December 2017: Sexual Harassment

December 2017 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

Sexual Harassment: Where Are the Boundaries?

Monday, December 18, 2017
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

Wikipedia tells us that sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature or the unwelcome or unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. It is not a general civility code so simple teasing, offhand comments or minor isolated incidents are apparently just part of life. One boundary is the conduct bad or continuous enough? Another is it unwelcome rather than consented to or even encouraged? And is it so far in the past that it should be forgiven or possibly just forgotten? Does religion or secular ethics hold us to a higher standard? When is the line crossed?

Conservative politicians who advocate religious family values are accused, but so are liberal ones who claim to be feminists. Is there an across the political spectrum hypocrisy to be seen? Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer, whose films sometimes have strong and even older female performers may have engaged in sexual assaults. America’s Dad, Bill Cosby, is accused of using drugs to sexually molest women. Oscar winner, Kevin Spacey, is said to have targeted young men. Are all past achievements and good works such as supporting Negro colleges negated by credible charges of misconduct? If female staffers praise Senator Al Franken, do other women who saw a different person go away?

In romantic comedies women seem to eventually fall in love with persistent and aggressive guys. Should we view these movies with different eyes? Are the icy ladies in love songs really trying to escape predatory stalkers? Do the lyrics “Once you have found her, never let her go” in South Pacific have sinister overtones? Does “NO!!” ever not mean no? On some campuses written agreements are required before a relationship can go to the next level. Is this the end of spontaneity between the sexes? Is it the stuff of silly love songs? Would someone given a date rape drug sign the paper and not remember it later?

President Trump’s “hot mike” descriptions of grabbing women occurred a decade ago. Many of the later accusations which emerged date from that same time period. Is there a point where it is all forgotten if not forgiven? Is there a statute of limitations on the damage sexual harassment does to the victim? Time limitations on claims of sexual abuse of minors were eliminated at least for a period of time in response to accusations made against Catholic clergy. Was bankrupting an Archdiocese the only way to end a culture of denial and cover-up? Does time heal old wounds or does the pain continue?

On Monday, December 18 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will try to find the boundaries of sexual harassment, punishment, and whether forgiveness is possible. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance (possibly not of everything), curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality may keep us from exceeding the limits ourselves. No matter what your thoughts; you may have treats!