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The recent spate of accusations of sexual harassment and outright attacks is scary on a number of levels.  First and foremost, the number of women (and some men) who have come forward to say they were anything from accosted to outright raped is horrifying.  It is especially horrifying in people who used sex to wield power over other people.  The dark mirror-reflection of that horror is the speed with which accusations are destroying careers and reputations and public works and works of art.  These days a mere accusation is enough to try, convict, and punish celebrities, executives, and politicians.  Nobody wins.

Obviously women who have been sexually abused don't win because they were sexually abused.  Whether they acquiesced because they feared the consequences, or resisted and suffered them, they couldn't win.  The humiliation of revealing these incidents is not a winner when the act itself is so deeply personal.  That so many incidents are now being revealed illustrates how deeply unacceptable behavior, especially in the workplace, has become part of expected behavior.  Evidently the 'casting couch' is a real thing.

Those who are accused are also deeply damaged.  Guilt aside, they have worked hard to build respected careers that are being swept away with the figurative wave of a hand.  Those who are actually guilty do deserve to be punished, no question about that.  But when reading the multiple articles about a new celebrity, businessman, or politician each and every day, one begins to wonder which are really guilty, and which are either being falsely accused or committed some lesser act -- perhaps a tasteless comment or joke, rather than a demand for sex.  It seems that simply accusing someone is enough to ruin them now.  If they try to defend themselves no one is listening.

The public is also deeply damaged.  Movies, plays, political figures mean a lot to the public.  Something that seems counter-intuitive is that a person's work may not be a reflection of who that person really is.  In show business, for example, a very nice person may convincingly play a villain, and well documented jerks often play the 'good guy'.  Movies mean a lot to people, as do public policies.  Politicians who earnestly believe they are doing the right thing often pass laws that hurt people, and some really low-life officials often legislate things that help a lot of people.  Should the good work be wiped off the slate because the person is bad?  I would argue that it is equally damaging to many people when they can no longer watch their favorite movie or listen to an album that resonates with them because the star has been disgraced.  While a movie doesn't have consequences in the same way a tax law does, it helps us define ourselves.  Or a song.

Everybody loses, too, because the line between wooing and rape has been severely blurred.  Misreading the signals coming from someone you are interested in is a lot different from raping that person.  Yet the actions that result from that misreading now seem as bad as the rape would have been.  Human interaction is hard.  People think others mean something when they simply don't.  How we come off is rarely how we see ourselves.  Some people, when it comes to themselves and how they behave are not malicious -- they're just dumb.  If every interpersonal act becomes suspect humans will be extinct in no time.  This public discussion can be good, but not if it is just about the hyperbole and shock value.  If it results in a reasoned conversation about acceptable behavior that more clearly defines the lines it could be beneficial.

Then there is the narrower circle of victims -- the families of those accused, rightly or wrongly.  I am actually related to one of the people who has been accused, and I have to admit that while I have no idea whether he did what he is accused of, I don't find the notion that he did them impossible.  My grandmother was this relative's biggest fan, and my first thought was that it was a good thing she didn't live to read the article about his alleged misdeeds that I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago.  But I also wish it not to be true because he was very kind to me when I was younger and just getting started in the theater business.  Does this become all he is or ever was?  What am I to feel about him?  I'm not sure.  This is deeply disturbing to me.

Not to say that many of the folks we are reading about haven't done the things they are accused of.  Every person alive should think long and hard about the ripples of people they hurt before demanding sex (or whatever) from another person just because they can.  Or worse, wielding sex as a weapon when they have the power to dole out favors that are crucial to the victims' careers and lives.  One good result of the current mania may be that people who only care about themselves may think about how bad actions could negatively impact them.  Selfish, yes, but OK if it is what it takes to convince them to refrain.

Some of the articles seem irrefutable, while others are things like one person patting another on the back -- someone who may not like to be touched -- with the intent to console them when they were sad.  How can we judge?  We weren't there.  But it is very disturbing that the consequences of these revelations are so immediate.  One can't help but wonder how many innocent people are being run over by this bus along with the guilty ones.

It is also a bit disquieting that the Hollywood community is the most vocal constituency that is taking the moral high ground on this, of all issues.  Being lectured on morality by Hollywood people is such a bizarre concept!  Not that they are all corrupt... just that they haven't, as a whole, been a shining moral beacon.  Even so, some of the most egregious attacks on powerless industry workers seem to have taken place there, and -- all in all -- it is probably a good thing that the bright glare of attention Tinseltown commands has brought this issue to light.

Because it's not OK to demand something for something that should simply be earned on merit.  Whether it's blackmail or a casting couch, or an executive or a president.  It's not OK because everybody -- and I mean everybody -- loses.

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