"For thousands of years the only power a woman had was her ability to say ‘No.’” ~ Esther Perel, The Couples Conference, April 24, 2015
We need to examine power dynamics in our country. We need to have an honest and authentic conversation about the abuses of power tarnishing our country.
How many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are female? 6.4%
What percentage of professional politicians are female? 19.6% of Congress
And what percentage of lobbyists are female?
How many females can greenlight a feature film (besides Megan Ellison)?
What percentage of people with real power in America today are female?
Is there a female equivalent to Harvey Weinstein, a woman so heinous, vile, and reprehensible to cause a former employee like Uma Thurman to publicly write, “You don’t deserve a bullet,” eviscerating any hope for redemption?
When was the last time Matt Damon was on the losing end of a phallus? Thus, Minnie Driver is 100% correct when she chastises her ex-lover for being tone deaf. Now is certainly NOT the time for a man to be parsing distinctions between sexual misconduct and sexual assault. We cannot begin to imagine atrocities yet to be unveiled. The worst is certainly yet to come.
Nor is it the time to stray into the neighborhood of “blaming the victim,” as Pamela Anderson and Morrissey have learned.
And yet it is the time for a national discussion that ends in radically new regulations, protocols and laws. Yes, in order to insure the protection of all employees, dating and sex will need to be regulated by the state. And if you think that I am joking… then think again. It has been, in fact, the lack of regulations that has resulted in the tsunami of sexual misconduct and sexual assault that is surfacing during this watershed moment in our history.
I am a licensed psychotherapist (LPCC & LMFT). Licensed by the state of California. As human beings go, I am male, size extra-large. I am alone in my quiet psychotherapy office with women many hours per week. I do not shake hands with these clients; nor do I hug them. I need there to be 0% chance of any misinterpretation of my role as a professional. There are laws defining UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT and if I transgress these laws I lose my licenses and face extreme penalties including prison. Specifically, “engaging in sexual relations with a client, or a former client within two years following termination of therapy, soliciting sexual relations with a client, or committing an act of sexual abuse, or sexual misconduct with a client, or committing an act punishable as a sexually related crime, if that act or solicitation is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of a psychotherapist.”
Here are the penalties for any form of sexual exploitation: “The board shall revoke any license issued under this chapter upon a decision made in accordance with the procedures set forth in Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, that contains any finding of fact that the licensee or registrant engaged in any act of sexual contact, as defined in Section 729, when that act is with a patient, or with a former patient when the relationship was terminated primarily for the purpose of engaging in that act…
(a) Any physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, alcohol and drug abuse counselor or any person holding himself or herself out to be a physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor, who engages in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, or sexual contact with a patient or client, or with a former patient or client when the relationship was terminated primarily for the purpose of engaging in those acts, unless the physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor has referred the patient or client to an independent and objective physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor recommended by a third-party physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor for treatment, is guilty of sexual exploitation by a physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
(b) Sexual exploitation by a physician and surgeon, psychotherapist, or alcohol and drug abuse counselor is a public offense:
(1) An act in violation of subdivision (a) shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months, or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(2) Multiple acts in violation of subdivision (a) with a single victim, when the offender has no prior conviction for sexual exploitation, shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months, or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(3) An act or acts in violation of subdivision (a) with two or more victims shall be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000); or the act or acts shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(4) Two or more acts in violation of subdivision (a) with a single victim, when the offender has at least one prior conviction for sexual exploitation, shall be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000); or the act or acts shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(5) An act or acts in violation of subdivision (a) with two or more victims, and the offender has at least one prior conviction for sexual exploitation, shall be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000). For purposes of subdivision (a), in no instance shall consent of the patient or client be a defense. However, physicians and surgeons shall not be guilty of sexual exploitation for touching any intimate part of a patient or client unless the touching is outside the scope of medical examination and treatment, or the touching is done for sexual gratification.”
The above is the state of California’s definition of unprofessional conduct for psychotherapists and other healthcare workers, thus rendering “consent” immaterial, irrelevant. Sex is still a crime because of the uneven, hierarchical power dynamic between psychotherapist and client. So whomever counseled Harvey Weinstein and other accused predators to claim that sex acts were “consensual” are morons. Because this sort of denial functions in fact as an admission of guilt. Especially due to the unequal power dynamics - for example, physical size, money, the power to affect someone’s (Salma Hayek’s, Mira Sorvino’s, Ashley Judd’s) career and livelihood, etc.
“Consent” means that two adults - who have the right to make unimpaired and unpressured decisions - agree on a particular interaction that is occurring or going to occur. “Consensual” is most frequently employed to connote that an action that has already taken place was agreed upon at the time that it occurred. Thus, when someone says that “all sex acts were consensual,” and the other party says, “No, I did not consent,” by admitting to partaking in a sex act, the accused is inadvertently admitting to rape. Because both parties must consent and for the act to be consensual. If she says that she did not consent, and there is no written agreement or physical evidence that she consented, then the act was not consensual, and thus must have been rape. His word against hers.
In order to secure safety for all workers, new rules, regulations, protocols, and even laws must be established. When an employee signs an employment contract, there should be clauses not dissimilar to ones in the above licensure agreements that I signed as a psychotherapist. “You agree not to attempt to romantically or sexually pursue any of your employees, any of your bosses, and anyone with whom you conduct business. Transgression of this agreement will result in immediate firing and substantial penalties.” And the owners and boards of directors for all companies must abide by as well as enforce these regulations.
This type of disincentive creates a safe environment for my clients and is necessary to create the same frame for all professional relationships and safeguard the unsuspecting from small-spirited, insatiable powermongers - American Psychos.
Regulations must preclude business meetings taking place in hotel rooms or anyplace where any of the parties could feel compromised.
And what effect would such regulations and laws have on dating and mating? Women from my generation were taught to play “hard to get.” So when a man asks a woman out TWICE, will that now be considered “sexual harassment?” Hint: You don’t want to find out.
When a millennial texts “Wanna hang out?” to a potential lover who texts back, “Sure,” does that constitute mutual consent to engage in a sex act? Hint: You do not want a jury answering that question.
Thanks to Rose McGowan and the 80+ other brave women - out of the thousands that have been defiled or violated, as well as those who consented to sex (or even offered sex) in order to advance their careers - these are the questions that now confront us.
The vagueness of previous courtship rituals must be retired. As I state in my new book “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening,” the myth of romance is moribund; passion may be comorbid with a level of dysfunctionality that has become insufferable. Hereafter, all roads must lead to authenticity and authentic communications. So no, Woody Allen, you may no longer wink at pretty, young girls.
But what would it mean to be authentically romantic? Could romance actually require a touch of insinuation? Do you understand what you consider to be erotic and why?
As I ask in my book, “Does anyone watching pornography think, “Oh, that is so sweet! They really love each other!”? No, they don’t. Because pornography is not about love, it’s about power.
We are going to have to raise the discussion to a new level in order to eliminate sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault and rape from all future workplaces. The anger from victims like Annabella Sciorra, whose voices have been squelched for twenty years, is justified. But when the heat dies down we must work together to see the light; we need to embrace the situation with Meryl Streep’s dignity and compassion; we need to allow men like Morgan Spurlock to apologize without fear of spending the rest of their lives in prison (unless, of course, they deserve to spend the rest of their lives in prison). We need to eradicate sexual harassment from the workplace in America effective immediately.
There already exists a model for this within the healthcare professions and, although these laws may seem draconian to some, this is precisely what is needed to make people feel safe(r) from the heinous, vile, and reprehensible abuses of power that have hitherto taken place in the workplace.