I have watched with a fair amount of grim dissatisfaction the drama surrounding the Alabama Senate race which is pitting Judge Roy Moore against someone else. Honestly, I don’t know who he is running against, and I couldn’t be bothered to look him up even if I could. It is testament perhaps to the grasp that Republicans are gaining on races in certain states that the race has less to do with the two candidates in question than it does with a strategy that I find deeply troubling, and that is dragging the name of Moore, most famous for being a principled judge who stood up for the Ten Commandments in a notable and lengthy case and who has faced a great deal of immense hostility from the forces of the Left before . The current political climate, though, is one of witch-hunting of a particular kind. Perhaps, if we are less kind in the future we may look at this particular moment as a time when people searched for sexual scandal at the bottom of every rock in a time of general permissiveness, making few people safe from claims that are false or at least misrepresented.
I don’t happen to know the truth of the matter about what Moore is accused of. Fortunately, at least, he hasn’t attracted a massive bandwagon effect of accusers the way that has happened for some of the Hollywood figures who have been buried underneath the weight of dozens of accusers of all kinds of loathsome deeds. For the moment, at least, we have accusations limited to those with a certain political worldview that can, with plausibility, be seen as a game of unpleasant political gamesmanship. If Moore can retain the confidence of the people of Alabama as a straight arrow, and there is no fire at the base of the smoke but merely a smoke machine run by one’s longtime enemies , there is a possibility that he may even win this bitter campaign. It is not as if political enemies have not stopped fairly low before in the attempt to blacken the name of other candidates. Such is the way that life in decadent republican regimes goes, sadly. However, no matter the extent to which Moore has been a good soldier in the culture wars against the powers of darkness, if there is any truth to the allegations that he took advantage of his power to pressure young women sexually, he should probably step aside. Moore strikes me as the sort of person to fight to the end, however, come what may, at least from his character thus far.
Part of what makes this sort of situation problematic is the way that interactions can appear differently to different people. We live in a world where nearly everything carries with it sexual overtones of a deeply unpleasant nature and where there are is a great deal of ambiguity and ambivalence about how sexuality is viewed, particularly with regards to young women, but also others as well. There are some cases, as we have seen in Hollywood, where sexual violence and malice is conscious, intended, and unambiguous. If there is a quid pro quo where sexual favors are demanded for career advancement or where people use their power and influence to try to gratify their lusts, that is clearly a form of violence that we ought to stop. I have little sympathy for predators who are found out and stopped, even when it requires fairly heroic actions like trying to re-film and re-edit scenes six weeks before a movie is supposed to come out. It must be freely admitted, though, that not all cases are like that. I myself have been witness to interactions that made me feel uncomfortable as an observer where an older married man made highly flirtatious comments to attractive young women that, if taken badly, could easily be viewed as harassment or pressure where none was meant. I could see something like this happening to Moore, where what he took as pleasant banter was viewed in as less friendly fashion by a young woman who carried a grudge for decades and saw the contemporary political climate as the best opportunity to exact a bit of delayed revenge.
We live in a world where every aspect of one’s lives is infused with something relating to sexuality. Everything from the clothes we wear to the music we listen to to the movies and television shows we watch urges us to see others in the light of sexuality and for others to see us in that light. And yet despite this, we simultaneously are becoming a society that is increasingly intolerant of dealing with unpleasantness from others and desiring a safe space of echo chambers where only voices like ourselves are heard. The trade between power and sexuality has long been an aspect of many institutions, going back centuries if not far longer. And wise women have known that the same power that their sexual attractiveness had could easily fade as they got older, or make them vulnerable to violence from those who did not want to make a deal but rather take what they wanted. What we are finding, though, somewhat belatedly, is that even the milder tendencies of those with some form of power and influence to enjoy the company and attention of attractive people, even where nothing necessarily untoward is done, is itself a vulnerability that many people are not prepared to face. Moore is neither the first nor the last person who is going to have to deal with the repercussions of that.
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 See, for example: