Randy Alcorn

The revelations of frequent, ongoing, sexual harassment — and worse — in the entertainment industry as well as other sectors of American society have drawn more attention and concern than probably most people would have expected.

It’s not as if this is the first time we have heard that such behavior was going on. What’s different this time?

Although a growing number of men have reported being victims of sexual harassment, mostly by other men, women have been the primary victims. In spite of significant gains in equality of women over the past century, millennia of male dominant culture linger in attitudes not easily reprogrammed and in boorish behavior not quickly expunged.

What has suddenly changed is that women are clearly saying “enough.” In recent weeks, their seething anger and disgust have erupted with the explosive force of a long dormant volcano. That molten indignation continues to flow, incinerating the reputations and careers of an increasing number of high-placed men, most of whom deserve it.

But, like spewing lava, righteous fury can be indiscriminately destructive.

Socio-political conditions in America these days are exceptionally conducive to categorized condemnations, and like most issues, sexual harassment is being pushed to the extreme edge of rationality.

Furious feminists claim that all men, even gay men, whether or not they have ever harassed a woman, are guilty because they have been passively complicit in perpetuating pervasive sexual harassment.

Women, however, who have been complicit by their silence, are excused because, well, they are the victims of a male-dominated society.

And, who can plausibly deny that many have not been? Think of Anita Hill who, 26 years ago, courageously called out U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for his alleged persistent sexual harassment of her. The Senate ignored her testimony and confirmed Thomas’ appointment. Hey, boys will be boys, right?

But today, women are speaking up and finding that society is quick to support them and swiftly punish the perpetrators. Male dominated or not, big heads are rolling at Fox News, NPR, and other major businesses and institutions across the country.

Yes, sexual harassment is very real and very wrong, but before we succumb to those who would leverage it into yet another societal schism — this time by gender — let’s consider a few things.

Strident assertions that all men are guilty of perpetuating sexual harassment are as unfounded as claiming that all black people perpetuate crime, all Muslims perpetuate terrorism and all politicians perpetuate corruption.

Where is the valid evidence that all men, or even the vast majority of them, engage or countenance such behavior? Is every mother’s son someone who disrespects and abuses women? Is every daughter’s father a sexual bully?

Men have wives, mothers, daughters and sisters whom they love. Most don’t simply shrug off sexual abuse of women as normal cultural behavior.

Most mothers and fathers raise their sons to be gentlemen, and most men are gentlemen. It is always the exceptions that get the most attention — exactly because they are the exceptions.

Yet, there has been a disturbing inclination to assume that men are guilty of sexual misconduct whenever accused of such by alleged victims. Most notably, this egregious injustice has occurred in academia, ruining the athletic and academic careers of male students wrongly accused by vengeful or regretful women who either fabricated events or retroactively changed their minds about consensual sex.

We need to be careful not to allow the current awakening against sexual harassment to transmogrify into some kind of McCarthyism where unsubstantiated allegations against individuals are allowed to impugn their character and ruin their reputations. That is not justice.

Nor is it justice when legitimate complaints of sexual harassment are discounted, ignored or obstructed by unreasonable procedural requirements. Some organizations — including Congress, by the way — engage in this obstruction while others go to the other extreme in which human interaction is so constrained that one’s gaze on a co-worker can never drop below chin level, personal compliments are forbidden and dating a co-worker can result in termination.

It is said that common sense is uncommon. Maybe so, but we sure could use more of it.

What it feels like to be the object of prejudicial stereotyping really hit home when some of my longtime female friends, fervently caught up in the current sexual harassment uproar, began denouncing the entire male population as enablers of sexual harassment. Effectively, they were negatively stereotyping anyone born male — including me. My individual behavior had no standing. I am a male, therefore I am suspect.

Consider for a moment that we are all beings born into physical vehicles that we did not choose. Some vast cosmic lottery stuck us with skin color and gender, among other attributes. To focus so intently on the vehicle rather than the occupant distracts and can mislead us into erroneous conclusions about ourselves and others.

Now, imagine what it is like for a person born into a black body in America. Extend that thought to others who are born into a different physical vehicle than your own.

It’s behavior that matters, not the vehicle. Let’s all focus on that.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at randyaalcorn@gmail.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.