Relying on Marx’s notion of the imbalance in the
contract between worker and capitalist where the two are formally
equal, Jean-Claude Milner recently outlined the objective and structural weakness.
Even if, in the labor contract, the
worker is paid its full value, the exchange between worker and capitalist
is not equal, there is exploitation since the worker is a commodity which
produces surplus- value, i.e., more value than its own value. In this
sense, the contract is unjust, the worker is in a weaker structural
position even if it is “objectively” stronger, with more empirical social
According to Milner, the MeToo movement implicitly transposes
the same logic on the sexual exchange between a man and a woman:
even if they formally agree to make love as equal partners, i.e., even if
the appearance is that of an equal exchange of sexual favours, there is
a structural equality and the woman is in the weaker position. As with
the contract between worker and capitalist, one should emphasize the
structural (formal) character of this weakness: even if the woman
initiated sexual exchange, even if she is socially or financially much
stronger, she is structurally weaker.
Therein resides the lesson of the
Harvey Weinstein scandal: if by “rape” we understand an enforced
sexual exchange, then every (hetero)sexual act is ultimately a case of
rape. It goes without saying that very few actual MeToo members are
ready to spell out this radical implication (which was already theorized
years ago by some radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine
McKinnon): the large majority are not ready to claim that a sexual act
is as such an act of masculine violence, and they proclaim as their
goal only the struggle for sexuality which does not rely on a male
position of power and brings true joy to both partners. However, the
implication that the sexual act is ultimately as such an act of rape, of
violent imposition and coercion, clearly functions as the unspoken
presupposition of the MeToo movement with its focus on cases of male
coercion and violence—its partisans treat men exclusively as potential
rapists, and women as potential victims of male power.
Milner further deploys how Donald Trump is the exact opposite
of MeToo: MeToo privileges structural weakness at the expense of
objective weakness, Trump ignores structural weakness and focuses
exclusively on objective weakness and power—for him, politics is
basically an immoral game of power in which all principles can be (and
should be) ignored or turned against themselves when circumstances
(e.g., “America first” interests) demand it. One demonizes Kim Yong- un
as a threat to humanity, then one treats him as a friend, etc. etc., up to
the ultimate example of separating children of illegal immigrants from
their parents—in Trump’s immoral universe, it is totally logical to attack
the weak opponent at its weakest point (children). As Milner concludes,
Trump is the Weinstein of the US politics.
However, this symmetry also signals the fateful limitation and
even ethically problematic implications of the MeToo movement. Its
exclusive focus on structural weakness enables it to play its own power
game, ruthlessly using structural weakness as a means of its own
empowerment. When a person in the structural position of power is
accused of mistreating a person in the weak structural position, all the
facts which clearly prove that the structurally “weak” person has strong
institutional positions, that her accusations are very problematic if not
outright false, etc., are dismissed as ultimately irrelevant. This doesn’t
happen only in the sexual domain—to give an example that happened
to me: if, in an academic debate, I make some critical remarks about,
say, a black lesbian, replying to her critical remarks about me, I am more
or less automatically suspected at least of acting as a white homophobic
supremacist and am at least guilty of racial and sexual insensitivity. Her
position of structural weakness gives her the power and my structural
position as a white male effectively makes me powerless.
We thus enter a cruel world of brutal power games masked as a
noble struggle of victims against oppression. One should recall here
Oscar Wilde’s saying: “Everything in life is about sex, except sex. Sex is
about power.” Some partisans of MeToo talk about sex, but their
position of enunciation is that of power (and of those who don’t have it,
of course)—following Wilde, they reduce sex to a power game, and
what they exclude (from their position of enunciation) is precisely and
simply sex. Their goal is to keep men, independently of their qualities
formally reduced to oppressors, constantly under threat: be careful
what you do, we can destroy you at any moment even if you think you
did nothing wrong . . . The spirit is here that of revenge, not of healing.
In this cruel world, there is no space for love—no wonder love is rarely
mentioned when MeToo partisans talk about sex.
This formal guilt of a masculine subject, independent of any of his
acts in reality, is the only way to account for the fact that, when a man
is accused of sexual violence by radical feminists, his defence is as a
rule dismissed as hypocritical or outright irrelevant—the old judicial rule
“innocent until proven guilty” is here suspended or, rather, replaced by
its opposite, “guilty until proven innocent.” One is a priori considered
guilty, so that one is obliged to work hard to introduce some doubt into
the accusation. The message is: “Don’t bother with facts, you are a
priori guilty, so repent and maybe you have a chance, since we can
easily destroy you if we want!”


Sex and the Failed Absolute
Slavoj Žižek

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