The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine



I, Too, Am Thinking About Me, Too

Sarah Silverman recently made a video in which she described the painful conflict she was feeling about her good friend of 25 years, Louis CK. Watch it and you will see cognitive dissonance in action: on the one hand, she loves and admires the man, and values their long friendship. On the other hand, she detests and condemns the exhibitionist sexual behavior that he acknowledged. Many of the people watching this video wanted her to reduce that dissonance by jumping one way or the other: disavow their friendship, or trivialize his behavior. In this brave embrace of her emotional conflict and their friendship, she did neither.

Our whole country is living in a constant state of hyper-dissonance: “my political candidate/my most admired actor/a brilliant artist/my dear friend has been accused of sexual abuses and misconduct; how do I cope with this information? Do I support him/see his movies/enjoy his art/keep the friendship or must I repudiate him entirely?” Living with dissonance and complexity is not easy, but surely skeptics, of all people, must try. We hear a story that outrages us and, just like true believers and justice warriors of any kind, we’re off and running, and once we are off and running we don’t want to hear quibbles, caveats, doubts, complexities. Thus, when the Guardian (Dec. 17, 2017) reported Matt Damon’s remarks that there was “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated,” Minnie Driver blasted him: it’s not for men to make distinctions; “there is no hierarchy of abuse”; men should just shut up for once. “If good men like Matt Damon are thinking like that then we’re in a lot of fucking trouble,” she said. “We need good intelligent men to say this is all bad across the board, condemn it all and start again.”

No hierarchy of abuse? Really? That is one of the universal symptoms of revolutionary zealotry: go for broke, ignore gradations of villainy, who cares if some innocents are thrown over the side, we are furious and we want everything at once. No wonder those of us in the boring older generation, who have lived through cycles of anger and protest, are so annoying. “Wait!” we keep saying. “Be careful! Remember the stupidity of ‘zero tolerance’ programs in schools, where a kid who brings a pocket knife for show-and- tell, or a 6-year-old boy who kisses a 6-year-old girl, got expelled?” We have also learned that while there is a time and place for revolutionary zealotry, the hardest challenge comes next, because change will not be accomplished without allies.

While many celebrate the courage of the accusers who are coming forth to tell their stories, let’s keep in mind that in today’s climate it also requires courage to raise dissonance-producing dissent. In case you missed this essay—and you might have, considering how hard it was for the author to get it accepted anywhere—here is some of what Claire Berlinski wrote in “The Warlock Hunt” for The American Interest (December 6, 2017):

This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, over-night costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

Of course she has been “more hesitant to speak about this” than about Al-Qaeda, not only because of the predictable tsunami of attack, but also because we are always more hesitant to criticize people on our side, or those whose goals we share. It feels…disloyal. And disloyalty feels dissonant.

In a previous column on the belief in the “cycle of abuse,” I noted that if you created a fourfold table (“abused as a child? yes/no”; and “abusive as a parent? yes/no”), most people pay attention to only two cells: the abused children (yes) who become abusive parents (yes). They don’t attend to the many people in the invisible cells: abused children who do not become cruel parents (yes/no), and the nonabused children who do (no/yes). Thus, in the current intoxicating rush to accuse and bring down sexually coercive, abusive men, what cells are we overlooking?

The men and women who do not conform to the stereotype; the women who are not victims and the men who are. In the legitimate exhilaration of hearing women’s stories being believed and accepted at last, what voices are missing?

  • The voices of women who thoroughly enjoyed their years of sexual freedom and experimentation; who slept with professors and bosses and coworkers for pleasure and excitement, and whose careers were not ruined thereby.
  • The voices of women who had some awful encounters, or boring ones, or regrettably stupid ones, but would never blame, let alone sue, their partners on the grounds that they were at least 50% of the people in the bed.
  • The voices of women who enjoy being groupies, who seek celebrities and other powerful men for trophy sex and bragging rights, just as men have done with glamorous women.
  • The voices of shy men and boys who have felt pressured or even coerced by women, whether the women were their employers or dates.
  • The voices of men who would not dream of having sex with a woman who is blotto drunk, unconscious, or unwilling. The negativity bias dominates: we hear and remember so much about the bad guys that the good ones become invisible. Further, the good ones who would and should be allies are demonized and dismissed because they are not 100 percent ideologically pure.

I asked my friend Leonore Tiefer, a sexologist and feminist, for her concerns on the “Me, Too” movement and she responded: “There’s a rush to judgment. A conflation of all offenses. An underlying truth about the lasting effects of shame. Little room for complexity. Some bastards getting their long overdue due. Lots of lawyers looking for cases and money. Lots of institutions needing to cover their asses for money/legal reasons. Opportunists galore with axes to grind.”

That about sums it up.

Whenever a movement is fueled by rage and revenge, it is more important than ever to tolerate complexity and ask questions that evoke dissonance. We can all imagine the ways in which “Me, too” might benefit women, but how might it backfire? Because it will. Moralistic crusades to censor “sexist” pornography, for example, led to suppression of lesbian books, sex-ed books, and plain old sexypleasure books that someone thought offensive. What might be the consequences of a moralistic crusade to root out any behavior that might be misconstrued—now, next week, in 10 years—including affectionate touches, supportive hugs, jokes? Do professional women really want a Mike Pence world where they cannot have a business dinner or go to a party without a chaperone? When feminists find themselves in bed with right-wing puritans, they are going to get screwed.

What, exactly, are the goals here? The answer is clear in the case of hotel housekeepers, fast-food workers, and immigrant women who are routinely subjected to disgusting sexual harassment and who rarely have recourse to protect themselves from the powerful men who feel entitled to abuse them; in the case of women who enter formerly male-only occupations (tech, science, the military), where hostile harassment and rape are weapons to convey “you don’t belong here; get out.” The answer is always clear when the goal is to bring down some bad guys and protect the powerless.

But the goals of “me, too” seem eerily non-political, other than “bring down the patriarchy and by the way let me tell you about me.” For the vast majority of women in their personal and professional lives, where the complexities of sexuality abound, surely another goal is to become more assertive and clear about their wishes. If women seek true sexual equality, they have to do some hard thinking about their own behavior. As Laura Kipnis observes in Unwanted Advances, when did “empowerment” for women come to mean filing an assault claim months after a drunken night rather than developing the ability to say to the guy, “take your fucking hand off my knee”? She writes:

Why would she go to the apartment of a guy she already didn’t trust? This isn’t victim blaming. It’s grown-up feminism, one that recognizes how much feminine deference and traditionalism persist amid all the “pro-sex” affirmations and slogans… And that’s what has to be talked about, along with changing male behavior. (p. 219)

Finally: What do we learn when we follow the money? When schools and companies feel they must expel or fire someone without due process, solely on hearsay and unfounded allegation because they are terrified of lawsuits, how is justice aided, how is it impeded?

Epidemics are always clearer in hindsight. In the 1980s and 1990s, I watched as the recovered memory hysteria, aided by beliefs that Satanic ritual abuse cults were proliferating across America and that daycare centers were run by pedophiles, tore hundreds of families apart. In 1981, Ms. magazine had a cover story on Satanic cults, with the overline: “Believe it!” Without evidence? No, thank you. But the mere fact that there was no evidence for recovered memories of trauma, Satanic sacrifices, and other preposterous claims did not slow the steamroller—and steamrollers always leave the wreckage of human lives in their wake.

And so, in 1993, I wrote a review of the many best-selling books promoting this dangerous nonsense—most notably The Courage to Heal and Secret Survivors—showing that their psychological claims would be obliterated in any Psych 101 course. I was deluged with hate mail, and this was before the echo chamber of the Internet. A sociologist colleague wrote to express her dismay and fury that I, a feminist, could possibly disbelieve any of the women coming out of therapy having newly “remembered” that their once-beloved fathers had sexually molested them for 15 years, somehow doing so without leaving any corroborative evidence from family members or others. A few months later, she wrote to me again, to apologize—and to ask if I knew a lawyer who could help her brother. Who was being falsely accused.

I hadn’t thought about that essay in many years, until journalist JoAnn Wypijewski sent me an email:

I reread that NYTBR piece of yours last night, amazed to see that you had written this: “To raise these questions does not mean that all ‘reawakened’ memories are fraudulent or misguided. It does mean that we should be wary of believing every case of ‘me too’.” The very phrase…down the decades … and what have we learned? END

About the Author

Dr. Carol Tavris is a social psychologist and coauthor, with Elliot Aronson, of Mistakes were made (but not by ME). Watch the recording of Science Salon # 10 in which Tavris, in a dialogue with Michael Shermer, explores cognitive dissonance and what happens when we make mistakes, cling to outdated attitudes, or mistreat other people.

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Valkyrie Ziege
February 2, 2018 8:48 am

; A well thought out article, thank you.
There is, also, the problem in relationships, on every level, of women approaching an encounter who believe romance novels, and men who believe “porn”.
Either side isn’t thinking rationally, and it leads to tragedy. There are sexual encounters which are sadly inept, which don’t qualify as “rape”, it qualifies as a learning experience, on what sort of person to avoid in the future. What you see in the movies/television is carefully choreographed, taking several days to get on video/film/photos, and then to edit into a cohesive series of images.

Forgiveness, as is necessary for intellectual growth, begins with forgiving yourself for not reading the signs that the person you encountered isn’t a decent human-being, and, perhaps, you should inform others around you that that person, as the old song goes, “is a must to avoid”, or as the modern saying goes “If you see something, say something”, although, please temper it with reason, e.g., Are you angry because you like the person, and they don’t like you?

Don’t abuse power, especially the new found power of “MeToo”, because it makes you the same as the person who abused you, and, again, will lead to tragedy. Seeking revenge is a prison that stops the learning process, and will put your life in an endless cul-de-sac of chasing yourself in non-productive circles.

January 6, 2018 9:37 am

“I’m shocked this article exists.”

In other words, you are shocked because someone said something you disagreed with. Could it be possible Mary Koss was wrong? You should be more like Carol Tavris, Christina Hoff Somers, and Cathy Young.

HJ Hornbeck
January 6, 2018 7:56 pm
Reply to  freethinker

“Could it be possible Mary Koss was wrong?”

You mean Mary Koss, Thomas Dinero, Cynthia Seibel, Susan Cox, Walter DeKeseredy, Edward Gondolf, D. Alex Heckert, Chad Kimmel, Robert Jenkins, Rachel Davies, and Ruth Northway. Honestly, I only picked the one from Koss/Dinero/Seibel/Cox because it was publicly available so that you could review the methodology; Koss is the most knowledgeable person in the US on sexual assault, so MRAs tend to automatically dismiss her as a crank, which means I usually get better results if I avoid citing her.

If you want another public source, how about:

“The present study investigated the psychological aftermath of sexual assault in a probability sample of university women, with an emphasis on how various aspects of a victim’s lifetime sexual assault history and their relationship with their assailant(s) mediate posttraumatic recovery. Victims were almost twice as likely as nonvictims to meet given criteria for a psychiatric case. Surprisingly, date rape victims were as distressed as victims of chronic childhood assault, possibly because of the ambiguous nature of the assault circumstance. Also, repeated victimization was related to denial, a symptom of posttraumatic stress. Denial was discussed in regard to the likelihood of its increasing the risk of revictimization.”

Roth, Susan, Kathy Wayland, and Mary Woolsey. “Victimization History and Victim-Assailant Relationship as Factors in Recovery from Sexual Assault.” Journal of Traumatic Stress 3, no. 1 (1990): 169–180.

HJ Hornbeck
January 5, 2018 9:14 am

I’m shocked this article exists. Take the first two paragraphs, where Minnie Driver rebukes the idea of a hierarchy of abuse and Tavris endorses it.

The scientific literature has weighed in, and there’s substantial evidence there is no hierarchy of abuse within victims. While women who experience rape will label it differently depending on whether or not the perpetrator was a stranger or acquaintance, neither category differs in psychological outcomes from the incident.[1] Multiple researchers have found that psychological and physical abuse do not differ in psychological outcomes.[2] The same is true of abusers. One paper looked at the methods used by abusers, and found them “to be unique categories rather than part of a continuum or hierarchy of abuse.”[3]

The only time hierarchies of abuse appear is when minimizing or excusing abuse. A study polled nurses, and found some of them used a hierarchy “to distance themselves (and their profession) from these acts.”[4] As a result, modern abuse prevention programs have adopted “zero-tolerance” strategies and reject the notion of an abuse hierarchy.[5]

Astonishingly, an actress with no scientific background has a greater knowledge of the social psychology literature than an experienced, qualified social psychologist!

I wish that was an isolated case, but I can (and have) catalogued multiple ways this article demonstrates no understanding of the scientific literature on sexual harassment and abuse, and promotes myths about sexual assault. That it was nonetheless written by a scientist, and published by a magazine which values science, is a grave breach of ethics and integrity.


[1] Koss, Mary P., et al. “Stranger and acquaintance rape: Are there differences in the victim’s experience?.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 12.1 (1988): 1-24.

[2] DeKeseredy, Walter S. “Enhancing the quality of survey data on woman abuse: Examples from a national Canadian study.” Violence Against Women 1.2 (1995): 158-173.

[3] Gondolf, Edward W., D. Alex Heckert, and Chad M. Kimmel. “Nonphysical abuse among batterer program participants.” Journal of Family Violence 17.4 (2002): 293-314.

[4] Jenkins, Robert, Rachel Davies, and Ruth Northway. “Zero Tolerance of Abuse of People with Intellectual Disabilities: Implications for Nursing.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 17, no. 22 (November 1, 2008): 3041–49.

[5] “Was it really abuse?” National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

Avital Pilpel
January 2, 2018 4:12 pm

>>>But no one’s arguing that if you pat someone on the butt you should also go to jail. No one’s arguing if you pat someone on the butt you should be universally reviled for the rest of your life with no hope of being back in most women’s good graces.

Many of the most vocal proponents of this latest moral panic seem to be arguing just that.

January 2, 2018 3:32 am

“But, since then, you have come a long way, baby”

Wow, that’s not totally condescending. I guess you’ve achieved official Chill Girl status, Carol. Well done. The men approve.

Kris Rhodes
December 30, 2017 8:50 am

To my knowledge no one is conflating different types of offenses. No one is saying, for example, that Matt Damon is _incorrect_ to think patting on the butt and rape are different. There is no conflation happening there. Rather, people are saying he’s not making a useful or important point. Why is it not useful or important? Because he’s describing a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no problem of conflation.

I have a hard time understanding why people think there is such a conflation. My best guess is, it’s because we’re now adding “patting on the butt” to firing offenses, alongside rape. Used to be, if you raped somebody and got caught, you’d probably be fired. Now you’ll get fired if you get caught patting somebody on the butt. I guess it makes sense to mistake this for a “conflation.”

But no one’s arguing that if you pat someone on the butt you should also go to jail. No one’s arguing if you pat someone on the butt you should be universally reviled for the rest of your life with no hope of being back in most women’s good graces. Those apply to rape, not to a single butt-patting incident.

Butt-patting has always been more serious than it was made out to be, and now women are being more vocal about that fact. But to mistakenly call this increased vocalization a “conflation with rape” is, frankly, not just illogical but pretty rhetorically egregious. It’s a pretty clear cut case of the slippery slope fallacy if I can be excused for slipping into freshman critical thinking mode. (I’m kind of embarrassed that it should be appropriate to do so when responding to an intellectual like this author, having been referred here btw by a tweet from another great intellectual giant like Dan Dennett for chrissakes!) And as such a clearly fallacious piece of reasoning, it makes me wonder what the aim here really is, in bringing up terrible “points” such as this.

December 29, 2017 10:33 pm


Like another commenter here I too am a psychology professor who was very disappointed with your book “The Mismeasure of Woman.”

But, since then, you have come a long way, baby. I don’t know what happened, but you take the cognitive complexity– and perspective taking — issues seriously, and apparently have applied it to your own thinking. The results have revealed some stunning insights about the the complex interactions between the sexes.

You really nailed it in your lecture “Who’s Lying, Who’s Self-Justifying? Origins of the He Said/She Said Gap in Sexual Allegations.” I highly recommend anyone who is intrigued by your article here to view it:

(No, your bullet-proof jacket did *not* make you look fat!)

Thank you for your guts and honesty! Please keep up the good work!

December 29, 2017 5:07 pm

Thank you for this.

Kerry Sutton
December 29, 2017 6:17 am

“Opportunists galore with axes to grind.” Can we please extend the underlying premise of Ms. Tavis’ thought-provoking article to some of the people encompassed in that particular paragraph? The universal inclination to think of all lawyers as money-grubbing opportunists is a paradox.

I am a lawyer who works exclusively on campus sexual assault and Title IX matters. My experience in this type of case extends back to defending a young man on the 2006 Duke Lacrosse team, when I was the only female attorney on the defense team. Our most recent success has been saving a UNC athlete from a false accuser and a media firestorm that, but for our efforts, almost certainly would have led to his educational and career extinction.

My law partner, Steve Lindsay, and I take only 3-4 cases at a time because they are very labor-intensive and, for me, emotionally draining. We have helped a number of students pro bono. We don’t chase cases. I won’t claim poverty, but our financial success is directly attributable to our reputation for success in defending the falsely accused. We have become known as a resource for other attorneys and members of the media seeking to make sense of the relatively new focus on Title IX, a unique area of the law that wasn’t even a thing when most of us were in school.

I enthusiastically agree with Ms. Tavis’ analysis, and as for the need for “courage” to share similar thoughts on this topic? Me too.

I know, it’s easy and even fun to diss lawyers … right up to the second you need one. Can we agree we should appreciate gradations in this area too?

I hope you don’t ever need us, but if you do, we’re here.

Michele Lawless
December 29, 2017 9:54 am
Reply to  Kerry Sutton

Thank God.

Avital Pilpel
December 28, 2017 9:55 am

As for Roy Moore, he’s like a 1980s horror film villain: goes after high school kids and every time you think you’ve gotten rid of him, he’s back.

December 28, 2017 6:37 am

Whether truly attributed to Buddha I’ll add a lesson on how to treat women.
“If they are younger than you,treat them as you would your daughter. If they are the same age as you, treat them as you would your sister. If they are older than you, treat them as you would treat your mother.”

December 31, 2017 4:20 am
Reply to  Lanny

THANK YOU. This is a variant of what I’ve always said — a better variant, obviously. I have never understood the whining of men wondering how on earth they are to find mates if they can’t leer, catcall, harass, grope, force a hug or kiss…when they would be annoyed or outraged by another man doing it to their womenfolk. Answer? Flirt with class, as you would want it done to your female loved ones.

It’s not just competition: it’s the general (and worsening?) failure EVER to put ourselves in another’s shoes.

Tamara Schmidt
December 28, 2017 12:26 am

Yes! witch-hunts are going on in many forms and everywhere, just changing shapes and … getting more up to date! Following mass hysteria has always been the easier way!

Avital Pilpel
December 27, 2017 11:02 pm

Bad boy scientist wrote:

>>>>BTW: I was also a coward.

Perhaps you were, but it is understandable.

Solzenitzin pointed out that 100 years ago, before the Russian revolution, “educated people were more cowardly when confronted by left-wing loudmouths than in face of machine guns.” The same, of course, was true with educated people facing *right*-wing loudmouths a bit later, in Germany, too.

No doubt you didn’t relish the possibility of social ostracism and perhaps the loss of your job under the “zero tolerance policy” inquisition that would occur if some zealous beurocrat in your university would hear of it.

One of the reasons for this hysteria being so common on college campuses is inquisitors of the “enforcers of zero tolerance sexual abuse policy” type, Like all inquisitors, whether Chrisitan, Communist, Nazi, or of their type, they must find some number of sinners to prosecute every so often, lest they be accused of not doing their duty towards Christ, or Spcialism, or women’s rights, so the net of the guilty grows ever larger.

Michael Grills
December 27, 2017 10:22 pm

I have just recently become a subscriber and I have to say I’m quite disappointed in this article. It hardly feels sceptical at all, it feels like it’s taking sides.

Using Matt Damon and Minnie Driver as the starting point for this is the first mistake. They are not even people who are intimately involved in the situations. This article, if it needed to exist at all, could discuss actual cases and possible punishments related to those actual incidents.

The question is not whether one form of abuse is more valid than another, it’s about appropriate reaction to different types of abuse.

Smacking somebodies ass and raping someone are in fact both forms of abuse. If a smack is unwanted, it’s abuse. The response to each should be measured. A smack might lead to disciplinary action, if it was done at work, while rape is obviously a criminal offence and one should go to prison.

Stop questioning if it happened. Something happened. Now that we know something has happened it needs to be dealt with.

What are we sceptical of here? Are we questioning the legitimacy of the complaints, are we sceptical that women are routinely abused, or are we sceptical about the current definition of abuse? Because this article feels like it’s taking a side without being sceptical of itself.

Robert Sheaffer
December 27, 2017 10:13 pm

Carol, I very much appreciate your carefully considered and nuanced approach to such an inflammatory question. Such matters are not “black and white” as so many people seem to think.

I know that I wrote some harsh criticisms of you years ago especially concerning your “Mismeasure of Woman,” when you were trying to poo-pooh perfectly valid scientific findings showing innate cognitive differences between women and men. In hindsight, that is a deeply flawed book. But let me join the ranks of your fans in great admiration of your recent lectures and writings.

December 27, 2017 10:07 pm

I haven’t seen a mention of the women who are predators. I know of a boy who in his early teens was seduced by his friend’s mother. He was very upset in the aftermath, not happy at the experience. He didn’t feel manly or lucky and he soon distanced himself from his friend.

Avital Pilpel
December 27, 2017 9:32 pm

One clarification: how can I say Trump and Clinton are made worse by their denials, but that it is a sign of moral panics that denials as well as admissions are both “proof” of guilt?

The reason is simple: all dogs have four legs, but not all four-legged animals are dogs. That the guilty tend to deny their crimes does not mean that those who deny their crimes are therefore guilty. Confusing the two is typical of panics.

The problem with the argument I replied to is not in the claim that Trump’s denials make *him* more guilty, but in the implied conclusion that *anybody*’s denials make them more guilty.

docktor snydethink
December 27, 2017 9:31 pm

“Trump being the prime example. He gleefully denies ever having stuck his stunted hand up a stranger’s skirt in his whole life. Does that give you pause at all?”

just like EVILution, it does indeed give us Paws

Dr. S., Hp.D.

Avital Pilpel
December 27, 2017 9:18 pm

To clarify, I think both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are morally bankrupt narcissists, as the evidence clearly shows.

But as I said above, it seems republicans only see Clinton and democrats only see Trump, since both wrongly believe that *having the right (from their perspective) political views* is evidence of virtue, and therefore their guy cannot be all bad, after all, even if both of these moral midgets undoubtebly “grabbed her by the p***y” numerous times.

I must add that it seems, so far as I can tell, that both Obama and the two Bushes, opposites politically, seem men of a different and much better moral character.

Avital Pilpel
December 27, 2017 9:03 pm

>>>I don’t know why you would compare #metoo to a satanist phobia, which I would classify with alien abduction as far as credibility.

Because they both display the same sociological characters of moral panics – as did McCarthyism or the search for “counterrevolutionaries” in the USSR. To be sure, no women were possessed by the devil, while some were raped – but similarly, there also *were* counterrevolutinaries in the USSR and communists in the USA. Many panics start with some real case or some grain of truth; that does not make them less panics.

>>>>>Your own experiences should give you some empathy for other women’s vulnerability in these situations. My first sympathy goes to the blasted careers of countless female whistleblowers, while the perpetrators, until now, emerged unscathed.

Really? Accusing someone of rapemor sexual abuse meant they would “emerge unscathed”? Perhaps in the case of some powerful men; not for most people.

>>>>Trump being the prime example. He gleefully denies ever having stuck his stunted hand up a stranger’s skirt in his whole life. Does that give you pause at all?

Yes it does, as it shows two things. First, that the very fact of denying the accusation is seen as only making the accused an *even worse* monster. Typical of panics.

Second, you would think that Clinton – who was actually accused of rape a few times – would be a more prime example, but it seems today inconceivable for people to agree with someone’s politics and still say he is a bad man, or the opposite.

December 27, 2017 8:43 pm

“Whenever a movement is fueled by rage and revenge, it is more important than ever to tolerate complexity and ask questions that evoke dissonance.”

I don’t see a movement ruled by rage and revenge …at least not in my social world. Women that I know are always questioning the accusations they hear and the effects from them. I’m also a big fan of ‘gray’ in terms of black and white, and it’s rarely the case that most things in life are so cut and dry; good and evil if you will. There’s always reasons for things to happen, and it’s only the lazy who don’t care to seek them out.

Having said that, I look forward to #metoo continuing on its course. If it isn’t ruffling a few feathers then it’s not accomplishing anything ….and things DO need to be accomplished. I’ve seen this I’m my world at least. And I wonder if this awakening could have happened any other way.

December 27, 2017 7:59 pm

To use Shermer’s “moral arc”, perhaps this “me too” movement is just progress. We know racism is likely never to be eradicated, though blatant racism is unacceptable in most societies. Is misogyny, sexism and harassment to follow likewise with zero tolerance?

Concerns would be what was described in the post. Another could be victimization. Those who seek all injustice or hardships to them through a prism of sexism – creating real injustice on all sides. Or just plain lies to gain an advantage. (Choose your card: racism, sexism, homophobic, islamaphobic, etc.)

Again, a lot of gray on this issue.

N.L. Glass
December 27, 2017 5:13 pm

Great Article!

Lucy Duroche
December 27, 2017 3:05 pm

Thanks for your insightful article. The recovered memory/Satanic ritual abuse hysteria is exactly what “Me Too” reminds me of–with a side helping of McCarthyism thrown in. I totally agree that we need to remember the disastrous results of “zero tolerance” policies and to keep in mind that there’s a difference between thoughtless, clueless behavior and domineering and coercive behavior. I’ve worked in the metal finishing business, the building trades, have done maintenance and warehouse work and thus have encountered both these types of behavior. Not to mention having to deal with one employer who took sexual harassment complaints seriously and another employer who treated such complaints as a big joke unless the man in question was someone they wanted to get rid of. The latter employer asked me over and over again whether these two men with whom I was friendly were “bothering” me and then put them on different shifts, then subsequently tried to make me work with someone whom I’d filed a complaint against and pleading ignorance when I brought up said complaint and got the union steward to back me up on the issue. The whole business with Al Franken reminds me very much of that employer–and also reminds me of the Jordan, Minnesota sex abuse investigation of the late 1980s and its excesses. I’ll conclude by saying one thing: I’m keeping my Al Franken books.

December 27, 2017 4:02 pm
Reply to  Lucy Duroche

I don’t know why you would compare #metoo to a satanist phobia, which I would classify with alien abduction as far as credibility. If you don’t see the difference, then as I stated before, that’s very dismaying to me, a woman with a daughter. Your own experiences should give you some empathy for other women’s vulnerability in these situations. My first sympathy goes to the blasted careers of countless female whistleblowers, while the perpetrators, until now, emerged unscathed. Trump being the prime example. He gleefully denies ever having stuck his stunted hand up a stranger’s skirt in his whole life. Does that give you pause at all?

Avital Pilpel
December 27, 2017 2:50 pm

>>>>>All you can do is exaggerate as an answer to the points I raised.

I am not exagerrating. I am giving an analogy. The current moral hysteria is exactly the same as previous ones, from the witch hunt in Europe and the prosecution of “counterrevolutionaries” in Stalin’s USSR, to the hunt of communists or the Satanic Panics in the USA.

A deluge of accusations is seen as absolute proof that a deep, dark secret of terrible suffering of millions of victims who were silent for decades is suddenly coming to light. Therefore, it is demanded that all accussations be implicitly believed and no skeptical voices heard, lest the public become “confused” or the accusers “re-victimized”. Any sort of defense, skepticism, or appeal to basic fairness is seen as proof of the skeptic being part of the evil cabal of criminals himself; why else would he defend them?

The result is a shrill demand, like the red queen’s famous one, for “sentence first, verdict later”: all accused must be punished or at least otherwise harmed. If the possibility of some accused being innocent is grudgingly admitted at all, it is stated that it is far more important to fight the newly-unearthed crime epidemic than to worry too much about punishing the innocent.

This sort of moral panic reasoning, I might add, can save a bundle of money in the criminal justice system if applied consistently. Why limit it to the horrific-uncovered-crime-epidemic du jour? Just convict anybody accused of any crime at all! Why “confuse” the public by first arresting someone and then finding him not guilty, or “re-victimize” witnesses by subjecting them to having to testify and face cross-examination? Besides, the defense lawyer surely was guilty of similar offenses himself, or else he wouldn’t defend such scum.

December 27, 2017 3:55 pm
Reply to  Avital Pilpel

Boy, you are giving the experiences of today’s victims short shrift indeed, aligning and comparing them with these notorious, preposterous epidemic psychoses.

If you really feel that way about the concern with sexual harassment — that it’s akin to a satanist panic, there is not much that can be done to rehabilitate you. You seem to be minimizing, mocking, and questioning women’s statements, while giving unearned credence to those of the alleged perpetrators, even such as Trump and Weinstein, I presume.

Since you are apparently satisfied with denials, then have at it. You are of no value to women’s efforts to gain acknowledgement and redress for endemic harassment, loss of opportunity, and emotional abuse across many workplaces, both upscale and humble, extending throughout decades. (BTW, you seem extremely confused about the issue.)

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