The effort to reform one of the great blots on American society, using authority in relationships with subordinates to intimidate them for sexual favors, has reached a crescendo.
And like such reform movements before – one recalls the The Methodist Episcopal Church Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals attempt to curb alcoholism which ended in the disaster of creating organized crime – it now runs the risk of getting out of hand. The chief reason, of course, is that we are dealing with one of the most powerful forces in human nature – the attraction of one human being for another which can result in sensory satisfaction for its culmination.
We are of course, dealing with that most complicated of issues, human emotion. And it is also one of the most difficult to analyze because of its attachment to each of us as individuals to the issue or its potential.
In fact, we are talking about at least four different human activities. In a time of less forthrightness in the 19th and 20th centuries, these manipulations were casually and euphemistically known as “the casting couch” and “womanly wiles”. In fact, the very fact that commonplace titles were given them was virtual acceptance that they were part of “business as usual” in complex human and specially gender relationships.
The first of these activities is, of course, the use of human sensory resolution which is simply the commonest attraction of one individual for another. When women began entering the workforce a hundred years ago – in the West – it was inevitable that this relationship would not only be involved but would become central to it. Men and women working together can be only attracted toward one another in the physical pursuit by their nature.
The second, and the chief object of our search for perfidious activity, is when that attraction is knowingly used by the male party to advance his or another’s career or for an accumulation of wealth or both.
The third is a combination of the two and the great difficulty of untangling them in any attempt at analyses.
The fourth and most obscure is when on that rarer occasion, the female arts of seduction are used for similar purposes.
The crux of the growing problem is that the combination of a woman’s reluctance to expose such activities to public scrutiny and therefore the ability if such accusations to be made without substation is leading to indiscriminate charges without validation. Innocent names and reputations can therefore be besmirched since there is no final court of verification of the charges or absolution in the case of such unjust slanders.
It may therefore be a time for all but the most serious of these charges make public their sponsors. One way, of course, is simply to demand that any of those – usually women – making such charges are willing to come forward publicly with their accusations. In that way, those who are among the accused have an opportunity to confront their accusers for evidence and truthfulness of the actuation.
That is a painful process for many women who point out that their violation has often been at a legitimate but secret relationship for what there is no guilt associated.
As onerous as this process nay be, it is our belief that by going public with the accuser’s identity is the only way to establish its validity. If the process is too painful for the aggrieved woman [or in that rare case, man], it may well be that it is better to ignore it, or treat it as one of the many individual ills in our society for which there is no immediate solution.