In the ethics CLE (Continuing Legal Education) world, seminar attendees rank presenters. Ethics is a much-detested topic; if you can crack 3 (out of 5, the best), you are doing well. My scores are usually between 4.6 and 4.9.
Attendees are also invited to write comments. I recently received the survey summaries from an out-of-state seminar I taught to a section of that state’s bar. The response during an immediately after the seminar was terrific, so I expected my usual ratings. The coordinator sent me an e-mail stating that my scores were “very good overall” (4.7, in fact) but that there were “concerns about a rape joke in my presentation.”
There was no rape joke in the session. I don’t make rape jokes.
I had been talking about Donald Trump’s lawyer, in an incident I posted about here, incompetently saying that “you can’t rape your spouse.” “You can rape your spouse,” I said. “I have this image of hopeful spousal abusers reading this idiot’s comments and saying, “This is great!”
I wrote back to the coordinator and said that I wanted my objection to this characterization in my files and on the record. I know how it works. All that is remembered later is the complaint, and groups, even bars, are controversy averse. Next year, when they are deciding whether to have me speak, all that has to happen is for someone to say, “Wasn’t there some rape joke he made that we got flack for?” That would be enough; nobody would check, nobody would investigate. I would be eliminated as a potential speaker, probably for all time. They might even tell another bar association about the episode when they are called about whether to use me. “Well, his seminar was popular, but there was some problem about a rape joke he told.”
I asked to see all the surveys. The “concern” about my “rape joke” consisted of exactly one anonymous comment out of a hundred attendees.
I would estimate political correctness hyper-sensitivity by single attendees cost me about a client a year. The other members of their groups have to be saddled with boring ethics seminars because one lawyer had to prove how vigilant he or she was in being properly offended.