Until the 1850s wives were considered to be chattel, like cattle, their husbands’ possessions without any legal rights.
Last week the state of New York passed a bill making it illegal for police officers to have consensual sex with people in custody. Yes, that’s right. Until last week, in the state of New York — as in 35 other states — police officers could have sexual intercourse with handcuffed suspects in the backseat of police cars or in police stations and avoid sexual assault charges by claiming that the sex was consensual.
The #Metoo movement should be one of the greatest moments in the history of the United States of America along with the abolition of slavery, female suffrage, and the civil rights movement. Please note carefully that all of the above movements ended in the passing or repealing of laws.
Or… the #Metoo movement could inadvertently delegitimize itself by becoming a witch hunt, dissipate and dissolve into the dustbin of history along with the Occupy movement and many others.
What will make the difference?
The #Metoo movement needs:
- Effective leadership
- A proposed solution and a well-defined goal
- A step-by-step path to attaining that goal
- The primary voice of the movement should be that of a respected, well-informed, civic leader such as Kamala Harris or Michelle Obama and she should be backed by a board that includes powerful influencers such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, et al. A few married men who are 100% beyond reproach for sexual harassment or sexual misconduct on the board would be great too. These men will be difficult to find.
- The stated goal of the #Metoo movement should be something attainable such as “Make the workplace as safe as possible from sexual tyranny, oppression, coercion, manipulation, harassment, exploitation and rape.”
- The means of attaining such a well-defined goal would be to first decide whether this should be a state or federal issue. Since the president has the right to veto federal bills even after they are passed by the congress, and the current president believes that it acceptable for men in power to “grab women by the pussy,” I suggest that this should be a state issue. Bills should be proposed in all states to create harsh disincentives for abuses the power.
Thankfully, there already exists an excellent model for this in our healthcare system. Healthcare practitioners such as myself are strictly forbidden from any romantic entreaties or overtures during professional relationships with patients and for two years subsequent to terminating those professional relationships. No exceptions.
Specifically, “engaging in sexual relations with a client, or a former client within two years following termination of therapy, soliciting sexual relations with a client, or committing an act of sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct with a client, or committing an act punishable as a sexually related crime, if that act or solicitation is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a psychotherapist…” is punishable by revocation of licenses, imprisonment, and fines.
Employment laws forbidding all workplace romances would automatically eliminate the “he said, she said” problem of consent and immediately make the workplace as safe as humanly possible for all.
In any hierarchical situation, where one person has any sort of power over another person (the power to fire her, the power to promote her, the power to influence her salary or bonus, etc.), that person can exploit that dynamic for his own personal benefit. Obviously men have been taking advantage of this in the workplace for as long as women have been working.
Whenever there is a power imbalance there cannot be true consent. This is what New York state realized last week and it time for the rest of the nation to follow suit.
I believe that it has been a lack of regulations and laws that has resulted in the tsunami of sexual misconduct and sexual assault surfacing during this watershed moment in our history and we have the opportunity to employ an already functional model to curb this errant behavior.
The way to curtail it is to preclude all romantic possibilities from the workplace. And, unfortunately, the only way to accomplish this is to make it illegal (at least temporarily).
This type of stern disincentive creates safe environments for all healthcare patients and could easily be applied for all employment contracts. Regrettably, this is what is necessary in America for the #Metoo movement to be successful. If someone wants a job, he signs an employment contract agreeing not to romantically pursue anyone with whom he has a professional relationship during the time he works with that person and for two years after. Breaking his end of the contract results in immediately termination and possible imprisonment and fines. It works in the healthcare industry and there is no reason that it will not work in other industries.
Similar to the abolition of slavery, female suffrage, and the civil rights movement, the end of the #Metoo movement must be the passing of laws that stop abuses of power.