It’s the biggest story in the country right now.
It rivals the potential for nuclear annihilation at the hands of an unpredictable petty tyrant in North Korea.
It rivals Washington’s $20 trillion in debt.
It rivals wars in the Middle East that threaten the stability of the world – wars that have nothing to do with the so-called “Palestinian crisis.”
It rivals global slavery, worldwide sexual exploitation of kids, the international drug epidemic and Islamic terrorism.
I’m talking about “unwelcome sexual advances” by men toward women. And the U.S. news media are obsessed with it. Right or wrong, a day doesn’t go by in which new allegations about old activity dominates the news cycle.
Let’s first talk about why:
In the 1990s, we were told by the media, the Democratic Party and much of the political left that allegations against then-President Bill Clinton really didn’t matter. That went on for more than eight years. It continued throughout the next eight years, as Bill Clinton was celebrated as a great ex-president. It continued for the following eight years as Hillary Clinton tried to discredit any discussion of what her husband did in the past, the present and the future with regard to credible allegations of rape, sexual harassment and certainly “unwelcome sexual advances.”
Everything changed with the explosion of charges against Clinton ally, Democratic Party financier and media mogul Harvey Weinstein.
But, as so often happens with trends like this, the question becomes, “Has the pendulum swung too far?”
Are we now at the point that “unwelcome sexual advances” are being equated with rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and other crimes?
I got to thinking about this when I listened to a discussion about this topic on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” over the weekend.
Here is the specific quote from congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, on that program. I believe it touches on the important distinction between “unwelcome sexual advances” and rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Here’s what she said regarding the taxpayer compensation hundreds of claimants have been paid after making allegations against members of Congress: “All settlements are secret. … But, look, there wasn’t even the kind of training – training is the wrong word for it, exposure to what sexual harassment is that is required in the federal sector and the private sector. … I am convinced that many women even may not understand what some unwelcome advances are. And that they don’t have to welcome them, or they can turn them away. … But, at the very least, Congress has to be put on the same footing as the other branches of government, and as the private sector.”
Notice how seamlessly she mixes the two different forms of sexual offenses – sexual harassment, which is a crime, and “unwelcome advances.”
Notice how she admits “many women even may not understand what some unwelcome advances are.”
And notice that the only victims mentioned are women.
All very important points.
No. 1: Sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault are crimes. They should be adjudicated as crimes. They are all reprehensible activities.
No. 2: These are all crimes that affect not only women, but children and even men.
No. 3: And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if victims don’t understand what “unwelcome advances” mean, are they really unwelcome? How is anyone to know if the target of the advances doesn’t know? If the target isn’t certain about whether they are unwelcome, how can anyone else make sense of such “offenses”?
That brings us to Norton’s point about “training.” Does the federal government have any business “training” the entire populace on what are welcome or unwelcome sexual advances? I think not. That’s something parents need to do with their children – at a very early age, by the way.
The worst form of “unwelcome sexual advances” are those made to children. As a victim myself of such sexual exploitation, I know it can happen to anyone. It is almost always unexpected. It’s more widespread than ever based on nearly daily reports of teachers and school personnel – those who most likely have been thoroughly “trained” in such matters – victimizing children.
It’s a matter of basic morality, character, decency. If we can’t protect children against such activity, how are we supposed to “train” adults? Is there one standard that fits all situations?
We live in a society that no longer generally honors, understands or respects a biblical standard of morality. What we’re witnessing is evidence of that. We’re trying to respond to the denigration, abandonment and ridiculing of that standard over time.
Do we really expect people not to make advances anymore because they might be “unwelcome”? Is that realistic? If someone proposes marriage to another adult and the overture is “unwelcome,” is that the equivalent to rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment? If someone attempts to kiss another adult and the gesture is “unwelcome,” is that a crime? Do adults need to consult their attorneys before making passes toward other adults?
What are the consequences of this new tradition of sexual piety in which no one knows the rules?
And, in retrospect, were all those who excused, overlooked, rationalized and trivialized the outrageous sexual activity of the most powerful man in the world back in the 1990s, including his wife, to blame now that the chickens have come home to roost?