The Great American Sex Panic of 2017

I confess to being troubled rather than elated by the daily rumble of idols falling to accusations of “sexual misconduct,” the morbid masscult fixation that conceals private titillation, knowing smirks, and sadistic lip-smacking behind a public mask of solemn reproof.

Weinstein and Trump and Roy Moore and Bill Clinton are vile pigs and creeps, no doubt; I have always detested the smug neoliberal performance-art strut of Al Franken and the careerist-toady journalism of Glenn Thrush and Charlie Rose, the latest dominoes to tumble amid the barrage of public accusations of “inappropriate” advances or touching.

But the boundary between cultural tolerance/intolerance blurs and shifts with each passing revelation, as the litany of sins, ancient or recent, cardinal or venial, snowballs into an avalanche of aggrieved, undifferentiated accusation—a stampeding herd of “Me-Tooists.” Successive waves of long-forgotten gropes and slurps now overwhelm the news channel chyrons, leaving us with the sense that no greater crime against humanity is possible than an unsolicited horndog lunge of the hand or tongue, some of them from twenty or thirty years past but divulged only in the past few weeks.

Let’s be honest—these “shocking” revelations about Franken—that he tried to tongue-kiss a woman one time in a rehearsal and mock-grabbed her somnolent breasts in a silly frat-house pose or that maybe his hand strayed too far toward a woman’s derriere as he…

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