Nov 022017 11 Responses

Let’s Make This Abundantly Clear

Sexual harassment is wrong.

It should carry serious consequences.

It’s NEVER the fault of the woman.

We all have a responsibility to do something about it.

There are three topics I regularly cover which tend to be the most controversial–racism, adultery, and sexual harassment.

The first is still controversial because racism is deeply rooted in the human condition and has a long history in American society. People are uncomfortable with the discussion and desire it to be avoided. So they claim it’s in the past or they accuse others of being race baiters or they claim you are “stirring the pot” when you discuss it.

The second is controversial because some are guilty and others are innocent. The guilty attack any article written about adultery as a way to divert attention from their actions. The innocent don’t understand the pervasive nature of affairs or the painful consequences that come with them so they assume any advice given to prevent adultery is overly legalistic and not necessary. They mean well, but they are wrong.

It’s the third topic which surprises me that on the verge of 2018 it’s still a controversial topic. How can it be controversial to say that making unwanted sexual advances toward a woman is wrong? How do we still protect guilty men and blame innocent women? How do we continue to shame the victims and protect the perpetrators? I’m not sure how, but we do.

In the past year, stories of sexual harassment have inundated the headlines. Thankfully we have come a long way and stories long held in silence are being voiced. Victims are being vindicated. Perpetrators are paying for their crimes. And women are being empowered to no longer hide what has occurred.

However, despite all the advances, we still have a long way to go. Far too many men (and women), continue to downplay the seriousness of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances. Men are excused, women are blamed, and we continue to perpetuate an unsafe and unhealthy culture for our sisters and daughters.

It’s time for it to stop. (See: What a Drunk Girl Deserves)

I realize we can’t put an end to bad behavior. Society can create stigmas around behaviors. We can punish those who make wrong choices, but we can’t make all evil end. For as long as there are men and women, sexual harassment will exist. People will make bad choices and we will have to help the victims while punishing the perpetrators.

However, we can do better. It starts by stating what should be obvious.

Let’s Be Clear, This Is Wrong

While some areas may be debated and we may come to different conclusions on some issues of right and wrong, a few things are obvious.

Outside of a consensual romantic relationship,

It’s NEVER appropriate for a man to grab a woman anywhere.

It’s NEVER appropriate for a man to touch a woman beyond the common actions of shaking hands, giving a consensual hug, placing an empathetic hand on a shoulder, or other platonic touches which can’t be misconstrued as being something more.

It’s NEVER appropriate for a man to make advances toward someone who works for him. The inequality in the working relationship hinders the woman from freely choosing if she wants the relationship.

It’s NEVER appropriate for a man to make sexual jokes, innuendos, or references to a woman.

It’s NEVER appropriate for a man to imply special privileges to a woman because of appearance.

The Double Whammy of Harassment

Not only do women have to deal with the previous actions far too often, but they also suffer from a culture that does not support them when they have the courage to share their stories. So often it is assumed the women caused the situation or made it up. Men are excused and women are blamed. It’s wrong.

Just as men shouldn’t immediately be convicted at the instant of a single accusation, women shouldn’t be automatically doubted. But let’s face it, they are. When the first person accused Bill Cosby, we assumed she was in it for the money. When the first person accused Bill Clinton, we assumed she was in it for the fame. When the first person accused Harvey Weinstein, we assumed she was bitter over not getting the part. When the first person accused Donald Trump, we assumed they were in it for the politics. But it wasn’t about the money, fame, role, or politics. It was about entitled men abusing innocent women. (I bet I just received three emails defending either Trump or Clinton and slandering their accusers.)

It’s fair to make sure we don’t wrongly convict innocent men. It’s wise to show caution until facts are known. But why aren’t we equally concerned about not believing truthful women? Why do we so quickly imagine being innocent and accused, but never consider having been abused/harassed but then not believed?

Consider: false accusations do occur, but they are rare. Very rare. And in most cases of false accusations, the truth quickly becomes obvious. While we shouldn’t assume that just because a person is accused, they are guilty, we also shouldn’t assume when someone makes an accusation that they are lying. Until the truth is discovered, we must find a way to support accusers even while not immediately stoning the accused. (See: Dealing With the Accused and Accusers in a Small Community)

Yet there must be consequences for those who harass and abuse.

It should cost men their influence and leadership when they use the very ones they are called to serve.

It should be consequential when men do not make right choices toward women.

Some actions should carry extreme consequences. Rape and serial harassment should cost a man his career. Other circumstances shouldn’t carry as much weight, but they still should be costly. Maybe it shouldn’t cost someone their career, but maybe it should cost them their job.

Sadly, society is stacked against women. The laws are written mostly by men. The lawyers have long been dominated by men. CEOs, presidents, boards, and managers have most often been men. This means a company can often claim they are handling things legally and properly when actually they are protecting the perpetrators and further hindering the victims. As a society, we must demand a different way.

A Wake-Up Call

Recently, another headline told the story about a case of serial harassment, but this case had a bit of a twist. One of my heroes, whose reputation has long been stellar, had recently engaged in the wrong behavior. What was unique about his case was his mental state is unknown. While he still makes public appearances, his age and medical conditions cast doubt as to his awareness of his actions.

In response to the allegations which were confirmed by the family, I commented on social media that the actions were wrong and it was time for the man’s family to remove him from public life. If he can’t keep his hands off of women, he should no longer take pictures and interact with the general public. Assuming his condition is compromised, the family should protect him and others.

The issue was simple. No one should be grabbing women without their permission. Yet the response by many wasn’t so simple. Many said it was no big deal. Others said the women should be flattered. Others said because of his years of service and lofty position he had the right to “cop a feel.”

But he doesn’t. His actions were clearly wrong and women needed to be protected. Instead, they were mocked, disbelieved, and used.

We have to do better. (See: Locker Room Talk And Being a Man)

Today’s headlines are filled with stories of sexual harassment and assault not because it’s happening more often; it’s not. It’s in the headlines because more women are showing the courage to say #metoo and society is better comprehending how serious the problem has long been.

Yet in spite of all the advancements, many old attitudes still exist. Men, good men, still don’t take the issue seriously. Men, good men, still downplay the culture we have created for women. For some, they downplay harassment in order to justify their own poor behavior. For others, they downplay it because they don’t understand what it’s like to be exploited or used.

Whatever the case, we need to do better. Our sisters and daughters deserve better.

What would you add to the list of behaviors which are clearly wrong?

11 Responses to Let’s Make This Abundantly Clear
  1. […] Some make a valid point–sex is private. Whom one sleeps with–even if they aren’t a...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.