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Dialogue on sexual misbehavior beneficial

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

A disturbing picture of life in the workplace is emerging. Many women will not be surprised, but many men will be shocked and embarrassed once they understand the high cost of sexual misbehavior.

A recent opinion piece in The New York Times really hit home. A stand-up comic describes her experience navigating around the lechers who own comedy clubs and the booking agents who determine who gets to appear on stage.

Female stand-ups quickly learn the male comics, club owners and booking agents who will hit on them with impunity. And if the women don't want the attention, they must stay away from those men and those places.

As a matter of math, just to protect themselves, female comics in the long run will get less work and less exposure than their male counterparts. Their careers will suffer or will not progress at the same rate as a male comic's career.

Well, OK, maybe that is just the way it is in a workplace marked by late nights, sex jokes and heavy drinking. But we would be deluding ourselves to believe that women who work in corporate office suites or in government cubicles are immune to the same pressures.

A story in the Texas Tribune, which focuses on politics and government in Austin, describes the problems many women face while working at the male-dominated Capitol.

They told the Tribune -- speaking only anonymously -- that they try to protect one another by exchanging stories and passing along to each other the names of men to stay away from. They learn to avoid secluded spots in the Capitol where harassment and assault might go unnoticed.

The current focus on harmful and often criminal sexual behavior began a couple of months ago with the sordid revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Like a raging wildfire, a wide range of prominent public figures -- Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., George H.W. Bush and Roy Moore among others -- have been accused of harassing and/or assaulting women or men.

The stories are often shocking and hard to believe. Who would expose himself or attempt to masturbate in front of a woman who never wanted or asked for such attention? Unfortunately, these bewildering stories are often true.

Now that the spotlight is shining on this subject, men all over America are wondering if they ever unleashed their testosterone in a way that harms women. If the answer comes back "yes," it will be up to them to never let it happen again. Only the worst Neanderthal knuckle-draggers would believe harassment and assault are OK in pursuit of sex.

The national dialogue we're having about this subject may be painful in the short run, but it will result in raised consciousness about what is proper and what is harmful as we go about the business of earning a living and interacting with one another.