Somewhere between “men are scum” and “women are liars” lies the truth.
As sexual harassment allegations have poured into the news this fall, it’s pretty clear that there are, on the one hand, some very black-and-white cases and, on the other, some big gray areas.
Harvey Weinstein, some of the nation’s top journalists, politicians from both parties, British MPs, and President Trump have all been accused by multiple women of acts ranging from the piggish to rape. And let’s not forget the long list that preceded them–Bill Cosby, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton, to name a few.
Sex should be about love, or at least between consenting adults. It should go without saying that it should not be about aggression or power.
Yet, all sexual crimes and misdemeanors are not created equal. A man forcibly sticking his tongue in a woman’s mouth (pretty gross) is not rape (simply, criminal). Making an off-color sexual joke or innuendo (generally inappropriate) is not groping (offensive and genuine grounds for assault charges).
But, then the areas get grayer. I read of one of the recently accused (who had allegedly done worse things) of inviting a female employee to his apartment for a drink. Or of the apparently consensual campus hookups which are later called “assault” or “rape.”
It seemed pretty ridiculous when Vice President Mike Pence said that he would not be alone with a woman other than his wife. But, maybe he was on to something.
A lot of men have done a lot of awful things to women. (And a fair number of women have done some pretty bad things to men.) But, things have gone off the rails when men now live in fear that they will be branded with “sexual harassment” if they make a friendly pat on the arm, invite a female subordinate for coffee, or inadvertently touch a woman.
Let’s be clear: Real sexual assault and harassment are very wrong. But creating too many gray areas that leave men fearful of being accused and outed and ruined does not make for healthy relations between the sexes.