The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment,Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And “Vive La différence!”

Mike Pence would not have a business dinner with Debrahlee Lorenzana. What’s wrong with him?

Many years ago I did a sexual harassment seminar for a New York law firm. Afterwards, the partner responsible for handling the firm’s EEOC and workplace matters told me that my ethics-based approach to the topic wasn’t sufficiently rigorous, since he believed that innocent contact between employees in the firm could spawn lawsuits. “I refuse to travel with female associates,” he told me. “I can’t be sure what they will think is harassment.”

“Wait,” I asked. “So because you’re afraid of being accused unjustly of sexual harassment, you engage in sexual discrimination?”

He sputtered something and left to arrange his sock drawer.

I think of this conversation often. I thought of it when Vice-President Mike Pence was reported as saying in 2002  that he never had a meal with a woman who was not his wife, and was promptly savaged for it by feminists and the news media. Because the new rules and practices of the workplace have developed amid contradictions and rigid doctrine rather than with attention to whether they were workable or not, Pence and that hypocritical lawyer years ago are both victims and victimizers. It is often impossible to know what ethical workplace conduct is.

The New York Times was happy to bash Pence for his candor as part of a requirement of membership in “the resistance,” but then, as is often the case for the schizoid paper, later competently and objectively examined the issue away from politics. A Morning Consult poll conducted for the paper  found that there is widespread fear of one-on-one situations, male-female interactions in the workplace.  About 25% think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Almost 2/3  say it is prudent to be especially wary and sensitive around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse. Continue reading

MORE Gender Issues Confusion Monday, PART 3:The New York Times’ Hit Piece On Donald Trump And Women

Trump girls

The New York Times assigned six reporters to interview over fifty women who have dealt with The Donald, and the resulting story proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he engages in routine sexual harassment, acts like a high school student, behaves like the archetypal male chauvinist pig, and habitually ogled women and made comments about their appearance. Of course, anyone who hadn’t been in suspended animation for the past decade or so would know or assume all this based on the Trump’s activities and words. This is the dilemma in trying to cover an obviously unfit and unqualified Presidential candidate like other Presidential candidates. For a traditional politician, the Times’s revelations would be devastating. In Trump’s case, we have learned so many worse things about his nature during the past six months that his misogyny is both old news and relatively trivial. It’s like a character “Jurassic World” warning  that the murderous Indominus Rex has bad breath.

It appears that the Times was also sloppy in its reporting, but never mind: the real mystery is how any Democrats thinks that what Trump has done can benefit Hillary Clinton in any way. Nothing Trump is accused of in the article approaches the conduct that women who  were involved with Bill Clinton claim he inflicted on them, only to have their claims dismissed or ignored by the news media and Democrats. That party went on record as believing that personal conduct, no matter how offensive or abusive to women, doesn’t matter, or at least didn’t matter in Bill’s case, because “Bill was on the right side of the issues, especially abortion. Indeed, one famous female journalist wrote that she would sleep with him anytime, just to thank him for supporting abortion.” Continue reading

From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…

Street harassment sign There is are good reasons why many women come to think of all men as potential predators.

Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:

She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.

I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall. 

I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him?  How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?

It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it. 

What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]

Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways.  For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,”  which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Fashion Model Melissa Stetten


We have covered this territory before: the unethical conduct of the cruel and arrogant conversant or correspondent who publicizes private communication over the internet in order to embarrass someone whose only offense was social awkwardness or a moment of bad judgment, and whose biggest mistake was trusting a heartless jerk.  It is the Golden Rule breach of breaches, and is social misconduct that shows a serious deficit in kindness, fairness and decency.

Model Melissa Stetten, however, takes the cake, except that models aren’t allowed to have cake. Flying in First Class  from New York to Los Angeles, Stetten found herself next to actor Brian Presley, who was apparently rendered weak-kneed and stupid in the proximity of such beauty, plus he was a little drunk. His flirtatious chit-chat was both awkward and  pompous, so Stetten, who, like most models, undoubtedly has the conversational skills of Dorothy Parker, decided to  live-tweet their conversation to her 30,000 followers.

Brian Presley, naturally, was humilated. His wife was probably furious with him. His fans now know him as a dork who trots out the lamest pick-up lines ever devised. He also, apparently, was in the midst of an alcoholic relapse, so naturally Stetten mocked him for that too in her tweets. (Her entire performance is available on the web; I’m not going to circulate it. Unlike the New York Timse, jI don’t believe that just because I have access to information  I should magnify the harm it can do by helping to circulate it.) Continue reading