Liberal Men and Blurred Lines

I remember Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and the months leading up to it. I remember him saying emphatically, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Even when he admitted to having had sexual relations with a subordinate in a workplace provided by taxpayers, he claimed it was a “private” matter. And the only reason he confessed to that is because of the DNA evidence; he had been accused of many other acts of sexual harassment or outright rape, but the evidence was lacking.

I had trusted Clinton. When the Blue Dress surfaced, I joined the other men in questioning its legitimacy and mocking how pathetic Lewinsky was to have saved a “trophy” (when she really saved it on Linda Tripp’s encouragement as potential evidence). When faced with the choice between believing a liberal man and a half-dozen or so women, I believed the man. Even though he was in a job position that routinely involves lying to protect personal and government interests. He sounded so convincing.

Even afterward, even today, the incident is invoked more for comedic reasons than to discuss the serious problem that a man of significant power and wealth exploited that to seduce a woman who was his work subordinate.

I’m thinking of this now for two reasons:

First, as of this writing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being accused of having committed perjury during his confirmation hearings, leading to memes such as “I did not have international relations with that country.” I also cracked a few jokes equating Sessions’s response and Bill Clinton’s denial.

Secondly, my most recent Good Men Project article on the cultural rejection of Milo Yiannopoulos received multiple comments on liberal hypocrisy. While I don’t fully agree with the comments that article received, it’s worth exploring: Are liberal men hypocrites?

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Earlier this year, an uncorroborated report was circulated on the internet accusing Donald Trump of having Russian prostitutes urinate on a bed in Moscow that had been used by the Obamas. Even if this report were true, there’s nothing obviously criminal about this. It would certainly be disturbing and speak poorly about a man seeking the Presidency, but it’s probably not illegal.

And while Democrats are quick to question Trump’s ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, they’re far less vocal about Bill Clinton’s association with Epstein. Indeed, some sources suggested that both camps (Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s) avoided bringing up Epstein because of fear that it would backfire.

Meanwhile, this week, Casey Affleck received an Academy Award for Best Actor for “Hacksaw,” despite continued complaints from several women that he sexually terrorized them on the set of “I’m Still Here.” Where are the legions of liberal men expressing disgust that the MPAA would honor Affleck with one of their highest honors?

And while liberals joined conservatives in recoiling in disgust from Yiannopoulos speaking wistfully of being molested as a teen, liberal darling George Takei’s similar reflections got something of a shrug.

To be clear, there are important distinctions between Yiannopoulos’s comments and Takei’s: Yiannopoulos offered them in a greater context of questioning the arbitrariness of age of consent laws and promoting man-boy sexual mentorship, while Takei was being asked to relate a story from the gossip mill to Howard Stern, and didn’t suggest that everyone should experience what he did.

But even if Takei seemed uncomfortable relating the story (at least three separate times, all when prompted), he was laughing. The effect of the laughing, the optics, says that he was making light of an incident that was unarguably molestation. For that, people who would champion against molestation should at least question his presentation. We cannot look away from the reality that George Takei called being sexually assaulted “delicious.”

Forty years ago, Polish director Roman Polanski was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. He fled the country and has not returned since. The general feeling in Hollywood is frustration with the US and California authorities for not just dropping the charges because, hey, it’s Roman!

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy for five years, dodging Swedish prosecutors over rape allegations. His supporters, many of whom are liberal and progressive men, insist the rape allegations are a conspiracy to shut him up.

When Conservative pick Clarence Thomas was accused of sexually harassing his then-subordinate Anita Hill, liberal males tried to use that to keep him from the Supreme Court. But when Bill Cosby was accused of drugging and raping multiple women, responses from men across the political spectrum were far more muted and ambivalent.

And the list goes on.

On the one hand, it is understandable that some of the incidents involving conservative men spark more condemnation than equivalent acts from liberal men. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was a crusader against gay rights prior to his arrest for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. The liberal outrage in this case is not over the solicitation (so what?) but over the blatant hypocrisy. You want to pick up guys in public bathrooms? Fine. But don’t then act like gay sex is evil or other people are the predators.

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Liberal males are quick to hide behind “meta” claims. When we mocked Melania Trump’s nude pics, we claimed it was about the Right’s hypocrisy of having criticized Michelle Obama for not being “classy” enough. When Obama bares her arms, it’s a conservative outrage; when 1984 Miss America Vanessa Williams bared everything, it was a conservative outrage. When nude pics of Melania Trump surface, though, that’s a shrug.

However, even if that does represent conservative hypocrisy, two wrongs don’t make a right. We’re responsible for our own responses, and the actions I mention here that liberal males tend to be less outraged about, the ones we tend to even joke about, (wink wink nudge nudge), are outright crimes. If we are more outraged by Thomas joking about a pubic hair on a soda can than we are about Cosby drugging and raping women, then we are absolute hypocrites. If we are outraged at the accusation involving Trump, Epstein, and a young girl but want charges against Polanski dropped because, hey, he makes really interesting movies… then we absolutely are hypocrites.

For liberal men, conservative sex scandals are clearly condemnable, while liberal sex scandals are steeped in blurred lines. We can’t have it both ways, guys. I’m guilty, too: I need to change, too.

Note that I’m not saying how we should adjust our outrage: Perhaps we were too outraged over some of the things that Yiannopoulos said, because of our general contempt for the man. Be more outraged about liberal male wrongdoing, be less outraged about conservative male wrongdoing: But be consistent. Make sure the reaction matches the action. Whatever our standard is, let’s make sure it’s not a double standard.

Let’s be better than this.

Originally published on The Good Men Project.

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