XYs: Ex-Wise

We are now in a moment of creating exes. Ex-media guys; ex-congressmen; ex- Hollywood guys; and soon to be many more exes across domains.

Why? (or Y you ask?)

The X factor has wizened up and spoken up! What should be apolitical—appropriate behavior and not making others uncomfortable (i.e. basic decency)—has become political as well as cultural. The tectonic shift that we feel is cultural. The fight (and the hanging on) feels political.

I think many men are confused and are asserting misunderstanding. The old “game” is played by different rules depending on the player. And many women (and girls and boys) were never playing the same game. They were parallel playing—smiling back and/or staying quiet not enjoying what was happening, just to get through it.

Many men are now astonished that there has always been so much sexual misconduct. There has always been sexual harassment (which became codified in the workplace in the 1980s), sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape, which most people understand as aggressive behaviors and criminal. But a kiss? A pat on the tush? An “accidental” touch? A little flirtation?

Many (men) are actually confused. Well, a lot of women are not confused. Remember when the term “date rape” was coined? The definition of rape was not really changed; it was no longer contextualized to be limited to some sick/violent stranger. Women (and girls and boys) who had had sex forced upon them were finally being acknowledged as being victims of rape. And then we learned that such behavior was actually rather common. Such knowledge actually enabled us to be wiser.

Perhaps some of the confusion exists because men are thinking that sexual attention is always wanted. Well it isn’t. Not that kiss. Nor that pat on the tush. Nor that accidental brush up. And certainly not that exposure!

It is important to distinguish among the types of behaviors that fall under the sexual misconduct rubric, and it is important to delve seriously into serious accusations. False accusations have always occurred and will always occur . Bad behavior will always exist. But we are wiser and no longer tolerate what for many was barely tolerable.

So as the culture shifts toward a less limited understanding of sexual misconduct, and we wise up by standing up for decency, the politics will follow. I know it doesn’t feel like that at this moment that our culture is in flux, but all great social/civil rights movements began with cultural shifts that brought wisdom and political change. (Besides, power issues are often played out through sexual behavior.)

As for defending politicians who might have been icky rather than outrageously gross but “champions” of women’s rights or civil rights……I think it is wise to make them exes. It feels politically risky, but we see the costs of rationalizing indecent, irrational, insecure, stupid,  behavior. It has real political costs, and they are HUUUUUGE.


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