IT’S bewilderment, initially. That’s my reaction to a week of revelations about sexual harassment (and potentially worse) by the film mogul Harvey Weinstein. And to all that female testimony about male behaviour, swirling around the #MeToo hashtag on social media.

Who are these creeps? The recording of the sting operation on Weinstein is extremely hard to listen to. His rat-a-tat conversation aims to leave the woman no space to think or respond (that’s the media-magnate too, sucking most of the air out of the room, so that people breath according to his whim).

When Weinstein’s admissions of inappropriate touching happen, they bob up in a sea of wheedling and pleading, of petty status claims (“Don’t embarrass me in the hotel. I’m here all the time … I’m a famous guy… Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes”). If this is powerful, it’s pathetic too.

The actress Emma Thompson put it well on Newsnight when she said it reminded her of what her mother used to ask her: “Is he pestering you, dear?” Weinstein, from this, is a classic pesterer. But the brilliance of the #MeToo hashtag — asking women to identify with Weinstein’s pestered, and inviting their own tales of harassment — is that it has quickly shrivelled the “bad apple”/“unique monster” response.

So it’s not just that social media has given a voice to millions of women to speak of their oppression. It has also sent a shockwave through the men reading these posts. They are confronted with stories they’re horrified by, that they may well recognise from their own experiences. And which force them to ask themselves: have I ever been that guy?

As a man — or at least, this man — you find yourself immediately distancing yourself from the worst of it. These armies of public gropers, shovers and tweakers, singling out women with language and labels that reduce them to a part of their body. Sometimes assuming a background of male approval, sometimes seeking spaces and moments off the main drag. This is just a raw exercise of male power over women, especially when it happens in workplace or institutional contexts.

Not only do official equality laws pertain here (the steady civilising legacy of feminism). It’s also the case that modern jobs require our mental and emotional labours more than our manual capabilities. Men and women are on a completely even playing field here. That makes any overall pay disparity between the sexes for the same occupational role egregious, and surely fixable by regulation. But it makes men’s workplace harassment of women more like a patriarchal terror campaign — especially in conditions of more precarious employment. Remember who’s really boss, goes the silent whisper.

My own working experience has been varied enough to give me one solid lesson in life — that you’re generally in trouble, on a number of levels, if the room isn’t at a minimum gender-equal. Much of my media and consultancy work is majority-woman staffed. In terms of getting tasks executed thoughtfully and well, to me it’s a preferable state of affairs.

The music business? Well, in our band we have a female singer/guitarist and seven other men (with my youngest daughter occasionally joining in) — that’s a whole other discussion about music and gender… but our company office is overwhelmingly majority-female. There may be a lot of sexuality thrumming away in pop music, but the relations I have observed between men and women in the hard-working end of the music business are invariably calm and respectful.

As matters happening in public — subject to scrutiny, regulation and law — this particular tide of harassment feels like it can be lowered. But I guess it’s the behaviour reported when off work, or in private, around the #MeToo hashtag that is most difficult for a man — again, this man — to deal with.

Acts of rape, coerced sex without consent, are criminal affairs — and one would hope our laws and social services are being continually refined and developed, to ensure every crime is effectively prosecuted.

But the Weinstein recording — similar to the Trump bus recording, with his noxious lists of “you can do anything” to women — is echoed by so many of the #MeToo testimonies. Men constantly pushing the boundaries, psychological or physical — making plays and suggestions that they think will open up a world of sexual availability. Though when I read them, I tend to think: Really? What kind of response did you think you would get, from that level of crude suggestion? Because it’s not as if women don’t want responses from men, and men from women. As I read these excruciating and disheartening tales — these desperate, edgy men who will smash any social grace in order to scratch their itch — I wonder where romance went. Or will go.

The grand irony of Weinstein, of course, is that he has been marauding through the backrooms of an industry which is the greatest ideologist for romance on the planet. Or, to look at it another way, commercial movies answer a huge demand for satisfying spectacles of human relationship.

I think of a movie like The Big Sick from a few months ago — a Judd Apatow comedy which explored a romance between an Asian-American man and a white-American woman. It made me laugh, surge and cry. But in terms of the sexual relationship itself, they literally talked — or better, humourised — each other into bed.

The hero, Kumail, could hardly be described as not “persistent” — but he was self-deprecating, clownish, charming, attentive. My play scholarship tells me that male playfulness and humour, in humans and other primates, is consistently more attractive to females. It implies a degree of intelligence and social skill — someone who will sustain and not disrupt the nurturance that family reproduction needs. I don’t quote that to tie anyone to biology — Steven Pinker famously said we are the species who can “tell our genes to go take a jump in the lake”. But it might be one kind of appeal to men who have forgotten — or maybe never known — what a subtle, creative, even mind-blowing adventure the relations between the sexes can be.

If you want to be someone’s lover, it is natural to start with fun and exploration, an openness to what arises — not with power, discipline and resentment.

And maybe if it starts from that place, you might be more receptive to signs that your attentions are unwanted — either instantly, or eventually (stories about this have made up so much of the #MeToo testimony).

However, in terms of the wider culture, it’s a difficult time to maintain that sensitivity. Pornography is now ubiquitously accessible in the digital age. Whatever you think of it, there’s no doubt that it burns away all of the aforementioned exploration, and leaves you only with the raw core of human sexual congress.

Does porn distort or drag male sexual responses into a place that means more dangerous everyday behaviour is possible? Or like shooter video games and violence, is porn a pressure valve for power-oriented sexuality, which might allow for more grace in everyday relations than less? I’ve heard both arguments.

All of this is a minefield — and I doubt I’ve stepped through it without blowing myself up at some point (I’m sure I’ll find out). I am hardly above this fray (as almost all straight men are not). My images of male and female sexuality began with Sinatra and Loren — all those sharp suits and fitted dresses; both the swaggering big band numbers and the trembling ballads.

The images also come from my parents, who were, economically, utterly equal from the get-go, but whose dynamic around love and attractiveness was dramatic, even operatic. I have doubtless proceeded from those deeply embedded scripts quite a few times, unthinkingly.

But #Metoo is vital and important because it is a consciousness-raiser. Men should be cringing at and brooding over the behaviours this testimony has revealed — and at the very least, ensure that we have the conversations required among ourselves.

“Gentle men” are possible and desirable, if they can achieve a mindfulness about their sexual behaviour.

It’s appropriate that it’s the action of women that can help us get there.