At the very beginning let me say that in no way am I defending what is now being euphemistically called “sexual misconduct.” Every available adjective has been applied and it is unlikely that one size fits all.
The issue is complex and simple all at the same time. Let’s take the simple first: Under no circumstances is the uninvited invasion of a woman’s personal space permissible. The complexity surfaces when the degree of invasion is difficult to define.
Years ago I saw an example where a man’s simple and presumably innocent laying a hand on a female shoulder to emphasize a point in a discussion was taken by another woman’s observation in a different way. After the conversation was completed I overheard the observer say, “I saw that! I’ll back you up if you want to charge him with sexual abuse.”
Who knows? Maybe the reporter knew of previous and more egregious touching; or maybe she had an axe to grind with the alleged perpetrator.
In any case the situation can escalate to horrendous levels, often with merit. Strangely, we have heard little about the Hollywood Access and the fallout from that. “Fake news” has been recently trotted out but with little chance of refuting what was clearly disgusting.
I would call it “Male Jerkdom” full flower. Perhaps no damage was done but certainly a signal sent that women are subject to prey, not just by the powerful, the rich and famous, but by ordinary and insensitive men.
In just a few days we will find out if the trial by public opinion of Roy Moore in the Alabama senate race changes the power balance in Congress. I don’t suppose Moore is taking much comfort from the fact that his wasn’t the first domino to fall. How many years has it been since Clinton’s and Cosby’s dalliances became public?
It is hard to imagine the anxiety countless men are feeling over their past misconduct. Some, perhaps most of it, is rich reward for truly bad behavior, but some of it may be retribution for events that have little or nothing to do with the accusation that may come home to roost.
Then there is the heartache of the families on both sides are enduring. That will certainly take the “merry” out of Christmas.
To see women stand up and be counted when truly terrible things have been done to them is not only courageous but necessary. This is particularly true when young or powerless women are forced into positions in which they involuntarily find themselves.
To try to excuse men as the aggressors is indefensible but to paint all men with the same brush is unjust. Several things are certain. First, many of the allegations are true and probably only a fraction of transgressions have come to light. Second, the public must not yawn and look the other way. Judgments must be made; wrongs must be righted, and men should stand beside the corrections that need to be made.
One might suspect that such male behavior had its genesis long before the sad history of sexual abuse was being recorded. Now that there is little chance of it not reaching the public domain is probably more the result of instant media exposure that a newly spawned epidemic of promiscuity.
While all this is very painful on many fronts, good can come out of it. The well-deserved respect for the rights of others goes far beyond sexual misconduct. All lives do matter, the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness can become more than high-sounding aspirations; the poverty-stricken, the weak, the LGBT community, the disenfranchised, the elderly, the homeless . . . all these, and more, are entitled to equal treatment.
We hear a lot about American exceptionalism. If we broaden our perspective, then perhaps we won’t be so preoccupied with “sexual misconduct” but more focused on treasuring everyone as an equal. Now that would be exceptional!