Why are #MeToo’s latest critics shaming women?
August 27, 2019 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Critiques by journalist Emily Yoffe and others blame women for speaking out. It’s no surprise that one response at this particular point in #MeToo has been to argue that while the movement is valid, it has gone too far. This was the subtext of Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker investigation into the allegations against former Sen. Al Franken. (Previously) And in a recent story in the libertarian magazine Reason, Emily Yoffe makes the critique more explicitly, arguing that allegations against former Los Angeles Times reporter Jonathan Kaiman reveal deep flaws in the movement.

Kaiman was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including reporter Felicia Sonmez, who says that he digitally penetrated her without her consent. The allegations, which Kaiman disputes, led to an investigation by the Times and Kaiman’s eventual resignation.

Yoffe casts Kaiman as a victim of “mob justice,” and blames Sonmez and another woman, Laura Tucker, for ruining his promising career by speaking out. “We are now in a time when the uncertain circumstances surrounding one regretted sexual encounter and another hazily remembered (and fiercely disputed) intimate encounter are sufficient to destroy the accused’s life,” she writes.

Sonmez has responded to Yoffe’s story with a detailed thread of corrections that casts much of Yoffe’s story into doubt. For instance, Sonmez writes that another allegation against Kaiman had been shared privately before Tucker went public with hers. She also writes that Kaiman has acknowledged digitally penetrating her without her consent.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (72 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
"We’re teaching a generation of young boys and girls that a man’s reputation is more important than the lives of the women he’s ruined."
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:10 PM on August 27, 2019 [83 favorites]


Well bless her pearl-clutching heart.
posted by Dashy at 9:15 PM on August 27, 2019 [8 favorites]


Yoffe has always been a neo-temperance scold, and Slate giving her old shingle to Daniel Ortberg was a move that should have been done years before it was. It doesn't surprise me at all that she, like Katie Roiphe, would see acting as the "counter" to #MeToo as a way to lift her flagging star.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:49 PM on August 27, 2019 [65 favorites]


One trope whose survival is inexplicable to me in the present day is the "regretted sexual encounter transmogrifies into rape!" business. I doubt it was ever very common, but in the days when women could be severely punished for any sexual activity, it at least was vaguely plausible that some women might after the fact be unable to resist a claim of coercion rather than to face whatever awful unjust consequences might be coming their way for consensual sexual activity. But why exactly would a grown-ass Western woman of today have any need to turn "sex I kinda wish I hadn't had" into rape?
posted by praemunire at 10:53 PM on August 27, 2019 [31 favorites]


Yoffe accidentally sending that email about her hit piece in progress is just.. OOF.
posted by Yowser at 11:12 PM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Vox piece didn't mention him, but this is happening because Joe Biden is running for president, and these women don't want the movement to cause problems for his campaign. The work by the New Yorker to rehab Al Franken probably wouldn't have even happened if Biden didn't have similar issues facing him.
posted by riruro at 11:21 PM on August 27, 2019 [46 favorites]


A man's life will be utterly destroyed by an accusation of rape! Meanwhile, our President is a man who brags about committing sexual assault and is accused of 21 rapes/assaults; a cavalcade of famous men have been implicated in a decades-long conspiracy to rape teenagers on a 'pedophile island' that all the locals knew about; 48% of evangelicals would still support Kavanaugh even if the rape allegations against him were proven.

But #MeToo has gone too far!
posted by benzenedream at 11:27 PM on August 27, 2019 [130 favorites]


None of the men who raped or sexually abused me have ever had to face any consequences. It's never occured to me to follow up on any actual consequences, only to avoid them as far as possible and keep my own people away from them if I can. I spent a long time helping other women and children file legal charges and getting resources, and have helped other people file charges, but the idea of actually publicly naming anyone let alone taking any action feels like saying "breathe water instead of air" or "grow wings and fly". Literally impossible.

Keep talking, #metoo and drown out the voices of Yoffe and the other apologists.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:05 AM on August 28, 2019 [80 favorites]


What I mean is - the bar is so crazy high for speaking out. Yoffe's argument seems to be that it's really easy to make an accusation of rape and destroy someone's career/life. But to make the accusation is a hideously difficult act. It comes with an enormous psychological cost and means your whole life is up for judgement by your family, friends, the police, the courts, the rapist and their circle, and then the media if you're unlucky, or worse the internet.

And to be a rapist, as benzenedream points out, is not exactly a career killer. Or even a social-life destroyer. But to say you've been raped can be. Yoffe seems to think it's a lightly thought out act, something done as a casual tweet. Not an act of courage and a retraumatising event.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:12 AM on August 28, 2019 [77 favorites]


Gods bless Somnez and her ability to give such a detailed account and have evidence on accuser and be willing to be public about it.

I do not know where such women find the courage but I appreciate them so much.
posted by sio42 at 2:39 AM on August 28, 2019 [19 favorites]


“some women, including random people I talk to in supermarket lines, have gone so far as to call it an outright witch hunt”

That's compelling, but I need to know what taxi drivers are saying before I decide.
posted by thelonius at 3:23 AM on August 28, 2019 [67 favorites]


Kate Manne has it spot on in Down Girl.

"[Kate Manne] argues that misogyny should not be understood primarily in terms of the hatred or hostility some men feel toward all or most women. Rather, it's primarily about controlling, policing, punishing, and exiling the "bad" women who challenge male dominance. And it's compatible with rewarding "the good ones," and singling out other women to serve as warnings to those who are out of order."

Lot of people running scared and the misogyny enforcers are being cheered on.
posted by jointhedance at 3:30 AM on August 28, 2019 [60 favorites]


#Metoo had only "gone too far" if the event(s) a victim are going public with are lies.

If it happened, then it's never "too far" to tell the truth about it.
posted by Paladin1138 at 3:39 AM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


This seems to me like a symptom of a lack of trust in the process. Any justice process (in the broad sense) needs to be generally perceived as both effective and fair, but currently we've got problems from every perspective.

Many people, rightly, don't trust the existing prosecution and judicial system to deal effectively with sexual assault crimes; that's one of the main triggers for the metoo movement.
But equally, there isn't yet a replacement process which is generally perceived as fair and effective.

For example, Title IX proceedings in US higher education have been criticised by feminist legal scholars as unfair and leading to unjust outcomes - e.g. "the number of accused who are men of color is just creepily high (Janet Halley)" ; and in the professional sphere, there are widespread fears that a malicious accusation can lead - through rapid social-media condemnation - to an unjust destruction of an innocent person's reputation.

A highly relevant example is the case of Carl Beech in the UK recently; he accused a number of senior politicians of historic child abuse and even murder, and his claims were believed for a long time, leading to the reputations of the accused being seriously damaged. It turned out eventually that the accusations were false, and Beech has now been convicted of fraud and perverting the course of justice.

That kind of case - where a "victim's" claims turn out to be complete lies - makes a lot of people very nervous about the effects of the metoo movement. Whether Joffe's reporting of the Kaiman case is adequate or not does not change that problem.
posted by vincebowdren at 3:46 AM on August 28, 2019 [22 favorites]


Very well articulated, vincebowdren.
posted by haiku warrior at 3:54 AM on August 28, 2019


From the Vox article:
Yoffe criticizes the investigative process at the Los Angeles Times, but her main thesis seems to be that if only Tucker and Sonmez had thought more before they talked about what happened to them, Kaiman would still have his job and his happiness.

People who speak up about sexual misconduct — especially if they’re women — have long been blamed, shamed, and disbelieved. They’ve long been told that their words are unseemly and that they should be quiet before they ruin men’s lives. #MeToo has served as a much-needed counterweight to these messages, a movement that tells survivors that, finally, their words matter.
Before #metoo there was no justice at all for women who had experienced harassment from powerful men like Weinstein or Charlie Rose or these regular media guys who are (finally) being called out. There was no voice. Women who complained were blackballed and paid off by HR. The consequences were all for complaining women, none for offending men. I learned early in my career (from other women, mostly) that you just deal with it and keep quiet, because literally no one cared. No one cared at all.

So, to have such a sea change because of Tarana Burke and a hashtag is incredible. It has in no way gone “too far” because men who abuse power continue to abuse power and face almost no consequences. Maybe that is starting to shift. Maybe younger men are seeing that you just can’t behave the way these men have. Let’s hope.

The only way for the traditional behavior of men in power towards women to actually change is for them to suffer consequences. The majority of these metoo incidents are not necessarily criminal, so the consequences need to be societal and social. These guys need to understand that they will lose their jobs and be shunned. That’s only slowly happening, and in the case of Les Moonves, who had enjoyed a long and lucrative career before being ousted, only a huge public outcry prevented him from receiving a $120M severance package. There’s a long, long, long way to go for any real justice for victims - but certainly we are not at “too far.”
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:06 AM on August 28, 2019 [41 favorites]


The sexual liberties men allow themselves in their interactions with women are often embarrassing, frequently threatening, sometimes dangerous. But there is a reluctance to the public discussion of these behaviors, since they tend to be regarded as taking place in a sphere of intimacy, shrouded by privacy. As Catherine MacKinnon observed as far back as 1987, "privacy law keeps some men out of the bedrooms of other men."

However the fact that the predatory, rapacious aspects of men's behavior did not warrant a lot of public discussion does not mean that they were not publicly known; it's better to say that a sense of decorum hid these aspects from public scrutiny, relegating the stories to whisper networks and locker rooms. Underlying that is a kind of tacit acceptance, even veneration, of men as inveterate horndogs. And, I think, this does an injustice to men as well as women.

Bringing these behaviors out into the open is one of the great accomplishments of #metoo. In the first place, for women, but one would hope it helps men improve their behavior, as well.
posted by dmh at 4:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Yoffe is just another mediocrity who has discovered that her gender makes her the ideal rape apologist.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [16 favorites]


"...a man’s reputation is more important than the lives of the women he’s ruined."

This was the literal argument made by a NJ judge last month: "Judge James Troiano in Monmouth County said a 16-year-old girl who accused a 16-year-old boy of sexually assaulting her — and filming it — at a pajama-themed party should have been told by prosecutors to consider the long-term damage to the boy before she decided to pursue criminal charges against him."

[TW for description of rape, and the judge's detailed description of what he considers "real rape." He's resigned, thank goodness, and that particular decision was overturned, but still.]
posted by basalganglia at 4:43 AM on August 28, 2019 [44 favorites]


but I need to know what taxi drivers are saying before I decide.


Thomas Friedman is ON it.
posted by spitbull at 5:29 AM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


That kind of case - where a "victim's" claims turn out to be complete lies - makes a lot of people very nervous about the effects of the metoo movement.

It just baffles me that the fear of the one in a million chance of a false accusation against a man is a bigger concern for you than the daily sexual harassment and ridiculously high rates of sexual assault that women and gender non-conforming people deal with.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:50 AM on August 28, 2019 [69 favorites]


That kind of case - where a "victim's" claims turn out to be complete lies - makes a lot of people very nervous about the effects of the metoo movement. Whether Joffe's reporting of the Kaiman case is adequate or not does not change that problem.

Man you must be really pissed at Yoffe for distracting from this important jurisprudential topic with her ramblings about how these women whose allegations don't particularly seem to be in question should have kept their mouths shut. Maybe you should go make a separate FPP about all these cases you're describing and how we should respond to them.
posted by PMdixon at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2019 [29 favorites]


That kind of case - where a "victim's" claims turn out to be complete lies - makes a lot of people very nervous about the effects of the metoo movement.

It is worth noting to those people that false claims only have any staying power at all because so many real ones are not treated with respect and consideration, and the cumulative trauma of that context creates inflammation and pain that makes it harder to fairly evaluate truth.

If you are concerned about false claims of rape, the best way to make those cases go away is to treat all claims of rape with fairness, seriousness, and a belief that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and do so in the generally accepted channels for justice in our society. In the absence of those legal and generally acceptable channels, people try to protect themselves as best they can using non-legal social means--and more to the point, they try to protect others through warning them. Thwarted justice begets injustice. The solution is not to be more wary of the truth, but to open up conversations and to listen to the claims of women and others who have been assaulted with open ears, minds, and hearts.
posted by sciatrix at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2019 [56 favorites]


Where did this idea that if you speak, truthfully, about someone's behavior then whatever happens to them is somehow your fault and not theirs? This absolute panic about men's ruined lives (when that's even remotely close to what happens to them) should be directed at the men who behaved badly and the people, usually other men, who covered for them and allowed the behavior to continue. A woman simply speaking the truth about a thing that happened to her is her right and in no way makes her responsible for whatever consequences her abuser faces.
posted by Saminal at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2019 [63 favorites]


Something like 2% of rape accusations are ever found to be false, and it's believed by many (if not most) who study sexual assault statistics that those numbers are themselves inflated due to law enforcement as a whole flat-out refusing to take sexual assault seriously. And yet "but what about false accusations" ends up being like 90% of the conversation.

This is a sickness.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:18 AM on August 28, 2019 [72 favorites]


And to be a rapist, as benzenedream points out, is not exactly a career killer. Or even a social-life destroyer. But to say you've been raped can be. Yoffe seems to think it's a lightly thought out act, something done as a casual tweet. Not an act of courage and a retraumatising event.

Unfortunately, leaving out major facts to support a preferred narrative, as Yoffe seems to have a pattern of doing, isn't a career killer either. Which says a lot about the integrity of the publications that give her and people like her a platform.
posted by Gelatin at 6:29 AM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


It just baffles me that the fear of the one in a million chance of a false accusation against a man is a bigger concern for you than the daily sexual harassment and ridiculously high rates of sexual assault that women and gender non-conforming people deal with.

thank you. Quoted for truth. these threads are always so triggering. Hugs everyone if you need them.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:32 AM on August 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


[One deleted. Bringing up the an example of a seeming Title IX excess ("gay male student was found responsible for sexual misconduct for waking his partner with a kiss") in response to this seems like deliberate disruption here (ie Ha! Defend THAT!). Let's stick closer to the posted article, please.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:56 AM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


Sonmez's rebuttal to Yoffe is just delicious in its clear specificity, and paints a very very ugly picture of Yoffe's process.
posted by uberchet at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


The deleted comment was mine. I read the conversation in this thread as having gotten to the point of addressing the fear of "false" accusations of sexual misconduct. I think we are all agreed that such fears are unwarranted and even in bad faith when it concerns the crime of rape. At the same time I think there is a legitimate conversation with regards to the perception and policing ofsexual misconduct, in particular given that views on what constitutes sexual misconduct are evolving in a way which intersects with questions of racism, ableism and homophobia. This is where the example of waking your sleeping partner with a kiss comes in. But examples abound; also from the Chronicle piece:
Recently, for instance, a black, autistic student with cerebral palsy was charged and found responsible for a Title IX violation for asking a woman to give him a fist bump.
Within the context of a post that asks "why are #metoos latest critics shaming women", and given that Yoffe explicitly mentions Title IX, I feel that's relevant context.
posted by dmh at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think we are all agreed that such fears are unwarranted and even in bad faith when it concerns the crime of rape.

I think also bringing in extremely rare exceptions to a rule is also in bad faith, personally. It's whataboutism, isn't it?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:22 AM on August 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


Also, I should add, having read Sonmez response to Yoffe, I think that Yoffe & Kaiman are full of shit. But that goes to the point of trust. Because of Sonmez's work, we get a much better picture of what has happened.
posted by dmh at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2019


I think also bringing in extremely rare exceptions to a rule is also in bad faith, personally. It's whataboutism, isn't it?

I guess I understand the deletion better from that perspective, except it's not what the article is pointing at:
Such cases, Gersen told me, are not outliers: “They really became the modal way in which these things are enforced.”
I have no way to evaluate if that claim is true, but she's the law professor, not me, and she's not alone in making the claim.
posted by dmh at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2019


Yoffe has always been a neo-temperance scold, and Slate giving her old shingle to Daniel Ortberg was a move that should have been done years before it was. It doesn't surprise me at all that she, like Katie Roiphe, would see acting as the "counter" to #MeToo as a way to lift her flagging star.

It was a good day for Slate when they made Daniel Mallory Ortberg the Dear Prudence columnist in place of Emily Yoffe - who, among other things, was anti-childfree, which goes well with her "Me Too is bad" stance.

Yoffe, true to form, also wrote other articles defending men who have been accused. I don't know if she's always been like this but she's evolved into a Pick Me Cool Girl, whether to revive her flagging brand, shake her fist at Kids These Days, or because she was always this way, I don't know. Given the fact that she believes women have to have kids or they'll be sorry, I think she was always traditional and anti-feminist and she's seized the opportunity to say "#MeToo has gone too far! Oh, and I'm still relevant."

I hope one day that Kirsten Gillibrand, who stands by her positions on sexual harassment, is regarded as a wronged Cassandra figure rather than a villainess. It still PO's me that her presidential bid may well have been derailed because of her taking the blame for a popular colleague's resignation (and because she, classily, refuses to throw her boss, who is the one really responsible, under the bus).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:39 AM on August 28, 2019 [29 favorites]


equally, there isn't yet a replacement process which is generally perceived as fair and effective

THIS IS ON PURPOSE.

People like Yoffe don't want a fair, effective replacement process. If they can't have good old-fashioned coverups, silencings, and retaliations, they want a process perceived as confused, ad-hoc, and illegitimate, so that people who want to fixate on the 2%-or-less of false accusations can wail about men's lives being ruiiiiiiiined by false accusations and a lack of "due process."

It's like...people complain about a lack of nuanced/proportional response, too, and that is a genuine problem, but it was created by all prior rhetoric about "nuance" actually meaning "impunity for the guilty," so that it's hard to create a reasonable space and basis for talking about distinguishing between out-and-out gropers and the guy who tells inappropriate jokes to his colleagues at work.
posted by praemunire at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2019 [28 favorites]


I have no way to evaluate if that claim is true, but she's the law professor, not me, and she's not alone in making the claim.

Okay, so I guess I am curious to know your point: there are rarities, and Gersen says the rarities became "the modal way" in which these things are enforced... basically, that the exceptions are being treated as the rule legally.

What point are you trying to add regarding the "legitimate conversation" you say is taking place around this?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:41 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yoffe, true to form, also wrote other articles defending men who have been accused. I don't know if she's always been like this but she's evolved into a Pick Me Cool Girl

I think there's this thing where if you manage to thrive in an environment where you feel a lot of pressure to be tough, you can get very impatient with those you perceive as not-tough, or as letting down the standard you've established that women can be tough. It doesn't explain it all, but I get that vibe off her.
posted by praemunire at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


I think there's this thing where if you manage to thrive in an environment where you feel a lot of pressure to be tough, you can get very impatient with those you perceive as not-tough, or as letting down the standard you've established that women can be tough.

I have observed this phenomenon - and it doesn't necessarily have to do with sexual harassment, it extends to all kinds of workplace, and indeed interpersonal, interactions. "Toughen up, snowflake, you need to pay your dues!" When Al Franken resigned, there were a hell of a lot of howls from older women saying that Girls These Days (tm) were so spoiled and pampered, why in MY day in MY profession you just put up with it and grew a thicker skin! How dare that snowflake Gillibrand speak up! That's the way men are!

Women who formed the vanguard of entry into formerly male professions in the 70's and 80's did have to put up with a lot of harassment and unpleasant behavior. And while some are now saying "I'm glad younger women have it better than I did" others slide into Grumpy Oldster mode and say "These pampered little snowflake millennials need to grow thicker skins! Why back in MY day, we got our asses grabbed uphill both ways in the snow!"
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:00 AM on August 28, 2019 [37 favorites]


others slide into Grumpy Oldster mode and say "These pampered little snowflake millennials need to grow thicker skins! Why back in MY day, we got our asses grabbed uphill both ways in the snow!"

Sometimes thta's in response to people in the younger cohort wondering how older women could consider themselves feminist if they let those sorts of things go. (Not most of them, but -- as part of the younger group, albeit the oldest part of it -- I've heard that too.)

I'm not sure what Yoffe's issue is, but -- though I did enjoy hatereading her on Slate -- I am so glad she's not there offering her terrible, actively harmful advice.
posted by jeather at 8:08 AM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I guess I am curious to know your point: there are rarities, and Gersen says the rarities became "the modal way" in which these things are enforced... basically, that the exceptions are being treated as the rule legally.

No, I don't think that's what Gersen says at all. Did you read the article? It would help the conversation.

What point are you trying to add regarding the "legitimate conversation" you say is taking place around this?

Mainly to highlight the Chronicle piece, which I thought was informative and relevant.
posted by dmh at 8:09 AM on August 28, 2019


I have no way to evaluate if that claim is true, but she's the law professor, not me, and she's not alone in making the claim.

Given that a) she's also arguing that the whole idea of believing women when they come forward is somehow wrong, and b) that being a law professor doesn't make one infallable (see also: Dershowitz, Alan; Chua, Amy; etc.), perhaps we shouldn't take Gersen at her word, but hold her argument to scrutiny.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:11 AM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


Yoffe, true to form, also wrote other articles defending men who have been accused. I don't know if she's always been like this but she's evolved into a Pick Me Cool Girl, whether to revive her flagging brand, shake her fist at Kids These Days, or because she was always this way, I don't know. Given the fact that she believes women have to have kids or they'll be sorry, I think she was always traditional and anti-feminist and she's seized the opportunity to say "#MeToo has gone too far! Oh, and I'm still relevant."

What, was Camille Paglia not available?
posted by Gelatin at 8:14 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


It is because the process for dealing with sexual assault is so piecemeal and so widely distrusted that there is room for false accusations. Some of these false accusations will be made by, eg, racist people against people of color. This is not unique to matters of sexual assault, since false accusations against marginalized people are common in our court system generally...and they're common precisely because the system itself is racist, confusing and biased against low-income people. It's easy to weaponize any biased system, but if the system itself can't be weaponized because it's fair, well-funded and transparent, false accusations won't get traction.

There is a belief that for women to be credible, all women everywhere must be saintly, and that if the world works as it "should", women will be virtuous and pure and therefore never weaponize a biased system. So if one woman makes a false accusation out of racism, that shows that the world is a fallen place and no women can be trusted. It's the old "women are a monolith" and "women are the Virtuous Sex or else they are evil demons" narratives again.

People weaponized flawed, biased systems. They do this regardless of their politics, gender, race or class. It's a reflection of misogyny to assume that there's something weird and unnatural about some members of the "pure", "rule-enforcing" gender doing what others do.

~~
Daniel Mallory Ortberg is a fantastic Dear Prudence. I cannot overstate how amazing it is to me, a queer transmasculine person, to read, like, advice questions from queer people about queer people stuff which are treated just like any old advice column questions. He is doing the lord's work.
posted by Frowner at 8:15 AM on August 28, 2019 [44 favorites]


Also, this bit in the Chronicle piece made me snicker:

Once Gersen and her colleagues had explained what the proposed Title IX changes were likely to produce, it was not hard to corral support for a petition opposing it from the Harvard Law School faculty. “They did not need to be convinced. It came down to a very basic sense of fairness. And the majority of the people on that list of 28 are left-wing. It was not a conservative impulse. It was an impulse toward fairness and rules and in some ways a pushback against authoritarian university governance.”

Let me be blunt, on the matter of sexual assault, the reputation of Harvard Law School is shit, because that's what happens when it comes out that the school employed and defended a wealthy pedophile's fixer for decades.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:25 AM on August 28, 2019 [26 favorites]


I know you're never supposed to read the comments, but dear God, don't read the comments on Yoffe's reason.com piece. Her response on her twitter account is also morally bankrupt. It makes my blood boil.

When Yoffe was Dear Prudence on Slate, the Double X podcast discussed her campus rape story. I don't understand why this has been a hobby horse for her. Hanna Rosin, who I generally deeply respect, said that she feared for her son, that he would be entangled in some kind of complaint because he'd miss some signals (I believe he's on the autistic spectrum).

I also think there's some weird thing going on here where because it's 'digital penetration' and not other forms of penetration, it's not considered really rape, as if that makes it a much more minor violation. It doesn't.
posted by Drowsy Philosopher at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


A relevant comment from Zoe Quinn via the other sexual assault thread:
Could you imagine what would happen if we all just... let go and said it all at once?
posted by Gelatin at 9:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


Hanna Rosin, who I generally deeply respect, said that she feared for her son, that he would be entangled in some kind of complaint because he'd miss some signals (I believe he's on the autistic spectrum).


The thing is, children and teens on the autism spectrum can be taught to respect boundaries. "If you wouldn't say this or do this to your boss, you don't say or do it to coworkers of any gender, either." Plenty of people on the spectrum go through life without sexually harassing anyone, ever. It's gross (not to mention enabling and infantilizing) of Yoffe to think "my poor baby boy just can't help his hands!"

Sexual harassment, in any case, isn't about being on the spectrum or not: it's about entitlement. Al Franken again - he was "clumsy" and "awkward" and so forth - if that really was a problem that was innate and he couldn't control, then he probably gave Chuck Schumer, or Dick Durbin, or Patty Murray, big wet-lipped kisses, amirite?

When somebody "just can't help it" around young women (or children) specifically, or people lower in the social hierarchy in general, why yes, they can help it, they just choose not to.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2019 [30 favorites]


For God's fucking sake, I am on the autism spectrum. Anyone who thinks an autistic person isn't just as capable as anyone else of explicitly checking in with another person's comfort level and responding accordingly a) is being an insulting asshole and b) needs to hang out with some adult autistic people.

We just had a neurodiversity Meta. The autism concern trolling always seems to come from allistic people, often parents of children who can't speak up. Funny how that works.
posted by sciatrix at 9:46 AM on August 28, 2019 [37 favorites]


False accusations can go ahead and be a problem we deal with after, let's say, a few millennia of actually taking the claims of women seriously. Justice has been so mis-served for so long that hand-wringing over this is ridiculous.
posted by graventy at 9:56 AM on August 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


Last night a friend and I decided that my memoir of sexual harassment/assault tales would be called That Fucker Got Fired.

My experiences have been varied, but there is nothing the LEAST bit fun or even most of the time satisfying about reporting this stuff. I can't believe I still have to say that. In an odd stroke, in the almost four years I worked at Harvard Law, I never experienced any harassment worth reporting, but plenty of other people did. That said, I never did meet Dershowitz.
posted by wellred at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


The autism argument also came up in that excreble Chronicle piece as well:
Recently, for instance, a black, autistic student with cerebral palsy was charged and found responsible for a Title IX violation for asking a woman to give him a fist bump.
It's telling that this is just laid out as an anecdote of "hey, look at how far these zealots are going" without any consideration of the possibility that a black, autistic college student with cerebral palsy is very much capable of harassing a female student.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


[One comment deleted; if you already know your false-accusation anecdote is statistically rare, and yet over-represented or over-focused-on in a way that creates problems for the reception of true accusations, please don't introduce it as False Accusations, My Big Problem With MeToo.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


A highly relevant example is the case of Carl Beech in the UK recently ... Beech has now been convicted of fraud and perverting the course of justice.

This is a distraction. Beech didn't accuse his targets of crimes against himself. We are not in disagreement about whether white men will accuse other people of committing the crimes they themselves did, nor about who the authorities will believe when they make their complaints.

Are there any cases involving a woman who accused multiple men of assaulting her, and the resulting investigations resulted in several of their homes being raided by police, losing jobs, dying before they were cleared, etc?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:51 AM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


You know, it's interesting how the Saddleback College case with Marcus Knight (the "black, autistic student with cerebral palsy" who is mentioned but unnamed) has only reported commentary or perspectives, as far as I can tell, via Knight's mother and Knight himself. I have not seen representatives of either the college or either accuser reported on or even noted as being asked for comment in any of the pieces I've seen on this story, but I have seen several pieces that mention Knight's mother Aurora approaching them with the story and her own perspective. There are no details given that don't come from the Knights' lawsuit's allegations. There is no rebuttal. There's only Knight's mother's insistence that Knight is innocent, and an uncritical acceptance of his innocence being trumpeted by a number of media outlets and blogs.

It's interesting, because it seems like a case that might have any number of interesting factors and potentials for mishandling both by the school and the media, but.... there are no real details floating around the internet that don't seem to come courtesy of Aurora Knight, who is very much not a disinterested party in the discussion. And yet it's presented as settled fact.
posted by sciatrix at 10:56 AM on August 28, 2019 [22 favorites]


Yeah, some abusers will have autism (be autistic? not sure which is preferred) and they will weaponise their autism as part of the abuse (some abusers will straight out lie and claim to have autism when they don't). It's just a convenient way to try to be abusive without consequences. Autism isn't a cause for these people, they are just abusive people who are also, coincidentally, neurodivergent, and the vast majority of abusive people are not autistic people.

(I would believe autistic people are in fact unfairly accused more often because ableism, though.)
posted by jeather at 11:05 AM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


(I would believe autistic people are in fact unfairly accused more often because ableism, though.)

I guess that could be, but that's speculative. On the other hand, it's pretty well verified that girls with autism are more likely to be sexually abused.
posted by LindsayIrene at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


According to Yoffe, Kaiman says the sex was protected and Sonmez only objected to being digitally penetrated because they were in public at the time.

Well you can go take a flying fuck at the moon then.
posted by bq at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm willing to bet that, given that there is some small amount of false accusations, that racism and ableism play a role in who gets accused.

I absolutely am not doubting that girls with autism are more likely to be abused.

According to Yoffe, Kaiman says the sex was protected and Sonmez only objected to being digitally penetrated because they were in public at the time.

Even if this were true, objecting for any reaosn counts as objecting. I assume she doesn't believe marital rape is a thing?
posted by jeather at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


for ruining his promising career by speaking out.

I'm so very tired of this turn of phrase. If you've done something illegal, immoral and unethical the person publicizing the action is not the one doing the ruining (if that even occurs because if you are rich and/or popular one often doesn't follow from the other).
posted by Mitheral at 11:49 AM on August 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


Perhaps it’s really us people who don’t care to associate with or support sexual harassers and rapists who are to blame for ruining their careers.
posted by bq at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]



Hanna Rosin, who I generally deeply respect, said that she feared for her son, that he would be entangled in some kind of complaint because he'd miss some signals (I believe he's on the autistic spectrum).


imagine how much more, then, she must fear for other people's autistic daughters

(amazing how many parents of sons don't imagine situations in which their sons know more about using social expectations and signals to their benefit than their female companions do, times in which they are not the only autistic person in the room. or not the only autistic person in an intimate group of two. Or times when being the only party in a group or couple with ingrained obedience to social signals puts their female companion at a disadvantage, not an advantage.)

moreover, "missing some signals" is code in wide use among all kinds of favored sons and their favoring parents, as a euphemism for "ignoring when she said no." People who are worried in good faith tend to say something more honest, like "hurt someone by accident." this would, of course, be the thing to fear: not that your son would be entangled in a complaint, but that the harm giving rise to the complaint would have happened at all.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:25 PM on August 28, 2019 [32 favorites]


Given that a) she's also arguing that the whole idea of believing women when they come forward is somehow wrong, and b) that being a law professor doesn't make one infallable (see also: Dershowitz, Alan; Chua, Amy; etc.), perhaps we shouldn't take Gersen at her word, but hold her argument to scrutiny.

I think your point under a) is a misrepresentation. What Gersen is saying is that due process is important in Title IX cases involving sexual misconduct; not that women should not be believed. Perhaps you feel that the strictures of "due process" place an undue burden on the victim and/or are too easily abused by the perpetrator. I think this is absolutely a concern in the criminal justice system, but I don't believe this is the case with regards to sexual misconduct proceedings under Title IX, where, to the best of my knowledge, the interests of the claimant have been foregrounded to the point that, indeed, self-described feminist law professors have begun raising concerns about fairness.

With regard to your point b) I agree. That's why I think it's meaningful that Gersen's argument, at least as presented in the Chronicle piece, seems to enjoy support from at least 3 other law professors; again, women who regard themselves as feminists at that.

I'm not here to debate-school the issue. I think Yoffe is a hack and that Sonmez masterfully eviscerated her piece, and in the process also dismantled Kaiman. All of that is just desserts as far as I'm concerned. I also think that Sonmez has given a powerful demonstration of the potency of "due process": the ability to dispute a claim, the ability to present evidence to the contrary, the ability for both sides to be heard. That is why I think it's important to distinguish between political operators like Yoffe and people, who, like Gersen, feel that the perception of fairness in any kind of judiciary proceeding is vital to its long-lasting acceptance and acclaim.
posted by dmh at 12:26 PM on August 28, 2019


I just don't see the point of going back to the "false accusation" well (well actually) time and time again in threads about rape and rape apologia, no matter how well written the articles are, or how prestigious the law professors in question are. It is inappropriate and has been well discussed in this thread. Can we drop it now?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2019 [18 favorites]


where, to the best of my knowledge, the interests of the claimant have been foregrounded to the point

Citation needed.

I would also like to propose a ban on the use of "due process" by anyone who cannot clearly explain where it comes from, what it is supposed to protect, and in which contexts it actually applies. Right now, it's little better than a flag serving to demonstrate whose rhetoric the speaker has been uncritically ingesting.
posted by praemunire at 12:58 PM on August 28, 2019 [24 favorites]


I think it's not fair to lump Yoffe and Mayer's pieces together; for example, in interviews about her piece Mayer supports #Metoo as a whole, and correctly places it within the larger context that this is the first time the large numbers of men are facing any kind of accountability, and notes that aspects of Franken's behaviour could indeed be unwelcome.
posted by mikek at 3:34 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


When I hear “due process” in this context I stop listening. It’s absolutely a flag saying all I need to know about someone’s attitude and biases.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:47 PM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


Due process": the ability to dispute a claim, the ability to present evidence to the contrary, the ability for both sides to be heard

Here’s the thing. I also strongly advocate for due process in courts of law. But we aren’t talking about courts of law here. We are talking about social stigma.

And these men aren’t afraid of false accusations. They’re afraid of the fact that when it was socially safe to abuse women for their pleasure, they did so, and now it’s no longer socially safe and they’re going to face the consequences of their actions.
posted by corb at 3:54 PM on August 28, 2019 [38 favorites]


Man, to think I thought it was great when I got to work with her back at Slate. I'm honestly not even a little surprised by this turn of events, just really disappointed.
posted by emcat8 at 9:01 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


There’s been a lot of talk about “grey areas” in #MeToo. All this harassment business is very difficult for men, we’re told, because nobody even knows what sexual harassment is any more! Men are afraid to even shake a woman’s hand in case she thinks it’s harassment! Easier to just avoid contact altogether! What’s really interesting about this study, however, is that it thoroughly debunks the argument that men are confused about what constitutes unacceptable behavior. The very first thing researchers did was look at 19 behaviours (emailing sexual jokes to a subordinate, for example) and get people to classify it as harassment or not. Surprise, surprise, both genders basically agreed on what harassment entails.

“Most men know what sexual harassment is, and most women know what it is,” Leanne Atwater, a professor at the University of Houston and one of the study’s authors, told the Harvard Business Review. “The idea that men don’t know their behavior is bad and that women are making a mountain out of a molehill is largely untrue. If anything, women are more lenient in defining harassment.”
– Arwa Mahdawi, Men now avoid women at work – another sign we're being punished for #MeToo (The Guardian)
posted by bitteschoen at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2019 [19 favorites]


As far as due process in the court of public opinion or in job situations just means that a person has a chance to respond to accusations and have that response considered.

When a woman accuses a man of sexual harassment, the man almost always responds and has his response considered. It is almost unheard of for this step not to occur. When a famous man gets accused, the media sends microphones and cameras both to him and his bosses, allowing him to respond in public! How is that not due process?

The only way someone would be denied due process is if they were fired before being given a chance to respond, but this pretty much never happens.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:40 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


“According to Yoffe, Kaiman says the sex was protected and Sonmez only objected to being digitally penetrated because they were in public at the time.”

That.... seems like a really good reason to object to being digitally penetrated? Who wants somebody sticking their finger inside them in public? It’s not like it’s a discreet thing to do. It’s humiliating, abusive behaviour, that would be enough to make me dump anyone who tried it on the spot. Absolutely massive waving red flag.
posted by tinkletown at 6:02 PM on August 29, 2019 [12 favorites]


That.... seems like a really good reason to object to being

yeah but I don't think you can judge someone's reasons for objecting to rape as "good" without acquiescing to the reality and normality of a scale of good-to-bad reasons that a man may assess and judge before deciding to respect. you don't have to mount a case for why the judge should grant your motion to refuse.

there are no good or bad reasons for saying no, it doesn't get a letter grade.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:15 AM on August 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


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