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What Is Sexual Misconduct? Our Poll Shows Where the Line Should Be Drawn

What is sexual misconduct and where do you draw the line these days? To some, it is very clearly cut. Here's what our poll on the #metoo movement found.

As we went to tabulate your responses to our survey about sexual misconduct, the news was still rife with stories of misconduct. Famous names in publishing, politics, the performing arts, and elsewhere were dismissed from their jobs or investigated.  We saw Salma Hayek speak up, heard calls for Al Franken not to resign from the Senate after all, and waded through still more lurid Matt Lauer revelations. But still, many are wondering, “what is sexual misconduct?”—and where should we draw the line?

We are clearly at a tipping point in our culture. But which way is the wind blowing—in the right direction or are we being blown off course? Clearly the former, based on our survey (and what’s in our team’s hearts). Your responses said, “It’s about damn time for justice!”

While 75 percent of you thought lewd comments and jokes and unwanted but non-sexual touching were sexual misconduct, only 30 percent thought they should be grounds for job loss.

Victim of Sexual Misconduct: Who’s Been There

For starters, you told us you’d been victimized

  •  84 percent of you said you’d been sexually harassed.
  • 41 percent of you kept quiet about it. Only 1 percent of you said you reported the offense and the harasser was punished, while 12 percent said you reported it and nothing was done.
  • 98 percent of you completely understand why a woman wouldn’t report misconduct when it happened.
  • 55 percent called B.S. on the idea that times were different in the past and that we now consider actions inappropriate that we didn’t back then. .

More than half of you (57 percent) spoke out that the #Metoo movement is a necessary moment of reckoning, not a witch hunt, while 27 percent worried that it might be seen as women’s complaints are going too far.

Teasing Out the Issue

We checked in with you about what qualifies as sexual misconduct in the workplace, and we saw a few distinctions.

  • Ogling was considered misconduct by 57 percent of you, with only 13 percent saying it should lead to the perpetrator’s dismissal.
  • Three-quarters of you thought that lewd comments and jokes and unwanted but non-sexual touching (hugs, shoulder massages and squeezes) were misconduct, but only 30 percent thought these acts should be grounds for job loss.
  • Almost 100 percent of you thought unwanted kissing and flashing—the kind of behavior we’re hearing that Mario Batali and Louis C.K. engaged in—and being coerced into sexual relations should get a guy fired ASAP. We’re in total agreement.

What Will Change

“The words, ‘Please stop. That makes me uncomfortable,’ should be sufficient.”

This is a hard moment for many of us—old memories of being victimized are being stirred up, and we have to reckon with the fact that men we like are capable of such awful behavior. But overall, you NextTribers told us that you think this is a vital and positive movement. A whopping 77 percent of you said you thought women will now be believed when we report this kind of abuse. Almost 70 percent of you felt #Metoo will make men more aware of what sexual harassment is and will get them to curb their predatory behavior.

We’re going to leave you with one last comment from a respondent that we felt needed to be heard: “The words, ‘Please stop. That makes me uncomfortable’ should be sufficient. Sadly, they are not. THAT is the issue. People have different notions and thresholds about being touched or about jokes. That statement should be all it takes for it to cease.”

We say, “Amen” to that—and “Brava” that the seeds of change have been sown.

By Janet Siroto


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