The Franken photo


Peggy and me, 1981
For those who live in America and pay attention to the news, the top photo is a reminiscent of the recently released bottom photo of Minnesota senator Al Franken and a woman with whom he was on a USO tour (the USO entertains troops in war zones). My photo was taken by my brother-in-law who was "in on the gag." Peggy was, as might be expected, startled, but didn't complain, perhaps because she took the attitude that, "Boys will be boys," and that's partly why girls love them. 

Al's little joke is--to me anyway--harder to forgive because he was 55 (I was 32); he wasn't having a relationship with the woman in the photo (Peggy and I had been married for ten years); and because it occurred in 2006. That said, I don't know what preceded Al's photo. While no woman deserves to have her breasts touched without her permission, if the trip had been filled with ribald humor that went both ways, the photo might look worse than it appears. Although the woman insists that she was a victim all the way, I wouldn't bet money on it because: (a) Al set up the photo, implying that he didn't anticipate a negative reaction, and (b) it hasn't been established that he makes a habit of predatory behavior. None of us are as bad as our worse moment, and this might be Al's worse moment.


It's common in modern America to argue that people from decades ago should "have known better" about all manner of things. No doubt, many of us state this conviction over a steak dinner while wearing sweat shop clothes, and, when we're done, leaving our underpaid "waitperson" a 10% tip. Surely, none of us are as pure as we might be if we operated from our hearts rather than from the latest moralistic fad. I even think it likely that, for most of us, our hearts are so overlaid with decades of jumping on the bandwagon that we are dead to messages from our hearts.

I hadn't thought about the top photo in years, it only coming to mind after I saw the Franken photo. I feel uncomfortable with it, but Peggy doesn't (while neither of us is conservative, Peggy leans more heavily in that direction than I). 

I heard a radio program yesterday in which a woman interviewed several men who admitted to playfully slapping women on the ass (I wondered how many men she had to interview to fill a radio program with nothing but such men). In any event, the men said that it was all in good fun; was intended as a compliment (sort of like, "I wouldn't have raped you if I hadn't thought you were pretty"); and that if women don't enjoy it, they need to "lighten up."

I asked Peggy if there had ever been a time when she would have been okay with being slapped on the ass, no matter how well she knew the man who did it, and she said that, unless I did it, she would have always interpreted it as a low level sexual assault. Neither of us could remember me having ever slapped her on the ass, but I later recalled that (before we got old and pathetic) we used to roughhouse pretty much everyday, so I surely did, and it's also true that we have on occasion popped each other with rolled-up towels while working in the kitchen. I can but say that if Peggy held her body so inviolate it precluded innocent playfulness, I would have a problem with Peggy. Thankfully, I have never had such a problem with Peggy.

P.S. Whatever my faults, I'm better looking than Al Franken.

16 comments:

angela said...

In the past it was common. Men did it, women didn’t say anything about it.
But there is a line. And if it was crossed. They should be made to pay. If for nothing else
Than society can start to recognise that line.
My only hope now is that we are raising childlren that know better and will do better.

Elephant's Child said...

It was something that most women I know grew accustomed to. Not welcomed, but expected. And, if we had the audacity to complain, we were told to lighten up, and the behaviour often escalated.
I hope that change is coming. I really hope it.

Charles Gramlich said...

i have definitely slapped my wife on the ass, and she's done the same to me.

Emma Springfield said...

What you describe with Peggy are actions between two consenting people who are in a relationship. From what I have read of the case of Al Franken there was no romantic relationship between the two nor was there consent for him to touch her body. He was wrong in this case and has said so. I hope you take a look at my post tomorrow. My views are there.

Marion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kylie said...

Context is everything and while your joke with Peggy might be something you wouldn't do again, it didn't hold the same level of entitlement and disrespect that the Franken photo did.
Surely men have always known what kind of behaviour is respectful and appropriate, they have known what kind of action would make a woman uncomfortable but if nobody called them out they would just do it again.
It is past time for that to change and I think we are now seeing the tipping point.

Strayer said...

Al Franken is not good looking. Men should leave women's bodies alone, unless invited. Goes both ways. Why some men think any women's body is fair game is beyond my understanding. Society has allowed such liberties of men, I guess. I've gone through my share of unknown men trying to grab this or that and carry pepper spray now. Somebody puts their hands where they shouldn't, that's a pretty clear response and seems to be a very appropriate response. They can go home to their wives to clean up. Guess I'm a prude, but we women get sick of it. It seems kind of pathetic to me and I think such men might need neutered so they can be free of hormonal behavior.

E. Rosewater said...

i like al and recently read giant of the senate. after his catching of sessions in the russia fib and becoming one of the leading democratic voices against trump, al seemed to become very full of himself so it's nice to see him eat a little humble pie.

all this attention on groping seems to be distracting people from the bigger issues; health care, climate change and tax reform. maybe there is a method to trump's madness.

Snowbrush said...

"In the past it was common. Men did it, women didn’t say anything about it"

Having Australian readers, I often wonder, about all manner of things, is the situation better or worse where you are.

"if we had the audacity to complain, we were told to lighten up, and the behaviour often escalated."

You just answered my last question.

"i have definitely slapped my wife on the ass, and she's done the same to me."

Context is everything.

"I hope you take a look at my post tomorrow. My views are there."

Ah, so you're writing about this too. I'll come around.

"I'm just fucking OVER men in general. Y'all are just animals, like dogs. I'm just done with men. Period. Even in my own family some woman are saying, "Oh, all those women coming out of the woodwork now are just looking for money.'"

If a man slaps you on the ass, he'll find himself on the floor dead! I get that. Why, though, are you done with men but not women given that you acknowledge, based upon comments you've heard by other women, that women are a part of the problem inasmuch as they don't stand together? Women in Alabama actually had a rally on Saturday in support of Roy Moore, who has had so many women come forward saying he assaulted them when they were girls that I've lost count. Yet, thousands of Alabama women still support him--why?! And you voted for our asshole president who boasted of grabbing women by the pussy without their permission--why?! Even IF he is responsible for gains in the stock market, how can you throw your fellow women under the bus by voting for an admitted sexual predator, and then only talk about how evil men are? I get that you've been abused, and that you're going through a divorce, and I will admit to being embarrassed because I'm a member of the gender that runs the wars, commits the murders, lashes out in violence when their wives piss them off, and rapes their fellow human beings. But it's not just a case of a flawed gender but of a tragically and unimaginably brutal species, it being OUR species that overpopulates the earth; that drives other species from their homes so we can build roads, subdivisions, and mines; that kills members of other species because we consider it fun to end lives; that eats other species for no better reason than that we like the way they taste; that's destroying the environment; that's driving other species into extinction; that kills millions of pets a year because it can't be bothered with having them spayed and neutered; that gives birth to children it can't support; whose "holy" religions are little more than a rationale for oppression; and on and on and on. You're not looking at the evil that women do, yet YOU, knowingly voted for a predatory sleaze who said "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything." So, Marion, what gives with this? I hated Hillary too, but I (a man) didn't vote for another man who boasted of sexually assaulting women because he knew they would be too intimidated to come forward, while you (a woman) did. Now this same man is coming down hard on Frankel while giving child molester Roy Moore a pass. Your one-sidedness takes the wind out of the sail that is your hatred of men. Back in 2006, you commented on a post I wrote about Valerie Solanas' "SCUM Manifesto." You liked the post then, but maybe you wouldn't be up to it now: http://snowbrush.blogspot.com/2010/09/peggy-joins-scum.html. If not, the manifesto itself will surely fit your mood. Finally, I appreciate your comment because it's from the heart. I put my heart into my posts, and I put my heart into answering comments, and your comment was meaningful, memorable, and understandable.

Snowbrush said...

"your joke with Peggy...didn't hold the same level of entitlement and disrespect that the Franken photo did."

Far from it, and Peggy neither had nor has a problem with it (she thinks it funny that I put it on the blog). That said, the photo bothers me A LITTLE because I don't like the fact that I touched Peggy in a private place in a semi-public setting ("semi-public" in the case meaning in front of one or more family members). When I reflect upon the photo now, it seems to imply that I was expressing a level of ownership that I'm no longer comfortable with, but that is commonplace among young couples whose body language often seems designed to cordon them off from the rest of the world. I think the most crucial difference between what I did and what Frankel did was that his action was inherently degrading, it being an implied announcement that "we men run the world, and we can take liberties with women, even with women we hardly know, that we wouldn't dare take with one another." This degrading element is what's absent in my photo. I know this because of how deeply I have always respected Peggy, Peggy being a dignified person (yet a playful person) who has always warranted respect.

Snowbrush said...

"It seems kind of pathetic to me and I think such men might need neutered so they can be free of hormonal behavior."

Then again, if we castrated sex criminals, would it end the problem, at least with the men we castrated? I really don't know, it seeming to me that the behavior comes as much or more from a desire to have power over another person than to have sex with another person. If this is true, then the sex act is but the ultimate statement of the fact that, "I can do anything I want to you, and there's nothing you can do to stop me." I'm the kind of person who is more security conscious than most. I don't carry a gun or a knife, and I rarely carry pepper spray, but I'm quite vigilant regarding my home and person, and this is true times ten over with my behavior toward Peggy. She says she would never submit to rape, and while I wish she wouldn't knowingly choose death, we talk from time to time about what she would do if she were accosted on a street or in a parking lot. I think that, if she was within sight or hearing of other people that her best bet might be to fall to the ground kicking and screaming because I can't see her "winning" in a situation that came down to physical force. I could be wrong, but it's not like she's a martial artist or even a body-builder.

"all this attention on groping seems to be distracting people from the bigger issues; health care, climate change and tax reform."

I take it that you meant the Franken photo as opposed to sexual violence and degradation in which case I would agree. Politicians aren't working to make the situation better but to win points while making the opposition lose points. I also think that Trump and Moore are in a far more malignant category than Franken based upon what's come to light so far, Trump because he made sexual assault a lifestyle choice and calls his accusers liars despite the fact that he boasted of having assaulted them, while Moore is even worse in that he sexually assaulted little girls and is trying to save his ass by denying it. Did you know that Moore also started a charity called "The Foundation for Moral Law" that he drained of its assets while denying that he was taking a regular income? He's the kind of man who gives religion a bad name, but not so bad as does all of those religious people who are siding with him instead of his victims. I've had a jaundiced view of conservative Christianity for a long, long time, but I have never felt the degree of loathing that I do now. On the bright side, these conservative Christians are shooting themselves in the foot by supporting sexual predators for public office because when you put your religion in the situation of standing or falling based upon the success or failure of a political party, then you had better not stand by a man who rapes children. There are already more secularists than evangelicals, and the number is growing everyday.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

I have a photo of Steve rubbing Juliet's breast (for good luck)in Verona and he has the same look of clinical detachment as you do meaning you both aren't much into it.

But you seem to rarely post photos of yourself and/or Peggy so it was interesting seeing you. Yep you are better looking than Al Franken for what's that worth. Not that I want Franken's tongue in my mouth. Ew!

I can't equate what Franken did as a prank with a stripper with Moore as a predator of teenagers. And the fact that the evangicals all seem to support such despicable behavior further cements my view of how hypocritical and ignorant they are.

Tom said...

I agree we should all try to be more respectful toward one another -- esp. men toward women -- but I also agree we should be careful about judging actions from 20 or 30 years ago by today's standards. I was never a fan of George Bush, but he did say one thing I thought was pretty good: When I was young and stupid, he said, I was young and stupid.

All Consuming said...

"I asked Peggy if there had ever been a time when she would have been okay with being slapped on the ass, no matter how well she knew the man who did it, and she said that, unless I did it, she would have always interpreted it as a low level sexual assault." - Yes, that's about the size of it. I've been touched in public over the years many times by men who thought I should just take it with ribald good humour otherwise I was being no fun. I smacked one across the face, the others I missed. Don't touch people just because you want to, any excuse is purely a device to behave as badly as you want without consequence. The picture of you and Peggy is very cute actually, and you are married and she doesn't look at all unhappy about it, nor as it turns out was/is she. It really is on the whole about respect.

Snowbrush said...

"he has the same look of clinical detachment as you do meaning you both aren't much into it"

I was inspired by what I remembered as the deadpan look of the man in Grant Wood's painting "American Gothic." Ordinarily, Peggy and I would have had our arms around one another for the photo, so I don't know I avoided it without her wondering what was up.

"I can't equate what Franken did as a prank with a stripper with Moore as a predator of teenagers."

God forbid that I expressed myself so badly as to suggest that I equated the two. Speaking of pedophiles, Trump's daughter expressed it well when she said that there is a special place in hell for them. I fantasize shooting them dead myself, mostly for the harm they do to their victims (and their victims' loved ones) but also for the fact that they make my gender look bad, there being so many of them.

"And the fact that the evangicals all seem to support such despicable behavior further cements my view of how hypocritical and ignorant they are."

I've tried to engage Rhymes with Plague, my evangelical Georgia USA follower, regarding his treatment by other Christians due to the fact that he's a Republican who didn't vote for Trump, and also regarding his feelings about Roy Moore, but he doesn't seem interested in discussing politics with me. 80% of Republican evangelicals voted for Trump, and I'm wondering if the other 20% feel like they're being frozen out of their religion (this is primarily what I wanted Rhymes to talk about) because so many evangelicals held that voting for Trump (and now Moore) is what God demanded of "the faithful," implying that he wasn't much of a Christian. I'm also wondering if the number of Alabama evangelicals who vote for Moore will be around 80%. I had also hoped that Rhymes might have thoughts about whether Christians who would vote for a pedophile have ANY moral limits about whom they would vote for. Whatever happened to the concept of doing right and trusting God? As Trump likes to point out, Bill Clinton was no saint either, and while it's true that Clinton wasn't a child molester, six women accused him of exposing himself, or being aggressive but stopping short of rape, or of rape (Trump is up to ten or so). Gloria Steinem's response at the time was to write that, if Clinton did all of the things he was accused of, he was a sex addict and needed treatment, and my older sister wrote that she continued to support Clinton because his immorality was his business, his job performance was hers, and the two were unrelated. So it was that the kind of disregard for morality that characterized many Democrats then, is held by Republicans today. Of course Republicans add to their rationalization by saying that it's not the job of Christians to judge, and that, because Moore is a Christian, they trust that God has forgiven him. Many, if not most, evangelicals seem to think that God is okay with Moore continuing to lie in order to cover his molestation and with him not trying to make amends to the women he assaulted. These are the same people who insist that nonbelievers can't live moral lives.

Cont.

possum said...

For some strange reason, I am reminded of the first time that we went to Italy - I was a well built teenager. My father warned me that in Italy, I should be prepared to have my butt pinched in places like elevators or lines to buy tickets where strange men might be standing behind me. He explained it was a compliment and they meant no harm, that I should just ignore it. He knew that if some guy pinched my butt I would probably turn around and at the very least slap his face. And that was true.
I admit I got pinched a few times, but being forewarned, I managed to keep my self placed out of reach most of the time. I also got to practice my "You wouldn't dare" look which came in handy later in the classroom. It still works! LOL!