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.

Political Incorrectness Has Gone Mad…So Mad Some Use it to Justify Injustice

For a long time, I have been hesitant to write about the topic of political correctness (or political incorrectness). The reason for that, I think, is because large numbers of people in the United States hate political correctness with a passion—80% of us think that political correctness is a problem in America.[1] As a result, I was really afraid to go against the popular opinion on this issue.

However, I have changed my mind. It’s time to address political correctness/incorrectness, no matter how unpopular my stance may be.

Namely, we need to address the fact that political incorrectness has gone so mad that many people now use it to justify injustice.

The most recent example of this is the reactions to an ad made a couple of weeks ago by Gillette, called “The Best a Man Can Get?” I’m not going to spoil the ad, but basically the advertisement was a challenge to men (and particularly men with toxic behaviors) to be better than the bullying, catcalling, and harassing behaviors that have created the need for a #MeToo movement.

Some praised the ad. However, many people panned Gillette, and have even said that they will boycott Gillette, because they were “too politically correct.”

Let the above sentence sink in. An anti-bullying, anti-catcalling, anti-sexual harassment ad got criticized for being too politically correct.

By panning this ad as too politically correct, it shows political incorrectness as having gone so mad that an ad promoting basic standards of human decency (don’t bully, don’t catcall, don’t harass) has become controversial.

I wish I could say that the reaction to this Gillette ad was an anomaly, that we as human beings are usually good about treating others with decency. But no…there are other noteworthy examples when too many people have used the idea of political incorrectness to justify injustice. Here are two of the more well-known examples:

  1. There were many times during the 2016 Trump campaign when then-candidate Trump mocked others, ranging from a New York Times reporter for his disability to a former Miss America winner for her being overweight.[2] In the case of the Times reporter, he mocked someone for something that’s impossible to control (a disability), while with the Miss America winner he mocked the woman for something that’s difficult to control (weight). And yet many people (especially/mostly his supporters) defended him by arguing that he was just “speaking his mind” and that his opponents were being too politically correct. What this means was that many of us (or at least enough of us that he’s now president) let political incorrectness go so mad that we somehow justify bullying and fat-shaming.
  2. There was, is, and probably will continue to be a chorus of people who argue that the enforcement on what jokes are funny or hurtful/triggering is too politically correct. With racist “jokes,” rape “jokes,” stalking “jokes” (which I wrote about months ago), and other types of jokes that are potentially hurtful, responses can often range from “Can’t you take a joke?” to “You’re just being too politically correct.” What this means was that many of us let political incorrectness go so mad that we somehow justify making hurtful jokes.

Ultimately, while some may argue that political correctness has gone mad, I would argue that there are times that political incorrectness has gone mad. In fact, political incorrectness has gone so mad that, at times, some of us would rather do what’s politically incorrect than what’s right.


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/large-majorities-dislike-political-correctness/572581/

[2] There are so many examples of Trump’s political incorrectness that I could make a blog post out of it. I could talk about his telling a judge to go back to Mexico, or comments he has said about African Americans and Jews in the past, or any other number of things. For the sake of keeping this post from getting too long, I only cited two examples.

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”

The #MeToo Campaign

As readers of mine probably know by now, there has been a #MeToo campaign which has put a spotlight on how big of a problem sexual violence, particularly sexual violence against women, really is.

As such, there are a few things that I feel led to say about the organizers, participants, survivors who decided to not participate, male and nonbinary survivors of sexual violence, and men.

To the organizers of this #MeToo campaign, most especially activist Tarana Burke (who created the original movement) and actor Alyssa Milano (who helped make the hashtag viral)—thank you. Your goal was to make others aware of how much this nation and world has a serious problem with sexual aggression and violence. I think you all succeeded. Hopefully this awareness can turn into ending rape culture. But all of you, as the organizers, took a big step in this much-needed journey. As a result, “thank you” frankly feels like an inadequate thing to say.

To participants in the #MeToo campaign—thank you. Everybody involved in this of was extremely brave and vulnerable. Every one of you made others more aware of how enormous this problem is and all of you did that at the risk of everything from potential backlash to potential flashbacks. Once again, thank you.

To survivors who didn’t participate—your story is no less valid because you didn’t participate. To the contrary, maybe some of you didn’t participate at least in part because your story/stories is/are so fresh and raw. I hope that others who hear your story in the future (if you do ever decide to share your story) will not make your stories any less valid because you emotionally were not able to participate in the “me too” campaign.

To male and nonbinary survivors—your story is no less valid, either. Just because you don’t fit into the most common story of sexual violence (a man committing violence against a woman) doesn’t mean that your story is somehow less true, or that you are any less of a survivor than anyone else.

To fellow men—we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable. We need to realize how our own actions and the actions of those around us contribute to rape culture. Whether it be not always listening to others (an area I realized I was weak at) or making so-called “rape jokes” (not funny, by the way), whether it be the way many of us have been conditioned to be controlling or the way some of us may turn a blind eye to the aforementioned “rape jokes,” we need to improve. So let’s start thinking about how we can get ourselves and others completely away from rape culture and the toxic masculinity which contributes to rape culture.

Finally, to people who got to this point in my post—thank you for at least taking this issue seriously enough to get to this point. I just hope that we can also take this issue seriously enough to start actually addressing it.

Author’s note: I’m republishing this post as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2019.