Society and Sexual Harassment

My primary goals in the Daniel Jacobus series have been to write entertaining stories, provide a glimpse into the multi-faceted world of classical music, and give lay readers a good beginners’ listening list of some of the world’s greatest music. I’ve generally shied away from wading into political or broad social issues. When I started writing Spring Break I knew it was going to take place in a music conservatory and that a murder would be committed over some bone of contention, of which there are enough to make complete skeletons. I hadn’t determined who the victim or murderer would be, or the motive.

But as I worked through my rough draft, those question marks became exclamation points as, one after another, institutions of higher education became the subject of front-page headlines in highly publicized cases of sexual violence on their campuses. It didn’t matter whether it was a major Ivy League university or a church-administered one. Sexual harassment remains a doggedly tenacious epidemic in our general culture, and no less so on college campuses where, literally, one is presumed to know better. With the setting of Spring Break already established, I felt compelled to address this issue head on.

When drunken frat boys and campus sports heroes rape female students, we wring our hands but chalk it up to bad upbringing or aberrant behavior or extra testosterone or the reason-numbing effects of binge drinking. We decry it but can, to some degree, understand it. But when such crimes are committed by revered university profes­sors, how do we explain that away? Misunderstandings? If a professor can’t discern the difference between right and wrong, who can? Is it that difficult?

We are now engaged in a raging national debate regarding sexual misconduct that goes far beyond the college campus. High profile men in the entertainment industry, in the media, in government, have been outed for sexual misconduct ranging from an unwanted kiss to pathological pedophilia. Even this is but the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, sexual misconduct in the workplace—in offices, in hotels, in factories, in athletics, in the armed forces—has yet to be fully exposed. And it goes even beyond the workplace. Women do not feel safe from harassment or being groped simply walking down the street, sitting in a bus, or going to a park.

When students and former students have come to me with stories of being victimized by members of my profession, the most important thing I can do is help them regain their ability—which has been so violently compromised—to trust someone, anyone. I try to provide that trust and support. In a society that has no difficulty talking about violence but is unable to openly discuss sex, especially sexual predation, it is no wonder that women are only now coming forward and with such difficulty and with such courage.

We cringe in disgust when Catholic priests are exposed for abusing children. We are outraged when male-dominated cultures of so-called Third World countries relegate women to second-class status. We recoil in horror when marauding mercenaries in Africa rape women as their reward and as a tool to terrorize the populace into submission. Why is it, then, in our supposedly advanced democracy, we’ve continued to tolerate sexual violence throughout our society, and more specifically in Spring Break, on college campuses? To claim we haven’t tolerated it is simply denying reality. The abuse persists, adminis­trations continue to place the prestige of their universities ahead of the well-being of their own students, and the justice system continues to bend over backwards to protect the rights of the accused to the point of victimizing the victims. Why is it we do not demand change? Is it because we’re in a state of denial that “the greatest country in the world” may be no better than the lowest of the low? I don’t really have answers to those questions. I wish I did, but what I at least can do in Spring Break is provide food for thought and hope that sharing the message will help advance a constructive dialogue for change.

TO READ SPRING BREAK

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6 thoughts on “Society and Sexual Harassment

    1. eliaspattn Post author

      Hi Paula,
      Thank you so much for responding and for your positive words. I’ve posted the blog on my FB page and on Twitter, so please share if you can find the posts!

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  1. tpakc

    Thank-you, sincerely. Every voice that takes on the issues, each in their every way, is incredibly important.

    With affection & respect (to you and your wonderful wife), Laurel Beesley

    On Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 11:52 AM, GERALD ELIAS – Author and Musician wrote:

    > eliaspattn posted: “My primary goals in the Daniel Jacobus series have > been to write entertaining stories, provide a glimpse into the > multi-faceted world of classical music, and give lay readers a good > beginners’ listening list of some of the world’s greatest music. I’ve gen” >

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  2. frances dearman

    Thank you for this, Jerry. You’re a mensch. And if you had ever read your own novels you’d see that ethics and compassion flow off each page, in all your books…. and a righteous rage against those who persecute the weak.

    Why do they do it? As Patrick Neal’s character said in the original Stepford Wives movie…. because we can… I’m beginning to revise my rejection of the doctrine of original sin, some days…..

    cf Susan Brownmiller’s “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape”. SB concludes that one in ten always will, despite the likely consequences; and one in ten never will, even if he could get away with it; and some are responsive to consequences; but most just go along with cultural norms…….. the amorality of the bell curve….

    Me, I do karate…….. and have such good posture that the bullies pass me by and pick on someone else…..

    Be well, be the gift you are to the creative arts……. to generate some new thing.

    cf Isaiah: I am about to do something new; can you understand it?

    Yours very truly, Fran in Essex County, doing my own bit for social justice, day by blessed day…….

    Interim Minister the Rev. Fran Dearman serving the Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda, Essex County Ontario I read e-mail at random intervals; if your message is time sensitive, please telephone: home study land line: 519.398.8436 (home study and voice mail) dire emergency cell phone: 1.778.835.8616 (cell, no voice mail) ________________________________________

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  3. ccyager

    So glad to see this post. It’s important for men to question their own behavior and other men’s behavior. The thing about sexual harassment, abuse and violence is that it’s not about sex — sexuality is simply a tool to dominate and to feel powerful over someone else. From my perspective, men today, whether they think about this or not, could be feeling powerless and marginalized by women who, in the last 40 years have fought to be heard, to have a place in society and culture, and who demand equal treatment. No one has figured out that men need help in dealing with this — how do they accept women as equals? How do they accept that women are asking them to share power equally, not for one side to be dominant over the other? How do they comprehend that women are not trying to emasculate them but to work with them to solve the problems of the world? (Please forgive the hyperbole there- smile.) And that women believe men and women can work together, complement each other’s strengths and intelligence? I understand that in the last month or so men have complained about how awful it is to be a man now. Well, that’s how women have felt about being a woman for years and years because men have always sexually dominated women. That last sentence just makes me so sad that it’s true. I grew up believing that my sexuality was a liability and could get me killed. Thanks for being one of the men who are questioning and opening themselves to really hearing all the voices in this debate.

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