There’s this woman in Minnesota who has accused Sen. Al Franken of grabbing her butt Poppy Bush-style when she posed for a picture with him at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010 in Minnesota. Did I mention all this happened in Minnesota? Well, it did!
I bet Al is really lamenting his lack of comedic timing compared to Poppy about now, too. Poppy timed his ass grabbing with his joke and the shutter of the camera — Who’s my favorite magician, the elderly Bush is alleged to ask as the magic moment approaches. David Cop-a-Feel! Get it? Get it? he would allegedly cackle gleefully at the plussed young women as they fumbled for the dignity in the presence of the ex-President, his Secret Service protective detail, his wife, and their husbands, and anyone else who happened to be present.
Now, I’ve heard all sorts of stuff about this particular accusation and accuser of Al Franken, Lindsay Menz. You know, like, I heard she voted for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, and the timing is suspect, and stuff. Sure, maybe. Maybe not. But she did post it on her FB for friends to see at the time it happened, so there’s that.
Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper! Menz posted a response to her sister on her Facebook page after posting the picture of her and Franken.
Doesn’t matter, either, at least not for the purposes of what I’m about to say on the matter. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say it did happen. If Franken didn’t do it, a lot of other men both rich and famous and poor and unknown have. It really goes to show the huge gulf of perception between how men and women view sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual predation.
Inside the Head of the Groper
Franken says that he doesn’t remember this particular incident — maybe that’s because it’s one of thousands or maybe that’s because it didn’t happen. But, when it happens it is because several things are going through the perpetrator’s mind.
- One of the things is, Boy, she has a nice butt. I’d sure like to grab it. Me and billions of other men think this thought every day. Probably a few billion women, too. But, luckily, most of us don’t actually grab the nice butt that’s bouncing around within arm’s reach.
- Then, you have to have the thought, I bet if I DID grab her butt, no one would notice, she wouldn’t say anything. It’s a wouldn’t-it-be-neat-if kind of thought. People have these thoughts, too. I bet I could grab the cash from that Uber driver’s tip jar… I bet I could take this bike… It’s that kind of realization. Most of us don’t, but many of us have those thoughts, too.
- The third ingredient though is the lack of empathy. You’re focused on the sexual thrill you’re getting out of grabbing her butt in the middle of a State Fair for all love with hundreds of people milling about. You’re focused on the thought of having that ounce of quivering flesh squeezed tightly into your palm and all the tingling going on down below because of it. You’re not thinking very clearly about how she’ll react, if you’re thinking about it at all. But, still, this isn’t enough to actually do it.
- At the moment of truth your impulse control has to fail. Everybody knows it is wrong. We might joke about it. We might think about. We might come close to doing it. But, in the end — ha ha, see what I did there? — we don’t do it. To do it, you have to have a key failure of impulse control.
Once you’ve done it and gotten away with it the first time, the memory of the thrill keeps you coming back. It is that old bugabear of the Dopamine of More! It was good once, it’ll be just as good or better the next time. It’s a siren’s song whispering an alluring sweet nothing into your ear. It such a strong call that once you’re bitten, you’re likely to keep coming back for more. Sadly, that probably means Franken has grabbed the asses of a few more members of his electorate.
This is where it helps to be a rich, famous, powerful man like an elderly ex-president with a Secret Service protective detail or a shitting senator. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber was right about one thing: people react differently to the rich and famous. You might slap your favorite drunk uncle for grabbing your ass, but would you slap an ex-president? A millionaire? A senator?
If you were to ask Franken about the kiss or the faux grope seen around the world or his alleged grabbing of Menz’ butt, he might at the time of doing it, say that it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t hurt Leeann Tweeden or Lindsay Menz. Not really.
What’s Wrong with a Little Grope?
But, what the reaction of both women tells you is that it does matter. It does hurt them. And, it goes on hurting them for the rest of their lives. If nothing else, they have to grapple with the idea that they didn’t do anything about it. They didn’t poke the SOB in the nose or say one of the fifty thousand smart-assed biting cutting retorts that they’ve thought of since then.
But the violation of personal space, the inability to control who touches you, when, and how is unsettling at best and traumatizing at worst. It invokes fear and worry, which continue to return unbidden to the mind. If you tell someone, then you have all of the questioning that comes along with it. My house was broken into once long ago. I mentioned it to a neighbor. The neighbor’s first response was, Did you lock your door? As if that made a difference. It pissed me off then. It pisses me off now. Women get that response and worse all of the time. And, it pisses them off, too, I’m sure.
It seems unreal that we have to try and convince men that touching women in this way is a violation and that it causes harm. Totally unreal. But, men have some strong motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance to resist accepting it as traumatizing.
The Women Defending Sen. Franken
There’s more out there for Franken. There’s always more. I know, I know, I know there’s all the womens from SNL and his senate office that is out there writing letters saying how nice he is and how respectful and how helpful. But being a serial groper and being nice and respectful to the women you work with are not mutually exclusive.
What’s the difference? The difference is the situation. He can’t get away with it at the office or at the set. He’s thinking it. He’s wanted to. He can’t because he knows there will be repercussions.
The difference is the amount of empathy that Franken is feeling towards the women at the time. In the office and on the set, he is full of empathy or at least hasn’t had his empathy levels depleted. When he’s out mingling with the constituents, not so much. They may not be like real people to him, after all, he don’t know them. He’s not likely to see ’em again. How can you expect him to have all the understanding and warm squishy feelings for women he don’t know and will never see again?
Situations drive our behavior. Emotions drive our decisions. Both situations and internal emotional states change pretty darn quickly for all of us throughout the day. That’s why you can have radically different behaviors coming from the same person. And, that’s why you can a person, like Senator Franken, who can be both the champion of women and a good family man and respectful of women and a serial groper sex harasser, too.
There are more women out there. The others are now contemplating coming forward a little more. My advice to Franken is to get it all out now. Give a complete detailed list. Take advantage of whatever halo you have left, Senator Franken. Get out in front of it, and start making amends before you’re forced to deal with it. It is the least he can do.