A Philosopher's Blog

Democrats & Sexual Harassment

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on August 25, 2012
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While Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks got considerable media attention, Vito Lopez stepped in to remind us that Democrats are not always angels when it comes to women. Assemblyman Lopez, long a power broker, was recently censured for sexual harassment.

If these accusations are true, the Lopez was clearly behaving badly. In this case, there is really little in dispute-people who engage in sexual harassment should be punished. Of course, some might say that his actions border on an attempt at sexual assault, but that is something left to lawyers to hash out.

What I find most interesting about this situation is that (assuming the claims are true) Lopez engaged in behavior that seems rather irrational. After all, the consequences of sexual harassment are well known these days and presumably Lopez is reasonably intelligent and keeps up with the news. As such, I wonder why Lopez (allegedly) decided to engage in such career ending behavior.

There is also apparently a sexual harassment complaint against Janet Napolitano. In this case, the accusation is that men are being harassed and discriminated against in her department. Naturally, if these claims are true, it would make me wonder why this would take place.

One standard explanation is that people tend to think that they will be the exception. That is, that although other folks get caught and punished, they are too clever or powerful to face the consequences of their actions. While this might sometimes be the case, if Lopez was thinking this, then he miscalculated.  I suspect that people in positions in power sometimes think that they are entitled to break the normal rules (or that they do not apply to them). There is also the matter of the sort of personality that would be involved in power-that sort of person is probably accustomed to simply getting what s/he wants and hence extends this expectation beyond the limits of his/her legitimate authority.

Another explanation is that sometimes people do not realize that they are engaging in harassment. In some cases, this is understandable (there are, after all, some gray areas). However, when a person’s hand is on another person’s leg, the situation is rather clear. Of course, a person might think that his (or her) advances will be appreciated or welcomed and this could perhaps result in unintentional harassment. Except, obviously enough, in cases in which such advances would be automatically inappropriate (such as between a boss and her employee).

A third possibility is that some people simply cannot help themselves, for whatever reason. That is, they have some of defect in will or (in more modern terms) a mental condition that causes them to act in ways they should not.

In the case of females harassing men, there might be a “payback” factor at work. After all, men have been on the giving end of harassment for a long time and it might be rather tempting to certain women to switch roles. Of course, it also might be that there are women who are just as bad as men and it is just a matter of being given the opportunity to behave badly.

It is, of course, always depressing to hear about such incidents. After all, by now I would hope that people in such positions would know better and be deterred from acting in this manner. However, this is clearly not the case.

Any thoughts on why people engage in such career-ending (or damaging) behavior?

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5 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on August 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Being a lefty Democrat is supposed to buy you absolution from sins such as sexual harassment.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Given that Democrats profess to be the party that is committed to women’s rights, such transgressions are worse on the part of Democrats. After all, the misdeed can be compounded by a violation of espoused principles.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on August 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Medieval exemption is yet another response to liberalism. As I wrote in 2008, I watched with curiosity as tony Palo Alto neighborhoods sprouted bigger Obama campaign signs on their lawns, even though the owners were by definition one-percenter segregationists (East Palo Alto and Redwood City are a mile — and a solar system — away). The mansions of an Al Gore, John Kerry, and John Edwards are expiated by their owners’ always louder liberal outrage. No one really wishes to live in a world governed by the laws of contemporary liberalism. So the architects escape it and justify their flight by finding a suitable token, a convenient scapegoat, a secular priest like Obama to offer them penance for their sins of enjoying elite privilege.

    http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/the-wages-of-liberalism/3/

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Elites can often afford to have ideologies that are inconsistent with reality or at least morality.

      One of my cynical friends said that rich Democrats feel guilty about being rich, but not enough to cease to be rich by putting their excess wealth where their mouths are. He also says that rich Republicans feel no guilt. That might help explain Magnus’ hypothesis that conservatives are happier than liberals.

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