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What Derb doesn’t get (about the reality of sexual harassment)

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4 Responses

  1. Kaimipono,

    God knows I loathe Republicans. And I’m with you about how vile the response to Cain’s accusers has been. But I do wonder whether a slightly more sophisticated right-wing argument is possible. (Whether any actual pundits are making it, I have no idea.) The argument would be that there is a difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault” — that of course the kinds of actions you describe above are criminal, but that is because they cross the line into sexual assault, as opposed to “simple” (ie, largely if not exclusively verbal) sexual harassment.

    I’m not endorsing that distinction, and it wouldn’t help Cain, because grabbing at a woman’s genitals and pushing your face toward her lap is clearly sexual assault. But I still wonder if that is what (some) of the pundits are thinking when they say that “sexual harassment doesn’t exist.”

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    Wouldn’t necessarily harm Cain, either, as somebody accusing you of grabbing at a woman’s genitals and pushing your face towards her lap is clearly an allegation, not the actual act.

    But, yes, I think the argument here is that “sexual harassment” either crosses the line into criminal acts, or constitutes free, if obnoxious, speech. That “sexual harassment” shouldn’t exist as a legal entity in a country with robust freedom of speech. Here’s an example.

  3. dankrist says:

    Um, looks like you found one (maybe one and half?).

  4. DF says:

    What bugs me about the “real thing” phrasing in both this and the original posts is that it unnecessarily essentializes and distracts from the debate that should be going on. The question is not “is sex harassment a real thing”? Of course it is. Sometimes men (and even women) act horribly to one another, in sexualized ways, in the workplace and elsewhere. People can be awful without using violence, and can make one another’s lives miserable out of spite or any other small, petty, weak motivations. That’s a fact that transcends, but includes, the reality of workplace sex harassment.

    This doesn’t mean that all accusations of sex harassment are valid or reasonable, only that the phenomenon of sex harassment does exist, and that its reality is unmistakeable rather than a pure invention. But this is different than the issue that is going on here.

    The issue that people are discussing, or at least that I think they should be discussing, is whether sex harassment should give rise to a legal cause of action in the employment law setting. If you don’t think sex harassment exists, then obviously you also wouldn’t think it should be a cause of action. But assuming you don’t contest this (fairly straightforward) empirical reality, then it’s not a question about whether sex harassment is “real” or not, it’s about whether it should be civilly actionable.

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