What Are Men Learning About Sexual Assault?

no means no, sexual assault, sexual violence, Matt LauerAnd the beat goes on. This morning’s celebrity, outed and fired for sexual assault, is Matt Lauer. The former co-host of NBC’s “Today” show lost his job due to “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a co-worker that may not have been an isolated incident.

My husband attempted to have a conversation we me this morning about this very recent development in which men actually take women’s accusations seriously and act on them. It did not go well. The gap between us comes, as you might expect, from our different life experiences. He asked whether, had I not worked, would I have experienced harassment.

The Lengthy Answer

hashtag MeToo, #MeToo, Twitter, sexual harassmentWhere does a woman start in answering a question like that?

The fact that my husband could even ask this question indicates the size of the gap. He has been married to a strong professional woman for many years. How could he not know this?

I experienced the harassment of girls in high school, where it was ignored by teachers and administrators alike. But I settled on a few egregious cases in response:

  • The college wrestler who threw me over his shoulder at a frat party and carried me up to his room. My roommate saved me by distracting him while I slipped out the door. (He was really drunk.)
  • The co-workers on my college co-op job who had a pool going on who would seduce me successfully. (They all lost.)
  • The two times I have been stalked—once in my hometown and once in Manhattan.
  • The constant street harassment, whistles and catcalls wherever I went in New York City.
  • The co-workers who called me sweetie, girlie, honey, darlin’ and other names meant to keep me in my place.

Extra-Judicial Actions

My husband thinks all these prominent firings after charges of sexual assault are “extra judicial” and the man deserves to confront his accuser(s) in court. To which I responded, “How long has the Cosby case been going on?” (Since 2014)

In the corporate world, if you violate the terms of your contract with a company, you can and should be fired. That applies only when you have a contract, of course, and I assume people like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Bill O’Reilly did. Most employees can be fired at will, for any cause or no cause at all.

Men need to start asking themselves whether grabbing a butt, squeezing a breast, making lewd comments, demanding a blow job, or raping a co-worker is worth their job, their career, their reputation, or even their freedom.

Questions and Answers About Sexual Assault

unwanted touching, sexual harassment, Silicon ValleyIf you still have any questions about:

  1. What constitutes sexual harassment/assault
  2. How to behave professionally in the work environment
  3. Whether women enjoy being catcalled on the street
  4. Why women don’t speak up as soon as it happens
  5. What you did or said that was wrong

Here’s a recap of the 11 posts I have written on this issue in the last five years.

Celebrity Cases and Causes

How to Avoid Being Accused

Offenders on the Job

Offenders on the Street

How to Clean Up Your Act

BEing an Assohole is All Part of My Manly ImageIf you suspect you have been skirting the edge of acceptable behavior on the job or on the street, clean up your act. If you worry about how to behave professionally just stick to my 10 Rules and you’ll be fine. If you’re still confused, just remember these 10 simple points

  1. Women don’t belong to you.
  2. Women other than your wife need not provide you with sexual gratification.
  3. You have no right to touch a woman’s body in any way or any place without her permission.
  4. Women do not want to see your penis, either in a photograph or up close and personal. Ick.
  5. Bathrobes do not constitute business casual dress.
  6. Hotel rooms are not business settings.
  7. If you enjoy forcing yourself on a woman who doesn’t want you, you are a sick puppy.
  8. Women do not like or want catcalls, whistles, or other vocalizations in any setting. This is not cool; it’s disgusting.
  9. Women do not want to know about your fantasies or what you fantasize about doing to us. Keep it to yourself.
  10. What you may think of as sexy, titillating or “hyper-masculine” behavior reminds us of the eighth-grade boys table in the middle-school cafeteria. Grow up, already.
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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

7 thoughts on “What Are Men Learning About Sexual Assault?

  1. Just found this article.


    Let me be clear – there is nothing that excuses harassment, let alone assault. None.

    But I think the article makes clear argument, and I agree with it, that the ubiquitous nature of porn – plus the sexualization of women in the media in general plus the general coarsening and ease of sexual contact between men and women (e.g., Tinder, “adult friend finder”, etc.) – has set expectations in the minds of many that will not be met in reality. (How many porn scenarios are teacher/student, or boss/subordinate, etc.?)

    A short personal story. Back in college there was a young woman, Cindy. She was cute, intelligent, Jewish, and in 20/20 hindsight I now see she really liked me. A lot. But she was, shall we say, rather “flat” if you take my meaning, and I had been convinced by Playboy (which, in actuality, is quite mild) that I “deserved” a woman with big you-know-whats, and would not settle for anything less. Shallow, yes, I admit that. But there you have it; porn set an expectation and so I ignored what could have been a good thing because the images set the bar in my mind.

    So again, nothing excuses the bad behavior we’ve seen. But mix together:

    * A culture that is more and more open to casual “hook up” sex
    * Technology that can beam images and fantasies straight to you 24/7
    * The overall “we’re just as horny as men” projection by women, at least as presented in the media
    * The position of power and “divine right” as perceived by people who are powerful
    * Power being the corrupting force that it is
    * Sex being the strongest drive there is, because of its former difficulty in obtaining

    I’m not surprised. Once more, not waiving it off. But I’m not surprised.

  2. FYI, when I say “Final straw”… I know a number of male engineers who, and by varied suppliers, were so treated. Not cool.

    Let me be clear: if a person, on their own time, wants to go to such a place, that’s free enterprise (even if, in my hoary old age, I don’t approve of such establishments). But they’re not places to do business, nor to curry favor with possible customers.

    A few months ago I heard (on the radio WRKO) about some executive coming to town, and wanting the department meeting to be held in a Hooters. I cringed. It got worse; when one woman objected, and her boss (that exec’s subordinate) both protested thinking this inappropriate, that exec said (going from memory) “I like to be served by big-breasted women in short shorts”. Or something like that.

    Cringe^2. Both that woman and her boss – who both protested – lost their jobs. I can only assume that SOB exec is still there, and IMHO I hope the company gets sued six ways from Sunday. Unfortunately, what will happen is that if the company is sued, the employees will suffer from possible layoffs while the exec will, no doubt, get a golden “go away” parachute.

  3. Aline:

    We’ve sparred on some aspects of this, but I have to say… your Ten Points make sense. MY rule is simple: I try to treat everyone, male or female, with the thought of “Would I tolerate someone saying/doing this to my daughter (or son)?”

    Short story. When I was at Ford, a supplier for a pushing-a-million-dollar piece of equipment said “Stop by to talk about our machines and for lunch I’ll take you to the local adult *cough cough* entertainment bar and show you a good time…” Not only did I not partake, thinking this highly inappropriate, I discussed it with my boss.

    I don’t know if my comment was the proverbial straw, but within several months Ford revised its policy on interacting with suppliers to include a provision that NO BUSINESS shall be done in such places.

    In reading about the tsunami of accusations and firings, your question about “Why didn’t women (and men) come forward?” is spot on and easily answered: fear of reprisals. Especially in politics and the media, where power is so localized geographically, having a powerful enemy because you blew the whistle can be a career-ending move.

    And just to throw this out for discussion:

    Sex Scandal (Part Two): Feminism Enables Abuse

    “Modern feminists not only tolerate the objectification and harassment of women, they encourage it by preaching an ideology that says it is a woman’s ‘right’ to do whatever she wants to with her body, including engaging in prostitution. … We can thank feminists for creating a climate ripe for harassment when they wrongly taught women that equality included the acceptance of and participation in crude behavior. And immoral, liberal men were all too eager to throw gentlemanly manners to the wind, embracing their newfound liberation to behave any way they wanted. As evidenced in recent headlines, hypocrites and bullies of all political persuasions were quick to follow. … Until feminism and progressivism reared their ugly heads, just about every woman in America knew she could go running to a trustworthy man for help when another man sexually harassed her. And the heroic father, husband or boyfriend would quickly rise up to protect her honor by tracking down the abuser and punching his lights out. But the feminist is taught to turn to no man for help. And who would she run to anyway? What progressive male is suddenly going to stand up for a woman who constantly demands to conquer all, all by herself? As we’ve seen in recent confessions from those who knew about ‘open secrets,’ it seems that, in the end, no one was willing to stand up to the predators.”

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