“Enough is enough,” proclaimed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand at a December 6 press conference. Whatever the details of her colleague Al Franken’s sexual misbehavior, said Gillibrand, who has been aggressively pushing for Congress to tackle its harassment problem, he needed to step down. “I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. You need to draw a line in the sand and say: None of it is OK. None of it is acceptable.”
It most definitely is not. But as the public outrage over sexual misconduct gains force, it is swallowing up an increasingly diverse range of allegations, from the relatively petty (such as those lodged against Franken) to the truly monstrous (such as the claims regarding Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes). In between those poles exist almost infinite shades of creepy—which, sadly, will necessitate a great many discussions about how to deal with, and even talk about, the different types of offenses and offenders.
This is, in some ways, uncharted territory. In the past, questions of culpability were largely left to the legal realm: As long as a man didn’t get arrested or lose a lawsuit—and sometimes even if he did—he could get away with an awful lot while suffering little more than a bad-boy reputation. But the current reckoning is different, a rising tide of public shaming driven in part by shifting attitudes and expectations among younger women. Going forward, it’s hard to tell how the new lines will be drawn, much less where.