Stan Lee, legendary comics writer behind Spider-Man and other Marvel characters, has been accused of sexual misconduct by several home nurses who used to work for the 95-year-old.
I can’t make a judgment as to the guilt or innocence of Stan Lee, but there is no question that old men often behave like callow teenagers in their quest for females to soothe their savage souls. Why do they do it? Is there something inherent in old age that triggers a compulsion in men to act inappropriately? Is it senility or something else?
Let’s take senility out of the discussion immediately. If it is clear a man is no longer in control of his mental faculties then he should be in “protective custody” for his own safety as well as the safety of others. If he is able to function normally and seems capable of making good decisions about his life but behaves inappropriately when around women, he may be on the brink of “losing it” and that should be a red flag to responsible individuals in his life to do what’s necessary to protect others. Either a man is “all there” or he isn’t “all there” whether or not he is around women. So, other than senility, let’s look at why many old men make inappropriate behavior choices.
Stereotypical belief that just being old legitimizes “my age made me do it” behavior. Misbehaving old guys are given a pass because culturally, it is taken for granted that old men, because of advanced age, are “entitled” to display bizarre behavior and therefore, bad behavior should be ignored or characterized as “cute”. We look the other way when an old man declares, “At my age I can say and do whatever I damn well please.” One sympathizer of Lee opined, “At 95 Lee obviously hasn’t got that many years left. My thought would be to let the old man him have his fun. They aren’t going to put him in jail.”
One has to ask, “Let him have his ‘fun’ with non-consenting women”? That mentality says women don’t matter, that women exist to tolerate “fun” with a disgusting old geezer who imagines he can do what he wants because he’s old.
Tolerance of aberrant “old age” behavior was justified in Betty White’s deplorable TV show “Off their Rockers” that displayed old but presumably sane people (mostly men) behaving like village idiots. Sane old men who act like morons DO know right from wrong and CAN behave appropriately when they choose to. They don’t merit a pass because of their age.
Unawareness/disregard for personal unattractiveness. Too often, a decrepit old man fantasizes he’s desirable because he can muster an erection. Never mind that he doesn’t smell good, his teeth are rotten/missing, has bad breath and genital herpes, warts or other untreated STD. And let’s not forget his unkempt bushy beard that collects not just food but fecal bacteria. His unawareness leads him to try to attract a younger woman and chances are good he will find what he’s looking for, especially if he makes known he is financially sound. Younger women whose emotional and financial neediness override common sense are prone to tolerate socially unacceptable behaviors of an old lecher who can afford to keep them. Gut wrenching loneliness, need for affection and touch, and financial problems can have a profound effect on choices women make, and what they will tolerate in a man.
Here’s the bottom line: A man with mental faculties intact and having an informed code of moral behavior chooses to behave in accord with social and cultural norms that never go out of style — self respect and respect for others. He values his dignity and the dignity of others. While cultural standards of behavior change and deteriorate he knows right from wrong . He doesn’t use his advanced age as an excuse to demean himself or anyone else.
Perhaps it would be well for our culture consider adoption of George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595.
Today, many of these rules (perhaps most of them), sound a little (or a lot) fussy if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate only to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but the rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together.