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June 09, 2011


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I am curious about the part of the diagram that covers sexual harrassers who are not stupid people. When is it not a mistake of judgment to engage in intimidating or unwelcome speech/acts of a sexual nature?


I agree that sexual harassment is "intimidating or unwelcome speech or action of a sexual nature" but I disagree, at least in lay terms, and maybe in legal terms as well, that it only includes a work or educational environment. What about stalking? What about street harassment? I certainly think of those as "sexual harassment." They are not actionable under Title VII or Title IX, and in the case of street harassment are probably not actionable at all, but are they not "sexual harassment"? Is "sexual harassment" a legal term of art that refers to particular causes of action under federal civil rights law, or is it a more general term for "intimidating or unwelcome speech or action of a sexual nature"?

Zak Kramer

Bridget..This is an interesting question, and I think Emily makes a good point. I would add to it that we shouldn't treat all of Weiner's sexts the same. From what I've read about the matter, he sent some of the sexts as part of an exchange (nudie pic for nudie pic). But the situation with the college students strikes me as very different. She sends messages supporting his politics, he responds with nudie pics. This, in my mind, has more of a tinge of harassment than the mutual pic exchange.


I ask this seriously, not sophmorically: Is the diagram intended to look like sperm finding an egg?

Bridget Crawford

Not all sexual harassers are "stupid people," as I've defined them, insofar as some sexual harassers act in a self-aware and calculated manner in accordance with a developed, pre-meditated plan.

I agree with Emily's comment that there exists significant harassment of a sexual nature that is not "sexual harassment" as courts have interpreted that term.

Zak makes a good point that Rep. Weiner's sending a nude photo in response to a tweet supporting his political views should be distinguished from a mutual nude photo exchange. But I still don't think either scenario presents a case of "sexual harassment" in a legal sense. It may have been foolish, unwise, and inappropriate -- in addition to harassment of a sexual nature -- but that doesn't make the message sexual harassment, absent additional facts.


It may not be sexual harassment as legally defined.

But I can't say I find his actions in keeping with a feminist politics either.

Then again, you could draw a nice Venn diagram illustrating "progressives" and "feminist consciousness" and find that while most feminists are also "progressive," there is a distinct failure of many if not most "progressives" to support or exhibit feminist consciousness.

It's a problem.

Jonathan H. Adler

How, if at all, does the fact that Rep. Weiner was also following and DMing with high school girls alter the analysis? If he sent or exchanged the same sort of pictures with them would that matter? Whether or not such conduct would make him a "sexual harasser," I would think it's more than "stupid."

Howard Wasserman

Why is sexting between two consenting adults in a non-work/non-education context, in a relationship of mutual trust, necessarily stupid or poor judgment for ordinary people (i.e., non-public officials)?

Bridget Crawford

Sexting isn't necessarily stupid, as I've defined it. I wrote that it *may* be stupid. To the extent that such an electronic communication could be used against the sender in the future, I think it is a mistake of judgment.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

While I think what Rep. Weiner did demonstrates he's unfit to hold office, I must agree with Juan Cole's post on the "Top Ten Things Anthony Weiner has Said that are Worse than Sexting:"

pandora charms

Why is sexting between two consenting adults in a non-work/non-education context, in a relationship of mutual trust, necessarily stupid or poor judgment for ordinary people

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