bones crunch once when a University of Maine women’s basketball player put a hug on me after a big game.) Especially in upper body strength. And the upper body powers the arms and hands that rapists use to hold down a woman while he pursues his way.

And, socially, men, we still control the heavy majority of positions of power. We have known for years that harassment and rape are not acts of sexual striving but are acts of power (and perhaps of hatred). Men with a bit of power not only use that power to get sex but they often threaten that they have more power where that came from.

If you are a man, chances are you have power over one or more women. In a family, in an office, in a coach, in a store, in a classroom, in a church, etc. All everyday situations.

Way too often, we read of an older male relative sexually abusing a child. He was her uncle, cousin, grandpa, or whatever, and she was taught early on to do what grownups told her to do. She did as she was told, and lived a life of sadness and even shame for it.

In sports, we do all too often hear and read of coaches who had inappropriate sexual encounters with their players. “So, Julie, you say you want more playing time . . .”

You can find porn websites on which a man agrees to buy a house from a female agent if she will satisfy him sexually. That’s subtle. Ever hear of a high-school teacher who had all the girls sit in the front row so he could try to look up their skirts? You think the girls don’t know what he’s doing? And no one who isn’t Rip van Winkle can be unaware of the abuses of girls and boys by clergy. “Do what Father tells you to do, so you can go to heaven.”

Closer to home. My late wife worked in offices, often with male bosses. Sometimes, she was verbally harassed, for example, by male faculty at Vanderbilt University, where she was a secretary. Interestingly, when she worked in the macho world of sports, in the publicity department of the Kansas City Royals, none of this crap happened. Nor when she worked in the mostly male Kyes Fibre office in Waterville. Watch an episode of “Mad Men,” and tell me you’re not disgusted by the portrayal of male behavior toward the women in the office who work for the men.

You see, guys, it’s always power. Over young relatives because they have been taught to obey their elders, over employees whose pay and promotion we control, over players who want to be fully part of the team, over someone who wants to sell you something, over students who need a grade, over young people who already know they want to go to heaven. In every case, one or more of us has had power over girls and women.

We can use our power to make sure we don’t abuse our power. When you are in a position to do something for a woman, don’t attach a sexual string. If you can do it only through a swap for sexual attention, then everyone, including you, will be better off if you just keep your pants zipped and walk away.

The next step. When we see this happening, we need to find the courage to step in to stop it. But that is a bigger step and the topic of a column for later.

I’m not saying to stop looking at women. Or fantasizing. Nor would I say women must quit looking at Brad Pitt or Denzel Washington or Tom Brady. Go ahead, gawk. Ogle.

But think, too, about how you might have power over some women. If you have power over a woman, then back off. Back way, way off. Do not use that power. She has as much right as you have not to be harassed. We must stop using power to try to turn our fantasies into affairs that are less than 100 percent mutual.

If you still need persuading, ask yourself one question. How would you feel if you saw some other man using his power to get sex from your sister? Your mother? Your wife? Your daughter?

We men still have most of the power. We need to use it properly.

Bob Neal was reared by a single mother. He hopes none of this ugliness ever happened to her, but he knows it happened to his sisters. If he had daughters, this crap might steam him even more.


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