Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well, we know one guy who won't be Obama's running mate.

I don't know what's finally going to come out of this whole John Edwards mess; I'm not sure that anyone knows, including Edwards and Rielle Hunter, the two principals in the affair. Oh, they know what factually happened, of course, though they may have differing views of what it meant. But no one can predict the ultimate ramifications. Nor do I want to engage in uninformed speculation about what The Whole Truth will turn out to be. It's pretty clear, however, that there's more to tell than has been told. For one thing, the chronologies don't add up: It would seem that Edwards and Hunter were hanging out together before Edwards' description of how things got started, and were still seen together, quite publicly, after his recollection of when the affair ended. There also appear to be discrepancies about the amount of time they spent together (with Edwards' version, again, sounding like major understatement). Then, not far in the background, there are the paternity questions surrounding little Frances Quinn Hunter, the daughter that Rielle Hunter indisputably bore this past February 27. (If you're of a mind to examine the actual birth certificate, click here for a PDF.) And thenperhaps most serious, at least from a legal standpointthere's the possible diversion of funds from Edwards' presidential run, and the behind-the-scenes legal entanglements surrounding the monies paid. If it's determined that any part of the $114,000 that apparently was paid to Hunter for her videography was in fact a personal payment from a married man to his mistressand/or hush money, to keep that mistress quiet after the factthat would be an unambiguous violation of federal election law. The consequences for John Edwards could be dire, both legally and personally. He says he told his wife, Elizabeth, the whole story not long after it happened. I just wonder if he told her the whole whole story, especially given some remarks he's made lately that suggest he has a rather self-serving, situational view of honesty. (When someone, especially a trial lawyer, tells you that an earlier version of his story was "substantially true," you want to start checking to make sure you've still got your wallet.)

But more than any of that, what I'd really like to know is why people in Edwards' predicament
and there are more of them all the timehandle things, or mishandle them, the way they do. Why, when caught red-penised, do they try to lie their way out of it? Why do they release information in devious, misleading half-bits and mini-pieces, admitting what they're forced to admit but denying everything else...even though they have to know that we live in an age when full disclosure is only a matter of time? I don't get it. Is no one advising them on this? Don't they realize that they're going to seem even that much sleazier when the gory details come to light?

Even in Bill Clinton's day
which, technologically, was a whole different worldI think the man's infamous finger-wagging line, "I did not have sex with that woman," was a grave error in judgment. But today? Between YouTube and iPhones and the Orwellian specter of video surveillance almost everywhere you go? It's just a dumb tactic, no matter how you slice it. In fact, returning to Clinton, I remember what people were saying at the time: It's one thing to have an affair; lots of people, even lots of presidents, have affairs. And most men lie about it, to their wives. That's "expected." But sentiment really began to turn against him, even among some of those who normally would've shrugged the whole thing off, when it became clear that Clinton lied to the nation. He looked right into the camera and lied to America, by gosh. That's what made some people call for his, ahem, head.

And that's what Edwards and other public figures need to realize. Some folks will look at a situation like this and say, "Hey, that's between John and Eli
zabeth. It's nobody else's goddamn business." But there are people who think that when you became an elected official, it meant that you owed Your Public the truth. More so, even, than you owed your own wife the truth.

There are voters who are going to think, "Look, pal, you can lie to your wife; I get that. Just don't lie to me, fella. Because that"
as Brando put it in that classic fence-mending scene from The Godfather"I won't forgive."

P.S. As to an actual running mate? Please let it be Joe Biden. Oh please oh please oh please. I've always had a soft spot for the guy; never quite understood why he was considered something of a lightweight. And can you imagine a funnier White House than with Joe Biden in it?


RevRon's Rants said...

Ahhh, life among the Puritans! Sure, there are people who feel an elected official owes them greater truth than he/she owes a spouse. Of course, their appetite for "truth" is typically restricted to "truths" of a seedy nature; something they can smugly tut-tut about with their friends.

I (along with most of the rest of the civilized world) find it absurd that public figures feel the need to pay "hush money," or to even respond to questions about their romantic entanglements. How refreshing it would have been for Edwards to have simply told the media that "This is between my wife and myself, and none of your goddamn business!"

For those who demand all the details, I recommend the purchase of a pair of quality binoculars and a subscription to the Enquirer. A high-school level civics class wouldn't hurt, either.

Steve Salerno said...

I hear ya, Ron. I'm reminded of the comedian--I'm thinking it was Maher, but I could be wrong--who said Clinton would've saved himself a lot of trouble, and ironically earned himself greater respect (at least among a certain audience), if he just walked up to the mic and drawled, "Yeah, I f**ked her...and it was great! Next question?"

Steve Salerno said...

In a more serious vein--and once again, I don't expect to make any new friends among female readers--but I never quite bought into the argument that goes, "If a man lies to his wife, then that shows he's a liar, period." Maybe I'm seeing this wrong, or looking at it in a self-serving way, but I think many men see infidelity as being in a different category from other types of deceit. For example, I've known at least two accountants that were cheating on their wives (one did it every year at Convention), and yet I cannot imagine them playing fast-and-loose with the books or being otherwise devious where money (and their jobs) were concerned. That was part of the reason for my earlier post about Edwards; I'm not trying to alibi here, but I honestly believe that regardless of how men may behave in any other area of life, infidelity is the one piece of common ground they share. A man could be a total piece of garbage overall, or he could be the nicest and most upstanding guy on earth; both men, in all likelihood, lust after women they shouldn't be lusting after, and will lie to cover their tracks.

RevRon's Rants said...

Hell... You probably won't make any new friends among the male readers, either, Steve. I can just hear the dialog:

Wife: "That Salerno guy is pretty straightforward, and he claims *all* men will screw around and lie to their wives about it. So you might as well come clean now, or I'm heading to Aunt Edna's with the kids!"

Husband: "But Honey..."

Wife: "Don't 'but honey' me, you bastard! I've seen how you ogle little miss twinkle-tits at the hardware store. C'mon, kids. Get in the car."

And as she drives off, hubby stands there, clueless as to what has just happened. Then as his mind begins to function again, he heads for the computer to google "Salerno," then to expedia to book a flight to Philly. No longer the put-upon husband, but a wise guy on a mission.

Hey Steve... Will you leave me your baseball card collection? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Husband: "Funny you should mention Aunt Edna."

Wife: "Oh really, you bastard? And why's that!?"

Husband: " me....OK? Pick someone else to go to."

Wife: "If I could trust you, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

Ron: The baseball cards are spoken for. But you can have my freeze-frame shots of female Olympic gymnasts.

(NOTE to readers: I AM KIDDING.)

Elizabeth said...

Steve and Ron, this is Aunt Edna. I'm disappointed that you'd choose to bring me into this seedy mess without my knowledge. Let me assure you that any news about my possible romantic entanglements within my family (and without) is greatly exaggerated. And even if it isn't, it is none of your business, as you rightly noticed.

P.S. Don't even think about visiting me. I'm moving to Aruba. Today.

Elizabeth said...

And as a female voter (Aunt Edna), I'd like to say that male politicians who have extramarital affairs do not endear themselves to me by saying, "This did not mean anything to me," "I did/do not know this woman," "It was a lapse in judgment," and this awful one, "I did not love her at all" in its many variations.

Yes, I get it that the male perspective in these matters differs from the female, but hearing such cold-hearted "excuses" makes me lose my own heart for the politician in question, even if I were inclined to forgive him the affair itself. Because I'm sure as hell he is lying now or he was lying before to "that woman," whom he must have convinced somehow that he cared about her, loved her and perhaps even planned a future with her. That he denies it all now, in such a glib and indifferent manner, tells me not only that he is not trustworthy (a liar), but also is a cold-hearted manipulator. I can understand and empathize with the complexities of the human heart, but I can't stand cowardly bastards.

So, male politicians with mistresses whom you dump ruthlessly at the slightest hint of public scandal: You'll never get my vote. Even if I liked you and your political agenda.

Anonymous said...

Clinton could have come out with hooves and a tail and no one would have really cared. The country was making too much money to blink at what Clinton was doing. He could have come out and said he was Satan and stayed in office. The country was in the black that’s all that mattered.

Anyhoo, I hate to say it, but it might be a guy thing. I have worked many years in corporate America and I can count on one hand how many "faithful" husbands I knew with fingers left over. It was almost par for the course to cheat on your wife, ala, Jack Welch. Now there were two women I worked for who did not have the urge to cheat from what I could tell. One was a lesbian (quite common in investment banking BTW) and the other could not pick her husband out of a line-up. All the women cared about was making money. They men hung-out at strip joints and cheated with glee. They would take the stock company photos with their wives and perfect children then spend the night with their mistresses who generally were their assistants.

The hypocrites piss me off, the guys who do the EXACT same thing, but bitch about their colleagues’ behavior. That’s what gets me about these sexual witch-hunts. The guys who were prosecuting Clinton were going off with their mistresses after ramming it into Clinton! This type of behavior happens EVERYWHERE.

The guys in question were actually easier to work for than the women. As long as I did my job properly, they left me alone. The men were straight with the books too, if not with their wives. The women I worked for were a pain for the most part. They were good at their jobs, but bad managers and way too nosy about their underlings’ lives.

I think a lot of it concerns socialization.

Steve Salerno said...

A couple points. Actually, first, a question for Eliz: I deduce from what you say here that you think a man's sexual behavior is, indeed, a reflection of his broader character. Am I deducing correctly?

Further, to Eliz and Anon and everyone else: By no means am I "glorifying" male licentiousness; I'm just commenting on the nature of the beast. It's somewhat like saying that pit bulls are more inclined to bite people than other types of dogs: That's not to say that I think biting people is a good thing; it's just saying that if you have a pit bull, and it bites you, well, you shouldn't really be too shocked about it.

Anonymous said...

"By no means am I 'glorifying' male licentiousness; I'm just commenting on the nature of the beast."

I am not saying you are "glorifying" it, but I am pointing out how socially it is basically expected and accepted until someone gets caught.

Elizabeth said...

Am I deducing correctly?

Yes, you are. Everything we do is a reflection of our character, whether we like to admit it or not.

P.S. I'm not accusing you of glorifying the beast either. Just sayin' my piece, is all.

Steven Sashen said...

The day prior to the press breaking the story of Clinton's affair, a psychologist friend of mine got a call from the White House.

"How do you think we should handle this?" they asked.

"Easy." He said. "Have Bill get on TV before the news breaks and just say, 'Yes I did it, here's exactly what I did, here's how many times, and here's what I thought (incorrectly) to justify it.'"

There was a long pause at the other end.

"Uhhhhh... okay, thanks."

Steve Salerno said...

Steven: Since I don't see your customary punch line at the end, I assume this is for real?

Elizabeth said...

Okay, Steve. One more thing. This may come to you as a shock, but women are as lusty as men. You talk about how men just can't help themselves in this respect (without glorifying, of course), but, lemme tell you, women ain't that much different. So while your head is doing that half-turn to ogle this passing beauty, your wife's eyes dart to the side to ever so discreetly acknowledge and appreciate that dark and handsome Adonis parking his car to your left.

Don't be fooled into thinking that this is only a men's prerogative. We all are lusting creatures, for better and for worse. It's funny, however, how blind men are to this aspect in women's lives -- especially *their women's* lives, despite being seemingly wired for sexual jealousy. Somehow you just need to create and maintain the illusion of chastity and virtue and faithfulness for your women... Ha.

Steve Salerno said...

Geez, Eliz; I'm sensing subcutaneous hostility here. ;)

For the record, this man, at least, has never been blind to female lust. I never had a chance to be blind to it: I was in fact a "victim" of female wanderlust in my very first romantic relationship (which lasted from age 13-15), and again later, six months into my first marriage, when I learned that my wife had been sleeping with another guy since before the wedding. (In fact--I believe I've written about this before on SHAMblog--she was late for our wedding rehearsal, of all things, because she was finishing up a tryst and apparently couldn't get herself cleaned up and out of bed in time.) I was a sweet, trusting, naive kid up to that point--certainly during the first relationship, until I was utterly shattered by the discovery of my girlfriend's secret life. (You gotta understand the context here: I was a fat, atrocious-looking, buck-toothed, crew-cutted misfit who spent his entire day and night in his room reading the encyclopedia, and so my love for this beautiful young girl--who for whatever reason seemed willing to spend time with me--was profound.) I've often wondered what impact those scenarios might have had on my emotional/sexual development.

However, I stand by what I've said repeatedly: that I think men are "better suited" to handle cheating. I am well aware that women indulge nowadays, but I don't think it's at anywhere near the rate at which men indulge, and I also think the psychic costs for women are higher. Say what you will about the changing climate post-lib, I still think at some level, nature intended women to be nesters. Maybe the current Hook-up Generation will prove me wrong.

I never saw this as some perverse competition, Elizabeth (or anyone else), where we're out to prove which gender owns the franchise on adultery. And I'm not a "fan" of adultery, either. Frankly, I wish it would go away; it monstrously complicates life and causes a lot of pain. Just look how prominently adultery figures in so many of the major crimes one hears about.

The question is: Can we control it?

Elizabeth said...

No hostility, Steve, rather gentle amusement over human sexual mores.

Sorry to hear about your first marriage. Ay. Awful.

But I don't necessarily agree with your statement that men are better suited to handle cheating. What does it mean, anyway? That they can compartmentalize their sex life and remove it from their emotions and the rest of reality? Yes, I hear stories of such men, but, frankly, have never met one in my professional and personal life (a man who'd exhibit this kind of sexual/emotional lobotomy -- and I am glad I haven't, BTW). Men feel (love and suffer) as much as women in sexual relationships, in and outside of marriage -- sometimes differently, but much more often just the same, in my experience. Interestingly (or not), my latest string of clients has been comprised of men who have been cheated on or abandoned by their female partners (I have not had the female equivalents of those). These men are devastated, as you can well imagine.

I see sexual infidelity and certainly lust as equal opportunity maladies. And I do not think men are better equipped to handle either. This is not a competitive stance on my part, BTW, merely my own experience and observations. Which obviously differ from yours, but hey, so be it, right?

Elizabeth said...

I was a fat, atrocious-looking, buck-toothed, crew-cutted misfit who spent his entire day and night in his room reading the encyclopedia

LOL. My kinda kid.

I've often wondered what impact those scenarios might have had on my emotional/sexual development.

Without knowing you personally, I can only assume that impact was profound. Had to be. Always is, whether we are willing/able to see it or not.

But, as my wise younger son said once (at the ripe age of 11) when observing the pain and anguish his older brother suffered after his first break-up with his then-girlfriend (who cheated on him, BTW): "You have to have your heart broken. Because it gets stronger after it heals -- and it will."

From the mouth of the babes, huh?

(Boy, I do sound like Aunt Edna... Yikes.)

Steven Sashen said...

You didn't think that was a punch line?!

Well, be that as it may, that's a true story.

And to echo Elizabeth, I've been around communities where some male teacher was discovered to be having an affair (or affairs) with married women. I commented, "Rather than railroading this guy -- and I'm not condoning his behavior -- does anyone want to discuss what these intelligent, middle-aged, married women were thinking? Especially since they told me they were the ones who initiated the relationship."

The reply is typically stunned silence followed by, "He's an evil horrible man who took advantage of these women!"

I responded with, "A simple 'No,' would have sufficed (and been more honest)."

Anonymous said...

Steve, except for my being a girl, I sound just as you sound in describing yourself when young--I too was nerdy, rampant case of acne, hid in my room reading the encyclopedia (World Book) and then everything else I could find, including Isaac Asimov's books on chemistry.

You grew up to become a smart, handsome entertaining guy.

There is hope for us all.

Steve Salerno said...

AUTHOR'S NOTE, OATH & AFFIDAVIT: I did not write the previous comment under an anonymous identity. :)

Steven: Don't even get me started. (Well, OK, too late. You started me. I may go on for a while now.) This is precisely why I think there may have been a rush to judgment insofar as my (presumed) feelings about how "virginal" women are, compared to men. And to be clear, I'm not just talking to/about Eliz. I received a couple of charming emails off-blog, as is almost always the case when I venture into this territory.

I've never understood why, when an illicit romance between a married man and a woman is discovered--and especially when it ends--the man is almost by definition the heavy. And I don't understand this at all when the woman is young and single (as long as "young" means "over the age of consent"; and even there--I gotta be honest--there are many girls of pre-consent age who (a) have already been around the block more than most middle-aged guys, and (b) look the part. What is a guy supposed to do when he meets a woman in a bar who's been sitting there drinking--presumably legally--and, as Steven says, she initiates a line of banter with a clearly sexual end-point? But that's a whole other story). First of all, let's see if we can find consensus on a few things.

1. A man cannot philander without the assistance of a willing... philander-ee. Where is the loyalty that women are supposed to have to the Sisterhood?

2. Young single women--who typically move in circles of young, available (if not flat-out desperate) young single men--certainly do not "have to" settle for a part-time affair with an older married guy.

3. The current corporate and/or collegiate environments being what they are, the average married guy is going to be extremely circumspect about making moves on a coworker or student; he almost has to know--first--that his advances are welcome. (Hell, even the single guys are often terrified.) Yes, you'll occasionally run across an out-of-control Lothario who comes on to woman after woman, but such types don't last long in today's world; the liability is just too great. Ergo, in many cases it is indeed the young woman who sends out the early feelers. She's the one who lingers after the meeting/class, or who requests the office consultations, or who constantly praises old Dick on his presentations, or who's bringing him goodies, or who's primping and posing and tossing her hair at every opportunity.

So where's the abuse and manipulation? Where's the "taking advantage of" part?

Ohhh, people, you want to talk about "taking advantage"? I could tell a story--two stories, actually--that would not only make your hair curl, but would probably make your pubic hair go straight. I could tell you stories of women who rode (I use that verb pointedly) their leverage in the present "harassment" climate all the way to the top. And left a trail of male detritus en route.

OK, I need to get back to work, because I'm getting hostile myself. And this blog was supposed to be therapeutic for me. ;)

Elizabeth said...

What is a guy supposed to do when he meets a woman in a bar who's been sitting there drinking--presumably legally--and, as Steven says, she initiates a line of banter with a clearly sexual end-point?

LOL! How about saying, "No, thanks"?

Elizabeth said...

And, p.s., venting hostility can be therapeutic at times, yanno?


Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Re "no thanks." I was careless in my set-up for that situation, which was intended as a comment on the whole "under-age" pitfall. What I meant was, assuming a man is in a bar looking for companionship in the first place--and he meets a girl/woman who is attractive and interested in him, and who is being served by the bartender (who presumably checked her ID)--what is the man supposed to do if he later finds out she's under-age? How is that his fault?

Or does "safe sex" now mean "check birth records, too, before any clothes come off..."?

Elizabeth said...

Well, since we are on the subject of male infidelity, seductive young women who break up long marriages, and general hypocrisy masquerading as family values for public consumption, we would be remiss if we did not bring up here those prime examples of all of the above, Cindy and John McCain. So thus I'm doing my bit of civic duty.

Speaking of which -- and tying it to the previous thread (on Obama and McCain), here is a good look at McCain's values in action:

Anonymous said...

"Isaac Asimov's books on chemistry."

Anon 1:12 pm, you are the only person besides my husband, who is a biology professor, to ever mention Isaac Asimov! I got to tell my hubby someone outside his circle mentioned Isaac's name. He keeps telling me Asimov is important.

Back to you Steve, I do not want to press into your personal life, but it confuses me a bit. You are 58 with a 37/38-year-old daughter. Now I am an English professor/writer so math is not my strong suit, but you were 20 or 21 when you had her? No? That tells me you were quite young when you got married. Now is your daughter your current wife's or your first wife's? Your progeny confuse me a bit.

Now, to the whole sexual mores, I think it is about socialization and acceptance. I think society accepts male infidelity a lot more than female cheating. It probably goes back to paternity issues. Our cave dwelling ancestor males were never 100% sure who was the true father of the children they were taking care of. In this day and age, a lot of this is open season with donor eggs and DNA tests, but to our ancestors and our brains, it still abounds.

Elizabeth said...

Anon(s), Asimov is still popular among the nerdy types (and I say it with affection), even the youngest ones.

Anonymous said...

"She's the one who lingers after the meeting/class, or who requests the office consultations, or who constantly praises old Dick on his presentations, or who's bringing him goodies, or who's primping and posing and tossing her hair at every opportunity."

So old Dick is that stupid?

Well, I had quite a few married professors make passes at me when I was in college and I was an older student. I was in my 30's when I got my BA and quite shocked by them. Didn't they get the memo about that? I don't know if I am that attractive or they thought that I was that desperate. I would venture to guess you did not see this from your view. Maybe I was giving the professors signals in my sneakers and sweats, Steve. I just oozed sex appeal.

Now that I am on the other side of the podium, I have young 21 year old guys doing it. Sorry, you are not going to pass my class 'cause you're cute and young. I did not want a 21 year old, when I was 21 and don't want one now.

I know of many students who married their professors. Will and Ariel Durant come to mind off the bat. It is nothing new.

Like the saying goes, it takes two to tango and someone to decline the dance.

Steve Salerno said...

Exactly, Anon. I agree 100 percent. It takes two. Meaning, not just a horny guy. But why is society so unforgiving of the man--imposing most of the sanctions on him--and so protective of the woman?

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps, given the male's higher (historical) genetic disposition to aggressiveness, the female is still inherently perceived as the prey to the male's predator. Granted, gender roles have evolved and changed, and females aren't *intellectually* perceived as the "weaker" sex the way they once were, but there is that hard-wired gender identity that's pretty tough to eliminate entirely.

In my conscious thoughts, I consider women the equal of men in virtually every way, yet if I observe a man acting aggressively toward a woman, my knee-jerk reaction is to protect her. Having been raised in the south, by a strong-willed mother who taught me to be a "gentleman" might have had some "small" intensifying effect upon that genetic predisposition. :-)

Neanderthal response? Sure. But it's what happens before I have a chance to apply reason. Thankfully, such occurrences are exceedingly rare, or I might well be prone to jumping in the fray with a response that is wholly inappropriate.

Steve Salerno said...

I'm realizing I left a question unanswered. I was married at 21; that's the marriage that fell apart at six months. I met my second wife the next year, and we married two years later. Kathy, who is four years my elder, had two (adorable, amazing) children when we met, and I loved them immediately. (Her husband had walked out on her.) They were very small at the time, so I've always considered them my children (i.e. without the "step--").

Anonymous said...

Thank you for explaining your children, because you mention so many of them in various places; I was wondering if you were a closet Mormon.

Now you are getting into interesting territory about power and sex, which has so much to do with Edwards and Clinton. Power is sexy, whether it be a professor or someone in an elected office. Can you tempt the one in power to pull the apple from the tree? It worked for the snake on Eve in Eden. It was called the Tree of Knowledge for a reason. You know you shouldn't, but you do anyway. Oh, the Devil made you do it!

Also sex is used as an exchange for a lot of people. There are a good number of people, men and women, who get by on their looks and sex appeal. We look down on women who do it, but there are quite a few men who do this too. Women may use their physical appeal, but men use their silver tongues.

It all begins in childhood. It starts with the little girl smiles at Daddy and gets a treat. The little boy who tells Mommy his mother is the most beautiful mother in the world. Let the games begin.

Oh, tell a woman she is unattractive or a man he is not too bright and see how far that gets you just to prove my theory.

Elizabeth said...

But why is society so unforgiving of the man--imposing most of the sanctions on him--and so protective of the woman?

I must have missed that part somewhere, Steve: What sanctions do you have in mind here (imposed on the cheating man)?

And society protective of the cheating woman? What society is that?

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, well, my normal response might be on the order of "you're joking...right?" But I'm going to give you a more temperate and formal reply.

Having worked in (and extensively written about) any number of large American corporate environments, I can tell you forthrightly that--while HR policies of course are crafted to sound gender-blind--in practice, the most vigorous enforcement actions BY FAR are taken against male managers who have affairs with female subordinates (or even female peers). In most cases, the woman comes out of it unscathed--she keeps her job and may even be put under the protective umbrella of laws against "harassment." Meanwhile, the man, often, is summarily fired. The unspoken assumption seems to be that the man "should know better." Even if circumstances suggest that the woman was the instigator.

Now, it is true that far more men than women are in a position of authority, which naturally skews the numbers against men--BUT (and I wrote about this a few years back) even in cases where women are the managers and the man is the subordinate, in general the women are treated much more leniently. They are disciplined or "counseled" instead of being fired outright.

And here's something else to chew on, while we're at it: laws governing the so-called "hostile environment." Men happen to enjoy talking about sex and related ribaldry. Right? But women object to that, so too much of it in an office setting is labeled a "hostile environment." But men hate a lot of the stuff women talk about: relationships, shopping, shoes, etc. Where are the codes against that? (Yes, I'm serious.)

It's like, I was once going to pitch a book titled "The Trouble with Women: They Always Leave the Toilet Seat Down." See, it's all a matter of perspective. ;)

Elizabeth said...

OK, I'll say it then: You are joking, right?

Either that, or the parallel universe syndrome has just flared up here. Again.

But men hate a lot of the stuff women talk about: relationships, shopping, shoes, etc. Where are the codes against that? (Yes, I'm serious.)

Are you comparing explicitly sexual talk to discussions about shopping trips? Seriously?

If so, then you are missing the point, Steve. It's not what somebody "hates" (i.e. is irritated by) that matters in this instance; it is the atmosphere of intimidation (humiliation and fear) that is instilled by certain kind of talk in the workplace. And explicit sexual content, which in case of male "ribaldry," as you gently put it, creates, in general, such an atmosphere. When specifically directed at particular women (and even not so specifically), it constitutes harassment. I can't see how conversations about shopping, kids, relationships, etc. can be construed as "harassment" toward men. But if you do not see the difference...

I'll give you that overzealous adherence to PC laws on sexual harassment may have claimed (did claim) innocent male victims here and there -- and this is certainly *not* a good thing.

But to say that *society* protects cheating women while sanctioning, harshly, cheating men is such a stretch of imagination that I simply do not know what to say to this, other that we must inhabit parallel universes indeed.

Give me one (one!) example of a society-at-large (and let's get away from the hair-raising anecdotes on the American PC abuses in the workplace/academia) that shelters unfaithful women while punishing unfaithful men. Just one documented example of such a human society anywhere on this planet -- I'm not asking for much, am I?

Elizabeth said...

We may be talking about different situations, Steve.

I took your statement, "But why is society so unforgiving of the man--imposing most of the sanctions on him--and so protective of the woman?" as related to the overall thrust of your post (and argumentation, as I read it) to mean sanctions specifically against a cheating husband vs. protectiveness toward a cheating wife. Your response, as well as your previous examples, describe something different, however, from the social consequences of infidelity in marriage (which I referred to).

Elizabeth said...

Since we are on the subject, I'm curious about your thoughts on this story, Steve:

Steve Salerno said...

Look, Eliz, you're talkin' to the wrong guy here, OK? Once while I was a department manager I got into a significant amount of trouble for saying--merely saying--that I didn't see anything wrong with employees actually having sex in their offices during lunch, as long as it was on their own time. The examples people typically present in arguing for hostile-environment codes--once again--are based in Givens, i.e., an authorized view of what is (supposedly) universally right or wrong. But one man's (or woman's) Given is another man's/woman's anathema. My being offended by people talking about shoes is intrinsically no different--at all--from your being offended by my performing an explicit sexual act right in front of you. It's merely the lens through which we view it, and the number of people who share that perception (thus making it a part of our mores, or, again, a Given). Remember that in the nudist colony, it's the person with clothes on who's the weirdo.

Elizabeth said...

Okay... Still parallel, I think. But let's take it a bit further (and no need to get defensive, I hope). You can perform whatever sexual acts you want in front of me, Steve, and I may or may not be offended. It all depends on the context. And yes, people can screw in office on their time -- as long as the screwing is mutually agreed on -- I also have nothing against that.

But if men make explicit sexual remarks about their female co-workers, this is potentially threatening (depending on the kind of remarks, of course -- as in threatening with rape). Imagine you worked with a bunch of redneck guys who day in and out would threaten you with an assault (physical or even sexual). Are you saying that this kind of a working environment would have no effect on your work performance and your well-being?

P.S. Why exactly are you offended by people talking about shoes...?

P.S.2. We do not live in an extended nudist colony -- and thank God for that, if I may say so. But you can bet that if we did, there would be social mores prohibiting and punishing certain behaviors as inappropriate and/or harmful to such a society. Quite different from our prohibitions perhaps, but prohibitions nonetheless, designed to protect the cohesiveness and survival of such a society, as well as its most vulnerable members.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, I hear what you're saying, and no, I do not favor a hostile environment that actually turns hostile--which is to say, when there is sexual intimidation and the threat of bodily harm. I just think, in my own private way of looking at this, that we've gone way overboard in extending the definition of "hostility" to things (like screensavers and such) that begin to move us into thought-police mode. Let's suppose--for argument's sake--that the man in the next cubicle has a perfectly sanitized workspace, hostility-wise, but confesses during lunch one day that he hates women and really enjoys seeing them brutalized and dismembered. Aren't you going to feel a little squeamish about working next to him, too? But doesn't such a man have a right to work, as long as he doesn't act on his impulses? Similarly, people have an absolute right to be racist, in my view. (Black or white.) They just can't go around hanging people or sticking people with a knife from the office kitchen.

Furthermore--and this really, really gets me--we created this whole category of "hostile environment" and "sexual harassment" in order to protect the feelings of one specific group--women--and yet we completely ignore the garden-variety hostility and intimidation that goes on in offices all the time! All of us, at one point in our lives, have worked for someone who's more or less an ogre, a tyrant, a megalomaniac. In fact, those are frequently some of the most highly valued supervisors, because they get people to work at a fever pitch. Don't those types of bosses make 9-to-5 life miserable? But that kind of hostility is perfectly fine--it'll even get you a merit raise--but the kind where you inadvertently make a good-natured remark about a woman's ass...OH NO, God help us, the sky is falling!

Anonymous said...

Let me state from the start, I am a female. I agree that people's romantic/sexual relations of cheating do reflect their overall character. Ethics are never that black and white. There are faithful hitmen. They think nothing of killing another human, but are loath to cheat on their spouses. There are faithful embezzlers and white collar criminals too.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, thanks for your comment, but I'm a little bit puzzled, as you seem to be making two opposing arguments. Is there a "not" missing in there somewhere?

Elizabeth said...

They just can't go around hanging people or sticking people with a knife from the office kitchen.

Alright. But can they decorate their cubicle with nooses?

Elizabeth said...

Yes, Steve, there have to be laws to protect women's safety in the workplace, because for a long time the so-called workplace was the male domain, ruled by male mores and habits. Co-mingling of the sexes in the workplace is a relatively new invention and one that upset, quite so, the male status quo. Some men have adjusted well to it, others not so much. And yet others purposely go out of their way to make women's lives miserable in the workplace and get back that good feeling of the old boys' club. So, yes, there are good reasons for harassment laws in the workplace.

Also, the examples you've given hint, though are not explicit, at the power differential in the male-female working relationships that have led to sexual harassment accusations. I.e. it appears that the male "harasser" was the female "harasee's" boss or other authority figure. This adds another dimension to the situation. Can you think of an instance where a female boss was protected from sexual harassment accusations and their consequences, and the male subordinate, who accused her, was sanctioned in any way? I personally cannot, but of course that does not mean anything.

People in positions of authority, whether male or female, should simply know better than to engage in sexual relationships with their subordinates. It is just unethical, because it allows them to take advantage of their power over the subordinate, female or male. Any possible love (or "love") aside.

As to other forms of harassment, of course they are neither welcome nor recommended. Bullying, whether in the workplace or school or anywhere else, is detrimental to people's mental and physical health and simply should not be tolerated. Alas.

Elizabeth said...

a good-natured remark about a woman's ass

Context is everything, Steve. A good-natured remark about a woman's ass can be seen as just that -- good-natured and playful; it can be even welcome. Even in the workplace (gasp, yes). But it depends on the context and the relationship between the players. It is not that difficult to discern, in human relationships, what that context is -- i.e. whether the remark was intended as a compliment, friendly, etc., or a put-down/threat intended to intimidate.

There is too the area of mixed/misinterpreted signals between the sexes, which influences workplace behaviors (and all others) as well. For example, while a woman intends a friendly gesture (smile, etc.) to be just that -- friendly, men tend to interpret it as an invitation to sex. (There is research supporting this.) This seemingly hard-wired difference also would speak to the need for rules directing, to some degree at least, conduct between men and women in the workplace. IMO.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, I'll say something then I'll let you have the last word. (So please don't ask me any more questions about this that require answering. Wink.) My inclination is to say "Yes, they should be allowed to decorate their office with nooses," but I know that would never fly--and of course will invite the usual torrent of criticism about my being a racist. So I won't pursue that line of argument. I just think that society is never advanced via overcorrection. And your remark about "context," and how under certain circumstances a compliment on one's ass could be "welcome"... I mean, my God, who are we going to "empower" to make that call, then? So these are all eye-of-the-beholder offenses wherein the person who gets to decide if something is "offensive" is, basically, anyone who was offended? If I think Susie and Sally both like me and are sending me signals, and I say flirty things to both women, and Susie is warmly receptive but Sally is offended and goes running to HR...that's fair? And to go back to your own example, if a woman smiles and a guy takes it as an "invitation to sex"--so what? As long as he doesn't actually rape her.

This reminds me of an argument I had with my son while I was in Vegas. He believes that there should not be any laws against drunk driving--only if you actually crash and hurt someone. In other words, penalize the actual untoward consequence, not the so-called "predisposing condition." And, yes, make those penalties very severe and enforce them. And the more I think about it--I dunno--the more I think he may have a point. It's kind of like hate crimes: What difference does it make whether I simply shoot a guy, or I shoot him while I'm calling him some racial or homophobic putdown? He's just as dead either way.

I think that more and more, I just basically feel like this: Can we please get out of people's heads and hearts and just deal with what they actually do to each other?

Elizabeth said...

Can we please get out of people's heads and hearts and just deal with what they actually do to each other?

Oh, Steve... This would be so simple if what we "do to each other" was just limited to our actual physical actions. But we "do things to each other" sometimes (often, always) without even uttering a word or raising our hand, etc. What is in our heads and hearts is also what we do to each other, whether we are willing to admit it or not.

Having said that, a desire itself should not, of course, be a reason for persecution. But a desire that manifests in various forms of hostile action directed at another person, specifically or generally, may and should. I.e. the guy with pictures of dismembered female bodies should not be working next to a woman, or another human being, for that matter. Find him something to do in the basement. Preferably alone and under a close supervision of a Syrian prison guard.*

*Wait... This could be construed as a hostile working environment for our Hannibal Lecter-wanna-be, no? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, thanks for your comment, but I'm a little bit puzzled, as you seem to be making two opposing arguments. Is there a 'not' missing in there somewhere?"

Yes, "not" was missing. I type too fast. I agree with a lot of what you are saying about cheating on a spouse does not reflect one's overall ethical make-up.

As far as "mixed signals" goes, yes I have had men misinterpret a friendly "hello" for "I want to have sex with you." When the guy makes the pass, I just say "no, thanks." No harm and no foul to either of us.

I would say that a lot of these laws are actually (I hate this word) disempowering women. A woman should be able to say "NO" without having to run to HR.

Everyone should have the balls to stand-up for themselves whether they are male or female. I have learned far more from men than women about this.

We have now created a society that uses the courts and jobs to parent us.

Elizabeth said...

A novel and shocking idea has just occurred to me: How about we consider the workplace to be a place to work, rather than troll for sexual adventures/relationships?


Anonymous said...

I have worked with people who have some pretty disgusting pics and it never bothered me. I don't care what people's interests are as long as they get the job done. Shockingly, that is what a job is for. I am SICK of people trying to evalute my emotional state by how friendly my "good morning" is. Most serial killers are model citizens, except for the killing part. BTK comes to mind for that. He was a "nice" church going guy.

Anonymous said...

"I think that more and more, I just basically feel like this: Can we please get out of people's heads and hearts and just deal with what they actually do to each other?"

I TOTALLY agree with you. Oddly enough, September's issue of O has a great article about the "wanties." The article addresses something that has bothered me for a long time, people who are not honest about their desires. If YOU need sensitivity and tact, ask for it. Be honest with yourself, instead of projecting YOUR desires onto someone else. The biggest problem people have is ASSUMING that one person thinks or feels the same way he or she does. That is often not the case and many lawsuits and broken-hearts have ensued because of this faulty way of looking at the world. All we can JUDGE are actions. We cannot JUDGE another's dreams or desires.

Elizabeth said...

If I think Susie and Sally both like me and are sending me signals, and I say flirty things to both women, and Susie is warmly receptive but Sally is offended and goes running to HR...that's fair?

LOL. Fair? I dunno what "fair" has to do with it, Steve, other than you consider it not so much here.

Context is everything. No, really. And here is a general rule of conduct: If you do not know a woman *really well,* refrain from making remarks about her ass, no matter how good-natured they may appear to you. This rule rules in the workplace and everywhere else where men and women interact. And when in doubt, do without.

(So says Aunt Edna in her last word. We hope.)

a/good/lysstener said...

Just got in from work and I'm reading along and I really, really want in on this one.

As much as I have a cynical outlook on boys/men, I am soo tired of having other women speak for me and my gender in a way that makes me and all of us sound totally helpless and at the mercy of those big bad awful men who might have the nerve to say a bad word around us and totally reduce us to a quivering pile of girlie-mush. Oh horrors!

I know what women like Elizabeth would probably say, which is if we feel this "empowered" (sorry Steve!) it's only because women from previous generations who had NO power paid their dues. That's true maybe but beside the point. Just like with the black/white thing, we should be dealing with reality that exists today, not constantly fighting old wars from 50 years ago!

If I'm not interested in a boy, believe me he knows it and I don't need anyone else to rescue me. Certainly not my boss or the company I work for! He can be as rude as he pleases, it's not going to get him anywhere and it's not going to affect me one bit. But the minute I start to show vulnerability is when he DOES get the power over me.

As a general thing I think people should speak for themselves and not make personal statements that they disguise as general statements. "No offense" to anyone here. ;-)

P.S. I'm a Pennsylvanian now and loving every minute of it. The Lehigh Valley is BEAUTIFUL!

RevRon's Rants said...

"a desire itself should not, of course, be a reason for persecution. But a desire that manifests in various forms of hostile action directed at another person, specifically or generally, may and should."

I think the danger here lies within the very subjective interpretation of what constitutes hostility. I work in my home office, and have a picture of a beautiful woman - completely nude - as my computer's wallpaper. Doesn't bother Connie one bit. Yet, if I worked in an office at someone else's company, it is highly likely that some woman would find it offensive, and complain that it created a "hostile working environment," even if I had never so much as looked in her direction. Such an allegation would be borne not of any aggressive act on my part, but purely of the "offended" party's personal issues. In essence, I would be assuming responsibility for another's neuroses, which I feel would be wholly inappropriate. Sadly, this is an accurate description of the state of affairs (no pun intended) in business nowadays.

For the record, I've had a number of female assistants & secretaries during the course of my career, and have never made any of them feel uncomfortable in the least. On the contrary, I have without exception become close friends with each of them. And no, there was no dallying involved.

Anonymous said...

Steve, think about coming to work every day to face a bunch of women making rude remarks about the size of your penis both in your face and behind your back, but loud enough so you can hear them. Think about these women leaving obscene pictures and notes about the size of your penis on the door of your locker. This may give you an idea of sexual harassment feels like. It's not about 'you whistle at Sally and she runs to HR'. Such superficial examples trivialize the serious problem of many women at work.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 12:31: I agree that the scenario you describe is not trivial, and if you're speaking from personal experience, I want to express my regret, which is sincere. A couple of things, though. One, this sounds more like a personal attack than mere "passive" hostility. To me, there's a difference between someone having a nudie picture of his own girlfriend on his desk, and someone specifically targeting a fellow employee by leaving rude/lewd comments on her locker every day.

Two: I do have to say, again, that this nation was founded on the very idea that we're going to be exposed to things that may offend and outrage us. This concept is not only what underlies art shows that include a statue of the Virgin Mary performing fellatio on a dog, but also the right of extreme political parties to endorse platforms (i.e. segregation) that may disgust the rest of us. I realize that it's not quite the same when you're talking about going to work; work is someplace you have to to be, as opposed, say, to your voluntary presence at a museum. But somewhere in all this there's a balance, and in today's corporate America, in my view, the pendulum has swung way past the center-line of common sense. I do not feel that it is the government's (or the corporation's) job to protect each and every one of us from things that might offend or embarrass us.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea of keeping work for work. When you work with other people, you need to be mindful of the ethos of your workplace and respectful of your co-workers. That means you should leave your peculiar tastes and needs at home. It's a no-brainer. And if you cannot part with pictures of naked women at work, then I'd say you are the neurotic one (and showing poor taste).

I'd say, too, that there are significant differences between the talk that irks us (shoe shopping), the talk that offends our sensibilities (Virgin Mary defaced), and hate speech (degrading, intimidating, inciting harm--rape, torture, murder.). You may feel it's your right to "express yourself" in this manner, but workplace is no place for hate speech. Express yourself on your time and away from your co-workers.

RevRon's Rants said...

"And if you cannot part with pictures of naked women at work, then I'd say you are the neurotic one (and showing poor taste)."

Taste is such a subjective thing... I recall that when I worked at a financial firm, there were Renaissance era paintings hanging on the wall, and artworks by various masters on the individual workstations. Truly beautiful. Then a woman came to work there and complained that the cherubs in one painting actually had their penises (peni?) showing, and positively went ballistic at Botticelli's Venus on one workstation. Naturally, the paintings came down, and generic wallpapers ruled the day after that. I guess the rest of us - mostly female, I might add - who worked there were too "neurotic" for the one woman who felt we had created a "hostile environment."

Sure, we can all leave our "tastes" out of the workplace. Personalities, too. Except, of course, those who feel some compelling need to find something to complain about. They get free rein. Dilbert would be proud. and I'm very glad to be gone from the place. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Rev, very good points (and concrete examples) about the subjectivity of tastes. I wish I'd made them. I could've saved myself a lot of amorphous words expended in this thread.

And while we're on the subject of so-called "hate speech": It could be said that significant elements of the American civil rights movement were anchored in hate speech. MLK Jr. got much of the press (natch), but I also think people like Huey Newton, Malcolm X and Farrakhan were major players in galvanizing the "I'm not going to take it anymore" sentiment among urban blacks in particular. Now, was that a bad thing? A good thing?

I always remember something Barry Goldwater once said: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." We can debate how we feel about that sentiment--but isn't it at least a valid sentiment?

Anonymous said...

All this is so subjective. I worked with a guy who kept the flag of Virgina, you might know it as the Confederate flag, on his office wall. He was by no means a racist, but he was from Virgina and liked his state's original flag. He was told he had to take it down, because it was "unsuitable" even though no one ever saw it or complained. The swaztika is another example. It would horrify most, but it was originally a symbol of prosperity in Germany and eastern European countries. I have German relatives from pre WWII who put them on a beautiful needle point, which I now keep hidden away in the attic. It was hijacked by Hitler and that is a shame. I had a Italian Renaissance calendar with plenty of nudes and no one complained about my cubicle. It is all subjective.

Mike Cane said...

Jaysus, will you look at all this palaver? Just go over to Roissy. The man speaks the Truth when it comes to modern men & women.

Argue theory and hypotheticals all you want. he's doing lab work and has real results.

Cal said...


You got your wish. And Biden has already reciprocated. He referred to Obama as "Barack America" in his acceptance speech.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal: Yeah, I cringed when I heard that. I like Joe a lot better when he's breathing fire and shooting from the hip than when he's indulging in the scripted happy talk, which always sounds stilted and unnatural coming from him. And indeed, if you think about it, the "Barack America" line is somewhat insulting to Obama, as it implies that there's something vaguely unpatriotic about the man's actual last name, or even the man himself.

Still, no sooner do I start thinking that way than I turn on the TV and I'm assaulted once again by McCain's ubiquitous "celebrity" ad, which doesn't even make logical sense and which epitomizes the sort of dirty, unfair political rhetoric I'd (naively) hoped we could rise above, this time around. That's when my resolve to vote for ABM--anyone but McCain--reaches fever pitch.

And bear in mind, people: I'm a registered Republican of long standing (though I have always reserved the right to cross party lines when it seemed appropriate).

Mike Cane said...

What I am personally finding very funny. Half the sites I've been to where the blogger is an Obama supporter had "Please, not Biden!" before the announcement. The other half had "Please, Biden!"

I'd tell you the reaction of McCain sites, but I don't think I've hit one in my everyday travels.