Weird foreplay

That didn’t go well.

Legendary journalist Bob Woodward is coming under heavy fire for the questions he asked while interviewing the Pulitzer-winning investigative team of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at a Washington, DC, event on Wednesday night. After Woodward repeatedly interrupted Kantor and Twohey and posited that Harvey Weinstein’s behavior could have been “weird foreplay,” audience members booed Woodward, and some attendees even walked out of the event.

Kantor and Twohey are the Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story. They chose Woodward to interview them.

Some audience members began to yell back at Woodward as he repeatedly interrupted Kantor and Twohey, saying, “Let them finish!” and “Every woman deserves to be heard!”

And as the conversation veered away from investigative journalism and into sexual misconduct, Woodward’s questions apparently became less and less well-informed.

The most detailed account of what happened comes from Robyn Swirling, the founder of the anti-sexual-harassment organization Works in Progress, who wrote a long tweet thread describing Woodward’s questions. Swirling says that Woodward spent more than 10 minutes asking Kantor and Twohey why Weinstein harassed and assaulted women the way that he allegedly did. She also says that when Kantor and Twohey repeated that Weinstein’s actions were an abuse of power, enabled by a system that allowed him to silence women, Woodward accused them of dodging his question.

“So it’s about power? It’s about sex also, though, isn’t it?” Woodward reportedly said, asking whether Weinstein’s actions might have been “a weird foreplay.”

Ah yes, the old “rape as weird foreplay” kink. Don’t kinkshame the rapists!

“Work with sexual offenders has confirmed that the motivating factor for sexual violence is not sexual desire,” the World Health Organization states in its guidelines on sexual violence. “Although sexuality and aggression are involved in all forms of sexual violence, sex is merely the medium used to express various types of non-sexual feelings such as anger and hostility towards women, as well as a need to control, dominate and assert power over them.”

How could that not be the case? If you’re hungry you don’t go around assaulting people to get at their sandwiches. If you have a sunburn you don’t lock people in a room with you and force them to apply sunburn cream. If you’re bored you don’t pull a gun on people and tell them to entertain you. Yes, of course sexual violence is about power. That’s one major reason the whole “TERFs get trans women killed” trope is such utter bullshit: it turns the power differential inside-out.

And the question of what might have been going on in Weinstein’s head is missing from the pointedly titled She Said for a reason: Kantor and Twohey didn’t set out to analyze Weinstein’s motivations, but to focus on the effects of his actions on the women he is accused of abusing, and to prove through reporting that there was a whole system covering up Weinstein’s misdeeds and silencing the women he targeted.

The tension in the room was only exacerbated by Woodward’s repeated claims that Kantor and Twohey were dodging his question. “You could just feel the whole audience going into a defensive posture,” Amaria, the Vox visuals editor, said.

Woodward’s refusal to accept Twohey and Kantor’s answers to his questions — and his repeated attempts to talk over them as they tried to respond — was a refusal to accept their expertise as journalists, and a decision to prioritize his own understanding of sexual violence over theirs without any apparent education in the field.

Ironically, the conversation ended up replicating the very power dynamics that Twohey and Kantor were trying to explain, the power dynamics that let Weinstein get away with what he did for so long: a man exerting his own institutional power over the women in the room with him, just because he could.

And apparently not even realizing he was doing it. We’ve been pointing this shit out for fifty years now, and they still don’t get it. Woodward is dodging that question.

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