I remember it well. I was working as a grill cook at McDonald’s in the mid-’80s when the incident occurred. I was innocently flipping some burgers when a co-worker left her assigned cash register up front and appeared directly beside me for a quick swig of pop (what Iowans call their soda). This was a very common practice in our industry because an employee eating or drinking in front of customers was considered non-professional and even a bit rude. The female colleague knelt down, took a sip, and asked “if there was anything she could do for me.” I glanced down at the considerate co-worker while thanking her for her thoughtfulness, but I declined the offer. (I prefer doing things my own way.) My colleague then gazed squarely at my crotch and in a seductive manner repeated, “anything?”
At that point I fully understood the situation was not simply about filling the ketchup dispenser or fetching some cheese out of the walk-in cooler. Once more I declined. I had no interest in the girl beneath me, and she was well aware I had a girlfriend (another co-worker who eventually became my lovely wife). That was that. I’m not sure if I was a victim of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, harmless flirtation, crude humor, or something else that day. At the time I didn’t think much about the unwarranted and unprovoked advance. Looking back, I still don’t. However, I think my experience decades ago surely meets the criteria for joining the #MeToo club.
All kidding aside, I think the #MeToo movement is a joke. I truly am not making light of the seriousness of those who’ve been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed. The #MeToo campaign itself though is guilty of just that by unwittingly lumping together the unsubstantiated, weak, and even false claims of abuse with the admitted and proven cases of sexual abuse. There are currently millions of members who’ve joined the club; however, I would suggest that legitimate claims of abuse make up only a small percentage of the colossal total. As a society we must be careful not to instantly jump on the bandwagon or play judge and jury.
When an allegation is made publicly it’s impossible for the accused (guilty or not) to escape a life long sentence of being stigmatized. A wise man once said, “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” Actually, that quote did not come from the wisest of men – it came from President Trump – and it, of course, came by way of a tweet – but the content was spot on just the same.
Recently, for every valid claim of sexual misconduct there seems to be just as many lacking in credibility which inevitably tarnishes the entire #MeToo campaign. For example, a Los Angeles filmmaker has just gone on record accusing her former photography professor of sexually abusing her in 1999. She claims she was in his classroom, sitting at a desk, when the renowned teacher asked for her attention. The naked professor then walked directly towards her and placed his erect manhood in her mouth. She said the encounter was very brief before she ultimately pushed him away and left the room. The filmmaker said, “He committed oral rape against me.” Oddly enough, the woman admitted to keeping in touch with her former teacher via e-mail even after graduation. She continued requesting recommendations and asking for advice several years after the incident. That seems more like a #Regret moment to me. Likewise, last month a fairly famous actor was publicly accused online of sexual abuse because he didn’t turn out to be what his date had anticipated leading up to their one night together. The woman deeply regretted the experience since she was left with only negative feelings toward the celebrity after their consensual tryst.
Also muddying the waters a tad, as far as I’m concerned, is a recent decision made by a 2016 Olympic gold medalist. We know for certain she, along with countless other gymnasts, was sexually molested by the U.S. team doctor. The Olympian is now on a crusade to spread a message of empowerment to children who’ve possibly been sexually victimized themselves. She recently said, “I do a lot of school visits. I’m trying to communicate to these kids that they have a voice, and if something doesn’t feel right, they should speak up and ask questions.” The decorated gymnast went on to say, “I feel like I have a voice, and I feel like I have a responsibility.” That is all well and good, but also during this time the crusader chose to model for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – even posing “tastefully” nude for assumingly a predominantly male viewership. I think the gold medalist gave a losing performance with her recent decision to pose especially considering her desire to be a role model for children. What I glean from the confusing message coming from the Olympian is that being victimized is not okay, but being objectified is fine.
These certainly are confusing times, so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised to find the subject of sex to be perplexing as well. David Brooks, writer and political commentator, proffered his thoughts on that very topic just last month (1/19/18) in The New York Times. He penned, “Over the past 100 years or so, advanced thinkers across the West have worked to take the shame out of sex, surely a good thing. But they’ve also disenchanted it.” This is clearly evident today with the integration of “friends with benefits,” sexting, and the surge in lovers opting to live together without the commitment of marriage. Then there’s the millennial generation (and beyond) who’ve shockingly determined oral sex really isn’t sex, and they are content with engaging in sexual relationships before committing to a boyfriend/girlfriend status.
The prominent writer concluded his Op-Ed piece with a couple of keen observations and some pretty sound advice: “Sex is seen as a shallow physical and social thing, not a heart and soul altering thing. One unintended effect of this disenchantment is that it becomes easy to underestimate the risks inherent in any encounter. It seems that the smarter we get about technology, the dumber we get about relationships. We live in a society in which loneliness, depression and suicide are on the rise. We seem to be treating each other worse. The guiding moral principle here is not complicated: Try to treat other people as if they possessed precious hearts and infinite souls. Everything else will follow.”
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as well in regards to sex in America. Lately, I’ve been pondering why exactly millions of people would respond to the #MeToo campaign and why they’ve waited until now to come forward. I have concluded all men are pigs. I think a better answer though may be that we are in a season of angst, division, and rebellion. The time is ripe for protesting – regardless of a movement’s legitimacy. I think a great number of the #MeToo club’s members may just be longing for inclusion. Our human nature, at its core, is to belong.
God indeed created us with an inbred craving, but that hunger can only be satisfied by Him. From the time we are born, we errantly search for other things in trying to make us feel whole. I understand it can be extremely tempting to participate in something so big – so trendy – just to fit in. This may be the case for an Oscar winning actress who was recently quoted in People magazine (2/19/18) as saying, ‘I went from thinking, “I don’t have a story” to “Oh, wait, I have 100 stories.” I think a lot of people are having these reckonings with themselves.’ I’m sure most of us have stories of a sexual nature we could tell – whether good, bad, or indifferent – but that does not mean they are all #MeToo worthy.