Define Sexual Harassment
Herman Cain is no longer talking about the economy, the national debt, or his 9-9-9 tax plan. Instead, he's been put on the defensive over a couple of accusations that he behaved inappropriately with women while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association. According to Cain, one allegation involves his remarking to a woman that she was the same height as his wife. He said he used a hand gesture to indicate where she "came up to" near his chin. Inasmuch as "hand gestures" are part of the alleged complaint, if that is the gesture alluded to, it's hardly grounds for such a devastating accusation.
That brings up the question: what exactly constitutes sexual harassment? Cain mentioned in an interview that he may have occasionally complimented a woman on the way her hair looked, or some other innocuous observations. Isn't that what men have been doing since the dawn of time? When did it become obnoxious to recognize and comment on a woman's looks?
It seems to me that compliments become a problem only when they are made as a precursor to overt acts of unsolicited flirtation. The foregoing would be especially improper if made by or to a person who is married (unless the two parties are married to each other, of course!). Let's take the guy working in the typical office environment. One morning, he says to a female co-worker, "I like the way you did your hair today." She would probably smile and gladly accept the compliment. However, suppose the guy said, "You always look very sexy, but the way you did your hair today really turns me on." That would be viewed as flirtatious. Now, if both parties were unmarried, such flirtation could be viewed as the natural order of things between the genders, and the type of mating ritual that often results in the continuation of the species.
Keep in mind that if the woman isn't attracted to the man, she's free to let him know that she doesn't appreciate his advances. But she's unlikely to formally charge him with harassment. Yet there are people devious enough to turn a harmless comment into a lawsuit if they think they can make a quick buck while appearing to stand up for female values.
During a saner time in our history, women stood up for themselves with a sharp slap to the face of a masher, or else they deftly handled a rude comment with an acerbic comeback. The one in charge was always the woman because she could pick and choose which amorous male to encourage. Additionally, when women are the pursuers, as is often the case now, they don't get their faces slapped or end up in court defending a charge of harassment. How many men would be willing to get on the stand and say, "Your honor, that woman pinched my bottom"?
Although it's true that men have become somewhat feminized over the past few decades, I believe that most women have little respect for a guy who has surrendered his manhood to the whims of a politically motivated emasculation. In other words, guys are still going to flirt.
The problem men have today is that they have a difficult time figuring out what the rules are. If they pay a sincere compliment to a woman, will they be liable for some punishment, be it now or in the future? Unless Herman Cain used his position of authority in an attempt to gain sexual favors, thereby causing emotional pain to the recipient -- an action that would likely be a matter of record -- he deserves the benefit of the doubt and should not have his integrity challenged.
The fact is that women have the advantage in this area also. Doris Jones says John Doe made a few sexist remarks about the short skirt she was wearing when she bent over at the water cooler. She doesn't have any witnesses, but she insists that the incident hurt her self-esteem and made her feel uncomfortable in that working environment. How many personnel directors will refuse to take a report of the alleged occurrence and have it investigated? Whether true or not, John could lose his job and have trouble getting another one.
Mr. Cain is facing accusations that were not backed up by evidence. Should he lose his chance to reach the highest office in the land because of unsubstantiated statements? If he does, no man is safe.