The New Sexual Revolution
By Ronald Yates
Yesterday the Governor of the State of New York announced his resignation. After a blistering report by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the writing was on the wall for Andrew Cuomo. For some, in the state, there are mixed emotions and there are still some New Yorkers who hoped Governor Cuomo would be able to weather the storm… just as Trump managed to, at least thus far to dodge the sexual harassment minefield. Governor Cuomo, in his departing speech, said that there were changes in the sexual landscape that he should have been aware of. Of course, I am not directly quoting the Governor, the words he used were quite different, but the sentiment is not foreign to many men.
The relationship that men and women have had for centuries has changed dramatically, and in many respects should have. For many years, men have dominated in relationships, and women were relegated to being the silent partners who sat by and supported their men… even when it was clear that he was not deserving of that support. By the late 1950s the attitudes of women began to change, they were no longer content to sit at home “Barefoot and Pregnant.” Women wanted to venture outside of the confines of the home to seek higher education, employment opportunities and to find the freedom to pursue their dreams. For a lot of men during that time (1950’s), they had no idea that women had dreams that extended beyond taking care of men and raising the children.
In many respects, being born female was tantamount to being cursed. In fact the Bible says as much. Since Eve’s original sin all women would pay the price. The punishment for taking a bite of “the forbidden fruit” would lead to unforeseen consequences, like painful childbirth and a monthly time of agony known as “a period.” Of course, no one, prior to Eve, had ever been born, so there was no way to gauge the level of pain that women would endure in what is called “Labor.” Since the Bible was written by men, we got off pretty much Scott-free. The laws the early practitioners of Christianity created, overwhelmingly favored men. For the past five centuries, men thought it was their divine right to dominate women. Generations of men told their sons and grandsons that they had to control nearly every aspect of their women’s daily lives. They should not be allowed to express themselves, men should dictate what they wore, where they went, who they spoke to, and when and where they could go. Eventually women got tired of the less than equal treatment and began to band together to form a movement for equal rights and equal treatment under the law. Some of us can remember when scores of women burned their bras in protest and ushered in the first ever sexual revolution. No longer would women be relegated to the lowest rung of society. Once and for all they were throwing off the yoke of subservience and demanding that they receive equal consideration under the law. By today’s standards, you might never have imagined that women, in the United States, had little to no rights. Many women were burned alive for accusations of witchcraft in Salem MA. Nowadays we marvel how women are denied the right to drive in places like Saudi Arabia and have every aspect of their lives dictated in Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, women were entering the workplace in record numbers, pitting themselves against men, some in occupations where there were, historically, no women. Despite the fact that women were breaking through the glass ceilings, sexual harassment has continued to remain a major issue. How many women during that time, particularly those in occupations like secretary, or flight attendants had their backsides slapped or pinched by their male co-workers and passengers walking through the aisles on the plane. That sort of behavior was condoned, even expected. By the 1990s women were in positions to do something about it. They lobbied Congress to pass laws to protect women and girls from unwanted touching, offensive/insensitive comments, and repeated patterns of behavior that could place women in jeopardy of harm.
Did those laws go far enough? Or did they go too far? This is a matter of personal interpretation. Somewhere along the line, we lost our sense of balance. The law in this country has never been fair or equal. As a matter of fact, they are either too heavily weighted in favor of one group, while failing to protect others. For years men enjoyed the benefit of having the law on their side. During that time, it is unlikely that a sitting Governor would step aside. In the past 20 years, a slew of men have been forced out of office, off the air, and out of their jobs due to allegations of sexual impropriety. Today the sexual landscape is difficult to navigate for many men. What you can say, how you say it and definitely what you can do is highly restricted. According to the law, even in the midst of the sex act, either partner can change their mind and the other partner must stop what they are doing or face possible prosecution. While the law exists to protect us, do we necessarily want the law dictating what goes on in our bedrooms?
For men it is vitally important that you be extremely cautious in your dealings with the fairer sex. There are times when the slightest word or phrase can be interpreted to be insensitive or offensive. It doesn’t have to be the person you are talking to that makes the complaint. If a woman overhears a conversation between two co-workers and one of them says something that the listener finds offensive, she can initiate a complaint. The fact that she was not involved in the conversation is of little consequence, merely overhearing the conversation is enough. For single men the dating game can be risky. You have to very carefully navigate the dating waters. One small slip up and that young man can find himself before a judge. And I’m not referring to a sexual assault. The sexual harassment laws detail a laundry list of Do’s and Don’ts, that must be strictly adhered to. If you should meet someone whose sensibilities are not easily offended, you must still be aware that anyone who is listening to your conversation can lodge a complaint. While it may not send you to jail, it could result in a job loss or some form of financial sanction.
While I in no way condone acts of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or assault, I do understand the difficulties. Instead of bringing people together, society is driving people further apart. In some school districts, small children are not allowed to touch one another, something that is instinctual for humans is now considered “Bad Behavior.” For women who wonder why that guy you’ve been eyeing doesn’t introduce himself the nuances of the new Sexual Revolution” may play a role. The LG BTQ community may be experiencing a new sense of freedom, but for heterosexuals looking to form a relationship, just the opposite is true. Meeting the right human being to spend the rest of your life with is hard enough, but when you add a new set of rules and regulations it becomes nearly impossible.
Are women to blame? The answer is NO! The blame is squarely on the shoulders of the various legislators who do not understand the concept of balance. And let’s face it, imbalanced people produce imbalanced legal decisions. There are any number of women who find it difficult to believe many of the allegations that other women so casually make against men in positions of authority… not that some of the allegations lack credibility. It is the inconsistency that some find baffling. On Monday questionable behavior/ talk maybe tolerated, even laughed at, but on Tuesday the very same sort of comment could now be highly offensive. In the case of Bill Cosby, some of the women who alleged that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted them, returned to the Cosby residence on multiple occasions subsequent to the alleged attacks. Does it mean that it did not happen, the only ones that can be sure are the ones who were present in the room at the time of the events. But once an allegation is made public opinion is squarely in favor of the accuser(s) Should that be the case? Not in a country that prides itself on its’ Justice System that says, “You are innocent until proven guilty.”