LaFrance at The Atlantic: No Means No. Yes May Also Mean No.

In a previous post, I observed that some feminists were exploiting the Harvey Weinstein case for opportunities to attack innocent men. Today, we have a related essay. On January 9, 2018, Adrienne LaFrance, an editor at The Atlantic, published an article discussing the handling of sexual harassment allegations against reporter Glenn Thrush at the New York Times. In her article, LaFrance said this:

Let us begin with the second of those four paragraphs. As shown here, LaFrance says that Addie Zinone was “the victim in an affair with Matt Lauer that she believed was consensual at the time.” In other words, Zinone decided to sleep with Lauer. That made it consensual. But then, years later, she decided that she should not have consented. That made her a victim.

So now, guys, you are warned: having sex with a woman who says yes may still make you a sexual abuser. Not for any reason that either party considered important back then, when it happened; it is good enough if someone thinks of a reason later. Maybe it will be because you were white, or black, and she wasn’t. Maybe it will be because she admired your tattoos but researchers had not yet discovered that (fill in the blank — maybe contact with tattoos will someday be found to make skin cells more vulnerable to infection, or something). The point is, a reason might be found; and when it is, you will be a sexual abuser, retroactively.

I’m not taking a stance on the Matt Lauer imbroglio. I’m taking a stance on the logic. If it was sex between two consenting adults at the time, it was consensual, period. Except at The Atlantic.

LaFrance’s notion appears to be that a 24-year-old woman is not mature enough to make an intelligent decision on whether she wants to have sex with someone. She has the option of deciding, years afterwards, that she shouldn’t have wanted that, and then it will be your fault.

Obviously, Zinone was aware, at the time of her affair, that the “power dynamic was completely imbalanced” between Lauer and her. This is not shocking information. The power imbalance is precisely why many women would be attracted to someone like Lauer. The Independent (Lebowitz et al., 2016) summarizes a 2010 study as concluding that “women often prefer older men,” especially “powerful, attractive older men.” According to Psychology Today (Robertson, 2012), “[D]ominance and sex are biologically linked in every mammalian species, including humans.” Beggan and Allison (2017) are merely stating the obvious when they observe that “Achieving the status of leader is a characteristic that many people find sexually attractive.”

In that light, the logic seems to be as follows: the woman will be attracted to the man because of his greater power; she will want to have sex with him; but he will be abusive if he has sex with her. She will be a poor victim. And we will all be misogynists if we consider this sheer opportunism — as, that is, a way for someone like Zinone to get into the spotlight and attract support from misandristic women, after she has milked the relationship with the powerful man for all it’s worth.

LaFrance’s phrasing around this matter is remarkably disingenuous. She quotes Zinone as saying that Lauer “was always incredibly professional. He always presented himself that way. Until he didn’t.” The implication is that Lauer was a sleaze for not being merely a sexless professional. You really can’t get much more anti-male than that. Yes, obviously, Lauer (and anyone else, male or female) would be expected to present themselves as professional, when performing professional duties. But they would ordinarily be expected not to present themselves as professionals when interacting with others on a personal basis. Zinone seems to be suggesting that it was OK for her to have personal interactions with Lauer, but it was not OK for Lauer to have personal interactions with her, when that is precisely what she wanted.

Granted, Lauer was married. I can certainly see his wife coming forward with complaints. I am just wondering how in the world Zinone, a perpetrator, manages to come off as the victim.

Let us end with the beginning. The quote shown above starts with these words:

“I don’t see this uprising of 22-year-old women saying, ‘I want the right to sleep with my boss,’” [journalist Laura McGann] added. “That’s not happening. So I feel like overwhelmingly the problem here is more powerful men are putting women in a bad position.”

And which position would that be? Seriously, does “bad” mean it is a position the women don’t want? If so, why isn’t anyone calling for legislation on the matter? If the public generally agrees that 22-year-old women are incapable of making decisions on such matters, fine: let’s raise their drinking age, their voting age, and the age at which we allow them to drive; let’s put them in juvenile hall if they come on to men before they reach 25. We could also go ahead and prosecute men over 30 who have sexual relations with them. I could support that. God only knows how many more young women would have had to settle for someone like me, if they had been legally barred from making themselves available, on rotation, to the professor or the boss or the rich older guy instead.


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