Kant’s categorical imperative is:
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.
Sen. Mazie Hirono’s definition of sexual harassment is not, yet, a universal law, but if it were …
Sen. Mazie Hirono asks ACB "since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?" pic.twitter.com/6JgLkoIXIF
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 13, 2020
If acted upon universally in the manner of Kant’s categorical imperative, Senator Mazie Hirono’s definition of sexual harassment –“since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors?” — would lead to the eventual extinction of the human race.
Granted, Ms. Barrett’s requests for sexual favors have probably not very often turned out to be unwanted, but for the rest of us, there’s a certain stochastic element in carrying on the human race. In late 1992, for example, I predicted Bill Clinton would get into a huge sexual harassment scandal because not even Bill Clinton could have batted a perfect 1.000 in requests for sexual favors. Eventually, that woman turned up in Paula Jones, which set off the Lewinsky scandal.
A specter is haunting the Clinton Presidency, one that the President-Elect needs to defuse immediately.
The move to drive liberal, pro-feminist Republican Senator Robert Packwood from office as retribution for his quarter century of goatish solicitations of female employees and lobbyists would appear to only solidify the Democratic domination of Washington, but a precedent is being established that could eventually shake the Democratic establishment. Many Democrats luminaries are in danger, not because they are Packwood-style mashers, but because the definition of sexual harassment being wielded against Packwood — “making unwanted sexual advances toward those working for him or with him” — is so broad that a substantial fraction of all men would be implicated, assuming the office Christmas parties I’ve attended are representative.
Now, most Americans’ attitude toward sexual harassment is that they know it when they see it. Everybody would include the quid pro quo, “Sleep with me or lose your job,” whether spoken or unspoken. Many would target physical advances, especially Packwood’s pawing, slobbering, chase ’em around the desk style reminiscent of a ’50s sex comedy’s Dirty Old Boss. Many Americans would also be hard on adulterous advances, although journalists have been reticent on this aspect of Packwood’s delinquencies.
Yet none of these characteristics are necessary under the modern strict constructionist formulation of the crime. For example, Anita Hill never alledged any quid pro quo, physical contact, or adulterous intent.
Further, most Americans would probably censure the industrial scale lecher. Some might distinguish between sexual and romantic advances, although others might find that naive, requiring Godlike insight into the human soul. A more workable distinction might be between flirtation and indecent proposals, although once again the line would be hard to draw. Likewise, some would castigate boorish, Marlon Brandoish advances, but exempt debonair Cary Grantish passes. Others might find this distinction a matter of taste. Many would single out recurrent advances, although others would have a hard time distinguishing between the chronic harasser and the lovelorn swain. Yet, none of these exacerbating factors, subjective as they are, are required under the fundamentalist proscription. A further oddity is that no advance no matter how obnoxious is prohibited as long as it ultimately turns out to be wanted.
The word in the orthodox description that expecially troubles Americans (and baffles Europeans) is “unwanted.” Logically speaking, we could, like the Khmer Rouge in the Year Zero, try to abolish all sexual advances, unwanted and wanted. Given enough secret policemen, it might almost be doable. But to try to eliminate just the advances that turn out to be “unwanted” while preserving the “wanted” ones, requires not just a police state but a time machine. (Possibly, some of the formulators understood this, and simply intended to discourage all male advances. For example, the pioneering theorist, Professor Catharine MacKinnon, has avowed that she thinks all heterosexual intercourse is either rape or prostitution.)
Trust me, few guys like getting rejected. It’s just that no advance is wanted or unwanted until it’s made. Unwanted sexual advances are the price we all pay for the survival of the species. Maybe I’m just biased; see, my all time personal favorite office sexual advance was the one my Dad made my Mom in 1946. Still, I suspect that women today are probably more dependent on meeting men at work than in 1946, and thus are even less interested in outlawing wanted advances
Surveys report that a large minority of American women say they have been sexually harassed. What these confirm is that the majority of women don’t take the fundamentalist definition seriously, otherwise the surveys would find not 30% or 40% agreement, but virtually 100% . What self respecting woman would admit that no man had ever made an unwanted sexual advance toward her? She’d be admitting either that no man’s ever made her a sexual advance or that she’s never met a sexual advance she didn’t like.
Unfortunately for the honchos of the Democratic party, the truest believers in the nefariousness of unwanted sexual advances are politicized liberal career women in the media, the law, academia, government work, and politics; in other words, exactly those women toward whom so many liberal politicians have made so many on-the-job passes, wanted and unwanted, over the decades. Democrats have made much political hay out of sexual harassment since Anita Hill, but the old boys are about to be hoisted by their own petard.
Senator Kennedy, of course, has dug himself into a hole so deep over the years that there is almost a Falstaffian grandeur to his predicament. A far more intriguing potential target, though, is Bill Clinton.
I know of no evidence whatsoever that Clinton has ever made “unwanted sexual advances to women who worked for him or with him.” Yet, if I were an investigative reporter wishing to make a name for myself as the Woodward/Bernstein of the 90’s, I’d be highly intrigued by these facts: Governor Clinton has for many years presided over thousands of female state employees. By his own testimony, he has not always paid strict attention to his marriage vows. Finally, he is widely reputed to be a man like any other man, only more so.
On the other hand, Mr. Clinton is younger and more Kennedyesque than the hapless Mr. Packwood, so a higher proportion of any propositions he might have made would have ultimately proven to be “wanted,” thus letting him off the hook, according to the fascinating logic of current harassment theory. Yet, not even Warren Beatty has a career batting average of 1.000. So, all in all, it seems likely that some enterprising reporter is going to think it worth his while to go Pulitzer hunting among the secretarial pools and law offices of Little Rock. I’m sure they’ve been raked over before by journalists, but they were looking for the wrong kind of woman. Far more scandalous in today’s environment would be the story of the woman who didn’t commit adultery with Bill Clinton.
Most likely, the reporter won’t find anybody who’ll say anything. Quite possibly, there is nothing to be said. But if there is, at any moment over the next four years a vast brouhaha may erupt. While initially amusing to contemplate, the thought of a Watergate-like paralysis of the executive branch, followed by an Al Gore Presidency and a retributive Democratic attack on every Republican who has ever winked at a pretty girl, is not.
If Mr. Clinton has any secret worries on this score, he should act now. A vague confession and apology would cause a short flurry of tsk-tsking, but the ultimate loser would not be the President but the expansive definition of sexual harassment. The fundamental political flaw with thedemonization of “unwanted sexual advances toward someone who works for or with you” is that, if the office Christmas parties I’ve attended are representative, scores of millions of American men are guilty of this heinous offense (as are millions of American women).
As a parallel, consider how the short-lived marijuana witch hunt of 1987 was declawed. When Judge Douglas Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court was deep-sixed by his admitting to having smoked the demon weed, it briefly seemed likely that by the logic of the scandal much of an entire generation would be permanently disqualified from high office. Fortunately, due to the immediate ‘fessing-up of younger Presidential candidates like Al Gore and Bruce Babbitt, this potential inquisition sputtered out. Of course, it flared up again farcically in 1992 when Governor Bill confessed that he had toked, but never inhaled.
Which is another reason why I’d like to see Mr. Clinton address the subject of any past indiscretions: not only would it be good for the country, but judging from his previous equivocations, we can expect another doozy.
I couldn’t find anybody to publish this in 1992.
Of course, this turned out to be a pretty good prediction of the Paula Jones scandal of Gov. Clinton exposing himself to a state employee, for which Clinton was eventually disbarred and had to pay her $850,000
Here’s something I wrote 27 years ago in the wake of the Anita Hill brouhaha:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Practically every evening for a month in 1978, the Senator would come into my office and close the door,” tearfully recounts a former campaign worker. “He’d look me over slyly, then ask, ‘What’s green and skates?’ I’d answer, ‘I don’t know, Senator.’ And he’d chortle, ‘Peggy Phlegm!'”
“I was sitting on the men’s room toilet,” recalls another one-time staffer. “Finding me trapped there, Senator Noland stood outside my stall for 20 minutes telling me jokes like, ‘What did the snail say when it climbed on the back of the tortoise? “YA-HOO!”‘”
Washington has been rocked by accusations by two dozen former employees and acquaintances that Senator Edmund Noland, (D-Alaska), who was reelected in 1998 under the slogan “Serious Times Require a Serious Senator,” made unwanted humor attempts. Although Congress exempted itself from the Humor Harassment Act of 1997, the revelations have already led to demands for public hearings on the scandal involving the man previously admired as the dean of the New Earnestness.
“It’s not about humor, it’s about power,” explains humor harassment expert Dr. Malachi Bismarck, “The power to inflict your personality on your helpless, cringing underlings.”
One victim of the Senator’s unwanted humor attempts admits, “Sure, sometimes he told good jokes. But, who can remember the funny ones? It’s the painfully embarrassing stinkers that haunt you to the grave.”
A former aide reveals how his hero-worship had turned to horror. “I went to work for him because of his thought-provoking speeches against racism, the deficit, nuclear winter, global warming, and the coming ice age.” But a shrouded side of his idol emerged during a routine 1994 hearing on an Air Force training program for pilots from Spain, when Senator Noland leaned over and whispered to his aide, “I hear the handbook is called ‘How to Make the Spanish Fly.’ . . . Get it? Spanish fly! Hnnh? Hnnh? Get it?” and heartily elbowed his aghast assistant.
When asked about the incident, the Senator would only comment, “Some people, they just don’t get it.”
“The Senator would tell me how Jesus and St. Peter are playing golf and Jesus keeps trying to hit just a 5-wedge like Arnold Palmer does on this long 240 foot par 7 over a lake, but he can’t hit it far enough, so he walks on the water to get his ball out of the lake, and so this golfer behind asks, ‘Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ?'” recalls one time aide Nick Hill.
“Sure, I laughed then, but Dr. Bismarck’s Humor Victims Support Group has helped me see how degrading it was,” reflects Hill. “Why is it supposed to be funny when St. Peter says, ‘No, He is Jesus Christ, He just thinks He’s Arnold Palmer?’ I mean, who is this Arnold Palmer person?”
“The Senator relished fake dog-doo and squirting boutonnieres,” recollects a Greenpeace lobbyist, a longtime political ally. “We Beltway oldtimers had to warn the younger ones not to meet with him alone on April 1st. Then, there were his dialect jokes: he’d start off with the appropriate Scottish or French accent or whatever, but would inevitably slide back to his all purpose Irish brogue, complete with ‘Faith and begorrah,’ by the punchline. That is, when he could remember the punchline. I don’t know how many times he told me about the dyslexic agnostic who lies awake at night wondering, ‘Is there a God?'”
The Senator’s friend, Washington lawyer Jack Kravits, contends, “It’s not like he’s the only closet cornball in Washington: there’s a Supreme Court Justice, for instance, who annually tells his clerks:
Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade who?
Roe v. Wade? Who cares? As long as we cross this river somehow!
“Which is, now that I think about it, probably the most cogent defense possible of the logic of the Court’s compromise abortion decision in Reproductive Services v. Casey.”
Senator Noland’s chief of staff, Mardi Ames, defends her boss: “He’s only being singled out because he outreached to the humor-resistant community years before the humorless won recognition as a legally protected minority. If he had hired only humorful people, they’d have just razzed him back instead of brooding upon it for decades.” Ms. Ames asks, “Is it fair to depict a man’s life as if all his jokes were duds?” When asked for an example of the Senator’s wanted humor attempts, she offers, “Well, let’s see . . . oh, yes, there was the one about the three strings who walk into a bar and the first string says . . . Uh, well, maybe not that one . . . Look, can I get back to you on this?”
A sense of betrayal is growing among Noland’s longtime supporters. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Nina Lindblad laments, “Repeatedly, my friends and I have celebrated some seemingly serious politician, only to be cruelly disillusioned. Are we utter fools? Do we know nothing of human nature? Well, of course not, so it must be society’s fault, or maybe the media’s.”
Humorism activist Bismarck sums up, “We are not against humor. Everybody wants wanted humor, but nobody wants unwanted humor. It’s that simple.”
Just before presstime, Senator Noland issued a statement that he had been diagnosed as a victim of Humor Addiction Malady (HAM), and was checking himself into a clinic in order “To learn if my alleged behavior (which I deny completely but personally apologize for if it offended anyone) stems from my history of childhood sports abuse. After 50 years of repression, I have only now recovered my buried memory of how my father made me play Little League. The experts are finally realizing the terrible toll taken by ‘Right Field Syndrome.’ I hope my accusers can somehow find it in their hearts to forgive my Dad.”
By Steve Sailer
Enter Stage Right, February 1993
Reprinted in National Review, 2/23/98