New York Magazine

Sexual Revolutions, Then and Now

Rebecca Traister and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on liberation, libertinism, harassment, and assault.

REBECCA TRAISTER: Honest to God, what is wrong with people?

ROSS DOUTHAT: Mostly testosterone.

RT: I have to say, this part of the news cycle—where everyone is obsessing over whether Al Franken should resign and whether Bill Clinton should have—is really beginning to wear on me. I’m sure a cynic could read that as being defensive about fellow liberals. But while I am all for reevaluating Bill Clinton and for hearing more about Al Franken, I think that is pulling focus away from what should be being revealed here, which is the pervasiveness—the way that the whole culture tells us that jokes about grabbing women’s breasts are funny, the way that a comedian who builds his career in part on telling those jokes can become a trusted public and political figure to begin with.

RD: Your weariness is completely understandable. But to defend the focus on specific men for a moment: For us to make social or moral progress, there has to be a path to a cultural consensus on some of these questions, right? And we probably can’t reach a cultural consensus so long as everyone thinks they have to rally around their creeps—defending behavior on their side that they’re busy condemning on the other side of our cultural civil war. A feminism that can handle its Bill Clintons and Teddy Kennedys and (maybe) Al Frankens differently than in the past will be a more persuasive, coherent, admirable feminism. A feminism that just makes gestures in

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