“Flirting is NOT an invitation to touching. You know what is an invitation to touching? Being invited to touch ... with words.”

I recently received that comment from a woman, and I thought long and hard about whether to reply at all, this being such a very delicate subject. Any response is likely to blow up in my face, and I am not fond of being hoist with my own petard. But fools rush in, as they say ...

Let's be honest, boys and girls, we are bombarded – all day, every day – with images that convey very unsubtle sexual messages without a word being said. Indeed, much of advertising is based on just such images. Nothing new, of course, as the TV series Mad Men made all too clear. The game, then as now, was/is just how far to push the envelope, while maintaining plausible deniability.

In many ways, the mating game follows that same pattern. The Beatles "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" aside, the game of love (and lust) is all too often a mine-field filled with unspoken signals. Or to borrow another musical reference "I thought that you'd want what I want" followed of course by "so sorry, my dear".

Fitting, I suppose, that “Send in the Clowns” leads me to Al Franken.

· · ·

The Franken/Tweeden Affair is informative in many ways, context for starters. The events occurred, after all, on a USO tour, tours that are notorious for their thinly-disguised – or more honestly, undisguised – sexual nature. The audience is mostly horny young males just past adolescence, and the powers that be are only too happy to supply them with what they think they need – half-dressed babes, bawdy humor and sexual innuendo (and that's putting it way too mildly).

Take the sainted Bob Hope – please, as Henny Youngman would say. There's a reason Hope showed up on these tours with the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, and it wasn't for their acting talent. Hope's ribald cracks left no doubt about that:

"Marilyn Monroe may not be able to make banana cream pie, but she can sure make my banana cream."

Bob: "Let's play television."
Marilyn: "How do we do that?"
Bob: "I twirl your knobs, and you watch my antenna spring up."

The tour in question carried on in that not-so-proud tradition, with Franken providing the raunchy punch lines and Leann Tweeden and the Dallas Cheerleaders providing the pulchritude – and it's a safe bet the soldiers were there to admire the cheerleaders' rear-ends, not their routines. I know I'll catch hell for saying this, but if women don't want to be treated like sexual objects, maybe they should stop behaving like them.

To that point, video from the event shows Leann Tweeden suggestively (some would say lewdly) rubbing herself all over the country singer and members of the band. Gotta ask before you touch? Well, did she ask before she touched? Obviously no. Did Franken mistake Tweeden's suggestive behavior as a signal he could behave likewise? Obviously yes.

I hope someone can explain to me why is it okay for Tweeden to behave as she did, and not okay for Franken to follow her example. I'm sure someone will try, but this seems like a clear double standard to me. And yes, I know women have suffered under a double standard for a very long time. But is the aim here revenge or a new standard? And another double standard is no standard at all.

To a lot of us – even a lot of women I know – the Franken/Tweeden matter was something of a tempest in a teapot, a minor kerfuffle he would likely have survived politically, if it had been an isolated incident – but it wasn't. And that, in my opinion, is one measure of how these things should be judged. Was it a lapse in judgment or was it a pattern of behavior?

Bottom line? Franken got what he deserved, but at least he had the decency to own up to his behavior and apologize sincerely and profusely:

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing – and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine – is: I’m sorry.I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us – including and especially men who respect women – have been forced to take a good hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women. For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate.

It’s obvious how Leann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it – women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.”

· · ·

Contrast that heartfelt apology with Roy Moore's denial and accusations that all his accusers are lying and part of some liberal plot to destroy him and Christianity. Well, if this Latter-Day Pharisee was a Christian, he would fall down on his knees, confess his sins, and beg forgiveness from his accusers and his God. But he's not a Christian – he's just another religious huckster, in a long line of religious hucksters.

Some will charge that bringing up Moore distracts from the matter at hand. I beg to differ. The glaring difference between Moore and Franken illustrates a point I've tried to make here and elsewhere. As comforting as it might be to flatly state that any and all such behavior, including any and all unwanted touching, should be harshly punished, common sense rightly says the punishment ought to fit the crime.

If touching a woman without voiced permission is the new unwritten law, I plead guilty here and now and throw myself on the mercy of the court. My crime? When a woman extends her hand for me to shake, I take that as a signal I'm allowed to touch her hand without a word being spoken between us. Indeed, in some casual social circumstances, I sometimes lightly kiss her hand instead of shaking it.

Let me repeat – I do so only in certain casual social situations; I would never presume to do so in a business environment or any other circumstance where I thought it might be deemed inappropriate, let alone be deemed offensive. The fact is, I have never once had a woman take offense at this courtly gesture. To the contrary, most have reacted with a pleasant smile or warm laughter. But I assure you, if a woman were to take offense, I would immediately and genuinely apologize for giving unintended offense.

Let me make myself perfectly clear – or at least as clear as I am able – I am obviously not equating lightly kissing a woman's hand when it is offered with grabbing her ass or her breast (or other parts of her body I won't mention) when it is not offered. But by the same token, an unwelcome touch should not be equated with assault, let alone rape.

We are all living in a time and place where the unwritten rules of the mating game are being rewritten, and I'd say it's about damned time. But while we're about it, let's try to keep our heads. Like it or not, in this matter, as in any other, good judgment ought to prevail. And I repeat, in all matters, the punishment ought to fit the crime.

©2017 Tom Cordle

Views: 347

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on December 9, 2017 at 1:40pm

That's some mighty fine "victim blaming", "boys will be boys" & "she was asking for it!" apologist work you posted, Tom.  

I especially like how your "non-excuse" excuses strawman'ed Franken and Moore (which in case you haven't noticed are completely different reprehensible issues, other than the victim's gender) away from the fact that "boys can be boys, but they don't EVER get to be sexual abusers".  Until you can understand  <-- THAT fact, you and the rest of the "apologists" are a BIG part of the problem.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2017 at 2:26pm

Monkey
Thanks for the comment; I was hoping you wouldn't be offended by a post that was rather obviously inspired by your own, without giving you credit. What can I say? I'm a guy.

Too many people are too willing to dismiss Trump and Moore as guys "from another generation". Well, I'm older than both of them, and that excuse doesn't cut it with me. These guys are both pigs, and in lots more ways than as serial sexual assualters. I blame them, but I also blame those who enable them, like Moore's wife, standing beside him making goo-goo eyes, like some perverted hillbilly Stepford wife or the concubine of some biblical patriarch.

What's worse is in her heart of hearts she must know what these women are saying is true. Why do I make that charge? Because the pervert himself admitted to casting his eyes on her when she was 15, which would have made him 29 at the time. The official party line is that they didn't start dating until she was 23 and he was 37 – no word as to whether he asked  permission from her momma and daddy.

Not saying that 14 year difference is evil in and of itself, but it does go to his behavior pattern of chasing women young enough to be his daughter. Given that behavior pattern, I can all but guarantee you it didn't stop when he married. Somewhere out there are other younger women he accosted, women who for good reason are afraid to come forward.

Comment by lorianne on December 9, 2017 at 5:19pm

 I was using the word "touching" within the context of the post to mean touching that is even the slightest bit sexual in nature.  I dont generally shake hands in my typical interactions. I am a hugger, but I always ask first. It really isnt that difficult to imagine that everyone has a bubble & we should be asking permission before we enter it.

as to the "very unsubtle sexual messages without a word being said" that we are bombarded with daily, i agree that is true. But please take note that in very few of those messages are the men being sexualized.  And that while women have been in the military for many years now, what men were brought on tour for the women's sexual imaginations.

As to "if women don't want to be treated like sexual objects, maybe they should stop behaving like them."  Women, like men,  do not want to be treated like ANY sort of object.  Women should be allowed to express themselves and their sexuality with the same impunity that men do.   Being a normal, sexual human being is not dangerous for men... in fact it is encouraged.  For women?  yeah... not so safe and certainly not encouraged.

These are the inequalities that get to me. This status quo of men being allowed  to express all the sexual freedom they like without judgement (in fact , often with admiration) and women being judged for every tiny shred of sexuality she exhibits.

Comment by koshersalaami on December 9, 2017 at 5:22pm

It's been so many years since this was relevant to my life that I'm not sure how things have changed. One thing I remember is that the women I knew who viewed themselves as tigresses still hunted like Venus flytraps. It was about temptation in a different way and to a seemingly different extent than it was for males. Life is more egalitarian now but I don't know how that's changed. 

I think that has something to do with Tom's confusion. However, it has nothing to do with the events we're looking at which are universally about abuse of power. That is what is no longer being tolerated and I'm thrilled about that. 

What's important to understand about the USO tours is that the way women dress and behave before audiences on those tours is about show business rather than personal decisions. This is the kind of act that barely post-adolescent boys like, and people on those tours think they owe it to these young men to entertain them given what these men are doing and what they're risking for American civilians. It's not like Dallas cheerleaders wear their uniforms when not performing. It's also not like the decision to make those uniforms skimpy was made by women. There's something awfully disingenuous about treating entertainment as reality when it suits men. The line of logic going "You're wearing something skimpy because guys like me in positions of power have told you it's good for your career to wear something skimpy, you know it attracts men, therefore when you're wearing it you're trying to attract me" is Bullshit. 

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2017 at 8:08pm

Monkey
I've reached the age where the mating game is more or less an academic discussion, and to tell you the truth, it is a comfort to have reached the age where I'm no longer ruled by raging hormones. But I'll certainly own up to things being different when I was a young man. From my admittedly biased perspective, the mating game has been played pretty much the same way for as long as I've been on this planet.

I'm troubled by the fact that so few seem to want to own up to the fact that "no" doesn't always mean "no"; it too often means "I have to maintain this pretense, but please continue". I suspect everyone on this site knows that to be true, whether they'll admit it is another matter. Again, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying; I'm talking about the masquerade both parties often engage in and not about physically forcing someone to do something they absolutely do not want to do.

To illustrate, if you listened closely to the words of Leigh Corfman, you heard her admit to going along with the game out of curiosity (at least). But at some point, she realized, even at her tender age, that this was not how she wanted to find out about sex. At the point she said "no', and at that point, the onus fell on Moore. For whatever reason, he ceased the seduction, but that is certainly no credit to him; clearly, a 32 year-old man shouldn't have been trying to seduce a 14 year-old girl in the first damn place.

Why am I continuing this academic discussion? Because, uncomfortable as it may be for all of us, it is essential if we are to be part of changing the way the mating game is played. Frankly, I have a suspicion the unwritten rules of the game will always be subject to a certain amount of interpretation, but it's clear to me that the double standard that has too long existed is no longer tenable.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2017 at 8:17pm

Lorianne
It sounds like we agree about the double standard. Personally, I'd rather sex wasn't shoved in my face by either sex, and if you think guys aren't made into sexual objects, you must not have seen any Calvin Klein ads.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on December 9, 2017 at 8:31pm

"I'm troubled by the fact that so few seem to want to own up to the fact that "no" doesn't always mean "no"; it too often means "I have to maintain this pretense, but please continue"."

Congratulations,Tom.  You just excused rape.

P.S.  I don't give a rat's ass about how young or old you are or whether we "want to own up to the fact" (paternalistic much???), "No" most freaking certainly means "NO!!".  Stop making excuses for rapists and sexual abusers.  You're just making yourself look stupid (not to mention sexist).

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2017 at 8:52pm

Kosher
I played in rock bands for years – I know something about Venus flytraps, just as I know that even women who weren't tigresses were often initiators in the mating game. From what I'm told, that's even more the case these days.

As for my confusion, I don't believe I am confused. What may be confusing to some is that there are two very different, but still related, subjects being dealt with here simultaneously. The first is the ordinary mating game, and the second is sexual predation, whether that predation be for sex or for control, in the sense of exerting power over another human being. And as any practitioner of BDSM will tell you, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

As for the Dallas Cheerleaders, we're going to have to agree to disagree on that score. These gals know what they're selling, and as I said in the post, it ain't the cheers or the routines. They're selling sexuality, plain and simple, and in the process they're objectifying their bodies and themselves. That's certainly their right; I just don't want to hear any crap about it just being innocent entertainment.

And while we're on the subject, the same goes for the guys out there on the field. They aren't simply providing innocent entertainment – there's nothing innocent about men bashing each other's brains out for the benefit of a cheering mob. That includes millions of people like me sitting home and watching these gladiators on TV. Don't get me wrong; I love the game, but it's barbaric, and we ought to at least have the decency to admit it.

But I fear I've wandered too far afield from the subject(s) at hand. Then again, that's what I love about these discussions

Comment by Phyllis on December 10, 2017 at 2:41pm

Borrowed from Amy:

"I'm troubled by the fact that so few seem to want to own up to the fact that "no" doesn't always mean "no"; it too often means "I have to maintain this pretense, but please continue"."

Have you ever considered that women are raised to not say no? I was, I was punished severely whenever I said no to my parents. I still have some trouble with it, having feelings of anxiety after I say it. I know I'm not the only person to have these issues, but most men didn't have to deal with them in a sexual context. Those females saying no weren't trying to hold up a pretense, or at least not all of them were. I know that there were actually girls who saw it as a game, they had to pretend to a no to save their reputations because society dictated that girls had to be virginal while boys sowed their oats (and that's another thing that's balderdash), but there are A LOT OF WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN PROGRAMMED to be unable to enforce a no. Think about that the next time you think they're just teasing you.

This wasn't the video I looked at first, but it's indicative of the issue. Count how many women are in this video.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 11, 2017 at 6:46pm

Monkey

Thank you so much; this is the kind of dialogue I could only hope my post would generate. Given the intensity of feelings this subject generates, I was afraid all I'd get was vitriol and condemnation. So again thank you for your thoughts and for having the courage to share some highly personal experiences here and on your post.

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