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Enough already with the fawning Sean Connery tributes – he was a self-confessed women-smacker


by Lucy White
03rd Dec 2020
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The Scottish actor was undeniably an icon but let’s not forget that he was also a dogged advocate of hitting women


“Wife beater!” As we’ve seen with the recent Johnny Depp vs The Sun trial is not a word to be used lightly. However, this is the term I remember my mum used whenever Sean Connery came on telly when I was growing up.

It wasn’t until the advent of Google that I bothered to fact-check this potentially spurious claim, Tourettes-like in its swift pronouncement. And, to my amazement at the time, it was Connery himself who advocated slapping women, first in Playboy magazine in 1967 and later in 1987 when Barbara Walters called him out on it on ABC News.

Walters: You did an interview in which you said, “It’s not the worst thing to slap a woman now and then.” As I remember, you said you don’t do it with a clenched fist, it’s better to do it with an open hand. Yeah. Remember that?

Connery: Yeah.

Walters: Yeah. I didn’t love that.

Connery: And I haven’t changed my opinion.

Walters: You haven’t?

Connery: No. Not at all.

Walters: You think it’s good to slap a woman?

Connery: No I don’t think it’s good…

Walters: You don’t think it’s bad though.

Connery: I don’t think it’s that bad. I think that it depends entirely on the circumstances and if it merits it, yeah.

Walters: And what would merit it?

Connery: Well, if you have tried everything else, and women are pretty good at this, that they can’t leave it alone. They don’t… they want to have the last word. And you give them the last word but they’re not happy with the last word. They want to say it again and get into a really provocative situation. Then I think it’s absolutely right.

In the original Playboy interview, he was asked how he felt “about roughing up a woman, as Bond sometimes has to do,” to which Connery replied: “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman – although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. An openhanded slap is justified – if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it. I think a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the woman. I really do – by virtue of the way a man is built, if nothing else. But I wouldn’t call myself sadistic. 

“I think one of the appeals that Bond has for women, however, is that he is decisive, cruel even. By their nature women aren’t decisive – “Shall I wear this? Shall I wear that?” – and along comes a man who is absolutely sure of everything and he’s a godsend. And, of course, Bond is never in love with a girl and that helps. He always does what he wants, and women like that. It explains why so many women are crazy about men who don’t give a rap for them.”

Shaken and stirred

His beliefs were so firm that even in 1993 he told Vanity Fair that “there are women who take it to the wire. That’s what they are looking for, the ultimate confrontation. They want a smack.” All the while he dismissed ex-wife Diane Cilentro’s claims that he physically and mentally abused her during their 11-year marriage in the 1960s/70s. 

Think about this every time you see a bandwagon share of the Bond actor looking cool (or uncool, in the case of his red mankini Zardoz days). The man you’re casually glorifying was an on-the-record proponent of domestic violence.

Boo Paterson, an artist, illustrator and all-round polymath, posted on Instagram last week, recalling a documentary she had worked on in 2011 in which Connery was the narrator. “He was terribly grumpy & pretty rude, even though people were fawning all over him, but I think [photographer] Mark’s great skill captured a kind & approachable side to him.” 

How do we separate the work of an artist with their dubious private life? Should we?

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Amidst the gushing tributes, it was the one dissenting voice; an economic but revealing observation of a man whose iconography far eclipsed his talent, or lack thereof, as an actor. And it’s a conundrum of our time. How do we separate the work of an artist with their dubious private life (see also Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Eric Gill, Jerry Lee Lewis, Egon Schiele, Chris Brown… the list goes on)? Should we? Or do we follow the advice of American lawyer, Clarence Durrow, who said, “Hate the sin, never the sinner” in his landmark defence of teenage killers Leopold and Loeb in 1924? It’s a complex question that invites us to bend our morals, confront our selective memory. What is more important: the man or the work, or is more the point to consider both?

Yes, dementia – which is what Connery suffered in his later years – is sad. That he leaves a wife and children behind is sad. There’s also an argument for not speaking ill of the dead. However, obituaries shouldn’t be in the business of cherry-picking only the good bits of a person’s character. Not only is it bad journalism, it enables mindless bandwagon shares on social media that celebrate only what we want to remember. The women on the receiving end of Connery’s anger, and of men like him, don’t have that luxury.


Read more: Pierce Brosnan’s Malibu mansion goes on sale for €85m

Read more: Why secret agent Bond will never be played by a woman

Read more: How To Raise Feminist Boys In Five Easy Steps

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