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.

Stalking is Not Funny, Yet is Treated as a Joke

I recently heard something on television that talked about stalking in a lighthearted manner. But this is not the first time I’ve heard stalking talked about in a lighthearted manner. For example, I’ve frequently heard people say in a lighthearted manner that they “Facebook stalked” someone.

These jokes, this lightheartedness, about stalking need to stop.

Stalking is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death especially because of express or implied threats; broadly: a crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person.” Clearly, this is not a lighthearted matter. To the contrary, it is something that harms others.

And to think that many of us treat such harmful actions as a joke? I hope we stop doing that, as individuals and as a society. This casualness with which we talk about stalking is destructive in two ways.

First, it gives a wrongful impression of what stalking is and what damage can be caused by stalking. By making casual, even joking, remarks about stalking, we make it seem like it is no big deal when in reality it is a very big deal, such a big deal that it hurts the victims (at least emotionally or psychologically) in all cases and results in criminal charges for the perpetrator in some cases.

Second, it belittles the experiences of past stalking victims. The status quo is reducing the experience of stalking to a set of jokes and lighthearted remarks. These experiences should not be belittled, but instead listened to.

I acknowledge that I may be criticized here for “not taking a joke.” While I understand the criticism, I must also say that “jokes” about actions that harm people, such as “rape jokes” and “stalking jokes,” are really not funny.

But if it’s not funny, what should our attitudes be on stalking?

First, we should educate ourselves on what stalking is. Second, we should also educate others, as appropriate. Third, if you know someone who is a victim of stalking, please encourage the person to call 911 (if you live in the United States) or the equivalent emergency number in your country if there is immediate danger. Furthermore, if you know someone who needs support because of stalking, encourage your family member/friend to consider actions such as calling a crisis hotline, telling security staff at your job/school, developing a safety plan, and more.[1] Finally, if you know of resources for stalking specific to countries outside the United States, it would be great if you provide those resources in the comments section below.[2]

Stalking is a problem, not a joke. But if we take the problem seriously, maybe we can also take steps as a society to treat it—and talk about it—seriously.


[1] The Stalking Resource Center provides a variety of ideas, tips, and resources for stalking victims. Follow this link to see some of those ideas, tips, and resources

[2] While this post brings attention to how stalking is not taken seriously, I hope that it can also be a resource for those who take stalking seriously.