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Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse is appalling -- both now and then.

Eugene Robinson on

WASHINGTON -- Confronted with allegations of serial sexual abuse and rape, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's instinct was to lie: "I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then."

No, it wasn't.

The different-era defense was also used by those who would excuse fugitive director Roman Polanski's confessed 1977 crime, drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl. And those willing to forgive and forget the first 20 or so of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults, which took place during those scarlet decades.

Blaming the 1960s and 1970s has become the first refuge of abusive creeps. But those of us who lived through that time can recall -- yes, perhaps through a slight haze -- that "the culture" never approved of the kinds of things Weinstein is accused of doing.

That era was about personal liberation, the biggest component of which involved women's empowerment. The sexual revolution gave women options that previously had been forbidden to them, but it never took away the option of rejecting unwanted advances. And never did "the culture" give men the moral right to use money and power to coerce sexual favors -- or the legal right to commit sexual assault.

That kind of ugly behavior is as old as time. That it is now more likely to be exposed, and condemned, is largely due to the period of cultural upheaval and change that Weinstein now wants to blame.

Not everyone gets it. A word of advice to any prominent figures thinking about commenting on the Weinstein scandal: If you plan on adding a "but on the other hand ... " clause, just don't say anything at all.

Don't be like Woody Allen, who said that "the whole Harvey Weinstein thing is sad for everybody involved," but then went on to urge caution: "You also don't want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That's not right either."

Yeeesh. Begin with the sentiment itself, which is insultingly obtuse. Allen apparently thinks there is no conceivable office setting in which winking at a female colleague would be inappropriate. But that's beside the point, since WINKING IS NOT THE ISSUE. Is it possible that Allen does not understand the difference between winking and the offenses Weinstein is accused of -- and denies -- which include indecent exposure, sexual assault and rape?

OK, maybe it's possible. After all, Allen saw no reason anyone might be grossed out when he betrayed his longtime lover, Mia Farrow, by initiating a sexual relationship with her daughter, who at the time was too young to go into a bar and have a drink.

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