What Discussions on Joe Biden’s Unwanted Touching Need to Address

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you would know that likely candidate for President of the United States Joe Biden has been accused of unwanted touching, and has since then made jokes about consent and touching. As a result of these accusations, there has been conversation, but most of those conversations have surrounded the former Vice President of the United States himself: about whether accusations against him are true, whether his jokes about touching were in poor taste, and about whether these things should disqualify him from being a serious candidate for President of the United States.

While these are all valid and important conversations to have, I think we would be doing an injustice to ourselves, and to American society as a whole, if we do not have conversations that go beyond the purview of Biden himself—conversations like these:

  1. We need to have a conversation about the warped power dynamics of someone touching from behind. Yes, unwanted touching of any sort is a problem, and there should be a discussion about unwanted touching as a whole. However, with unwanted touching from the back, the nature of it is such that the victim does not have the opportunity to say “no” because the victim did not see the person moving toward them. That warped power dynamic, which comes with the inability to say no with a touch from behind, needs to be addressed.
  2. We need to have a discussion about the fact that “jokes” involving inappropriate behavior, of any kind, are not funny. Stalking “jokes” are not funny (which I wrote a whole post about). Rape “jokes” are not funny. Unwanted touching “jokes” are not funny. “Jokes” related to any form of wrongdoing need to be addressed, because while Biden’s jokes were inappropriate, there are many places where I’ve heard jokes about inappropriate behavior, and unless we address that fact, we will just see such jokes get told over and over and over again.
  3. We need to continue discussing consent. For the umpteenth time, if there is no confident “yes,” then the answer is “no”! How many of these stories is it going to take before that fact dawns on people who are most likely to be tempted to act badly and commit an act of unwanted touching, sexual harassment, or sexual assault? 

I am sure there are many other things that can and even should be discussed, given the recent stories on the former vice president (and if that is the case, please let me know in the comments below). That being said, we must at least start by expanding the discussion beyond Biden himself. After all, Biden may only be around for a couple more decades on this earth (if that), but issues regarding touching from behind, jokes about inappropriate behaviors, and issues about consent may last much longer than Biden himself.

Ideas on How Men, Even “Good Men,” Can Respond to #MeToo

About one year ago, actress Alyssa Milano helped put a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault when she said #MeToo.

While a victim of sexual harassment or assault could be someone of any sexual orientation or gender identity, and while a perpetrator could be a person or any sexual orientation or gender identity, the fact is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the victim is a woman and the perpetrator is a man.

Ever since that fact has become a central topic in American discourse, men have reacted in a variety of different ways. These reactions have ranged from vocal support of those who say #MeToo (and even a few male friends who’ve said #MeToo) to vocal opposition and even mocking of the movement (for reference, see: Trump, Donald and others).

But how should men respond, one year after the #MeToo movement went viral? Especially if any of us don’t necessarily view ourselves as “bad guys” who committed any form of sexual misconduct?

Here are a few tips I offer, as a fellow man, after much thinking and reflection about my own past actions (good and bad) as well as the actions of men around me:

  1. Listen to the experiences of the women in your life, even if it is painful to listen. Without listening to the women in your life, you might remain oblivious to how big the problem of sexual misconduct and assault is, let alone figure out what some of the solutions are. On the other hand, I can definitely say that I have been blessed to listen to the experiences of the women in my life (including painful experiences), and I am better for it. Others would be better for it by doing the same.
  2. Deeply examine your own actions. And when I ask men to “deeply examine actions,” it’s not enough to have not committed sexual harassment or assault. We men need to seriously examine whether we have, as individuals, treated the women in our lives with the respect that everyone deserves. Because if we don’t—if we make rape jokes, brag about sexual conquests, cross emotional boundaries, cross other physical boundaries (even if it’s an unwanted hug), defend the actions of known predators, consistently shut down and interrupt women, and/or do nothing when we see other men committing the aforementioned actions—then we are showing the same lack of respect for women that leads to sexual harassment and assault. Deeply examining your own actions toward the women in your life may be difficult—even painful—because you realize that some of your actions are not as good as you want them to be. (I can say that for myself, too.) But I also know that this is an important first step in changing your own actions for the better.
  3. Hold the men in your life accountable for their actions, too. I know from experience that this is oh so difficult when you feel the need to confront a friend you care about deeply. Maybe that’s why I’m often not good at it, even when it really is But it is also extremely important to show that tough love every so often if, say, you notice another male friend constantly interrupting women. And, if your male friend is willing to listen, it will make him a better person for your tough love.

These are just a few ways that men, even “good men,” can respond to #MeToo. I’m sure there are other ways men can respond to #MeToo in a productive and positive way. If you think of any of those ways, please reply in the comments section below!

Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault

Some of the questioning of recent days has focused on why Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, would even consider not testifying on her sexual assault.

In her piece, Jill Richardson explains that there are actually many reasons why women might not want to report sexual assault. Furthermore, quite a few of those reasons involve the unjust ways in which our society treats survivors of sexual assault.

For more details on the reasons why women might not want to report sexual assault, I encourage people to read her original post. As a man, I found it very informative to read why someone like a Dr. Ford may be hesitant to talk about her experiences. Hopefully, others will find Jill Richardson’s post to not only be informative, but also a call to be less judgmental to sexual assault survivors who don’t report their assaults.

Post: “Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault”

Want to Keep Your Catholic (or Non-Catholic Christian) Faith and Have Been Abused by the Church? There Are Places You Can Turn to.

A couple of weeks ago, a grand jury report stated that over 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children.

For me, this report was a punch to the gut emotionally. As a practicing Catholic who, for four years, had deep ties to one of the dioceses mentioned in the report (Diocese of Harrisburg, during my time at college), it would be an understatement if I said that the report was difficult to take.

Yet, in spite of the difficulty of even thinking about (let alone writing about) those in my own denomination perpetrating such horrible wrongdoings, I think that it is important to talk about this matter. Namely, it is important to dedicate my first “blindly just” post to organizations that are working in Catholic circles, or in non-Catholic Christian religious circles, to help victims of sexual abuse.

The purpose of this post is not to go into one of the “oh…look at the fact that not all Catholics/non-Catholic Christians are abusive” types of messages. No, the purpose of this post is to: a) attempt to be a resource for people who love their Catholic (or non-Catholic Christian) faith but have been hurt by sexual abuse within Catholic/non-Catholic Christian institutions and b) show to advocates on this issue, regardless of faith, some faith-based allies in the battle to confront sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and other spaces) that many of us might want to consider working with.

Organizations doing this good work include, but are not limited, to:

  1. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)-SNAP was started in 1988 by Barbara Blaine, a victim of sex abuse by a priest. Since then, SNAP has worked to help survivors and those vulnerable to abuse, while at the same time advocating for various reforms to help curtail abuse in the Catholic Church and beyond. They have everything from their own hotline to support groups to advice on choosing a therapist. http://www.snapnetwork.org/
  2. Road to Recovery-Road to Recovery was founded in 2003 by Robert Hoatson. New Jerseyans may be most familiar with him as a candidate for governor last year, but he was actually once a priest who was suspended from performing priestly ministry because of his tireless advocacy for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and is now no longer a priest). He and Monsignor Kenneth Lasch (who is still a priest, albeit a retired one) have an organization dedicated to, among other things, providing services to victims of abuse, offering referrals, advocating for victims of abuse, and providing direct and indirect services to victims of abuse. www.road-to-recovery.org
  3. Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF)-They provide Christian counseling to people in need at three different locations across the United States. This is more on the counseling side of things than the advocacy side of things, but counseling is still an important resource in confronting sexual abuse. https://www.ccef.org/
  4. AdvocateWeb-From what I can tell, AdvocateWeb is, above all else, a site dedicated to providing a wide range of resources to victims of sexual abuse (and even some resources for family and friends of those who were abused). Think of AdvocateWeb as a database of resources for those who have been abused, instead of simply being a resource all by itself. Speaking of being a database of resources, they have a whole page dedicated to Christian organizations and groups dedicated to helping to address sexual abuse. So, if you’re not satisfied with any of the previous three resources I gave, maybe a referral from this fourth resource might help. Several clergy people (albeit I’m not sure of denomination) are on their Advisory Council. http://www.advocateweb.org/

These organizations, all of which have deep ties to Christian faith (and with the top two, more specifically Catholic Christianity), do not negate the damage that’s already been done by Catholic clergy. However, these organizations are hopefully of help and hope to advocates, as well as people who want to keep their faith but struggle because they were abused by someone within their own churches.

Shared Post-Playing Along: How Sexual Harassment Pays My Wages

Yet again, I came across a piece so good that I must share it!

The post I’m sharing this week is a from Sarah, who actually goes to the same college I graduated from! In her post, she discusses how a friendly and flirtatious approach to sexual harassment results in the author (and probably many other waitresses) earning much more money than a stern approach.

The implications of Sarah’s findings (at least from my perspective) are that:

  1. Sexual harassment plays a disturbingly major role in the jobs (and paychecks) of many waitresses.
  2. The way we pay tipped workers in the United States needs to change drastically. I’ve already advocated for this in a post last April on my blog, but I think Sarah’s post only strengthens that argument.
  3. We need to do a whole lot better as a society at treating tipped staff with the respect and dignity they deserve. Too many of us treat our tipped staff like garbage and that needs to stop.

Here’s the link to Sarah’s post.