Ah, the asshole. It’s a term that’s gotten a bad rap, but one of which I am excessively fond. I like assholes. I consider myself an asshole. I think people thinking of themselves as an asshole would improve society on the whole. (Also my dating and celebrity crush history would indicate I’m attracted exclusively to assholes, but that’s a column for another day. And no one jump to the comments to tell me about how I should respect myself enough to demand a “nice” guy. I’m comfortable knowing what I like, and “nice” ain’t it.) But lately, “asshole” has been sucked in (don’t) to a whole realm I don’t quite understand. People are afraid that the #MeToo movement will mean they can’t be assholes anymore. This is wrong for a number of reasons. Let’s dive in.
Being An Asshole Doesn’t Mean Being A Sexual Assaulter
This should be apparent to anyone who’s, I don’t know, conscious, but being an asshole isn’t the same as being a sexual assaulter. If someone says, “You’re acting like an asshole,” and your first response is, “Oh my god, you’re basically accusing me of rape, why don’t you just pin me to the cross already?!” then you’ve got some deeper issues happening, my friend. We all know the difference between someone who’s an asshole (which again, is a mostly positive term in my book), someone who exhibits a number of deplorable traits but is effectively harmless, and someone who’s committed an actual crime. We’re not going to confuse someone making an overtly sexist and shitty joke with someone who rapes somebody. The flip side? Dudes who think of themselves as “funny” scamps probably don’t know the difference between telling “bawdy” jokes to subordinates at work and the ongoing, criminal sexual harassment of said subordinates. That’s on you, guy. Don’t try blaming assholes for that. If an actual sex criminal thinks their behavior is fine and we’ve just gotten too touchy because of #MeToo, that’s not even about someone being an asshole. Not that it would matter that much because …
Most Sexual Assaulters Aren’t Assholes
So three paragraphs in is probably the best place to define the terms you’ve been using frequently, yes? So here’s a list of things that assholes are not:
- unconcerned with the well being of others
- mean to waiters
- privileged, middle-aged white dudes who think their specific take is the only valid one because everyone else is so wrapped up in their own little minds and concerns that they can’t see the cold, hard truth of the real world
Those things do not make you an asshole. They make you a racist, a sexist, selfish, cruel, a Republican, a terrible human being and Bill Maher respectively. And that’s not what an asshole is. An asshole isn’t indiscriminately mean. They are discriminately mean. Because either the person they’re being an asshole to is a close enough friend to know that the asshole is teasing/mocking on juuuuuuuuust this side of still OK, or the asshole’s target deserves it. Admitted assholes are, in my pretty extensive experience, very perceptive. We know just how far to take a joke without causing any real damage, but we also know how to inflict damage if the situation calls for it. Meanness is our tool, and we know how to wield it for both good and evil.
Sexual assaulters on the other hand are, and stay with me through this, people who commit sexual assault. Their behavior outside of sexually assaulting people could be that they’re cruel and unlikable (Harvey Weinstein) or they could be outwardly likable and kind (Dustin Hoffman) or they could be bitchy, little, sad sacks who try to obfuscate their crimes by intentionally seeming pathetic and unlovable (Fuck you, Louis CK). This is actually a way in which the #MeToo movement has helped assholes because …
We Can Stop Calling Assaulters “Assholes” Now
One of the biggest issues to come of the #MeToo movement, or the “PC” movement, on the whole, is that people are finally labeling actions and people with the proper terms. Part of the reason “assholes” might feel threatened by the #MeToo movement (and again, I feel confident in my asshole brethren that they have already made this distinction, and recognize no one is talking about them) is because we’ve been mistakenly calling people “assholes” when we mean other things. Kevin Spacey isn’t an “asshole”; he’s a sexual assaulter who targets teenage boys. Matt Lauer isn’t “aggressive”; he’s a sexual harasser who goes to shocking lengths to coerce his subordinates into having sex with him. Harvey Weinstein isn’t a “dog”; he’s a rapist. We’ve coded criminal and abusive behavior as “dickish” because it’s easier for victims to state, and for others to accept.
But now we don’t have to do that. Assholes can reclaim their good name by insisting that rapists get called rapist, sexists get called sexists, and unfunny, pretentious douches get called Bill Maher. (Seriously, fuck that guy.) And if after all the clarification and distinction and identification, you still think you’re being unfairly maligned, I have a final bit of advice for you:
If You Want People To Stop Calling You An Asshole, Don’t Be An Asshole
That’s it. It’s that simple. There’s an extent to which people will unfairly judge you on things you can’t control. And a much larger extent to which people will judge you for the things you do and say to communicate with people what you believe. If the reaction to what you’re putting out in the world is “That guy’s an asshole,” there’s a pretty good chance you’re an asshole. You’re probably an unwitting asshole, in which case, you’ve got all of the meanness of a real asshole without any of the skill. So it will probably sting a little when you’re just out there acting like an asshole and people call you on it. After all, how were you supposed to know you were being an asshole? What, you’re supposed to monitor your actions, other people’s reactions, and introspectively examine your behavior? Sounds like a buzzkill.
But if you don’t like the reaction to what you’re putting out in the world? Well, you can change it or you can change you. And when you consider how easily people have been able to convince others that, actually, they are still a very funny, not a washed up, irrelevant comedian, or that they aren’t a creepy bastard with a near criminal interest in underage girls, or that they totally still have their spine, let’s hope you choose to change yourself. You don’t even have to change your behavior. You just have to be an asshole about it.