Are we to blame for all the horndog male politicians?
For months now, I've been carrying the mantle for the good men falsely accused of being bad. I still believe that we focus far too much energy on celebrity misdeeds and not enough on the more pressing and nuanced issues of modern manhood. But the events of the last few weeks have forced me to rethink one type of man often caught by scandal: the politician.
Let's start with rape and then move onto being a pathological dirtbag.
Over the holiday weekend, I published a little blog post about a rape being a rape even if the victim is a prostitute or a maid of questionable credibility. I thought 10 people would read it. I was wrong. Apparently defining rape as forced sexual contact, no matter the victim's background, is a controversial thing to say.
The most poignant comment was:
I am sorry to say this Tom, but you are absolutely right. I was raped at age 16, and I reported. The cop that interviewed me asked me questions referring to the man that raped me as a "gentlemen", and because I was 16 at the time it was assumed that I had "been around the block; so to speak" by the cop. Because of that experience, if I where ever raped again, I would never report. I understand innocent until proved guilty, I think it's a great thing about our justice system, but I also believe that the victim of a crime should be given some respect and shown some compassion.
Since rape is a legal matter, and I am neither judge nor jury, let's just leave it that sexual crimes are a men's issue (both in our role as victim and criminal) and move onto the correlation between politics and generally terrible human beings.
I happened to watch The Kennedys mini-series recently, starring Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear and originally kept off of the air by the family's objections. In a pivotal scene, JFK confides to his brother about his sexual appetites, "I can't stop acting like a little boy."
DSK is not alone in his use of political power for sexual advantage. It's hardly worth recounting such a long list of men. Hell, it might be easier to list all of the male leaders who don't associate power with sexual privilege. Our current president appears to be one, whether or not you like his politics.
DSK may or may not be a rapist, but certainly, as we examine his record even apart from the maid in question, he sure appears to be the next dirtbag in a long line of sexual-predator politicians. While I continue to believe the primary issue facing most men is the struggle with how to be good fathers and husbands---and not what celebrity bad boy is today's headline---I do think we have a responsibility to call a spade a spade when it comes to our leaders.
But here's the part that honestly confuses me. Bill Clinton and JFK were enormously popular and, one could argue, were elected by women despite their well-known mistreatment of women in their personal lives. I don't get that.One argument goes that men like George W. Bush did far more damage to women in their policies (not to mention blowing up a few Middle Eastern countries) than Bubba did to Monica and his other teenaged mistresses.
But I don't buy that argument at this point. We're all equally complicit in the sexual-predator-as-male-politician-trap. Sure, we'd like a politician who actually represents our political views, but can't we say that we'd also like our leaders to be men (and women but, frankly, I can't think of one female politician for whom it's an issue) who act with integrity around their sexual appetites? That doesn't mean they have to be perfect. They don't need to be married and only sleep with their wives for the purpose of procreation. They just can't use their power to sleep with every woman, or boy, who crosses their path. And they can't just harass, force, or badger anyone for their own physical gratification.
The federal law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended. The law makes employers responsible for preventing and stopping sexual harassment that occurs on the job. Harassment is defined as "unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment."
Ladies and gentlemen, can we agree to start there?
Without the distraction of some politician running around with his manhood hanging out of his pants, we can get back to what it means to be a man the rest of us.