Saturday, November 25, 2017

School for Sex Scandal

I've been over the river and through the woods with family over the Thanksgiving holiday, so I may have missed whatever new accusations of sexual harassment or under age dating or indecent exposure have come out against whatever beloved, respected, or powerful politician, entertainer or sports figure came out Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. It's not as though I've been incommunicado with the world, but given the vast range of political opinions around our dinner table, some subjects just had to be ignored for a while.

But now that we're all back home with our Thanksgiving leftovers, Sexcapadeback Saturday reheats cartoons of selected sexual scandals that I've had the occasion to draw about. This mess didn't start with Harvey Weinstein, and it probably won't end with Charlie Rose. It goes way back, and there has often been one Usual Suspect in particular.

Because of the accusations against Alabama Inquisitor Judge Roy Moore, conservatives want to re-litigate the sexual dalliances of President Bill Clinton. His peccadilloes fall in that gray area between consensual affairs and clear and obvious sexual harassment; Monica Lewinsky was no 14-year-old, but she was a subordinate employee, and the episode displayed, more than any of Clinton's other affairs, a profound lapse of judgement on the President's part.

But if we are to re-litigate the Clinton imbroglio, it's only fair to file an amicus curiae brief about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, too. After all, unlike Bill Clinton, Justice Thomas is still regularly collecting a government paycheck.

Sexual harassment scandals are the exclusive province of no political party. But the Edwin Edwards test often determines the degree of damage to the accused: the Louisiana Democrat once boasted, "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."

In 2006, Republican Congressman Mark Foley lost his reelection bid in Florida over revelations that he propositioned male pages who worked in his office.

Four years later, it was Democrat Eric Massa of New York who was compelled to resign as the House Ethics Committee investigated reports that he habitually groped male members of his staff. He admitted on Glenn Beck's Fox News program that "not only did I grope [a staffer], I tickled him until he couldn't breathe," but then he denied on Larry King's CNN program ever having groped anyone.

The revelations that House Speaker Dennis Hastert had molested student athletes when he was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois came out only after he had left office. The statute of limitations had run out on those incidents; he was convicted of violating banking rules when he paid hush money to the now adult victims of his predatory behavior.

Sexual harassment typically involves an imbalance of power: adult vs. adolescent or child; employer vs. employee; faculty vs. student; celebrity vs. average citizen. Or the strong arm of the law vs. the legally vulnerable:

Many of these cartoons have involved male-on-male misdeeds because I draw cartoons for the LGBTQ press, so unless the perpetrator has a history of telling us how immoral we are, it's extremely rare that I turn my pen to heterosexual hanky-panky. In part it's also because for so long, male-to-female sexual harassment was passed off as relatively normative — even funny. (You can draw a straight line from Pepe LePew to Al Franken.)

When it comes to sexual relationships between adults and children, however, we have always reacted with more seriousness, whether we're talking about girls or boys. (Gauzy recollections of heterosexual boys coming of age in The Graduate and The Summer of '42 notwithstanding.) Prior to the Roy Moore accusations, the right-wing media played up man-on-boy pedophilia scandals because it was so easy to extrapolate sexual misbehavior victimizing under-age males with consensual and healthy relationships between adult gay men.

The LGBTQ community constantly needs to remind Republican Puritans that one thing is not always like another thing. Again and again.

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