Time once again to revisit the obnoxious feature of sexual harassment complaints that I tried to enlighten NPR listeners about when I was rudely cut off by my alleged friend, NPR host Michel Martin, who chose anti-Trump bias over what I was there for: to explain what almost no one understands about sexual harassment, including, apparently, Martin. (Yes, I am still furious about this episode, which resulted in my being black-balled from NPR, which I had assisted on short notice for several years. I will keep referencing it until I receive a full apology from Martin, and maybe a gift, which, of course, will happen when NPR starts being non-partisan, or in other words, never.)
My point in the fateful appearance on NPR years ago was that middle-aged (or older) men of power, celebrity and influence are often at risk from a phenomenon that springs from the weird aspect of sexual harassment as both a law and a phenomenon. It isn’t sexual harassment if it is genuinely welcome and appreciated by who would otherwise be the victim. However, neither the law nor the culture considers the situation in which a victim changes his or her mind over time. Thus a young, rich, single, famous young buck impulsively kisses a young woman in his employ, and she is thrilled. Maybe he really likes her! Maybe this is a life-changing event! She is neither offended nor upset, so it isn’t sexual harassment. Then decades pass, and the impulsive kisser is no longer young. Worse, he’s hated by all of the former employee’s friends, and that impulsive kiss all those years ago is no long welcome—except as a way to embarrass and hurt the current version of the rich and powerful man she once admired and even lusted after. She has decided now that she was harassed (or even sexually assaulted) then.
Is that fair? Is that even sexual harassment? As far as I can determine, I am the only commentator, ethicist or lawyer who has raised that question, and my reward for it was to be accused of being a Trump apologist, though my comment was not restricted to accusations against Donald Trump. The related ethical issue is whether it is fair and just for a women who took no action to report an incident that might have been harassment for decades keeps the incident in reserve just in case it might come in useful–to destroy the reputation of the man involved, shake him down, or otherwise harm him while benefiting herself. It’s like a treasure squirreled away to be cashed in on a rainy day.