By Lawrence J. Fedewa, Wednesday, December 13, 2017
This is the title of a piece by Paul Bois in the Daily Wire (October 17, 2017), the controversial Ben Shapiro’s conservative blog. This striking title raises yet another aspect of this month’s emotional outcry concerning the sexual ab of women. That is the question, “Where are the men who know about these abuses and do nothing?” Bois follows a different track, but my interest is – why don’t the men who know about this behavior defend these women? I attribute their silence simply to cowardice, whatever the source.
However, the issue is so much more complex. The basic reason a man doesn’t challenge a sexual predator who is in a position of power – perhaps his boss – is the same reason the women submit, namely self-preservation. If she refuses to submit, or files a complaint afterwards, she risks retribution from the abuser, non-support from whatever authorities she might inform, a possibly permanent reputation as a “trouble-maker” or worse, and the consequent ruin of her career. The same risks face a man who tries to stop the predator. That knight frequently surrenders his sword when he accepts a dependent position on the predator. Not always. Some guys remain stubbornly independent no matter their position. But they, like the women they are supporting, also frequently pay the price.
The underlying issue here is the belief prevalent in certain sectors of our society that aggressive behavior toward women is a sign of masculinity, often accompanied by the idea that women secretly love this treatment and that their protests are simply required by social norms. Complicating the matter is the fact that some women really do want to be treated this way.
This brings up the issue female behavior. The modern American woman may be sexually aggressive herself, under the belief that any dependency on men is a limitation on her self-reliance. It seems a safe bet that there will soon be cases making news of men being sexually harassed by powerful women. We may soon see gender equality in this area as well as others.
Another aspect of this situation is the fashions in women’s dress. I don’t believe I have ever heard a woman admit that women dress for men. Always they steadfastly maintain that women dress for women. It is hard to believe that women long to see each other in near-naked swim suits, skin tight pants, low cut shirts, and other styles which leave little to the imagination. No matter the real answer to that question, however, men are all around these scantily clad women. So, whatever the women’s motivation, these styles give men the impression that women who dress in this way do so to attract attention to their bodies, and the people most interested in their bodies are men. This “sex appeal” really does stimulate appeal to the opposite sex. In certain industries, such as, entertainment and sports, men are expected to live in an atmosphere of constant stimulation while pretending not to notice.
Then there is the issue of conviction by the press. It appears that, if a woman has any reason to make trouble for any man, all she has to do is come up with a convincing story, hire Gloria Allred who will arrange a TV interview, and within days the accused male will be called upon to resign post haste. No presumption of innocence, no depositions, no trial, no defense, no judge, no jury. Just go! The job of discovering evidence, assessing credibility, placing blame – all now goes to the press.
Clearly, this way of handling these accusations is neither fair nor ethical. But what is the proper way these accusations should be handled? While individual cases may differ, there are some basic guidelines any policy decisions should follow:
- Any institutional policy (including government) should be fair to both parties. The days of assuming that any female complainant is at fault have to be over. Women (and men, for that matter) should be reassured that their complaint will be accepted with respect and given a fair hearing. The complainant is the victim not the perpetrator.
- The punishment for such behavior should fit the offense. The press is equating misdemeanors the same as felonies. Not all unacceptable actions are equal. The woman who recently filed a complaint against a man who told her she was beautiful is not talking about rape.
- Victims should be encouraged to speak to their friends about the event, and to report to authorities as soon as feasible. The informed friend(s) should be encouraged to accompany the victim.
- There must be procedures in every venue to deal properly with all such occurrences. Many are not criminal offences, and these should not be made public until some official action by the company, office, church, club, or whatever group is responsible for the principals has been taken to determine the facts. The press should be responsible only for reporting the news, not for adjudicating the news.
- Finally, laws and procedures must be devised to deal quickly with these complaints. Time is not the friend of the victim or the accused.
These considerations are, in my opinion, applicable to the Franken and Conyers cases as much as to anyone else. The fact that they both resigned without seeking due process can only be interpreted as admission of guilt. The same reasoning applies to the other cases which seem to be appearing on a daily basis. Trial by the press is never an acceptable procedure.
Although sexual abuse has been happening forever, now is our time to face up to it and, as a society, come up with appropriate solutions. Sexual abuse of women joins a growing list of painful sins which have haunted our generation, including the Catholic priest scandal, the military treatment of females, the human trafficking crimes, and the abortion tragedies. These and other gender-related practices have surfaced in this new world of ours and it is up to us to create the social norms and procedures to pass on a more moral society than we inherited.
© Richfield Press, 2017