Shortcuts & Delusions: SEX! Now That I’ve Got Your Attention…
Sean Hannity is the latest Fox News bro to be accused of unwanted sexual advances. I am highly dubious that he is guilty of these allegations. I don’t watch his show, but from I’ve heard about him, he’s a total square, and not a groovy and smooth operator like other recently departed Fox News male employees Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Greta Van Susteren.
If Hannity becomes a liability to Fox News’ bottom line, he will undoubtedly be let go from the network, his contract paid out, and be forced to sign a non-compete clause. In other words, Hannity’d get a multi-million dollar lump sum, not have to work for two years, sign a book deal for another couple million to write about the incident, maybe get invited to do Dancing With The Stars…sounds like a pretty good deal! If I was Hannity I’d start harassing all the hotties at Fox News! Dana Perino, Martha MacCallum, Shannon Bream, Ainsley Earhardt, Greg Gutfeld, Bill Hemmer…
OK, all seriousness aside, if Fox News wants to rehabilitate its image and counter what some former employees have said is a “culture” of men sexually harassing women, that it’s the cable news network equivalent of a men’s locker room, then there is really only one solution: some female on-air personalities are going to have to start sexually harassing male employees. For Fox News to become a more equitable workplace, Kimberly Guilfoyle will have to start making grunting animal noises when Bob Beckel walks by, Patti Ann Browne must demand sexual favors in return for air time for male correspondents, and the female cast of Outnumbered should spend a daily segment manalyzing their sole male commentator.
There is an essay at InsideHigherEd.com by an anonymous “sociology professor at a public university in the United States” who writes of a meltdown she had when she read a paper by one of her male students in a gender studies course. The paper was a refutation of “rape culture.” The whole essay is worth reading, but the excerpt below is what jumped out at me:
As I went over his paper, I realized that I was reading a paper that sounded word for word like something the man who raped me would say. And not only did this sound like something my rapist would say, this student fit the same demographic profile as him: white, college male, between the ages of 18 and 22.
I got up from my desk and went for a walk. I could not concentrate. I had plans to read a book later that afternoon, which were shattered by being thrown back into a pit of traumatic, fragmented memories by this student’s paper. I was furious at the fact that, as an instructor, I was expected to take his paper seriously, and scared of what he might do if he did not like his grade. Although I knew it was unlikely that this student would literally try to rape me, his words felt so familiar that I began having trouble distinguishing him from the man that did. Their words were so frighteningly similar that the rational-instructor side of my brain could not overpower the trauma-survivor side.
None of my training or experience prepared me for something like this, not even advice from the few feminist scholars I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was in a position where I had to take this student’s words seriously, evaluate their merit and provide a percentile score based on how well I thought they fit the parameters of the assignment.
“Zero! You get a fucking zero!” I literally screamed at my computer screen. I decided that I was not ready to return to grading papers yet, so I got up and went for another walk.
I felt irritated that in two pages of (poorly written) ranting, this student was able to undercut whatever authority I thought I had as an instructor. Authority that, especially as a woman instructor, I worked hard to establish and maintain. I imagined him sitting on the other side of his computer screen laughing at my pain, joking about my distress. I imagined him being friends with my rapist (though the man who raped me is now significantly older than this student, he is frozen in the 18-22 age bracket in my mind). How, I wondered, could I possibly evaluate this student’s work in an “unbiased” fashion? Such a request would involve me living an entirely different life than the one that I have had.
As Rolling Stone and a few other publications have found out over the past couple years, if you rely on sources who wish to remain anonymous and refuse to give names of offending parties, it is almost impossible to fact check an accuser’s allegations. By keeping her identity anonymous, the author keeps herself free from that sort of accountability. The events of this essay could be completely fabricated, but its publication in this hyper-subjective postmodern narrative world we live in reinforces the concept of “rape culture” and how an alleged victim could be triggered into reliving her trauma; the implication is that her story is owed legitimacy because she is a survivor of a violent attack, and her claims should never be criticized.
She writes later that she will have to find a coping mechanism for similar scenarios in which she will have to grade a paper that argues against the opinions on rape culture that she asserts as facts to her students, but how many other students has she graded harshly because their theses don’t toe the line on the standard leftist academic indoctrination of rape culture? What about other students who have written papers similar to the one that triggered her? How unfair is it of her to project onto her student the traits and violence of her rapist simply because they were both white and college males between 18 & 22? That’s a demographic that includes millions of Americans.
It’s quite obvious why she published this anonymously: if the administrators of the college she worked at caught wind of this essay, they’d have to fire her due to the obvious conflict of interest of a professor admitting she can not set aside her personal experiences and beliefs to objectively grade a paper.
The New York Times has an opinion piece that applauds the contemporary campus trend of anecdotal narrative over objective evidence, and it flew off the rails with:
[T]he parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.
The rights of transgender people for legal equality and protection against discrimination are a current example in a long history of such redefinitions. It is only when trans people are recognized as fully human, rather than as men and women in disguise, as Ben Carson, the current secretary of housing and urban development claims, that their rights can be fully recognized in policy decisions.
The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned…
What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone.
Are there examples of trans people, and other sexual and ethnic minorities having their rights to free speech denied them by the government? Are there any examples given of these previously culturally marginalized peoples not being allowed to speak in public places, write blogs online, give interviews to print, radio and TV media, write letters to the editor, write and publish books, and any of the other ways of exercising their rights to free speech?
The author of this essay doesn’t give any examples to support his moronic argument that these peoples’ speech is being marginalized because the real argument he’s making is the speech of those who may criticize the speech of the previously marginalized should be constrained. That some authority should even the score between the quantity and quality of speech for previously marginalized peoples and those who don’t hail from previously marginalized demographics.
All three of the above are about how speech can be stifled by those willing to use the inherent powers of sexual attractiveness, harassment, and assault, and the elevation of those who are victims of harassment and assault, and/or who have been previously marginalized due to their orientations. This column is not meant to belittle victims of harassment, assault and marginalization, but to satirize how our culture is ordered around the multiple perceptions of said traumas, and how primacy is given to accusers and victims even if their allegations are baseless, or examples of misplaced rage.
The political world we live in is very polarized, and that extends to our favorite pundits and media personalities. Were Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes really punished? The expenditures of millions of dollars has shielded them from further consequences from allegations, whether they be true or false, and those two men have been paid to go away so Fox News’ black eyes can heal. This polarization is extended to the supporters and detractors of public figures who face these allegations. Cheerleaders for the disgraced refuse to stop defending their heroes, and their detractors don’t accept the apologies and remorse of the disgraced.
Polarization is made further disparate by sex. Sex can be used as a weapon against the wealthy; million dollar contracts signed by famous public figures can also serve as targets on their backs. And sex can be used as a weapon by the rich and powerful against the poor and/or powerless; opportunity for advancement often carries a price tag not payable in hard currency.
I leave you, dear readers, to ponder this: if anecdotal evidence is to replace hard data, if the subjective is to succeed the objective, that reality is to be based solely on one’s perceptions and experiences, then aren’t those who have not been marginalized or violated just as entitled to view the world through that lens? For example, if rape culture on campus exists because supposedly 20% of students will experience some form of sexual assault, whether it be drunken sex, an awkward, unwanted kiss, or a catcall or benign compliment of one’s appearance, then isn’t the anecdotal evidence of the 80% of students who don’t experience these things just as legitimate? Can a society ever reach an equitable teleology if the road there is comprised of potholes and speed bumps that continually pit a minority of individuals against a majority, and vice versa?
And that’s the way it is, as far as you know.
Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Getty