As the ongoing wave of sexual harassment charges against everybody keep piling up, I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to hit the brakes. It is getting a bit out of hand, isn’t it? Has #MeToo gone a bit, dare I say it, hysterical? I first started wondering this a couple of weeks ago, when even Elie Wiesel was implicated in some ass-grabbery. It’s one thing for me to enjoy watching Hollywood dirtbags like Harvey Weinstein twist on the hook. But a dead activist? Ehhhhhh. I’m not liking it.
It has to be emphasized that I’m not saying I don’t necessarily believe the victim or think that she should be discouraged from telling her story. I certainly didn’t say so when this particular allegation surfaced, but since then? The hits just keep coming.
I haven’t shifted from my belief that Roy Moore probably did engage in sexually predatory behavior with young girls at some point in his life. I also think that there’s good reason to believe that at least one of the accusers is lying. Even though I’m inclined to believe that some of the allegations against Moore are true, it doesn’t mean that I think “all victims must be believed.” That Gloria Allred is involved in this matter gives me pause. I don’t give her much credibility. She’s a hack. I wish that there was someone else, someone less untrustworthy, who was representing these women. Truthfully, if it’s true that this “yearbook evidence” against Moore is fabricated, Allred should be disbarred. I don’t favor automatically believing all “victims.” I’m sorry if that upsets anyone. Some women lie. It’s just the way it is.
Most tellingly, I’m torn over the allegations against Al Franken. Sure, he did it. The photographic evidence doesn’t lie, but why should his case be excused when so many other prominent people are suffering the consequences of their actions, even when those actions often have less evidence and are less serious? Honestly, I’ve read a couple of Franken’s books and even though I think he has a warped sense of humor (like me), I also believe that he’s a devoted family man and wasn’t out to harm any women.
So where am I with all of this? I’ll tell you what I think and you can agree or disagree.
The issue, as I see it, is where sex has been used against women as power. Has this happened? Sure, all the time. I’m sure there are times I could be accused of it. It’s exactly why I’m concerned about the consequences of all of these allegations. There could in fact be a circumstance in my own life–and many of you other men–in which I used power to obtain sex. Should I have my livelihood ruined over it? The response to situations like Franken’s and Weinstein’s leads me to believe that the answer is “yes”. I may not have meant any harm (and I can’t think of any specific examples so I’m saying this theoretically), but I don’t know what those women may have believed at the time, right?
Wait, am I saying that I’m a bad guy who has sexually abused women? No. In fact, I could even argue that I’m a victim. True story here. One night in circa 2000 AD, I was out at a club with my sister and some of her friends. One of them was a gay man. We’ll call him Thomas. Everybody had a great time and we got extremely drunk. Thomas hit it especially hard that evening. Near the end of the night, Thomas was sitting next to me in a booth and got it into his head that I was the sexiest thing in his world at the moment. He grabbed onto me and stuck his tongue in my ear.
Be me, in a bar, with a gay man’s tongue sticking in my ear and I’m not into it at all. This is a sexual assault, isn’t it? Well, yeah. I guess it is technically. But was it? That’s tricky, I suppose.
How did I handle it? I simply placed my hand on his forehead and pushed it back. Thomas closed his eyes, passed out, and laid his head down on my shoulder. He passed out. About ten minutes later, he threw up all over the table and was asked to leave by a bouncer. I helped him to his feet and we all left for the night. I walked him to a friend’s car and put him in the passenger seat. He got home without further incident.
Later on, my sister heaped praise upon me for not, I don’t know, killing Thomas for molesting me. I didn’t think any praise was warranted. Thomas was a small guy. No threat to me at all. Think of a hobbit trying to sexually harass an Uruk-Hai. That’s what this situation was like. I certainly could have crushed the little gay dude if I’d wanted to. I didn’t because he was a friend of my sister’s, we had hung out before and he’d never done anything like this before, and there was simply no justification for harming him when he had simply been drunk and badly misinterpreted a situation. My sister still respects me for gently controlling the situation. I don’t think she should. You know why?
The reason is that Thomas was never a threat to me. He had no power over me. Thomas couldn’t overpower me in his wildest dreams. Man for man, I wasn’t in any danger. It was easy for me to assert my power in that situation. I was never afraid of any consequences for rejecting his advances. It was simply a matter of deciding that I wasn’t going to allow him to make out with me. There was nothing to it. But what about women in most situations?
Weinstein’s victims couldn’t defend themselves because they knew he would determine the future course of their careers. It’s the same with Spacey’s victims. And Roy Moore’s victims? Who would believe a teenage girl over a sitting judge? These women faced actual consequences for refusing the advances of the horny men who were hitting on them, didn’t they? Unlike me, they couldn’t simply push them aside. They didn’t have the power that I did in my circumstance to just say “no”.
I don’t think of myself as a “victim”. though some would probably argue that I could. This is only because I recognize that I could say “no” when others could not. Even though Franken’s victim was passed out and couldn’t say “no”, it seems to me that what he did was more juvenile than an assertion of power on his part. I’d suggest that we’re holding Franken to a standard of behavior for a comedian in 2006 than a politician in 2017 and that’s why I am inclined to give him a pass. Do you think I’m wrong for that?
My suggestion is that we hold a Truth and Reconciliation Committee for sexual harassers, similar to that conducted for participants of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Maybe allow those who used women as sex toys the opportunity to explain what they did and provide the real truth in exchange for amnesty. One judge in Ohio already tried this approach in Ohio and it hasn’t worked out very well for him, but I still suggest that it might be the most responsible way to handle this societal problem before millions of professional and personal lives are wrecked.
Al Franken? I think what he did was juvenile and it certainly was inappropriate to do to a woman who was passed out and simply looking for a movie role. But was this an example of depraved sexual harassment? I’m reluctant to say yes. I’m speaking as someone who is ideologically opposed to Franken and I’m saying no. Franken, for his political faults, has always come across to me as a man devoted to his wife and kids who also has a twisted sense of humor. I don’t personally believe he was out to harm women for his own sexual gratification. I’m a Republican who’s saying this.
What we have to look for is whether the offender was in a position of power over the victim and whether there were consequences for her refusing to consent to any sexual acts. Where those conditions existed, we have to determine whether or not it merits the destruction of the offender. In the world of comedy as it existed ten years ago, I don’t think it’s fair to judge today’s ultra highly-sensitive standards against that time’s. I just don’t. Sorry if that upsets you. I just think that the definition of “quid pro quo sexual harassment” has been stretched to the limit and it’s going to get out of hand if we don’t clarify it now.
What do you say? Do we need to crucify Al Franken, Louis CK, and whoever else gets revealed as a sexual harasser over the next week? I don’t really understand what is to be gained from doing so, but I’d like to know what useful purpose is to be gained from burning men for every perceived sexual offense that they may have committed since the 1970’s regardless of whether or not he was in a position of power to influence that woman’s choices to coerce her to do something she didn’t want to do. Here’s your chance to make the argument.