Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Be Honest, I Never Liked Benny Hill, Either

Benny Hill: Kinda Creepy

Dutt Tiwari: SUPER Creepy

 NPR reported yesterday on the case of one Dutt Tiwari, an Indian public official who was caught in a sex scandal and forced to resign.  Nothing unusual about that: the United States has enough sex scandals involving our politicians to not need any Indian imports.

What makes it newsworthy is that Mr. Tiwari is 86 years old, and he was filmed en flagrante with three young women.  The Case of the Wrinkly Lothario was reported with a breezy, "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more"attitude.  Posts to the NPR website were mostly of the "You go, Grandpa!" variety, with more than a few commentaries about the evils of Puritanism and the folly of placing restraints on human sexuality.

This got my Irish up.  (And isn't it nice to be able to say that, and know that it is literally true!  Family history research proves it without question: I'm Irish, by Jingo, and I'm proud!  On March 17, I expect you all to kiss me.)   

NPR listeners aren't the people watching Jerry Springer, or if they are, they do it to be ironic, not to get Life Coaching.  They're the people who wear turtlenecks and earn graduate degrees and listen to records that feature Sufi singers doing covers of old Animal Collective songs, our marathon running, hybrid car driving, Bill Maher loving superiors, the people who follow the Tour de France and can listen to an entire week's worth of "Fresh Air" without once feeling the need to swear or hit something.  You would expect the Springer crowd to to meet the news that a rich and powerful octogenarian had exploited three girls with chest bumps and woofing noises, but Planet NPR?  They're smarter than that.

Why is it that advanced age makes the reprehensible commendable? If a 46 year old politician were caught having sex with three young women, would people be saying, "Well done, sir?" And all of the giggles and twitters about The Little Old Man Who Could ignore the buried lead: this is a desperately poor nation, whose government is awash in corruption and whose society is constrained by a rigid class structure. In Georgian London under similar conditions, twenty percent of the female population was engaged in prostitution, the only profession open to them. Venereal disease was rampant, even among young children.  The numbers are comparable in today's India, where more than ten million women, mostly teenagers, work as prostitutes.

This isn't Rob Lowe at the Democratic National Convention, gettin' it on with a couple of willing partners. It isn't even Benny Hill, with winks and eye rolls and that silly saxophone music in the background, where it's slap and tickle and the girls are in on the joke. This is an elected representative using power and money to exploit impoverished women.  Prudishness doesn't drive my outrage. Old people sex, even multiple partner old people sex, doesn't disgust me; the rich and powerful using the weak and poor does.

 Where there is a combination of economic adversity, limited educational opportunities, and a wide gap between rich and poor, sexual exploitation of women and children is inevitable. This was true in England in the late 18th century. It is true in India today. In the United States, where economic disparity is growing, families (and the social, economic, and emotional stability that families bring) disintegrate, and the national intellect is progressively dulled by talk radio, the E! Network and mixed martial arts, sexual exploitation of the poor and deprived will be ever more likely, and ever more common (look at the online porn industry, our modern version of Georgian prostitution).

Bottom line: the old question, "Would it be so funny if your daughter were involved?" should be applied here.

Power attracts sex, even when it's old power. Ancient Nelson Rockerfeller expired while sampling the pleasures of his twenty-something mistress.  Getting ahead by sleeping with the boss is as old as the workplace, but this isn't a case of power attracting ambitious sex partners. It's exploitation, plain and simple. Let's frame this another way: if he were an 86 year old priest, and the partners were young altar boys, would anyone be lining up to give ol' Dutt an electronic high five?

These young ladies weren't smart, cynical careerists, taking one for professional advancement. These were poor, exploited women, hoping to make enough cash to put food on the table. The guy can take Viagra til his teeth turn blue for all I care, and he can cavort on a Beattyesque level, with as many Grandpa-fixated young women as his shriveled little body can service. Life, liberty, blah blah blah... It's just that in a country where 50 million people suffer from STDs, and 10 million woman work as prostitutes, and 20 per cent of them are between the ages of 13 and 18, and 70 per cent of prostitutes were forced into the trade, often by their parents or husbands, and Nepalese girls as young as 9 have been found working in Bombay brothels, it's hard to laugh at the image of "young women" in this old goat's bed.

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