The cultural and overall societal impact of the deluge of sexual assault and harassment accusations has only just begun to be realised. Already, careful observers — both men and women alike — are noting that the broad and fuzzy definition of “harassment” can encompass behaviors previously considered routine flirtation and will obliterate the good manners of gentlemen who compliment women.
This new spate of redefining acceptable behaviour continues to complicate relationships between men and women during an era when the uncertainties and overturning of tradition have already made male-female interactions not just problematic, but precarious. Dating is increasingly rare — almost nonexistent — anymore, and men are left bewildered about how or whether to express interest in any woman for fear of offending her. Employers are wondering whether it is worth the risk to hire women for high-level positions, for which daily consultations and occasional out-of-town travel are de rigueur.
The inescapable conclusion is that women are going to be the losers big-time in this cultural transformation. Feminism promised women that adopting the behaviors of men (good, bad, and ugly) would yield an equal playing field. Instead, in the workplace women shed their true feminine power to reach for the brass ring, only to discover that this new world reduced them to mere sexual objects who had to “play along” to get in the door of top-floor suites.
On campus, they gave up courtship and romance only to discover that they were viewed, in the words of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simons, as sexual “dumpsters.” Now marriage rates are abysmally low, and young women who cohabit give up their best years to guys who are happy to have them foot the bills and do the chores before ending up, after several years of sexual and financial freeloading, marrying someone younger and “hotter.”
Many of us are wondering if this sexual climate will lead to a new Victorian era, where chaperones will be necessary to protect women from male predators and immunise men from female predators. When the pendulum has swung so far, it must swing back. It remains to be seen just how far it will travel towards stricter rules and more traditional standards of male-female interaction.
Have we seen the last of the “anything goes” era? Will we, once again, recognise female vulnerability and the dangers posed by an alcohol- and drug-soaked culture? Certainly, men in public positions must be searching their memories, wondering if they have overstepped any boundaries or put themselves in a situation where some woman can make accusations that could destroy their families, careers, and standing in the community.
In the world of no-fault divorce, men were already leery of the risk of marriage. But now, if we accept that a woman can make accusations about events in the dimly remembered past and be believed without question, with no way to establish who is telling the truth, it is a fearsome world for men. In such a climate, men are at the mercy of any woman with a grudge; a political agenda; or the desire for a little cash, some attention, or 15 minutes of fame. In such a world, a man would be foolish to ever show interest in a woman or put himself in a vulnerable situation.
Ultimately, women are losers because they will be avoided both personally and professionally. Men lose, too, because they have to protect themselves in every encounter and never be alone with a woman. Even then, under the right circumstances or for the right sum, some women will be willing to concoct a plausible story of harassment or abuse.
If Anita Hill‘s far-fetched and devious imaginings can be construed as evidenced of abuse in spite of all evidence to the contrary, no man is safe. I had newly arrived in D.C. when that trial was televised on PBS. I was not alone in being stunned and appalled to hear the distortion in Nina Totenburg’s reporting. She made no attempt to accurately report what happened; instead, she editorialised to portray Anita Hill as a victim. Things have gradually escalated since then until the current tsunami of women coming before television cameras to sell their stories, both real and imagined. In today’s climate, the woman is supposed to be believed regardless, resulting in men, justly and unjustly, losing their reputations and their jobs.
Feminism relentlessly peddled an unreal utopia where women could be safeguarded merely by their right to “just say no” and where men are required to get “consent” at every stage of pursuit. At the same time, the culture has created an environment where girls get tipsy before going to a bar where they get drunk enough to have the courage to get in a stranger’s car or go to an unknown guy’s room. The next morning, in best-case scenarios, when the guy doesn’t even remember her name or acknowledge her when they pass on campus, she feels (rightly) used and abused! In worst-case scenarios, she contracts an incurable (yes, incurable) STD, or is brutally assaulted or raped, or ends up murdered at the hands of a serial sex offender.
The good news from all the attention on harassment and sexual assault is that men must clean up their act; they can no longer get away with a “Harvey” move. Perhaps we have finally reached a tipping point, where lewd jokes and vulgar comments are once again considered ill-mannered in “ladies'” presence. Better still, we have spotlighted the long-term impact when some brute abuses or assaults a woman.
I’m not at all sure that we have learned that we cannot continue to lump together all complaints into a generic category of abuse, where no distinction is made among offensive language, sexual harassment, and physical assault or rape. Nor am I sure that we have made the connection between alcohol and these offensive acts (though some corporations have chosen to ban alcohol from office parties).
In short, as a society, either we’ll acknowledge the need for a saner approach to harassment, abuse, and assault or we’ll have to return to the Victorian practices of chaperones, some sort of neo-patriarchy, and a return to restrictions on women’s freedom and autonomy.
Originally published at American Thinker.
Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels / PD-US