Once again a “sex scandal” has hit the headlines, this time with Bafta award winning actor Noel Clarke being accused of verbal abuse, bullying and sexual harassment (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/apr/29/actor-noel-clarke-accused-of-groping-harassment-and-bullying-by-20-women). Strangely, that is all he seems to be accused of – not that one wishes to belittle the hurt and outrage of those who feel they have been bullied and harassed, but there appear to be no allegations of sexual misconduct beyond salacious comments, the possession of some dodgy photos, and the occasional unwanted grope or pat on the bottom. Certainly, there seem to be no allegations of coercive and unwanted sex, or grooming. Which make these current ‘MeToo’ allegations all the more remarkable, because apparently there no longer has to be what could properly be described an ‘offence’ in order for the hell hounds to be unleashed, with devastating effect.
Why does this matter, you may ask? After all, we’ve all heard stories about the film industry – and especially the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein, with aspiring young actresses forced to sleep with him to get a part in his next movie. Without doubt, this is disgraceful. But this is not what appears to have happened with Noel Clarke. Clearly, reading the reports, the actor’s behaviour has been less than perfect, but the impression one gets is more that of an undisciplined and randy teenager – cocky, brash… someone who thinks he’s a bit of a ‘lad’. But by no stretch of the imagination does he come across as a sexual predator, ruthlessly grooming and exploiting women to satisfy an ungovernable sexual appetite.
There is also, it must be said, an allegation that he covertly filmed a ‘naked’ audition, but there seems no evidence this actually occurred, and in fact others involved in the audition (and in today’s highly sexualised climate such auditions are surely not unusual) say categorically that it couldn’t have happened. All of which brings us to the nub of the problem, because it would appear that today the merest whisper of a complaint and the alleged perpetrator is immediately condemned as guilty and cast into outer darkness. No trial, no defence, no examination of the motives of those making the accusation, or consideration of the gravity of the supposed offence … just guilty. However looked at, this is a travesty of justice. No one should be condemned and sentenced out of hand, without a proper testing of evidence. And even with a guilty verdict, justice demands there should be a proportionate response. Which here appears conspicuously lacking. Instead we have trial by media, which operates without restraint, like a lynch mob baying for blood.
Bullying in the workplace is wrong, but sadly commonplace. It happens in every area of life, and many have similar tales to tell. But does such a grievance justify the total destruction of another’s life – which is what is happening now to Noel Clarke? And then there are the claims of unwanted sexual attention and harassment – which, as already said, seem to have stopped short of anything more physical. Again, it is a sad fact of life that many men, left unchecked, will make smutty, suggestive, and salacious remarks. Indeed, going back thousands of years, women have known men require training. Like a puppy needing to be taught not to mess in the house and to walk to heel, they need to be taught how to behave, and that good manners require they curb their baser instincts and treat women with respect. They have to learn to behave in a civilised manner.
It’s this kind of thing a boy should first learn from the example of his father, with that basic grounding in manners then reinforced at school. Self-discipline doesn’t come easy to any of us, and boys have to learn to be ‘gentlemen’, just as girls have to learn how to be ‘ladies’. But over the last few decades all that seems to have disappeared. Too many boys today, for instance, grow up in single parent families without a father, and then at school the overriding lesson they are taught is of entitlement, and that they have an absolute right to gratify their desires – provided only the object of that desire, be it female or male, ‘consents’. Is it then to be wondered at that Noel Clarke should have felt it was okay to make risqué and suggestive comments? No, women do not like to be treated as sex objects, but society today glorifies sexual licence and promiscuity; lessons reinforced by the teaching children receive in school.
If we are to attempt to combat this, schools need to ditch the mandatory lessons on Relationships, Health and Sex Education(RHSE) – which we have said elsewhere are not fit for purpose – and start teaching children instead about commitment, faithfulness, sexual purity, and the value of family. They need to teach children – both boys and girls – that sex is precious and not something to be wasted. That it is infinitely more than a required leisure activity on dates, and that one-night stands are not ‘cool’ but harmful. We need to teach children the truths that will keep them safe – for individual protection and personal good, and for the health of society.
From all the reports, Noel Clarke’s behaviour has indeed been regrettable – bad mannered, to put it mildly – but that surely doesn’t mean that his professional and personal life should be totally destroyed, and the lives of his family wrecked. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that he is of Trinidadian descent, born in Notting Hill, and that his parents divorced shortly after he was born, after which his mother moved to a council estate in Ladbroke Grove and brought him up alone. Not the easiest of starts to life then, and one can only imagine the struggles a young Clarke must have faced to break free of racial stereotyping and realise his dreams of becoming an actor. Both he and his mother are to be commended – because this is a boy of colour who, against all the odds, made good. Yet now society is castigating him for the chippy behaviour that surely helped give him the will to succeed. We should not now seek to destroy, but rather help him become ‘better’.
As a society, we have failed both Noel Clarke and the women making these complaints. As already said, we should have taught them all alike, first and foremost, the values of self-respect, and that sex is a precious gift of God that binds a man and woman together in life-long and exclusive union for their mutual benefit and support, and that it should never lightly be squandered or demeaned. And we should have taught them the values of purity, fairness and justice, and to have the courage to speak out when something is wrong or of which they disapprove.
As a society, it is vital we recover the values of purity, goodness, integrity, honesty, mercy, faithfulness, self-control… and that we teach these values to our young.
Noel Clarke has behaved badly, and in this he has clearly done wrong. But what is being done to him is also wrong, and of far more devastating effect. Such kangaroo (in)justice belittles his courage and very real achievements in a hostile world. This is not right. As a society, now, we must all repent the evil we have allowed to take root, and recover a right spirit. We must cherish our young. And we must do this so that all might prosper – male, female, black, white and everything in between. Only in this way can we truly become a civilised society.