What’s Worse – Sexual Harassment Or Adultery?

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40 Responses

  1. Shaya says:

    This essay makes some good points, but it inappropriately minimizes Trump’s behavior, and those of other celebrities recently accused, as mere “sexual harassment” that is far less important than adultery.

    But this is not the case. Trump has not simply been accused of sexual harassment. He has been accused, very credibly, on record, by over a dozen women, of actual sexual assault. Groping, peeping Tom behavior, grabbing women’s private parts, etc. These are all crimes for which one could spend at least a year in jail. They are also, in most cases, attempted adultery. He has also (anonymously) been accused in a federal lawsuit of raping a 13-year old girl, and his own wife accused him of brutally raping her.

    Likewise, many of the celebrities recently accused have allegedly raped or groped women — again, serious crimes, not just words. Orthodox Jews should not be in the business of minimizing the crime of sexual assault. Or in the business of misrepresenting reality to score partisan points.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Don’t you think there’s a burden of proof?

      • Shaya says:

        Of course. I agree that people should not be fired based solely on unsubstantiated accusations. But contrary to the article’s premise, I know of no case in which someone’s career has been ruined solely based on a single accusation of sexual harassment (sexual assault, maybe, but not simply harassment.)

        • Bob Miller says:

          How many lies does it take add up to a truth? Accusations taken under oath would have more value, but even these would not be conclusive without a decision in court.

  2. This article misses a basic point: in secular liberal culture everything is about consent and avoidance of harm. An adulterous relationship is fine because it involves two freely consenting adults while the #metoo women did not provide consent willingly or at all. That is why the latter is a crime while the former is not to them.

    • nt says:

      I don’t think it’s just secular culture. In Judaism interpersonal sins (bein adam l’chaveiro) require the forgiveness of the victim to be atoned. Sexual harassment would by definition be included in the interpersonal category. It’s not just the immorality of the actions in the assault cases, but also the cruelty of powerful men preying on vulnerable women and the callousness of the many men and women who ignored and actively enabled misconduct.

      • Shmuel G says:

        But “adultery,” i.e. an affair with a married woman, in Judaism is punished by death. “Interpersonal” rudeness is not.

  3. Gershon Josephs says:

    Isn’t is exteremely obvious that there is a significant difference between an immoral act conducted by two consenting adults, and an immoral act where one adult does not consent? Is the author of this article blind to that obvious and important difference?

    • Sarah Elias says:

      You are making a big mistake when you call adultery an immoral act engaged in by two consenting adults. There are three adults in this situation, and one of them most certainly does not consent to be cheated on, so tell me again why adultery is okay?

      • Albert says:

        Such a great point and delivered with perfect timing! It is immoral of course, for that very reason, but the issue may be violating another’s trust vs violating another’s body

        • Maharal in Tiferes Yisrael (the perek on the sequence of the Aseres HaDibros; sorry – my seforim are on a boat someplace in the Atlantic at the moment) offers a strong argument that violating that trust is far worse than violating someone’s body. He sees the bond between husband and wife as an extension of a person’s very tzelem Elokim – image of G-d. The spouse that has been cheated on has had a portion of his very essence taken away. I imagine that something similar might very well be true of rape. I will leave it to the women to differentiate between lesser forms of intrusion. A crude remark, or serial propositioning, or an unwanted hand on a shoulder – how are these experienced? Are they met with revulsion? Cause her to feel cheapened? Or do they fully crush her essential sense of being? All these activities are forbidden – but the Torah does not treat them as severely as adultery

      • Bob Miller says:

        Unless the marriage itself was “open” and each partner allowed the other to cheat. It seems as if we’ve all read of such an arrangement between two prominent politicians in recent decades. In that case, too, the cheating was/is sinful.

    • Baruch says:

      Gershon,

      Of course there’s a difference, but not one the Torah has a high regard for. Unlike the Left, the Torah does not place a halo over consensual acts. In our Torah, adultery, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and transgender behavior are far greater crimes than touching a woman without permission. The Dor Hamabul engaged in consensual acts — as did the shiva amim of Canaan. That didn’t make Hashem any less furious at them!

  4. David F says:

    One can quibble on the comparisons, but the essential point is that the left has all but glorified sexual immorality of every stripe so it’s a bit difficult to watch them emasculate every person who is accused of another form of it and take them seriously.
    Now they’ve discovered that the directors of the Miss America pageant wrote crude emails! Seriously – did anyone every in their wildest dreams imagine that their minds were on something else other than crude and base thoughts?
    I, for one, cannot get any more exercised over the allegations of sexual misconduct than I can about anything else that goes on. It’s all part of the same parcel and they’ve brought it upon themselves.

    • Bob Miller says:

      What’s this “all but”? They imagine that calling the kettle black will put them in a better light.

  5. Ann Koffsky says:

    What? I am having a real challenge following the logic of your piece. Are you suggesting that since the culture has degraded and is terrible, that we should then accept sexual harassment as being OK? That we should forgive this bad behavior as just part of doing business, since the culture is so immoral, then we should be OK and forgive this immorality too? If so…well, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because there is not appropriate outrage for adultery does’ t mean we therefore shouldn’t be outraged over harassment. Let’s agree: they are both bad news. Let’s be happy that the larger culture is, at least in this moment, starting to be outraged about something that we both would agree is outrageous!

    • Rafael Quinoaface says:

      Our culture is not outraged about adultery, and as we become more outraged about sexual assault, become less outraged about infidelity. The reason is for this shift is quite clear: our society is now tolerant of any form of sexual expression as long as both parties consent. Consent is now the holy grail and its presence, or absence, is the only factor that determines how we react to things, because we have been conditioned to view consensual sexual relationship as non-objectionable, since objective moral judgment is out the window.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    A little self-reflection by our cultural elites would go a long way. What I see now is a search for scapegoats and scape-concepts like “toxic masculinity”. There’s an unfortunate human tendency to use everything that happens as a support for one’s previous attitudes. Call it toxic self-righteousness, aimed at us by some of the worst offenders of decency.

    • Shaya says:

      Good point. But I would note that toxic masculinity is a valid concept. Among many subcultures of men here and throughout the world, there is a culture of approving of (and even promoting) sexual harassment, sexual assault, adultery, and domestic violence (not to mention senseless violence among men). That is surely toxic masculinity!

      We differ with popular culture on the antidote. Ours, of course, is Torah — the strong belief that men and women shouldn’t touch outside of marriage, the details of the laws of yichud and tzinius, etc. Theirs, I presume, is some kind of social justice-oriented activism or training, which won’t get them very far.

      • Bob Miller says:

        The concept you described is better worded as “masculinity as acted out in toxic cultures.” It’s not innate to all men as such. But we’re not “allowed” to call cultures toxic if these belong to a group favored by the Left.

  7. Merri Ukraincik says:

    The writer appears to confuse sexual assault with consensual intimacy and the piece reads like yet another installment in a broad sweeping effort to swallow our community’s Jewish women wholesale. Like removing our images from the pages of frum publications and our names from our simcha invitations, this article is a kind of erasure. It perpetuates the idea that our names and faces don’t matter, nor do our wounds or our privacy or our agency over our own bodies. According to Mr. Resnick’s article, neither does our consent.
    What’s worse? Articles like this not only validate these behaviors and misperceptions. They perpetuate them. And from where I’m standing, they will ensure that for Jewish women, things will only continue to get worse.

    • Rafael Quinoaface says:

      You are mistaken. Halochoh doesn’t compare consent versus non-consent. When it comes to adultery, halochoh doesn’t care if there is consent or not, and having obtained consent in a forbidden relationship does make the sin better. Consent doesn’t matter and has no bearing. It is the values of our current Western culture that makes non-consent versus consent the defining bright-line test. That is not the Jewish view.

  8. Rebecca Klempner says:

    There is no logic here:

    1) If X is wrong, and Y is wrong, they are both wrong. If someone accepts X as somehow okay, that doesn’t make Y suddenly okay, too.

    2) “Which issur is worse?” is a nice debate to have in the beis midrash but entirely diminished the suffering of others in real life. Let’s keep it to Talmudical debate.

    3) Harassment is just the tip of the iceberg. Many #metoo complaints involve assault and actual rape. Assault (which may involve to Jewish people) usually involves an issur d’rabbanan (because the attacker may be touching a married woman, because the victim could be niddah, etc.). Even harassment always involves an issur d’oraisa of humiliating a person. There’s an additional issue in that a person is urged by Chazal to not make themselves disgusting in the eyes of others – clearly a harasser or assaulter has committed such an act. And rape is always assur.

    Moreover, accepting harassment as “okay” allows potential attackers to feel their behavior is justified and will be greeted with acceptance and/or approval.

    4) You are totally right that our society has become entirely too accepting of adultery. I will give you no argument there. But as I referred to in #1, there is no need to compare adultery with harassment or other non-consensual attacks. If you want to fight adultery, build shalom bayis programs at shuls and intimacy awareness programs around mikvaos. It’s nearly Shovavim – you can start a taharas mishpachah and/or shalom bayis review in your community. Encourage couples who are struggling to get professional therapy. Invest in your own marriage.

    Do not downplay the suffering women experience at the hands of badly behaving men. It only allows them to continue to harass, abuse, and rape. The best way to show you are one of the “good guys” – of which there are many – is to support women.

    • Rafael Quinoaface says:

      Halochoh doesn’t care about consent. Consent is a non-factor, and it being given prior to engaging in forbidden sexual relationships does not make the aveirah better. Our society says otherwise. I do agree you that on a personal level, a woman who consents to engage in an extra-marital affair will not suffer the trauma and pain of somebody who is raped, or sexually harrased or assaulted. However, in the eyes of the Torah, they are the treated the same. One can observe that the attitude of our society, that consent between two adults permit everything, thereby leading to making a distinction between the two on a moral (but not harm) level. There is no difference in Jewish morality.

      • Halachah does indeed care about consent.

        1) A sex act without consent is considered rape.
        2) This is even true within marriage, unlike in most other historical law systems worldwide.

        You don’t know what you are talking about.

  9. Leeza says:

    Any extramarital sexual actions are wrong. Period. But the Left has adultery on the same plane, if not beneath making an inappropriate comment. Ask your rav. He’ll tell you that both are wrong. However, he will also guide you to where the Torah stands on each issue.

  10. David Ohsie says:

    My God, this post is horrific. Are you seriously arguing that sexual assault is no big deal?

    Yes, it should bother us greatly that our President has simply walked up to women and grabbed their vaginas as well as walking in unannounced to women’s dressing rooms while in use. The fact that we like his supreme court picks, his proposed move of the embassy to Jerusalem or the Republican tax bill does not excuse his unprosecuted criminal behavior.

    I appears that the worst result of President Trump’s election is that it results in Orthodox Jews justifying sexual assault. Too bad it wasn’t a Democratic President who sexually assaulted women; then this issue would suddenly rise to the top of our priority list.

    With articles like this, it’s no wonder that we’re as bad as the Catholic Church on child sex abuse.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Is it the quantity of unproven charges that really matters most?

      • David Ohsie says:

        1) Premise of the article is that if the charges are true, this is not a big deal, because Trump is a serial adulterer which is worse. We are not to let this go because he didn’t do these things. We are to give him forgiveness and accept his repentance for behavior which he had not apologized for for nor repented of.

        2) Yes, of course the more witnesses there are to a given behavior, the greater the evidence is for that behavior. Do you doubt that Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby are guilty? In this case, we have multiple independent reports along with contemporaneous evidence of these reports. We also have his candid admission that he touched women’s pudenda against their will and that he entered a women’s dressing area while the women were unclothed (these were different admissions).

        • Bob Miller says:

          The complicating factor is that a whole lot of people and institutions lie for political and personal reasons, even though many others tell the truth. We as a society can take certain corrective actions at one level of certainty (offenses that likely happened) and other actions at another level (no room for doubt). The now-collapsing edifice of fake news has engendered a lot of skepticism, sometimes justified, about things we read.

          My job as a voting citizen is to figure out who in the political zoo will cause the least harm to the Republic. I’m satisfied that I voted against the traitor.

          • David Ohsie says:

            I’m somewhat sympathetic to an honest argument that some voted for the serial sexual abuser and adulterer because you only had two choices, so you held your nose. That is not this article and that doesn’t make it less likely that Trump really did these things (again, the incidents were related to others contemporaneously long before Trump as a candidate).

  11. Mark says:

    “Naturally, I would love to see a more moral America. I would love to see us return to a time when women were treated (and dressed) like princesses.”
    What year?

    • chell marg says:

      I think he meant to type “a time when women were treated like children & commodities”, but princesses sounded nicer. To him at least.

  12. Ann Koffsky says:

    @rafael: Did you actually just type that Halacha doesn’t care about CONSENT? There is a halacha that you can’t even be with your wife without her consent! Assault is against Halacha, I am positive.

    • Rafael Quinoaface says:

      My comment is in the context of adultery, not within the context of a marriage. since this post is contrasting treatment of sexual assault with adultery. Are you telling me that consent has any bearing on the halachic treatment of adulterous relationships?

      • Junjun says:

        Uh, yeah it does. A married woman raped by a man who is not her husband is innocent as far as halachic adultery is concerned. Consent is absolutely part of the equation for halachic treatment of adulterous relationships.

      • Adina Tarshish says:

        Do you mean to say that if a married woman is raped, the Torah finds her guilty of adultery?? YES consent has bearing on the halachic treatment of sex outside of marriage. If she does not consent, it is rape!

  13. nt says:

    I think it’s worth noting that as a result of these stories, the chillul Hashem of similar stories in Jewish circles is lessened. As tragic and horrifying as such stories are, they can no longer be considered the result of Jewish culture. It is now clear that they are the result of general human nature and the natural ability of the predator to camouflage itself, and nobody else -especially the mainstream media- has the moral standing to say that Judaism (or Catholicism for that matter) causes people to condone or engage in these behaviors.

    While religious people and Jews especially should hold themselves to a higher standard, the failures to addess these issues are despite, not because of, our commitment to Yiddishkeit. In fact, we were somewhat ahead of the curve. The past issue of the journal Dialogue focused on the issue long before the public avalanche started.

    • David Ohsie says:

      On the contrary, the Chillul Hashem increased if the PoV of this article is representative. The bulk of the rest of society is rightly disgusted when its eyes are opened to the pervasiveness of this kind of sex abuse. Some Orthodox Jews feel compelled to paper over it. This justifies the view that religion is harmful.

  14. Charlie Hall says:

    Trump DID cheat on his first two wives and has glorified through his public statements the most boorish behavior in ways that no Democrat has done. And other Republicans also have been bad actors. Harding was the most promiscuous President ever. Hastert went to prison. And then you have Gingrich, Giuliani, Sanford, and a host of other prominent Republicans.

    And the heroine of the modern right, Ayn Rand, was legendary for her hedonistic lifestyle.

    Blaming only “the Left” is intellectually dishonest. And religious leaders who defend Trump make us all look like hypocrites.

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