Redefining the rules on sexual harassment and sexual assault

William T. Robinson, Jr.

The #Me Too movement has forced us to seriously look at sexual harassment and hold offenders of sexual abuse accountable. The days of the male dominated workplace being a place for powerful men to openly assault women sexually without repercussions is over.

Sweeping allegations of sexual harassment and assault under the rug is over. Sexually assaulted and sexually harassed women are finally being taken seriously.

The male dominated practice which was commonplace in some circles has met its day of reckoning. Even the statute of limitations doesn’t protect men from the consequences of their previous actions. Even if you are innocent, allegations of sexual misconduct follow you and may even end your career.

Men are no longer joking and bragging among themselves about their sexual improprieties with females as if it were a rite of passage validating their masculinity. In fact, many men are on pins and needles hoping allegations of their sexual impropriates don’t come to light. Ironically what many men felt was acceptable locker room talk, meeting the approval of other men, has become the forbidden albatross many of them have hanging around their necks.

There is no shortage of men (White or Black) in any venue (business, sports, entertainment, broadcasting, education  or politics) immune to the sting of allegations of unwanted sexual advances, sexual assault or rape. The names are too numerous to mention, but well-known celebrities and icons are involved.

Never in a million years did some men feel that in a male dominated world, they would have to defend themselves against allegation of sexual harassment and improprieties by women they felt were submissive or beneath them. The days of intimidating or firing women who make sexual allegations are in the past, fueled with the rise of many empowering women groups (especially the #MeToo movement) encouraging women to speak out.

This shift of what is considered sexual harassment has caused a conundrum for some men who may have honestly not known they may have been sexually inappropriate because that was not their intention. Many men are truly confused at the sudden attention given to what some men may have felt were signs and words of affection such as complimenting a woman or openly hugging or kissing a woman on the cheek. Now these signs of endearment may be considered sexual harassment by someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the attention. Attention directed to women has become contentious when it depends upon how it is interpreted by the receiver.

Now make no mistake, there are open and shut cases where it is indisputable about one’s intentions, especially when the perpetrator uses sexual overtones such as unwanted touching and fondling. The ultimate sexual impropriety is forcefully raping someone or convincing someone to have sex using threats and other forms of intimidation. Men must understand unwanted advances toward a female may be construed as sexual harassment and forcing women to have sex against their will is rape. Even unwanted kissing and touching in an established relationship is even subjected under the tent of sexual harassment.

Negative national attention has been focused on famous and powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Goldstein and Bill Cosby who were convicted and incarcerated on sex charges. But we know they are just a drop in the bucket when you consider how widespread this practice is with a plethora of men hoping and praying they are not discovered next.

Sexual harassment, assault and improprieties are real and by no means can one justify or dilute the ugly practices. But we must be cognizant that unfounded and frivolous allegations by vindictive women only undermine and take away from the validity of true victims of sexual harassment and sexual improprieties. The rules have been rewritten and men should know better. They have been ‘served’ and are on notice. However nebulous as it may be, though, the rules are still evolving and men should be aware that women have the upper hand.

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