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That Was Then; This Is Now {Part 1}

Nov 14, 2017 — Categories: , ,

No. This excuse for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault simply won’t fly, although it is being used on a number of fronts by powerful men who have finally been called out on their “misbehaviors” from the ‘70’s until today. The list of abusive men grows longer each day. Literally. I can’t keep up. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, et al. From Hollywood producers, actors, and directors, to politicians, to popular journalists and editors, to respected professors, to John Howard Yoder, the prominent 20thcentury Mennonite theologian, this generation of powerful men seem to take the “back in the day” approach: it was okay then, so why isn’t it still okay to sexually harass, abuse, and assault?

That Was Then; This Is Now {Part 1}

Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune

No. This excuse for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault simply won’t fly, although it is being  used on a number of fronts by powerful men who have finally been called out on their “misbehaviors” from the ‘70’s until today.

The list of abusive men grows longer each day. Literally. I can’t keep up. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, et alFrom Hollywood producers, actors, and directors, to politicians, to popular journalists and editors, to respected professors, to John Howard Yoder, the prominent 20thcentury Mennonite theologian, this generation of powerful men seem to take the “back in the day” approach:  it was okay then, so why isn’t it still okay to sexually harass, abuse, and assault?

And in the most bizarre twist yet on this theme are the supporters of Roy Moore, Alabama candidate for US Senate, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assaults of under-aged girls beginning in the 1970’s. Although Moore denies the allegations, his supporters justify his alleged conduct by comparing it to Joseph’s relationship with Mary, mother of Jesus. The status of biblical illiteracy in our midst has reached a new low.

I just want to say to all of them: it was not okay then—it was just common, frequent, unquestioned, and unspoken by many victims/survivors.

Here’s a lesson in Ethics 101: it has never been morally acceptable to solicit or engage in sexual activity with a woman or a man who did not consent, and never with a child or a youth who are not able to consent due to limits of age and circumstance. But the historical record even before Bathsheba and Tamar in the Bible remind us that the exploitation of those who are vulnerable is probably THE original sin.

Nor is a debate about the meaning of “consent” useful here. Bill Cosby is reported to have said in a police interview: “I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection.  I was not stopped.” (“A Woman’s Work,” Jia Tolentino, New Yorker, Oct. 2, 2017, p. 44)  He drugged women and then raped them. But who was supposed to stop him? The victims? The bystanders who knew and did nothing? This is nothing more than a very elaborate version of “I had no moral agency.” Really.

So now we are engaging in the all-too-human response of “why does he do this?”  The usual suspects emerge again:  sex addiction, “empathy deficit”, intoxication, compulsivity, mental illness (covering a multitude of sins), etc. If we can only explain these behaviors, we feel like we can act to limit them.

So again we try to womansplain: this is about power, not sex. Men who do this do it because they can, at least up until now. Entitled, privileged men have always taken what they wanted unless they happened to have a moral core that required them to stop and consider the impact of their behavior on others and then make a choice.

Comedian Tiffany Haddish explained it clearly in her monologue on Saturday Night Live (Nov. 11):  “Men, listen. If you got your (penis) out and she’s got all her clothes on, you are wrong.”  And that is Ethics 101.2.

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