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What Does Consent Mean When Saying "No" Has Consequences?

(Last Updated On: November 30, 2017)

Well, that didn’t take lengthy.

Early Wednesday, when the NBC morning information crew shakily introduced on-air that Matt Lauer had been terminated from his publish — the results of a damning sexual harassment allegation — it was unclear how lengthy it might take for the skeletons to start out tumbling out of his closet. Turns out: eight hours.

By mid-afternoon, Variety had printed its months-long investigation into the large identify anchor’s alleged historical past of on-the-job predatory habits. The record of accusations is lengthy and gross, and contains particulars like how he as soon as bought a intercourse toy for a colleague and gave it to her together with a word describing what he wished to do with it. Alongside different anecdotes and disturbing revelations, the Variety reportage aired the truth that Lauer was granted a button below the desk in his workplace, which made it attainable for him to lock the door with out ever having to rise from his seat. Fancy that.

But whereas the NBC crew — together with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, who had been put within the place of breaking disturbing information a couple of colleague on TODAY with little discover — did their greatest to mood their apparent shock with journalistic integrity and empathy for the “brave colleague” who got here ahead along with her story, it didn’t take lengthy for different members of the media to start out talking out on Lauer’s behalf. (Lauer himself has not but publicly commented on his break up with NBC, or the accusations). One such media man was Geraldo Rivera, who apparently turned to a 1950s-era playbook for the best way to make gentle of misogyny; actually, his rationale was so retro-ridiculous that it virtually appears as if it was crafted expressly for refutation. (Let’s dwell in actuality right here, although; in all probability not.)

Shortly after Variety’ s story broke, the previous discuss present host and Fox News commentator took to Twitter with the next assertion: “Sad about @MLauer great guy, highly skilled & empathetic w guests & a real gentleman to my family & me. News is a flirty business & it seems like the current epidemic of #SexualHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation. What about #GarrisonKeiller?”


I do know what you’re pondering: “Wow! Geraldo is really making great use of that new extended character count limit!” But extra to the purpose … What a load of bullshit.

Up first: Rivera kicked issues off by leaping into that sexist sandtrap and presuming that simply because somebody has proven you one facet of themselves implies that who they’re on a regular basis. Like Louis C.Ok., Harvey Weinstein, and Charlie Rose, Lauer is now recognized to have purposefully uncovered his penis to feminine colleagues: Remembering his “great guy” moments on no account mitigates that truth. And but, that protection retains developing, as if if it’s stated typically sufficient historical past will likely be rewound and the dick will retreat again contained in the pants. Furthermore, providing up your singular expertise as a refutation to the handfuls of girls who shared their harassment tales does nothing besides make you appear like somebody who chooses to not consider girls, who’ve extra to lose than acquire by coming ahead. It additionally ignores the fundamental proven fact that when many ladies communicate out, the sheer quantity of these experiences ought to make you query your individual: Are you the rule, or the exception?

Second: If you’re somebody who thinks that information is an inherently “flirty business” — (not) sorry to be the one to interrupt it to you, however you’re doing information unsuitable. But let’s assume, for a second, that by “flirty” Rivera meant that information is a enterprise the place you wind up spending a whole lot of time in shut quarters with colleagues, typically late into the night time, typically on topics that deliver up emotional responses or surges of adrenaline, and that, taken altogether, these circumstances can translate into an setting that’s much less buttoned up than, say, working in a science lab.

Even then, there isn’t a excuse to summon a feminine colleague to your (button door locking) workplace for intercourse after which, when she refuses, punish her professionally, as Lauer allegedly did. Nor does it offer you carte blanche to harass colleagues over textual content or e mail, or examine their bed room “performance” to their job efficiency, as Lauer was reported to have achieved. What all this constitutes shouldn’t be flirtation: It’s abuse, of the ladies themselves, in addition to the type of work setting that essentially requires mutable boundaries and a way of group and places religion in its staff to respect each other.

Which deliver us to the center of the issue on this state of affairs, and plenty of others prefer it. Explicitly or not, Matt Lauer used his energy to intimidate girls into submitting to his advances or conserving quiet. He was reportedly “paranoid” about being adopted by tabloid reporters, an nervousness that may even have been a ruse to justify his want for discretion and privateness.

But due to his public profile, and the benefits, and the connections, it afforded him; due to his worth to the community as a character that drew in loyal viewers; due to his cash, and fame; and since acquiescing to his advances may have the potential to make or break a profession: The scale was at all times tipped in his course. The dynamics had been abused. And, sure, as Variety reported, among the relationships Lauer (who, by the way in which, has been married for practically twenty years, and has three school-age kids) participated in had been consensual. But what does it imply to “consent” if you may undergo a penalty for saying no?

Women appear to have a fairly good sense of once they’re being wooed and once they’re being preyed upon, regardless of how complicated some males declare to search out that territory. To assert that, in our present period, “courtship” is being mislabeled as “predation” shouldn’t be solely a misreading of what’s occurring at NBC and in all the opposite resort rooms and workplaces with locked doorways the place girls have been “pursued”: It’s a transparently sexist invalidation. As for that tacked on Garrison Keillor hashtag afterthought? I believe that Rivera was speculating a couple of quote the not too long ago disgraced radio host gave to the National Press Clu b method again in 1994: “A world in which there is no sexual harassment at all is a world in which there will not be any flirtation.”

In actuality, that is a flawed comparability Keillor is establishing: the concept that sexual harassment and flirtation can typically be considered as the identical factor, that it’s a matter of perspective. Even when flirting actually is simply flirting, that doesn’t imply it belongs within the office. Furthermore, it’s attainable to be near a colleague with out ever stepping over the road. Women at all times appear to have the ability to decipher the place it falls. What’s nefarious is that males normally can, too. But typically, they select to fake in any other case and count on us to consider them.

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