Disappointing news about Al Franken.

While there are reasons to doubt the accounts, there are certainly reasons to believe them — not least the well-known cultural phenomenon of “unwelcome advances” (a mild phrase that covers a spectrum that ranges from the uncomfortable to the horrible).

Regarding Leeann Tweeden: Some people have been pointing to her career as a model as somehow exculpatory. We all need to reject that.

I’m reminded of the time I was taken to Hooters by traveling companions. There was a weird vibe of women trading their sexual attractiveness for tips; I definitely felt our waitress was being much more forward with me, in terms of personal space, than I was accustomed to.  But I certainly didn’t take that as license to grope her or make lewd suggestions. Maybe she was naive, maybe she was predatory (that is, preying for tips), but she still had a right to sovereignty over her own body (and person, more broadly).

Similarly, as a model Leeann Tweeden may have traded on her sexual attractiveness; I don’t think she thereby forfeited sovereignty over her own body or her personal space. Maybe it’s wrong to pose suggestively (if indeed Tweeden thought that was what she was doing*), but that doesn’t make her legitimate sexual prey for anyone.

Also, whether she is now acting out of personal outrage or more venal political motivation, that does not negate any degree of physical or psycho-social assault she may have suffered.

Naturally, I know a lot of women, and the current discussions of assault are an occasion to wonder how many of my friends and acquaintances have had to ward off the advances of men (or women, as I’ve had occasion to do  – yeah, #MeToo).  That troubles me.

* I work on a college campus, and see a lot of young women dressed in ways that, at first blush, might seem provocative. I’ve unscientifically come to the conclusion that the vast majority of these women do not intend to provoke unwanted advances, and are for most part unaware of that their attire might be perceived as sexually provocative. But, maybe I’m naive; in fact, I probably am – though that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.