At summer camp after eighth grade, I snuck up behind this girl, touched her boobs, and said “Guess who!” – you know, like you would cover someones eyes and say it. I thought it would be funny, plus I’d get to touch her boobs.
It was a long time ago, obviously, and memories are less than clear nowadays, but I think her response was some mix of surprise and “you naughty boy (wink, wink)!”
In retrospect, I don’t know if that response revealed how she truly felt about this unwanted act, or was a defense mechanism, or just how she thought she should react in one of those “boys will be boys” situations. In any case, I think of that event often, as I scroll through life’s many regrets. She and I never were close friends through high school, though I don’t think there was any animosity or tension. I’ve seen her at a few reunions and we’ve spoken casually, pleasantly. I’ve always wanted to apologize to her, but I fear that, while that might bring closure to me, it might open up old wounds (inflicted by me or God knows who else) for her. Or she might think I’m a giant dork for hanging onto something she’d forgotten the next day.
Anyway, here we are with Franken. I like Al Franken a lot. His politics align with mine, naturally, and I think he’s funny, and intelligent, and a hard worker as a senator. So when I saw the headlines today, my first thought was “Leeann Tweeden is a righty, and this is a something-out-of-nothing charge.” Similar to how I felt in seeing the allegations against George Takei. “These are guys like me. They’re nice guys. They couldn’t have done this.”
Then, my thoughts turned to diminishing the acts: “Well, so he did something naughty eleven years ago, before he was even elected to the Senate. He’s a great senator, and he should apologize and then we’ll all move on.”
Believe me, I see the hypocrisy in this. I knew there would be calls from the right for him to resign. And I know that if this was a Republican senator, I’d say good riddance (after I had a chuckle about the GOP being the “Family Values” party while having the market cornered on sexual misconduct). The lesson in this, for me, is that there is room for forgiveness – but only if you want there to be. My gut tells me that Franken is a valuable senator, and he should remain in that capacity because whoever would replace him would be a step down. My gut, in case you were wondering, also thinks that what Roy Moore has almost certainly done should disqualify him from the senate. But I don’t know a thing about Roy Moore other than these allegations, so how the hell would I know? Still, I’ll stick with my gut.
Regarding Tweeden, she has said that one of the reasons she didn’t come forward at the time is that she thought her career, including being a swimsuit and lingerie model, would be used to discredit her. She’s right – it would have been. And it might still be, even though the photo pretty much says it all about Franken. It is true that, to whatever degree, Tweeden cashed in on her looks.
And there is no shame in that.
But while stunning good looks can clearly be a blessing, there is no doubt in my mind that they can also be a curse. Consider that Franken would never have pulled such a stunt on a Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Rosie O’Donnell, etc. But here is an attractive woman who shows her body for a living; she’s made herself, and her sexuality community property! She’s probably used to inappropriate behavior – hell, probably comfortable with it, probably enjoys it!
And suddenly, we’re one small moral step from justifying rape because the victim was dressed “like she wanted it.” Leeann Tweeden has no less right to say “no” than anybody else.
We have a long way to go to put a stop to this sort of behavior. I feel badly for Leeann Tweeden, though I’m glad she came forward. This isn’t a political issue – it is an American issue. And, as such, we all need to confront it.
Closed circuit to that girl from eighth grade: I’m sorry for what I did.