Joke or Sexual Harrassment?

Is Al Franken guilty? Have we gone too far?

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92 thoughts on “Joke or Sexual Harrassment?

    1. Well, that was the counter-argument on Bill Clinton, when the evidence on Broaddrick was pretty massive. So it worked before. And by the way, you never know what you will get when you go through a trailer park with hundred dollar bills.

  1. Wow, that was well-documented.

    One of the bloggers I read says, “Nobody is ever just joking” and I think that applies here.

    Come to think of it, that also applies to Louis C.K.–he wasn’t just joking about being a creepy perv, he really honestly was a creepy perv.

  2. I know I may be in the minority here, but I’ve been thinking about this pre-Franken announcement – what are the rules here? Is one instance of this sort of behavior enough to drive someone out? Our laws recognize that there are differences in law-breaking, and I wonder the same thing Laura is suggesting in her post. What are these rules and when do we go too far? Can we think and talk about this outside of partisanship? I don’t know, but here’s a stab at some of the questions I would ask about someone:

    1) Does the behavior involve underage children? Never, ever acceptable (although I might say age differential matters here – 18 and 16 is different than 25 and 16).

    2) How serious is the offense? Clearly, rape is something different than inappropriate language.

    3) Is there a pattern of this sort of behavior? Has it happened more than once? Everyone makes mistakes. If you learn from them, that’s different than being told by numerous women that your behavior is wrong yet you keep doing it. Also, there is real potential for manipulation if there’s not a pattern. Not saying women can’t be believed, but stories can be made up. For instance, it’s possible that the Franken incident was a picture that created a story. I’m not saying that’s the case, but our law requires some burden of proof, and I feel like we should require the same before we ask for someone’s head.

    4) How long ago did this happen? Something that happened 20 years ago and then stopped is different than something that happened last month.

    5) Is the accused remorseful? Or has the person engage in cover up? Weinstein is in his own league on this one. But I was not at all impressed by Louis CK ‘s apology because his attempts to cover up his actions only suggest to me that he’s remorseful only because he was caught.

    6) Did the accused have power over the accuser? It’s different when a date makes a pass at you than when your boss does.

    There are probably more that I am missing. I am probably wrong on some of these. And the rules about what is acceptable and not will probably be different for different people. But I do think it’s worth trying to establish some set of rules or ways to think about it.

    For example, one of my grad school colleagues dated an undergraduate. He met her in the class where he was a TA; I think he may have waited until the last day of class to ask her out, but maybe not. Other than that though, there’s nothing else that I know of in his history. Is it inappropriate for a TA to ask out an undergrad in his class? Probably – there’s a power differential there. But there’s no pattern, he didn’t try to cover it up, the woman was not a minor, it happened decades ago. I think – most of us would say that’s not a firing or resigning offense. So we’re clearly drawing lines here – I just think maybe we should start making those lines a bit more explicit.

    1. I’m totally with you on all these points. We lose credibility and the moral high ground if we start equating all behavior from a suggestive innuendo to rape. We don’t have to excuse the first to make a distinction.

      In line with your item 4, we also need to be able to hold in mind that some behaviors that are completely gross and wrong and inexcusable now, thank god, were pretty common before, say, 1985 (random date, your perception of when it ended may vary).

      I was a young teenager in the late seventies and no one besides my dad gave a damn that men twice my age were leering at me and making lewd suggestions. I was in college in the mid-80s and the no one besides my dad gave a damn about the sexual jokes male college students were making and lewd stares and pats on the ass. 99% of the men in a fraternity in the 70s or 80s had groped a female, I’d put money on it. I’m sure there are a million old kodaks that look a lot like that picture of Franken.

      But if that was recent – no, it can’t be overlooked.

      But what then? I assume people will howl and froth at the mouth until he resigns. But is that the right result? I don’t know. Like you, I think we should acknowledge the spectrum and the punishment should fit the crime. So if what he did was the equivalent of frat party crap, okay in the 80s, not okay now, what is the right result?

      If the latest accusers hadn’t appeared and the worst thing Roy Moore did was ask out 16 year olds, what would the right result be for that?

      1. Well, while we are making distinctions, there is a big difference between jokes (sexual or otherwise), which are covered by the “sticks and stones” rubric, or lewd stares, which are covered by the “you can look but don’t touch” rubric, and unwanted sexual touching, which is generally inappropriate.

    2. I’d much rather go with a scorched earth policy on this. Trump can go too, and the DNC can stop asking rapists to talk at the DNC. (Or, nominating the woman who led the smear campaign against his victims.)

      It was a long time ago is pretty bullshit when it comes to rape. If it was one rape 20 years ago, I don’t really care that the perpetrator didn’t do it again.

      And, oh everyone makes mistakes – also pretty bullshit if your mistake involves demeaning and harassing women. He didn’t mean to grab her by the pussy, just a mistake? Or, I didn’t know it was wrong? That would be bullshit.

      To me, your list reads like a way to excuse men, or give them the one free pass. I had no idea Gloria Steinem commented here.

  3. I don’t really want Al Franken’s head on a pike, but yeah, he was rude, thoughtless, violated his colleague’s personal boundaries, and displayed a poor grasp of consent. (Hint: If she wouldn’t like it when she’s awake, don’t do it to her when she’s asleep. Also, you don’t need to full-on French kiss somebody when doing a stage kiss. Duh.)

    What’s a good college to send him to for reeducation sessions. Brown? Middlebury? Berkeley?

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-19807561

    Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be a bad movie idea. Imagine a version of Billy Madison where Al Franken (I think his film character should be named “Al Franken”) needs to learn about personal boundaries, respecting women, and enthusiastic consent over the course of a single semester or else he’s going to lose his Senate seat.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112508/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ql_stry_2

    I suppose we can have a crafty Republican antagonist continually throwing temptation Al’s way. Can Al control himself? Pay your $10 and find out!

  4. “What’s a good college to send him to for reeducation sessions. Brown? Middlebury? Berkeley?”

    But he’s already said he was wrong to take the photo and apologized.

    I think the kind of movie you propose actually perpetuates the behavior, in forming an excuse to make those “jokes” again.

    1. He said ““I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said in a statement provided to the Guardian. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

      So he didn’t apologize for forcibly French kissing her–he says he doesn’t remember it the same way. He’s apologizing for the photo (which is the thing that he really can’t deny) and denying the thing there’s no photo of. So, really going out on a limb there with the apology.

      “I think the kind of movie you propose actually perpetuates the behavior, in forming an excuse to make those “jokes” again.”

      Most likely.

      I’d enjoy seeing the final Mr. Smith Goes to Washington apology speech where Al Franken tells everybody what he learned during his reeducation semester and calls his colleagues to repentance while for their sins while a group of multi-racial conventionally attractive feminist coeds cheer wildly from the gallery.

      You may have guessed from this that my taste in film is not consistently high-brow. I just finished watching Kommissar, though.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061876/

    2. I also don’t think that saying “I’m sorry” demonstrates that the person has changed their ways.

      Anyone want to bet that Louis C.K. isn’t going to drop his pants again sometime in the next year?

  5. I also have a set of guidelines, which aren’t dependent on political leanings of the individual in determining whether someone is a creep.

    I started trying to enumerate and thought it would be more illustrative to think about particular incidents.

    On the con side for Moore, there’s underage, assault, power dynamics and serial behavior (for Trump, too, though I don’t know the credibility of the underage allegations), and the lack of any sincere apology and the sleazy attempts to deny without perjuring oneself. On the pro side for Moore, there’s how long ago the violations occurred.

    On the con side for Franken, there’s assault (if he’s actually touching her breasts), her complete lack of consent, and power d
    hhhhh tynamic (including the fact that they are clearly in confined space70-=-9876[90-09ww gg
    z

    1. “On the pro side for Moore, there’s how long ago the violations occurred.”

      Well, how long could Moore plausibly continuing “dating” high school girls without getting the cops called on him? People were getting much more vigilant by the mid-80s.

      People are a lot more aware of inappropriate adult behavior now than they were in the late 1970s.

  6. Oops, stopped to clean my keyboard and published gibberish :-). On the pro side, there’s the apology (I’d cite the lack of other allegations, but I’m waiting for those shoes to drop. It seems unlikely that he would have only done this kind of thing once).

    1. SNL was a cesspool of misogyny and sexism when Franken was there. There’s no way there aren’t more examples. But once he went into politics? That would be interesting to see.

      I was talking to a friend about Louis CK today and he said he never liked Louis CK. (I did, but–and it’s hard for hindsight not to play a role here–feel uncomfortable about a few eps. I read the discomfort as being about Louis CK’s daring comedy and me being too stodgy/old for it, but hindsight suggests it was something else.) But the point my friend was making is that you think that Louis CK was revealing the worst parts of himself onscreen, and that felt brave. But now we know that he was showing the best parts of himself.

      (My biggest issue with Louis CK isn’t the episode with the fat woman or the episode with Melissa Leo trying to rape him; it’s his portrayal of Pamela Adlon. She was effing horrible on Louie. There was this weird double-episode about them dating and it really turned me off and I hated her because she was so verbally abusive. But then everyone told me that Better Things was good, so I watched it, and PA is still edgy but not abusive. I like her better. Yes, acting, but I think the difference in portrayal is significant.)

  7. “Well, while we are making distinctions, there is a big difference between jokes (sexual or otherwise), which are covered by the “sticks and stones” rubric, or lewd stares, which are covered by the “you can look but don’t touch” rubric, and unwanted sexual touching, which is generally inappropriate.”

    Well, I’ll agree that unwanted touching is unacceptable. But, lewd stares and jokes can be used to create an atmosphere of harassment, and when they do, they are unacceptable. This is a evolving requirement, but we are evolving towards it. I’d imagine that women on USO tours had to tolerate a lot of behaviors that they shouldn’t have to tolerate.

    1. Biden is a toucher. I can’t effing stand touchers, who are male and female and in all areas of life, and I go out of my way to avoid them. But I’m not sure he’s a groper. I haven’t seen evidence of that yet. I am not ruling it out, but I do think there’s a difference between touching and groping. Since I am super averse to being touched by anyone other than my husband or kids (and as the kids get older, my patience for that has dwindled), I notice all the touchers.

      1. One of the tests is–does he touch men and boys exactly the same way? Does he lean over them, wrap his hands over their shoulders, grab them around the waist, bury his face in their hair?

        I feel like Biden’s touchy-feely stuff is pretty gender-specific.

        (I can’t exactly remember where I got the “does he do it with men, too” test from–it might have been Captain Awkward.)

      2. Biden always had his hands all over Obama. I just did a Google Image search, and he does a lot of touching, male and female, usually in friendly situations. I suspect that touching is his love language. He touches more when he is happy and hanging out. I really think he does it to show affection. This is incredibly alien to me. 🙂

        Now, I could be wrong and he could be a creepy old man like George HW Bush, but so far, i haven’t seen otherwise.

  8. I think someone who poses nude for Playboy would kind of lack the moral standing to complain about “lewd stares.” (And, in fairness, LeeAnn Tweeden did not.) It’s very weird for me, to live in an era that (i) accords public respect to women who pose for nude pictures, (ii) complains about “lewd stares” from men, and (iii) considers the Victorians to have been hypocrites. Imagine how risible our great-grandchildren will consider these blog comments, if they read them.

    1. I remember Bowfinger: “Heather Graham is delightfully loopy as an aspiring actress sleeping her way to the top of the Hollywood heap.” There have been and are a good number of people climbing eagerly onto the casting couch and hoping to become stars… or, as the Orange Crusher said, ‘you can grab them by the pussy, and if you are famous, they let you’.
      Seems to me these guys have been in a kind of candy store, getting a lot of voluntary sex with women who are seeking advantage however they can get it and some not-really-voluntary sex with women hating every minute of it. And some really awful rape events. Suddenly, the music stops. Weinstein said the rules had changed on him, and they had.
      Our Gracious Hostess asks, ‘have we gone too far?’ As in medieval times, should we dig up the bones of David Bowie and John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and burn them? Give a medal to Mike Pence for making sure that no woman who achieved preferment in his office could be suspected of having attained that preferment on her back?
      I have thought of Moore as an unpleasant buffoon ever since the 10 Commandments business years ago. Now Al Franken is unmasked. And a boatload of other political figures are doubtless wondering if their past sins will be trumpeted from the housetops. I think Moore will, if elected, be a dreadful senator, as bad as or worse than Ted Cruz for gumming up the works. Franken has been surprisingly decent, not as much of a showboat as I had expected when he was elected. So – ick factor for each of them pretty high, and I find myself kind of puzzled whether being icky is a good enough reason to deny someone election. Hillary Clinton seems clearly to have tried to destroy the women who made noise (‘Bimbo Eruptions’, hell of a phrase) about her husband’s treatment of them, that’s pretty icky.
      The symphonies reacted to their problems in try-outs by having the musicians behind a screen. In some ways, that’s the Pence strategy!
      You can probably make the casting couch less effective by having committees choose the actors for parts. Reforms going forward are good, clearly, even if we are unclear what to do about going backwards.

      1. “After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, Lee Smith, writing in The Weekly Standard, asked a difficult question that few Democrats will really want to confront. Would the enormously consequential New York Times article detailing the accusations about the Hollywood producer have been published if the 2016 election had ended differently and Weinstein had the president of the United States on speed-dial?”

        http://www.nationalreview.com/article/453746/kennedy-clinton-and-weinstein-sexual-assaults-accountability-conveniently-timed

        That is a very interesting question.

        Also,

        “Right now, we are indeed having a reckoning about a longtime blind eye to powerful men abusing women, but it’s occurring on the most convenient terms for the Democratic party — when Kennedy is dead, Bill Clinton is retired and fading into memory, Hillary’s prospects are done, and her closest network of supporters now largely live on the ash heap of American political history.”

        It’s nice to be having this conversation now, but everybody certainly took their sweet time doing it. We’re starting to entertain the possibility that yeah, Bill Clinton really did rape somebody, now that he’s been out of office for nearly two decades and his wife’s political career is over.

        Somebody earlier mentioned “long ago” as an excuse–well, it’s easy to get to the point where offenses were “long ago” when everybody is covering up for you and helping you crush your accusers.

  9. I think you can draw an analogy between Weinstein and Bill Clinton in their respective spheres of influence (the media world and national politics).

    Both of them were untouchable (at least for a time) because they were both the goose that laid the golden egg in their respective fields. People didn’t want to kill the goose and risk losing the golden eggs.

  10. AmyP – the long ago question was in the context of asking other questions as well – one of which was did you try to cover it up? I agree if it was long ago because you actively worked to undercut the people who were accusing you (a la Weinstein or Louis CK), then long ago doesn’t matter so much (although to be fair, they don’t fall into the long ago category). But, if it was long ago and hasn’t happened since, should someone lose their job because of something that was tolerated more than it was now? If this is the only accusation that emerges about Franken (and that’s a bit IF), should he resign? I am not so sure about that.

    Ultimately though, I think it’s a spectrum, and where we draw the line is the big question.

    1. “… you actively worked to undercut the people who were accusing you (a la Weinstein or Louis CK)…”

      Or perhaps if your wife did this for you? On national television?

      1. “Or perhaps if your wife did this for you? On national television?”

        And you had a whole team of people working to put down “bimbo eruptions”? The Clinton’s 90s campaign techniques for dealing with female accusers sound very Weinstein-esque now that we know how Weinstein dealt with his issues.

        https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-feminist-who-used-sexism-to-defend-bill-clinton

        “Yet Betsey Wright is most famous for injecting the sexist phrase “bimbo eruptions” into American discourse. In Wright’s mixed legacy lies the deeper, darker tale of the Clintons’ toxic mix of golden idealism, tarnished psyches, and brass-knuckled ruthlessness.”

        “Now, Hillary and Betsey reunited in their mutual devotion to Bill. The brainy, stiff, cautious Arkansas First Lady relished policy debates, especially concerning education and children. The tough, chain-smoking, garbage-mouthed chief of staff micromanaged the politics. And both tried limiting Bill’s philandering – then controlling the damage.”

        “As keeper of the Clintons’ institutional and political memory, Betsey Wright listed all of Bill Clinton’s potential personal vulnerabilities in 1987 – then advised him not to run for president in 1988. Hillary Clinton disagreed, although Wright had a better sense of how many women there were.”

        “Wright, who monitored each piece of gossip – and frequently bullied Bill’s “exes” – coined the crude phrase “bimbo eruptions.” The term mocked the accusers and the reporters who believed them.”

        “Wright’s take-no-prisoners approach to protecting Bill Clinton and trashing his accusers became iconic in 1998, with Kathy Bates’s flamboyant, Academy Award-nominated portrayal of a Wright-like character in the movie based on the ’92 campaign, Primary Colors.”

        “When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Wright wrote in the Arkansas Times: “It hurts. I’m so angry. I cry. I wonder why, why, why? It’s sad, infuriating, tragic, puzzling…. if Bill Clinton were in my reach I would be mightily tempted to bash him on his head and kick him in the shins.””

        Gee, who could have seen that coming?

        “And, confusingly, many of these enemies were pro-life opponents of the pro-choice Clinton, leading many feminists to excuse Clinton’s infidelities to protect cherished policies.”

        “The ironies abound. Betsey Wright the feminist boosting a sexist slander. Hillary Clinton, the betrayed wife, not just standing by her man but trashing his accusers – no matter how true their story.”

  11. Related:

    The US Congress apparently has a big secret harassment slush fund:

    http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article184870288.html

    “Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of Hillsborough said Wednesday that over the last 20 years, Congress has settled 260 complaints of workplace discrimination “at a cost to taxpayers of this country of $15 million,” reiterating a figure she quoted on NBC Tuesday. But it’s unclear how many of those complaints were related to sexual harassment, versus racial or other forms of discrimination, because Congress doesn’t release that information, nor is it subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.”

    Oooooh!

    “Speier and a handful of other Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing to make that information public as part of new legislation they unveiled Wednesday. The Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress – or ME TOO CONGRESS – Act would overhaul the system for reporting harassment via the Office of Compliance or OOC, a tiny congressional agency that oversees workplace policies for the nation’s legislative branch, lifting the cloak of secrecy that critics say empowers harassers.”

  12. Wow! So much 90s nostalgia here for clinton hate and nobody mentions Clarence Thomas? Who currently sits on the highest court in the land? And people want to focus on a president out of power for 17 years RATHER THAN THE SERIAL ADULTERER/GROPER IN THE WHITE HOUSE? Who confessed on tape and has never apologized? And also tried to discredit and insult his victims? Keep your eye on the ball! Considering the level of Trump support and the fact that the governor of Alabama says she believes Moore’s victims but will STILL vote for him, I’d say we sure haven’t gone far enough

    1. Miranda,

      I was just reading a very good piece from Jonah Goldberg that covers 90s issues and the problems of left and right hypocrisy:

      http://www.nationalreview.com/g-file/453865/bill-clinton-liberals-hypocrisy-historical-revisionism?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=171117_G-File&utm_term=GFile

      He talks about the fact that (as you indicate), pre-Clinton, there was a big wave of liberal interest in fighting sexual harassment and workplace impropriety. But the wave receded because of the need to lock arms and protect Bill Clinton.

      “During the latter half of the 1980s and the tail end of the Bush presidency, feminists and their liberal allies had worked tireless — and sometimes fanatically — to fight sexual harassment, very broadly defined. They pelted — rightly — Senator Bob Packwood from the public stage. They derailed Senator John Tower’s nomination to be secretary of defense on the grounds that he was a “womanizer.” Even entirely consensual sexual relationships between powerful male superiors and subordinates were inherently exploitative, they argued. Hence, Clarence Thomas’s alleged overtures were out-frick’n-rageous according to liberals. And then they threw it all away to defend Bill Clinton.”

      “But there’s another factor that hasn’t gotten any attention these days as far as I can tell. American liberalism in the 1990s was shot through with a kind of anti-Christian panic. They didn’t put it in those terms, of course, but it poured out between the lines even when phrased differently. All of the tedious op-eds about Salem and The Crucible, the snide references to Ken Starr’s faith, the lazy dot-connecting between the Christian Right and the “persecution” of Bill Clinton: It was everywhere.”

      I’d add that the current upper middle class bourgeois consensus hadn’t quite gelled in the 90s among coastal elites–there was much more acceptance of libertinism by middle class parents in the coastal elite than there is today. By the Obama presidency (which was the apotheosis of middle class respectability), it had become blazingly obvious to the upper middle class that bourgeois virtue (or at least a reasonable facsimile of it) was essential to their economic survival, and that for normal middle class people, there wasn’t a lot of room for coloring outside the lines and still doing a decent job raising and launching kids. You have to be good to do well (or at least be really good at faking it).

      Back to Goldberg!

      “So, now we’re in this very weird place. Liberals are rediscovering an old position and claiming either through denial or ignorance that it is a new one. Meanwhile, many conservatives are responding to the left-wing flip with a right-wing flop. In 2011, only 30 percent of white Evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” In 2016, that number more than doubled to 72 percent. White Evangelicals used to be the religious group that was least tolerant of immoral acts by public officials. In the wake of Trump, they are now the demographic most tolerant of immoral acts in politicians.”

      *Sigh*

      Had Clinton (a SERIAL ADULTERER/GROPER and also a likely rapist) been successfully booted out of office back in 1999, it’s quite likely that Trump would not be president today.

      1. “Had Clinton (a SERIAL ADULTERER/GROPER and also a likely rapist) been successfully booted out of office back in 1999, it’s quite likely that Trump would not be president today.”

        LOL. I’m not convinced that in 20 years, there won’t be more horrible sexual abuse revealed a la Weinstein. The fact is that men have power, that power is hard to give up and fight against, and the entrenchment of economic power in a few represented by whatever the hell is going on with the Republicans these days will do nothing to make that power less prevalent.

        Nevertheless, women will persist. We just know that there isn’t some magic thing that will happen that will make sexual abuse go poof forever.

    2. By all means, let’s talk about what Clarence Thomas did in the 1980s, and pour vituperation on people who are stuck in the 1990s.

  13. I didn’t defend clinton then and I’m not defending him now, but it’s a bit rich to blame out of power people for the flaws if not crimes of people in power now. A Supreme Court Justice and the president are more worthy of our focus. I would also note that Bill Clinton’s sexual harassing happened after he was elected (or at least really came to light then for regular voters who don’t follow politics avidly). Everyone who voted for trump knew exactly what he did BEFORE and voted for him anyway. Many people will vote for Moore anyway. You can try and blame 90s Democrats all you want but the people knowingly voting for sexual harassers this year are Republicans. I wouldn’t vote for Bill Clinton again and I wouldn’t vote for franken for the same reason. But I don’t look at trump and Moore and think this is all Bill Clinton’s fault—it’s their fault first and the fault of those who voted for them.

    1. Is he out of power when the Democrats took every opportunity to trot him out for fundraising, used him to help other Democrats campaign? That’s my objection. The democrats invited a rapist to talk at the national convention and when someone objects, they are told “well, it was a long time ago”. Well, why haven’t you kicked him to the curb?

      1. I don’t think anyone is saying Franken should face criminal charges. Instead, they are saying men who treat women that way shouldn’t be senators.

  14. I’m keeping quiet, because I’m still trying to figure out my position. As I’ve written before, I was groped so many times between ages 16-30 that I can’t even pick out one seminal moment. It happened all the time. Sometimes from moving cars. Yes, there are guys who lean out of moving cars and smack a girl’s ass as she jogs along the side of the road. And, yes, that hurts.

    But groping isn’t rape. The punishments should be different. Especially when there is no power dynamic at work. It’s just some random coward in a bar who pretends that he wasn’t the groper. And then I tell him to fuck off and he does.

    And there has to be some room in the world for bad jokes, flirting, and a spontaneous kiss in a hallway at a house party. Sometimes people make missteps in those situations and usually a “fuck off” or a slap does the trick.

    1. I don’t think anyone is saying Franken should face criminal charges. Instead, they are saying men who treat women that way shouldn’t be senators.

      1. Tulip said:

        “I don’t think anyone is saying Franken should face criminal charges. Instead, they are saying men who treat women that way shouldn’t be senators.”

        Yeah.

        Unfortunately, the creepy Senator is almost a hallowed tradition.

        Years ago, I was in a “Washington reporting” class as a journalism student. We had a female guest speaker who said, “Whatever you do, don’t get in an elevator with Strom Thurmond!” Thurmond was apparently an epic groper.

        That was an interesting example of “stuff everybody knows” but that never turned into news at the time.

      2. Our Gracious Hostess asked ‘is Al Franken guilty?’ I think my view is, ‘yes, but of what?’ Of being a boorish creep, I think yes. Of being a rapist, no. Based on what’s reported at this point I think he is in the Lyndon Johnson/Bob Packwood/Donald Trump boor range, rather than a Bill Clinton/John F Kennedy/Harvey Weinstein/Roman Polanski/Bill Cosby range rapist. Quite a lot worse than Joe Biden or Strom Thurmond or Al Gore. What do you do with someone who is an asshole, but not a criminal? And, I would like my daughter to get her jobs sitting at a desk writing clear and useful prose, rather than on her back on the casting couch letting some Packwood work his will on her. And not to lose a job to someone who gave Packwood what he wanted.
        I also want the workplace to be jovial and fun and relaxed for everyone. Again, I am inclined to look for process improvements where we can get them – three person committees at Miramax deciding who gets a part instead of Harvey in his hotel room. Mike Pence is looking better and better – when he hires a woman, you know it is because she gives great memo and not because she gives great head.

    2. I’m wrestling with this too and also have had the same “too many to count” situations of groping/inappropriate behaviour. Where we may disagree is the power dynamic – or maybe it’s an expectation of power. In other words, it appears primarily to be men acting upon women. Even if it isn’t a boss/subordinate situation, it’s one person thinking that they’re entitled to act in any way they want upon another person. Isn’t that an expression of power?

      They know what they’re doing. They know they can get away with it. An analogy for me is the guy who beats his wife. He has enough self control to not hit the neighbour or his boss or the sales clerk at the store. Same with the guys crossing the line with sexual harassment. They know when and where. They know who they have power over.

      It would never cross my mind to do something like Franken did and especially knowing the context (he had been rebuffed already after an inappropriate attempt at taking a stage kiss too far). We’re not talking making rabbit ears behind someone’s head in a photo.

      I agree that the punishment should be different but losing his job wouldn’t be the end of the world. Or person x losing their job. How many thousands of women have left jobs/professions because it just got too much to put up with? All that lost talent. It’s not like he’d be going to jail.

      And then on the other hand, putting where the US is going, is it worth risking a senate seat? But that’s a slippery “ends justifying the means” slope.

      It’s messy.

      The Weinsteins of the world are outliers. And no one should be patting themselves on the back saying “Well, I’m not doing what he did so I’m okay”. It’s all the rest, all that other behaviour that’s been so pervasive socially, professionally, etc.

      And you know what? I’m just plain tired of it. I hadn’t realized til all of this blew up recently how much energy is spent with this undercurrent of monitoring where I am/who I’m with, where the conversation is going, etc. Bluegrass jam session at someone’s house? Who’s going to be there? Will I be the only woman? Walking the dog in the endowment lands forest next to the university? Can’t do it alone even during the day. All downside risk. Business lunch with a male colleague or client? Are they going to mistake general banter for more than just friendliness?

      If it was just telling some random guy in a bar once in a while to f*** off – that’s nothing. Like I said, it’s how pervasive it is.

    3. There’s a lot of bitterness out there. Emily Linden, Teen Vogue columnist:

      “Emily Lindin‏
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      Replying to @EmilyLindin
      First, false allegations VERY rarely happen, so even bringing it up borders on a derailment tactic. It’s a microscopic risk in comparison to the issue at hand (worldwide, systemic oppression of half the population).
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      And more importantly: The benefit of all of us getting to finally tell the truth + the impact on victims FAR outweigh the loss of any one man’s reputation.
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      Sorry. If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.
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      How many of our reputations have suffered unfairly? How many of our lives have ALREADY BEEN destroyed because of physical violence against us? Why was that acceptable, but now one man’s (potentially) unfair loss of a career opportunity is not?”

      Dorothy Parker woke up after dental anesthesia convinced she had had a world changing insight but could not remember it. So, she went back to the dentist and got anesthetized again, and on reviving she found she had written down:

      Hoggamus Higamus, men are polygamous
      Higamus Hoggamus, women monogamous

      Still true, I think. How do we all live together? Norms of politeness. I think it’s an invitation to bad things when lots of young people are together with no leavening presence of older people (college dorms and frats/sororities). Punishment theory says mild to moderate penalties for transgressions if relatively swift and certain work better at changing behavior than huge penalties rarely applied. This suggests that Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken and Bob Packwood were poorly served if ‘everyone knew’ but no one chid them. A stitch in time saves nine. And, as Harvey Weinstein said of Woody Allen, ‘the man is a comic genius’. I liked King’s Speech a lot, think it’s a loss that the guy will never be behind a camera again, if he could have been reined in over time by his colleagues we could be looking forward to more movies from the guy going forward.

      1. “Punishment theory says mild to moderate penalties for transgressions if relatively swift and certain work better at changing behavior than huge penalties rarely applied. This suggests that Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken and Bob Packwood were poorly served if ‘everyone knew’ but no one chid them.”

        How do we know that nobody told them off before they were big and powerful?

        Also, they’re big smart people who read or watch the news. Sexual harassment cases have been in the news for at least the last quarter century. Anybody who wanted to know, am I being inappropriate? had a lot of research material available, not to mention HR and their lawyers to ask.

        Plus, how many of these guys harass UP or reserve it for private moments? If they can manage to keep their mitts off women in public and/or only flash underlings, it strongly suggests that it’s not just a matter of them being told but a calculated policy.

      2. AmyP: “Plus, how many of these guys harass UP or reserve it for private moments? If they can manage to keep their mitts off women in public and/or only flash underlings, it strongly suggests that it’s not just a matter of them being told but a calculated policy”.

        And similar to people who abuse family members – they have enough self control to not hit their bosses or the store clerk or the mail carrier. They know what they’re doing and who they can do it to and get away with it.

  15. I am bemused by the moral panic consuming this month. It’s bizarre, like living in a science fiction novel. My children call me a prude, which is probably true. I have no interest in consuming most of American pop culture, although I know it exists, unlike some friends.

    But look. American culture is lewd, crude, offensive, and proud of it. I am certain the people who elected Franken knew what sort of comedian he was. The groping joke was in line with what you would expect of such a comic. Or at least in line with what I would expect.

    The liberal people I know were in favor of hooking up when they were young. They were staying up late to laugh at Saturday Night Live’s jokes. They were cool. They watched _There’s Something about Mary_ and _Kill Bill_. They also had a clear division between private and public life.

    Maybe cellphones and the internet have dissolved the division between private and public.

    I just don’t think that I would like to be governed by the sort of plaster saints who have never, ever done anything they would be embarrassed by, were old snapchat stories from their past pop up thirty years later. People who never were young tend to have little tolerance for youth.

    (I am also cynical enough to think that if an accusation of violating bourgeois mores suffices to drive politicians out of office, we will be swamped by them.)

    Did the Victorians know that they were living in the Victorian era? Did they regard their values as quaint? Their descendants did. My children use the term “bougie,” and I suspect your children know the term.

    More and more I think we are living through a time of transition, the sort predicted by Jacques Barzun in _From Dawn to Decadence_.

    1. I think what has happened is that the boomers (of whom I am one) have discovered that it is hard to separate public from private, business from social, etc. They wanted to judge their friends by how cool they were (which included being cool about sex), and to be judged at work by their SAT scores (or a slightly more adult equivalent). All of which might work, if work were only a minimal part of life, if it involved solely intellectual skills, and if employers were as separate from employees as professors are from undergraduates. But in real life, it doesn’t work. So the boomers are rethinking, and in the process behaving in a manner that future generations will consider nauseatingly hypocritical.

  16. I will how out of the conversation after this.
    On other sites I have seen a lot of discussion about how it was a joke and he isn’t touching her and thus this is all a big nothing burger.

    What sticks with me is that she objected to the rehearsal kiss and then he punished her with this photo. Petty and creepy.

  17. Morrissey talks about the people who willingly climb onto the casting couch and the want magic to have happened:

    “Morrissey clarified that he condemned sexual violence against anyone, yet he apparently also claimed that on some occasions “the person referred to as a victim is merely disappointed”.
    “People know exactly what’s going on,” he reportedly said when asked about Weinstein. “And they play along. Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked. And then they turn it around and say: ‘I was attacked, I was surprised’. But if everything went well, and if it had given them a great career, they would not talk about it.”

    1. “.“And they play along. Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked. And then they turn it around and say: ‘I was attacked, I was surprised’. But if everything went well, and if it had given them a great career, they would not talk about it.””

      I don’t know how he could possibly know that, unless he was there or involved in that scene up to his eyeballs.

      A lot of Weinstein’s targets did have good careers (like Gwyneth Paltrow), whereas a number of the women who “dated” Weinstein didn’t have amazing careers. (As I recall, one of the initial articles talked about how Weinstein’s ingenue lady friends would get a huge PR push about how they were the next big thing in Hollywood, but then they’d fizzle out.)

      Wendy?

      1. I think Morrissey underestimates just how naive an ingenue can be in this day and age.

        High school, extracurricular and college productions don’t have casting couches. I find it entirely believable that a Bright Young Thing might not have had a clue what was going on–and have frozen in shock. According to the anecdotes going around, a number of the ladies were able to elude him.

      2. Cranberry said:

        “I think Morrissey underestimates just how naive an ingenue can be in this day and age.”

        There is that. Plus each of the casting coach guys has done his thing dozens or hundreds of times, whereas the newbie actress may be encountering the situation for the first time. So the two are not on anything like equal footing.

    1. Changes so far seem to me to be mostly for Dems: Clinton’s influence in the party is largely gone, Biden has gone from possible draft choice to gone, Franken has no hope of moving up anymore, Moore’s really toxic behavior is somewhat normalized by the cloud of ‘them, too’. Probably very good for Harris, partly because she is a woman and partly because De Leon’s former housemate is a source of scandal. And the vultures are circling for the tasty remnants of Miramax, a lot of the wealthy reprobates who used to make ostentatious offerings to the Dems won’t be there any more.

  18. I think it can all be explained by men thinking that women aren’t fully humans on the same level they are, and their bodies are public property. The issue is male entitlement. This is a feminist issue, and it has been for a very long time. It transcends modern politics and political divides, and it’s something women still have a long way to go on. I’d say we’re at a minor watershed moment, but we’ll see.

    Anyways, I like Amy P’s diagnostic. If you wouldn’t treat a man that way, don’t treat a woman that way. The only way a woman is “asking for it” is if she literally asks for it. If a man unbuttons his shirt one button too far, do you think he’s asking to be groped or assaulted? If a man’s shorts are shorter than you’d wear, is he asking to be groped or assaulted? If the answer is no, then an answer is no for a woman too. Outside explicitly heterosexual romantic settings, treat men and women the same. That means: at work, at school, on the street, in the grocery store, in the coffee shop, on the subway, etc. etc. Men = women = polite, respectful behavior.

    1. Most of the men I know, in social settings, give women (but not men) cheek kisses when they meet, dance with women (but not men), tell certain jokes to other men (but not women), open doors for women and/or allow them to proceed first through doors (and sometimes do the same for other men, but less reliably), etc. Treating everyone politely and respectfully does not mean treating everyone identically without regard to sex.

  19. At dinner I was checking my Twitter and, well, buh-bye, Charlie Rose. But I made lemons out of lemonade and decided it was a good time to talk to my son about this whole sexual harassment thing while he was ensnared by dinner. I let him know that 1. women do not want to see men’s penises. 2. They don’t want to be told they look hot all the time. 3. He shouldn’t think anyone in his school is obviously asking for attention by wearing something revealing because there are a million screwed-up-teenage-drama reasons why someone could be wearing that. (He gets that last one because he, too, lived with his sister for the past 7 years.) I also found out that he has watched Big Mouth, which is a profanely hilarious animated show about puberty. I’d be upset but it’s actually really educational.

    1. The media genius Matt Drudge has found and posted on his site a photo of Charlie Rose and Al Franken sharing a big laugh sitting at a table.

    2. That’s really good to hear–such an awkward teachable moment, though.

      Based on my internet life of the last couple years, this stuff is incredibly difficult for Aspie boys to get. A lot of less socially astute young men wind up thinking that it’s all a huge conspiracy against guys like them, but if they were just a little hotter they could get away with anything.

      Ben Shapiro says of Charlie Rose, “Why is the go to sexual harassment move getting randomly naked? WTF?”

      Yeah.

      1. I don’t claim to be the maestro of PUAs, but it seems strange to me. I would have thought a nice dinner, some wine, and a (pretended) concern for the woman’s deepest hopes and fears would be a better strategy. (That seems to be George Takei’s strategy, mutatis mutandis.) OTOH, we don’t have reports of the times that it worked for Charlie Rose, only of the failures. For all I know, the success rate could be 90%.

      2. Wendy said:

        “My kids are both overly cautious to the point of paralysis. That helps with the impulse control.”

        Yay!

  20. dave s.,

    This guy’s MO is worth studying:

    http://ijr.com/2017/11/1020133-exclusive-30-sources-expose-sexually-explicit-evidence-harassment-ohio-gop-rep-wes-goodman/

    It says the article has graphic content, but I’ll try to get a snip or two without seeing anything terrible:

    “Disgraced Ohio state Rep. Wes Goodman — a Republican — in the wake of the lawmaker’s recently revealed sex scandal and resignation is being accused by dozens of people of sexual misconduct. IJR has obtained testimonies from over 30 individuals who have had inappropriate and never-before-shared experiences with Goodman.”

    “Goodman, who always campaigned on “family values,” recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons — he was caught on Tuesday having consensual sex with another man in his office.”

    “Goodman has a reputation of reaching out to those involved in politics via Facebook Messenger — but things tend to quickly turn south, as he has been known to flirt with men, solicit sex, and even send pictures of his genitals, according to dozens of sources. The majority of the people he targets are between the ages of 18 and 24 and have had very little interaction with him personally.

    “In many instances of his alleged sexual misconduct, Goodman apparently offered to be a “mentor” for those looking to get into politics. Because of the power he had, his victims say they were afraid to report instances of abuse for fear of damaging their own political careers.”

    He is also accused of getting handsy with an 18-year-old male college student.

    “On a fall evening two years ago, donors gathered during a conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Washington to raise funds for a 31-year-old candidate for the Ohio legislature who was a rising star in evangelical politics.

    “Hours later, upstairs in a hotel guest room, an 18-year-old college student who had come to the event with his parents said the candidate unzipped his pants and fondled him in the middle of the night. The frightened teenager fled the room and told his mother and stepfather, who demanded action from the head of the organization hosting the conference.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-a-conservative-group-dealt-with-a-fondling-charge-against-a-rising-gop-star/2017/11/17/b3b4b8da-c956-11e7-b0cf-7689a9f2d84e_story.html?utm_term=.c5a067059162

  21. I liked this Twitter bit from Jonah Goldberg.

    Al Franken said: “”I’m a warm person, I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters I crossed a line for some women, and I know that any number is too many.”

    That line is repeated butt-grabbing during photo ops, FYI.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/two-more-women-accuse-franken-of-touching-them-inappropriately-huffpost/

    Jonah says, “Hug with your arms not with your hands, mister.”

    Words to live by!

    1. Better yet, if you’re a politician, stick to handshakes. Probably a good rule for all business encounters, although I intend to live dangerously for the next (and last) five years of my career.

    2. Still a non-apology. You can be a warm person without groping. They aren’t synonymous.

      There are hugs and there are hugs – we women have experienced both. The hug that is a greeting? No problem. The grope/body grind that masquerades as a hug? So over that.

      1. BTW, I fancy most men have experienced the clingy, yielding hug that is a little more than a social gesture. (Although by “more,” I don’t mean more than a highly flirtatious gesture which furnishes a cheap thrill for the woman in question.) Doesn’t bother me.

  22. So Al Franken says he is ashamed but will go back to work today. This is, of course, great news for Roy Moore. Is it good news for Dems? For a balanced and sustainable way to protect women from abuse going forward?

    1. John Conyers is also great news for Roy Moore.

      http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/26/politics/pelosi-conyers-icon-mtp/index.html

      “Asked if she believes the women accusing Conyers, Pelosi said: “I don’t know who they are. Do you? They have not come forward.”
      “Asked again, if she believes the accusers, she said:
      “That’s for the Ethics Committee to review, but I believe he understands what is at stake here and he will do the right thing.””

      Alrighty then!

      I guess the Ethics Committee can handle Roy Moore, too, and we can count on him to do the “right thing”.

      People are really bad at this whole “sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander” thing, especially when the gander is in their party.

      https://www.vox.com/2017/11/26/16702090/nancy-pelosi-conyers-sexual-harassment

      This is an interesting analysis of Pelosi’s defense of Conyers:

      “Conyers is the credible one. He is an “icon,” she told Todd. The woman? “I do not know who they are. Do you?” she asked the host. “They have not really come forward.” (The woman came forward three years ago, dogging her case through an opaque process in Congress that bars her from speaking about it. She spoke to BuzzFeed anonymously.)”

      That’s a nice bit of chutzpah there–implying that an accuser had not come forward when there’s actually a settlement barring her from speaking about it.

      “Conyers is the real victim. Pelosi is withholding judgment until Conyers gets “due process,” she said. But Conyers got something better than due process. Congress wrote the rules for how sexual harassment claims are handled, exempting members from requirements that most other employers must follow. The woman, meanwhile, got less. She didn’t have a right to free lawyer. She couldn’t speak about her case. And it took months. Then she couldn’t find a job on the Hill. “I was basically blackballed,” she told BuzzFeed. “There was nowhere I could go.””

      !!!

      “Conyers cares about women. “He’s done a great deal to protect women,” Pelosi said, pointing out he worked on the Violence Against Women Act. How, she implied, could he have hurt a woman who works for him?”

      “Conyers’ behavior isn’t so bad. “Was it one accusation? Was it two?” Pelosi said when talking through how she is considering Conyers’s case. In an age of serial predators, maybe one woman’s story shouldn’t count.”

      “But with one powerful man’s job on the line, she seemed to stand just as firmly by his side, at least for now. Conyers is 88, and his seat is in a safely Democratic district. There’s not much power for Pelosi to lose if she were to work to oust him.”

      And yet, he has to be propped up.

      Come to think of it, it’s interesting how many recent bad actors are in safe districts.

  23. So wait, were you upset about Trump’s words? Because I would have to say that Franken grabbing a sleeping woman’s boobs is much worse! Oh I will be the first to say that there are many people (liberals lol) who have no sense of humor. But what he did is diagustidisgusting

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