Franken’s Lament

As Al Franken makes his glacial retreat from political life, he whines about the “irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assaults sits in the Oval Office.”  Franken refers, of course, to the infamous conversation with Billy Bush, wherein Donald Trump declares:  “You can grab them by the p —y … If you’re a star, they’ll let you do anything.” 

While disturbing, these remarks are a description of Celebrity Culture, not an endorsement for, or an admission of, such behavior.  In fact, he is describing women who not only allow, but encourage, overt sexual behavior in an attempt to snag a Millionaire, Billionaire, or any other famous and/or powerful man.  In the past, these women were called Groupies, Star-F———s, Hanger’s On and other less flattering terms.  I prefer to call them Predatory Women, and their behavior runs the spectrum from subtle to extreme.

Of course, women have the right to wear anything they please and be as promiscuous as they like, but the consequences for these choices have always been harsher and more long-lasting for women than they are for men.  Okay, AIDS has been a great equalizer, but I’m talking about pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases that are physically devastating to a woman’s reproductive viability.

Back in the 90s, when President Clinton was exposed as a sexual harasser (exploitation of a young intern by an older, very powerful person is the very definition of inappropriate workplace behavior), I was stunned by the number of my female co-workers at Mizzou who still supported the President: “I don’t care about his sex life; he’s a good President!”  So, I asked them: “Would it be okay with you, if your boss was having sex in his office with an intern?”  Their response was silence.

To be fair, although Clinton has a clear history of harassing women, he was also aided and abetted by willing and enticing Predatory Women, along with many who were not at all willing or appreciative of his advances (he has been accused of rape, among other charges).  Regarding Monica Lewinsky:  she was young and probably gullible at the time of her affair with Clinton, but she qualifies as a Predatory Woman, in that she knew that the President was married and she didn’t mind undermining that union.  Perhaps she deserves a different label; maybe you could call her a Willing Victim?

My experience with Predatory Women is limited to the experiences of my husband.  We’ve been married for 46 years, and although I’ve never questioned him, I would bet my life that he’s never cheated.  However, he has been approached and groped by more than a few aggressive “ladies.”  The first time was at his 10-year High School Reunion, when one of his classmates came on to him and made a pass that included her saying:  “Those 3 kids could have been yours.”  I found this ploy laughable, because, at that point, he had never expressed a desire to have children, and I was a perhaps overconfident wife.  Another time, he was playing pool, and a young woman came up to him and grabbed him by the crotch (sounds familiar?).  He was stunned by this move, but was actually a bit flattered by it.  When he told me about it, I asked him, “What did you say?”  He said he smiled and told her, “Sorry, I’m married.”  You may think I’m gullible, but Mike has never acquired any skills in the art of prevarication.  Another time, while doing business in a bar, the female owner offered to take him to the back room for “some fun”.  Again, nothing came of it and he told me the whole story.  So, you get the idea:  men get plenty of chances to step outside their marriages.  How they respond is the difference between a stand-up guy and a philanderer.

A critical difference between men and women is their response to sexual aggression.  In Mike’s case, he was never physically intimidated by these women, and he was able to laugh off these incidents, and even benefitted from having his confidence boosted a bit.  For women, it’s a totally different story, and they are often traumatized and sometimes haunted by sexual assault for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, while I’ve never worried about women trying to “steal my man”, I think about the unfortunate wives who have husbands who welcome inappropriate opportunities, and whose actions can result in the destruction of marriages and families.  You could almost call it a Woman-On-Woman crime; although, at the time, I doubt that these Predatory Women are giving the absent wife and her children a second thought.

The consequences of sexually aggressive/abusive behavior by men and women could be discussed endlessly (as it seems to be at this very moment), but my point is that neither side is blameless.  Respect and courtesy are seemingly in short supply, but maybe all of the recent publicity about harassment and disrespect will serve as a reminder to be more careful and considerate in our social behavior.  Or else!  (That includes you, Senator Franken.)

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