NPR’s top news editor faces multiple sexual harassment claims

I said from the onset that their fear is not reasonable. But it is still there, reasonable or not.


“[W]omen are perceived as too talkative because how much they talk is measured not against how much men talk, but against an ideal of female silence.” (Mary Talbot on research by Dale Spenser)


It’s quite different to ask for solace in a private space versus ask for condemnation in a public space.

If it was unclear I was speaking of the latter versus the former, I assure you, that was the case.

All of the fear, extra scrutiny and skepticism that women face when coming forward after being harassed or assaulted directly discourages reporting and keeps women silent and afraid.

There are.

People don’t believe victims of sexual assault because it’s simply easier not to. But it also goes deeper than laziness or loyalty. The widespread disbelief of rape has a complicated history but a relatively simple cause: People don’t believe women.

The idea that rape is a crime against a woman, and specifically a crime against a woman’s body, is relatively new. For most of human history, rape has been treated as a property crime against a woman’s husband or father, since they effectively owned her.

For most of American history, women have had to prove that they were chaste, and that they put up extreme resistance, in order to have any hope of winning a court case.

Marital rape has only been illegal in the United States for a few decades, since a husband was considered to have complete authority over his wife. (This dynamic may also complicate how we see the wives of accused rapists who were married decades ago, like Camille Cosby or Hillary Clinton, Rebecca Traister argued at New York magazine.)
It would be naïve to think that the weight of this history has been lifted by a few decades of rapid social progress on feminism. Women are still blamed for sexual assaults committed against them, and they are still blamed for bringing down the promising careers of famous or beloved men.

Women are blamed because they have nearly always been considered, legally and socially, to be worth less than men. They are satellites to male stars, auxiliaries, not full people in their own right. It’s easier to discount their stories because it’s easier to discount them as people.

Male victims face similar problems because sexual assault, and the dismissal of it, has been so strongly gendered for so long — and sex stereotypes of women can also be used as weapons against men.

It’s no longer socially acceptable to say out loud that women are worth less than men. But implicit assumptions can be a lot slower to evolve than outward norms.

Most of us believe deep down that women can’t be trusted

There are some understandable reasons why law enforcement officials, for instance, tend not to believe victims who come forward about rape.

We are only just beginning to understand the scienceof how the brain processes trauma. Memories are stored in a fragmented way, and emotional reactions can seem “off.” Both of these things can raise suspicions among police officers who are accustomed to using rigorous interrogations to ferret out inconsistencies in a story, and rigorous interrogation only makes things worse.

But there’s clearly something deeper going on when a police department calls its sex crimes investigative division the “lying bitch unit.”

And law enforcement officials aren’t the only ones who don’t believe rape victims. Too often, entire communities turn againstsurvivors of sexual assault who come forward.

The idea that women are inherently deceitful, especially when it comes to sexuality, is deeply rooted in our culture. Soraya Chemaly has written extensively about the ways we teach our children that women are liars.

Our pop culture and religious teachings alike are fraughtwith descriptions of women as untrustworthy — from Eve and the apple to Gossip Girl. Teenagers and police officers alike radically overestimate the number of women who lie about rape. This has real consequences in nearly every walk of life, Chemaly writes:

Women’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, in legislatures, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices and in our political system. People don’t trust women … not to be bosses, pilots, employees. Last year, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly don’t believe women who request flextime. Until relatively recently, in order to hedge against the idea that women lie, many U.S. police departments had “corroboration requirements” for rape reports, unlike any other crime. Pakistan’s controversial Hudood Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery.
Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas wrote about how the Cosby situation made him realize that he didn’t truly trust his wife, and that most men don’t trust women. He said he trusts her not to cheat and to be a good partner, and he trusts her opinions on important things:

But you know what I don’t really trust? What I’ve never actually trusted with any women I’ve been with? Her feelings.

If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is “What’s wrong?”

My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what’s wrong? “She’s probably overreacting.”

Female hysteria is another deeply rooted gender stereotype, and it tells us that women can’t even be trusted to know their own feelings. These stereotypes cause doctors to ignore women’s symptoms of pain, and they inspire lawmakers to pass abortion waiting periods because they don’t think women consider their decision carefully enough. Meanwhile, men are perceived as smarter and more authoritative than women.

Our society, which is less separable than we’d like from the cruder societies that came before it, has created a perfect storm of reasons to dismiss rape victims.

A woman can’t be trusted to know her own feelings, which means she either secretly wanted sex while saying she didn’t, or wanted it at the time but changed her mind afterward.

A woman isn’t her own person, not really — so it matters less that believing him means disbelieving her.

A woman can’t be trusted not to lie, so it’s safer to disbelieve her than to risk ruining some innocent fellow’s life.

And men are the ones with money, social status, and something to lose, so they are the real stakeholders in any rape case.

Rape is horrifying and messy, and sometimes it’s easier to disbelieve that it happens at all. But that option isn’t open to victims of rape and sexual assault.

Denying rape means believing that victims are lying. It means denying their humanity and worth. And it’s a denial that has been made far too easy by thousands of years of habit.


Hey all, I was re-reading my comments, and a lot of you are correct, I’m getting VERY far afield from the original discussion and purpose of this thread. I’m conceding the point here, and I apologize if I was out of line or too “MRA”-like (yuck). There’s a discussion to be had there, but it’s not the appropriate place or context to raise any of those points. Bad habit of mine when I’m trying to juggle too many conversations at once, I’m afraid.

Cheers all, see you 'round the boards.

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And yet we still get asked: “Did you go to the cops?” If we say “no” because of myriad reasons, we’re accused of lying because if it really happened, then we’d report it, but if we do and the cops dismiss us out of hand and (which there is ample evidence they do) then we’re called liars because the cops didn’t investigate, or their investigation doesn’t even qualify as half-assed or even quarter-assed. Unless you bring them the entire fucking case on a platter, and even then it’s a crapshoot.

Nobody’s calling for lynchings. What we want is to be taken seriously and not just dismissed or automatically assumed to be lying. That’s what we’re asking for when we say “believe the victims”: believe enough to even consider the possibility, instead of jumping immediately to “they’re wrong/making it up.”


I said none of this. I don’t even think that the guys I talked to generally disbelieve women. All I wanted was to present what I learned from talking to a few guys at work, because it surprised me. I had not expected so many of them to be genuinely scared of the social consequences of a false accusation.

Speak on it, sister…


I periodically have a bizarro world conversation like this with my SO. (I’m cis-male, she is cis-female)

Most recently this past friday, when we were out on the town, and I left to get us more drinks. I come back, and she’s talking to some young guy. No biggie, I’m not the jealous type, I just sit down next to her and wait for the convo to wrap up.*

She didn’t think the guy was hitting on her, just making friendly conversation. I suggested he might have been. Her response was, “Well it was super weird when he asked me how old I was, but I still give him the benefit of the doubt”. There you go, right? That’s how these conversations always go, “well, there was one or two weird things he said, but I still don’t think…” This guy friday was just a harmless kid, and I have nothing bad to say about him (except maybe better luck next time), but not all of these conversations sound like harmless people to me.

*OK, so also I felt no particular need to do anything to suggest we were together, since we were wearing matching blue and pink unicorn onesies.


My kind of couple; y’all sound adorbs.


Yes, I’m aware of that.

I’ve made alot of points and really tried to engage in a polite discussion in response to what you’ve said about men’s irrational fears with respect to false accusations.

At this point it’s clear to me that you’re not really open to listening to what I wanted to present.

Take care.


No, I read what you wrote and agree with many of the points. I am also appalled by some of the experiences that women had. I just do not feel qualified to discuss what you wrote, that is all.


Fair enough. Thanks for the discussion.


Even among “woke” men, the natural instinct is to downplay womens’ feeling. The creepy guy, well, 'according to the guys he’s “just clumsy at comeons” (ignoring the issue that you shouldn’t be frigging hitting on people at work). I know, because I’m guilty of this.

And for that, I apologize. Sorry, C.


I don’t think it would be. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say, if you’re comfortable saying it.

I’d like men to really stop and think about how they would behave if false accusations of sexual assault (that are then investigated seriously) were relatively common. What if 1 in 10 or 2 in 10 men could expect to face such a situation in their lifetimes.

If a man was going on a first date with a woman he might want to meet for a daytime coffee rather than an evening drink. He might want to say goodbye in front of the coffee place in public rather than allow her to walk him home. He might want to tell his friends where he was going when going on a date and check in with them after so they knew where he was and when.

If going to a party he might always want to stick with a friend he went with and be nervous about breaking away from the people he knew to spend time with a woman he hadn’t met before. If a woman came on to him and he wasn’t interested he might register that situation as dangerous, he might try to take care of her feelings lest she retaliate.

He might feel pressure to behave in a way that convinced his family, friends, co-workers, etc., that he is not the sort of guy who is really interested in sex to make sure that people wouldn’t think that a false accusation sounded right.

In case I’ve been too subtle: A man who is truly afraid of false sexual assault complaints should probably act around women the way that women* act around men.

I want men to absorb this: If we took half the sexual harassment out there and replaced them with seriously investigated false accusations of sexual harassment and if we took half the rapes and replaced them with men being falsely imprisoned for rape, the world would not be a less just place. It’s just that the brunt of the injustice would be more equally shared between the sexes.

* #NotAllWomen

Thanks for writing this. I was very recently in a conversation on the subject of accusations of sexual assault (there’s a lot of them these days) where this was exactly the issue but I couldn’t quite articulate it. (I said something about “apportioning benefit of the doubt” which was considerably less direct)

Of course that conversation was about Spacey, so it wasn’t about a woman. But as you say, male victims face similar problems. When a man is a victim of sexual assault, he becomes an honorary member of the club. Women are members from birth.

Which makes me think about just how much power and authority we all assign to a person who commits these assaults. Our attitudes towards woman make it easy to dismiss a female victim. But the fact that we will dismiss male victims makes me feel like there is also a deference to people who commit sexual assault.

We think we hate “rapists” because we mythologize them as soulless outcasts who lurk in the shadows and overpower victims they’ve never met. We think a “rapist” is a thing we could pick out of a room. In reality, I think we have a very complicated emotional relationship with people who rape; we say they are bad, we think they are bad, but as a society we in many ways act as though they are powerful and worthy of respect.

As a person with some very serious questions about my own gender, I forgive you! :smile:

I find men can sometimes react very badly to “believe women” or even “believe victims”. As if they think people are calling for a reversal of the burden of proof in criminal cases. It’s frustrating because as far as I know, I’m the only person in the world who is crazy enough to actually suggest going that far.


Oh. Yes. This. This is it, exactly.


seamen salute