- - Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Frenchman has had the reputation since forever, earned or not, of being the sexiest dude on the planet. Ooo la la, and all that. Who knew the Americans, traditionally regarded as unschooled in the arts of seduction, would challenge Gallic supremacy in these arts?

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s harvest of accusations in Hollywood, hundreds of women, not only celebrities of the silver screen but celebrities of press and tube are eager to tell of the time they got an unwanted pat, a mischievous wink or a naughty nudge from a boss, colleague and even a former president of the United States.

Naughty news is emerging from unexpected places. Four women of Congress, one currently serving and three who were once members, have risen on a point of personal privilege to tell their horror stories. It turns out, if memories of Washington old-timers serve, that the hallowed halls of Congress have not always been so hallowed.

“When I was a new member of Congress in my early 30’s,” recalls Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House, “there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside, would repeat. And I would avoid that member.” She says another male colleague once touched her in an inappropriate place, and tried to make it appear unintentional.

But not just pats and touches are going on in the hallowed halls, and members of Congress have never been thought helpless. Mary Bono, a former Republican representative from California, says one male admirer still in Congress once told her that he thought about her in the shower. She should have reminded him that the cure for pleasant dreams in the shower, as every schoolboy has been told, is to turn up the tap marked “cold.”

Last week was particularly painful for prim and politically righteous National Public Radio, whose senior vice president for news was sacked after two women said he invited them in for a job interview and unexpectedly stuck his tongue in their mouths. When the news of that got into the public prints five more women at NPR cried foul.

“Panic Hits Hollywood and Media Elite: Which Harasser Will Be Outed Next?” asked a headline in the Hollywood Reporter, which knows about Hollywood fleshpottery. The taint of harassment has spread beyond Fox News to the cream of the elites — “ABC, NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, National Public Radio and Vox Media.” Our Valerie Richardson notes that these are “[all] left-leaning outlets that have become vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy [and of] championing women in public while apparently tolerating or failing to notice offensive behavior in their newsrooms.”

Sexual harassment has been an affliction of mankind since the creation, when the snake first seduced Eve, and many things our own culture once tolerated have been called out by women, not all of them feminists, over these past weeks.

That’s a good thing, but harassment, a vile and vulgar intimidation of the vulnerable, must not be cheapened by accusations of the trivial, which are vulgar annoyances, so that authentic harassment is trivialized. Rape, the ultimate harassment, is a crime regarded as next to murder, and not so long ago it was sometimes punished at the end of a rope.

Calling out vulgar creeps is all to the good, because harassment is ugly and a good society must not tolerate it. So is bearing false witness, and it’s important to keep the distinction in mind. Not every wink or nudge is a crime.

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