It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept.
Case in point:
We already know the answer to this question is, but for humor’s sake let us see what this Guardian article actually posits:
The dilemma: Should I report sexual harassment I received even though I later had a sexual relationship with the harasser? Years ago I worked as a volunteer for a political party and while showing me some work on a computer, a senior staff member repeatedly touched my knee. He said sorry, and then did it again, about seven times. He finished by saying: “I’ll need to report myself for sexual harassment now.”
After reading this a few times, the only conclusion I could draw is that this senior staff member flirted with the woman. The woman never states that he attempted to force her to do anything, nor does she give any details about the context of the knee touching (where they were, how the man behaved, her immediate reaction, etc.). Without further context, it would appear that the woman is conflating flirtation with harassment, which she essentially admits:
At the time I laughed as I was really not sure how else I could respond. Months after I split from my husband, the harasser started to pursue me, giving me the attention I had been so lacking. Vulnerable, emotional and drinking too much, I started a relationship with him. I also used him for a job reference, and have his glowing praise for my work on my LinkedIn profile.
Again, this does not sound like harassment, merely successful flirtation. Are we to assume this man who heaped praise on the woman and dated her is a horrible person because his tactics to get her interested in him worked? She goes on to state:
I was an adult who made poor decisions, but with the stories in the press I wonder if I should report his behaviour. Or have I invalidated the harassment, and let women down, by sleeping with my harasser and using him for a job reference? I know I will get abuse for this.
Perhaps, but not for sleeping with the “harasser” or using him as a job reference. Rather, the “abuse” will come from painting a guy you willing dated and appear to have liked as a “harasser” because he touched your knee several times and made a flirtatious joke.
This is the danger of the mob mentality we are seeing now with the numerous reports of “harassment.” While some of the claims are true and some are false, I suspect many, if not most, are merely women misinterpreting men’s intentions. For example, one of the women who accused Al Franken of sexual harassment stated that while they posed for a photo, Franken hugged her and his hand touched her breast for five seconds. She moved, unsure whether it was an accident or intentional, and said nothing to Franken. Now, a decade later, she reports that he “groped” her.
Assuming that every time a woman says a man touched her knee that he’s harassing her is dangerous because that could merely be his way of signaling that he’s interested in her. Likewise, assuming that every time a woman says a man groped her that he intentionally touched her inappropriately ignores that it could have been an accident. We must also keep in mind that many of the acts women deem “harassment” they commit themselves. I have had numerous women touch my knee, my hair, and make sexual-themed comments. Were they harassing me or flirting with me or just joking with me?
Mariella Frostrup, the author of the article, responded to the woman’s comment with this:
It seems to me that as we find the courage to confront abusers, we also increase our imperative to act responsibly with these newfound and overdue powers. We are at a watershed moment where we really can change the climate, but if we reduce it to petty sexual politics we will fail in that mission. Seduction comes in myriad forms and opportunism is a natural component of physical desire. It’s important that we have a sensible conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable or we’ll wipe out the art of seduction entirely. We can’t afford to omit shades of grey from the discussion, no matter how loud and vitriolic the chorus of disapproval. Sexual behaviour isn’t either good or evil, and what’s acceptable is subjective.
Perpetrators of abusive behaviour should be held to account, but they don’t operate in a vacuum. You can’t criminalise every salacious sex pest for behaviour that has until now been the topic of jokes rather than repugnance.
That is a sensible response until you consider that, as Frostrup stated, this is all subjective. Who gets to decide what is and is not harassment? At this point, intention does not matter, and neither does consent. Louis CK’s accusers admitted that he asked for permission, which they gave, to masturbate in front of them. They consented, yet are still viewed as victims of a powerful man.
Again, there are likely plenty of cases of legitimate harassment and abuse, yet there are many cases in which the women essentially agreed to the activity and only later decided it was a violation. There are other instances in which it is implied that the “harasser’s” intent was harmless, like John Lasseter hugging women.
That is where the mob mentality becomes dangerous. It does not only result in people taking poorly-executed flirtation attempts or accidents as abuse, nor does it only result in women deciding years later that they were victimized because hundreds of other people are saying the same thing. It also creates the dynamic we saw with Lasseter where the mere accusation is enough to remove someone.
Look at the situation with Roy Moore. Setting aside the number of current accusations, when news of the first accusation broke, the immediate response (primarily from left-leaning media) was that Moore should step down. At that point, no charges had been filed. The police had not investigated the case. There was no confirmation of the accusation outside of those close to the accuser.
The sensible response in that situation is to take the accusation seriously while waiting for police to report their findings. Yet when conservatives and Republicans stated they would support Moore leaving the race “if the allegations were true,” the left-leaning media skewered them. Several talking heads went so far as to note that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard, which is to say that Roy Moore should not be offered any civil consideration that he might actually be innocent. He is guilty because he was accused.
It was only when Al Franken faced allegations that the left realized that people, i.e. the left themselves, were conflating various acts as if they were all rape or attempted rape. None of that made any of them consider the possibility that the accused men actually did nothing wrong or that there was simply a misunderstanding of intentions.
Where this leads is a dangerous place in which the mere accusation can ruin someone’s career. Given how people typically respond to accusations, this means that even if it turns out to be harmless or a complete fabrication, the specter of the accusation will hang over the accused, particularly if it makes the news. At that point, any internet search would pull up the person’s name tied to sexual harassment.
This is the logical conclusion to “listen and believe.” It not only makes it easier for people to lie about these incidents. It also encourages people to see otherwise benign interactions as abuse. This does not help actual victims. It merely lessens the credibility of actual accusations because anything someone feels is “harassment” suddenly counts.