Unless you have been under a rock, you have witnessed the latest barrage of sexual misconduct allegations by a large population of women and men, from celebrities to soccer moms and uber-masculine dudes. Forced to withhold these challenging and grotesque scenarios, the sound you are hearing is the echo after the boom due to decades of fear-laced silence. Today, I suffered through yet another recounting of corporate lust gone wrong when reading the Wall Street Journal article, Bridgewater Paid Over $1 Million to Employee Pushed Out After Relationship With Dalio’s Protege. At this point, it is fairly clear that just as there have always been dirty predators with dirty thoughts cornering defenseless prey, lust is a human condition that will always be with us. It is not deterred by petty societal rules calling for restraint. That said, we all share blame.
We live in a society where beauty and youth are worshiped and traces of old age are reviled. We make our 50+ year olds retire early, either by force or by side-lining, in favor of younger, newer, and cheaper faces. Multi-generational homes, once the underpinning of close-knit communities, are now called into question as they re-surge. The values of decency and patience have been replaced by insta-everything, and that includes sex. Coital bliss is cheap, barriers are low, and while there has always been the office romance in modern times, you now also have lax social norms. When the rules of interpersonal decency have been played fast and loose, rampant predatory behavior is to be expected. We all must admit that while previous eras witnessed the silence of women in particular, and those of the same-sex persuasion exclusively, everything and everyone has more freedom and freedom ain’t free. There is a cost.
So now that Pandora’s box has been opened and the basics of relational decency replaced, what now? Can we sensitivity train our way back to common courtesy or litigate our way back to a time when public shaming would suffice? Not likely. Our best bet is to teach upcoming generations the harmful effects of unwanted advances, sexual or otherwise, and commit to their education and empathy for others. Only then can we envision a future where we are not bombarded with tales of shameful carnal displays by those without the capacity for self-control and compassion. I remain hopeful that future generations will do better. It is in all of our interest that they do so.