Judith Armatta

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist and human rights activist


Well, of course, “me too!” We live in a sexist culture where the males of the species are taught to consider the females sexually available to them. Advertisers sell women’s and girls’ bodies with cars and liquor. Movies show women jumping into bed with practical strangers. Little girls are marketed for their (supposed) sexual allure. Sexual harassment? Sexual assault? Rape? Not a surprising outcome.

What’s more, sexual access is one of the perks of power, privilege, and fame. As The Donald said: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Women and feminist men have been challenging this for decades. But why should those with the power, fame, and perks listen or change their behavior? After all, they’re the ones with the power, perks and privileges.

We need to clarify something. Not all touching is a sexual advance, sexual harassment, or sexual predation. When a man puts his hand on a woman’s bare back or even her (clothed) rear, he is not being a sexual predator. It does women, those who have been or will be sexually assaulted or harassed, a disservice to claim that they are. Just wait for the backlash.

Really? You can’t see any difference between Roy Moore and Al Franken, when Moore takes a 16-year-old into his home, locks the door, kisses and fondles her, takes off her clothes, then removes his, touches her breasts and genitals, and places her hand on his, and Franken makes a sexist, tasteless joke posing for a photo or puts his hand on a woman’s bottom while her husband takes a photo of them at their request?

I am glad that women have had the courage to come forward and that they’ve received public support for doing so. I am disturbed that it’s being used for political gain: Republicans v. Democrats. No one is a saint here. And powerful men of whatever political persuasion have been free to exercise their privilege over less powerful females because they hold the key to professional advancement or any job at all.

Some of this behavior is criminal. Some of it is not, as offensive as it may be. What galls me is that those men who have felt privileged to sexually assault with impunity will never have their names put on the sex offender registry, while prosecutors and judges send young people who have consensual sex to prison and make them register as sex offenders for life. In addition to difficulty finding housing or a job, they are denied basic constitutional rights of association and freedom to travel. Because they have never been convicted, Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, et al. will not have “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor” stamped in their passports (required as of October 31, 2017). Yet who is the predator here: Roy? Harvey? Or a 20-year-old young man who had consensual sex with a teenager? The young man will bear the mark of Cain for the rest of his life. Harvey, Roy, and their pals have already lived long lives with the opportunity for many achievements, and received rewards and accolades.

I think of 15-year-old Christian Adamek in Alabama who was threatened with expulsion from school and arrest for streaking (running nude) at a football game. Facing lifetime designation as a sex offender, he hung himself. Or what about William Elliot, who spent two years in prison for having a sexual relationship with his 15-year-old (three weeks shy of 16) girlfriend when he was 19. After his release, a man found his address on the sex offender registry, went to his residence, knocked on the door, and, when William opened it, shot him point blank in the face?

Something is wrong with this picture.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are real. They are widespread in U.S. society – and have been for ages. Finally, they are being taken seriously in public discourse. If we overreact in the heat of the moment (as the law has done in response to rare cases of child kidnapping, rape, and murder by establishing a separate and draconian legal system), it will cause much harm as well as undermine efforts for real social change. Rather than look at aberrant individuals, we need to look at how our culture promotes and sustains this violence. Unless we are to meet one injustice with another, we also need to distinguish between what is predatory behavior and what is stupidity.

Some quotes from women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment that appeared following notice of Franken’s intent to step down from the Senate:

“As a person who has also a been victim of sexual harassment, I feel I am in a position to say that that I do not feel that anything Al Franken has done is worthy of such a measure. In fact, I am getting tired of hearing 'Oh, he kissed me and I didn't want him to, oh, he touched my breast, oh, he touched my butt' without addressing REAL sexual harassment---the predatory behavior, the creepiness of it, the loss of one's job, the post-traumatic effects of having an entire workplace turn their back on the victim and rally around the predator. Frankly, it is insulting and demeaning to all women who have experienced true sexual harassment.”

“metoo. i was raped and molested repeatedly as a child, experienced unwanted groping as an adult: these are not even in the same ball park.”

“I’ve also been a victim of sexual assault — the violent stranger kind and the blackout drunk kind — as well as full on disgusting, scary groping by a professor plus all the other little indignities, and I do not want Franken to resign. I stand behind his right to a hearing. As a citizen in our constitutional democracy, I stand behind the right of ALL accused to a fair trial, even if it’s my opinion that they’re vile human beings, which Al is decidedly not.”

For more discussion, see comments at: (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/12/7/1721710/-Al-Franken-I-am-announcing-that-in-the-coming-weeks-I-will-be-resigning?detail=emaildkbn):