Where to Draw the Line


If you’ve been reading this blog, you know Ask Dave has had some back and forth dialog with Andy about the sexual harassment allegations against him. I have not gone easy on Andy and suggested he resign, which he has done.

In announcing his resignation, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said:

“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

Andrew Cuomo

This is like the non-apology when you do something hurtful to someone and follow it up by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” You’re not apologizing for your actions, you’re expressing fake sympathy that someone happens to feel offended, as if it were their fault for feeling this way.

This is like that passive statement, “Mistakes were made.” Oh, yeah? Who made the mistakes?

It’s like that other clever deflection of responsibility: “I was led to believe.” Oh, yeah? Who made the decision to believe? (Looking at you, Marjorie Taylor Greene.)

The fact is, Andy, the line has not been redrawn. It’s always been there right in the same damn place. A woman’s body and her ability to consent to be touched or engaged with in any way have never been a moving target. What has changed is that we’re no longer tolerating unacceptable, unwanted behavior from entitled males.

So who gets to draw the line? Sometimes society and culture draw the line by defining acceptable behaviors and norms, which is why a lot of this harassment business never came up in the past. It was boys being boys. It’s the way the game was played, at least according to the boys.

Sometimes the line is drawn by the law. But mostly, we’re each responsible for drawing our own lines. What we will and will not put up with. What we are willing and unwilling to do.

And we’re also responsible for finding out where others draw their own lines. I think people make it pretty clear whether it’s acceptable or not to touch them, through both verbal and non-verbal communication. Through their body language. Through their vibe. If you can’t discern the signals someone is giving off, you can pretty much assume that person doesn’t want to be touched by such an insensitive and unaware lout. So keep your damn hands to yourself.

Coincidentally, today as I was thinking about ‘drawing the line,’ I came across this brief passage in my novel, STILL LIFE:

Mom, sturdy as a tree, a bender not a breaker. Whenever Dad teased me too much, or scared me—and he did both of these—I’d run to her, to the branches of her arms, the rustling leaves of her soothing words. “He’s just kidding you,” she’d say. “Sometimes your father doesn’t know where to draw the line.”

Teasing your own kid. Scaring your own kid. I’d say that crosses a line.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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