The New Yorker magazine gives an an appalling account of multiple sexual assaults that famed movie producer Harvey Weinstein committed against women -- including rape. The story has a familiar ring to it, conjuring up similar offenses by Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and Donald Trump. Even so, the story is far from contemporary. You can see reasons why the offense is long-lived in a three-panel picture titled “The Garden of Earthly Delights” painted five centuries ago by Netherland artist Hieronymus Bosch. He not only pictured the behavior, but he also offered up an explanation for it.

Good and evil

Spoiler alert: Bosch’s answer to why men sexually abuse women blames the victim, and given the way so many artists through the ages have tackled the subject, he’s not alone in his belief plainly laid out in his painting. His first panel describes Adam in the Garden of Eden awakening to the sight of Eve. But she doesn’t appear as innocent as he does. In fact, she’s posed in a distinctly seductive way. Mind you, she hasn’t eaten of the forbidden fruit yet, and, according to scripture, is as guileless as Adam.

Pointing the finger

The center panel of the painting looks like a wild frat party with a mass of cavorting naked people. While a woman can be seen plucking the no-no apple, other women are made to look like they’re reveling in their powers of attraction.

You can see where Bosch is going. The female has been man’s problem from the start. She’s the very cause of Original Sin, having enticed Adam to eat the prohibited fruit. She corrupted him and got him kicked out of Paradise, she’s still at it, and needs to be controlled -- and yes, punished. The last panel is the stuff of nightmares.

Power trip

As far as Bosch is concerned, the devil makes men assault women and the devil is female. To take that power away, men must get the upper hand and dominate them. Such thinking may account for the innumerable paintings of rape throughout recorded time. As British art critic Edwin Mullins put it in his 1985 book “The Painted Witch” about how painters view the sexuality of women, art history has been the propaganda for what he called the “medieval morality.”

Painting a pretty picture

Maybe that’s why most rape paintings are made beautiful.

The male artist sees sexual assault as a good thing, as righting a wrong. Paul Cezanne’s “The Abduction” comes to mind. The scene of a well-muscled, ruddy-complexioned male hauling off the pale, limp figure of a woman is downright picturesque, reminiscent of Rhett Butler carrying Scarlet O’Hara off to her bed. Along those lines, Peter Paul Rubens’ “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus” is the picture of a gleeful romp in the hay.

That said, none of this colors what Weinstein has done pretty or gives men like him a free pass. Clearly oblivious, they seem to run on anger, pissed off that women are able to captivate them.

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