When someone is publically accused they have the ability to defend themselves, to make their case. When they are the target of semi-public, anonymous, vigilante justice they are painted as persona non grata and rendered silent. Shrouded with anonymity and made powerful by masses of accusers, these lists are foreclosing the possibility of having a real conversation about sex.
Sex, Lists, & The New McCarthyism
The Hannah Arendt Center

Thank you. This is a well written, well reasoned and timely article. We need so much more of this, while simultaneously so much less mass hysteria as one after another accusation flies.

We must never forget that accusations are not evidence, much less proof, of misdeed or misconduct, as evidenced by our Founding Fathers phrasing — innocent until proven guilty.

To take such a stance is not some sort of ‘disbelieving the victims’ but rather just a proper placement of the ‘burden of proof’. Noting that while this placement of burden can often leave those victims without justice it is far superior to accusations being able to leave the accused without justice. It is far more onerous for one to defend an accusation then it is for one to make said accusations.

As for these anonymous lists: I think it is impossible for anyone to defend against, simply because there is no accuser. As long as we allow that an accusation is as paramount to wrongdoing as proof, no one is safe. Not men not women. Not one. None.

In moments of crisis, we need judgment to discern fact from fiction.

The Roy Moore accusations are a good place to start the discernment of fact from fiction. Elsewhere on Medium there is this response to overly assertive insistence that a crime was committed, based only on accusation.

Any of those other “long list” refer to 15 year old girls? Nope, just that one now supported by a forgery. So we have Moore dating girls of legal age.
Examine the accusations, and the allegations amount to what back then was called “making out”, “getting to first base”. That’s it, that’s the whole of it. Moore dated girls of legal age and made out with some of them. Raise your hand if you never did that. No one? OK, let’s move on.

So the need to discern is great because otherwise all accusations become just a part and parcel of the larger whole and lead to the need for further evaluation.

If we let the cascade of accusations sweep away our ability to discern what is sexual harassment from flirtation from what is rape, we are allowing individuals to ruin lives without consequence.

Much of the problem originates in the media frenzy which surrounds such salacious accusations. The press feed off of such accusations because its ‘good for business’ and therefore promote a sense of injustice, a feeling of moral reprehension, a wish to condemn, to villainize; in short, to find guilty until proven innocent. This is how and why we get this:

In The New York Times Michele Goldberg advocated for Al Franken’s resignation, and casually noted that “as more and more men get swept up in this moment of reckoning, we’re going to have to figure out some mechanism by which those accused of offenses that fall short of assault can make amends and get their lives back.”

He, just like Roy Moore, has been convicted by public opinion of a crime. In this scenario, the only question becomes; to what degree shall we find him guilty. His guilt is already complete, it is now just a formality as to what the extent of his crime is considered and therefore what shall be his punishment.

Even in your own writing there is a modicum of this rush to judgement. Its not really your fault as the insidious nature of constant propaganda insinuation is bound to leave even the greatest of minds susceptible to its influence.

Instead of trying to regulate sexuality and sexual energy, we should be trying to open up a conversation that breaks down why men like Donald Trump think it’s okay to walk up and grab a woman.

Upon listening to what Donald Trump actually said, within the context of that conversation, it is clear that the women in question would allow, possibly even relish, such contact. This is not an attempt to justify sexually deviant behavior, but only to acknowledge that sometimes said behavior can go both ways. That some women can also act in a sexually inappropriate manner. This is something that is in need of conversation also. Women that would allow a man to behave in such an atrocious manner for their own gain, but then are conveniently left out of the conversation, but aren’t giving clear messages of their motives don’t do women any justice by muddying the definition of sexual abuse. If one segment of women, no matter how small, are willing to allow such treatment, then it leaves legal recourse at a loggerhead.

What is legally acceptable and what is reprehensible are two entirely different things. In an ideal world they would match up exactly, but in a world where free will is still acceptable, then accounting for cultural variance, social standards and ethical responsibility will often be outside the bounds of law. In a world where both religious piety and pornography, philosophical rationale and S&M stand side by side there can be no law that insulates all, while at the same time not restricting the freedom of will. The law is not there to prevent or restrict our freedom but to guide us away from imposing upon the freedoms of others.

We need a real conversation, not a rush to judgement. In short we need less hysteria and greater rationality. More I over E (intellect over emotion).

Thank you again for you timely post. We need to hear more voices such as yours if we are to move safely thru this minefield.

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