Home / Have you heard of the word “consent”?

Have you heard of the word “consent”?

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Dear Male Defender of Schwarzenegger’s Groping,

Do you have a wife or past-puberty daughter? Great. Let me ask you, are her tits real? Let me feel ’em. Mind if I reach under her skirt and feel her ass?

I’m not going to ask her, mind you. Because her consent doesn’t matter. I mean, this kind of feels like a “rowdy” atmosphere, so I think I’ll do a little playful groping.

I’m sure you won’t mind, because you’ve already declared that consent doesn’t matter.

Bob Somerby notes how some men in the media just don’t get it:

GROPE THIS: How low in character is Washington’s “press corps?” Chris Matthews has long been the low of the low, and he proved it again on last Friday night’s Hardball. That morning, the Los Angeles Times had reported that six women had accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping and grabbing, without their consent. Matthews has been the muscleman’s chief shill in the media, so he quickly got to work, standing by his man. But uh-oh! Friday night, trouble was brewing! On Hardball, Gloria Allred expressed concern about the Times report:

ALLRED: What I’m concerned about is what Arnold Schwarzenegger has done, what he has allegedly done to women, to the six women who reported incidents to the L. A. Times. We don’t know if it is true or not, but Mr. Schwarzenegger himself, Chris, said where there’s smoke, there’s fire. He suggested that he acted badly.


ALLRED: He suggested that he apologize. But he didn’t specifically say what he did. We’re not stupid. The Times reported that he grabbed women’s breasts, that he grabbed under their skirt and to their buttocks.

Uh-oh! It didn’t sound good! So Matthews began misdirecting. “By the way, where were you on Clinton?” he asked, specifically mentioning Monica Lewinsky. And soon an obvious distinction was offered. “This is a different situation,” Allred said. “This is unconsented-to conduct.”

Hmmm. Let’s see if we can puzzle this out. Lewinsky engaged in consensual conduct. These six (now fifteen) women say they were groped. The distinction seemed fairly clear to us, but the Hardball host was thoroughly flummoxed. Allred voiced the distinction again. But he just couldn’t figure it out:

ALLRED: The situation with Monica Lewinsky was consented-to conduct. She consented to that conduct. In the newspaper article in the L. A. Times, the situation with the six women with Arnold Schwarzenegger—

MATTHEWS: So it’s OK if it’s—

ALLRED: —is unconsented-to, if you believe it’s true.

MATTHEWS (openly sarcastic): OK. Just to get this straight, just to—Gloria, so your record is straight here. So it’s OK to have consensual relations with a woman who is 30 years or whatever younger than you in the workplace. That’s OK. And it is OK to lie about it. But in this case, he admitted he did it and that’s not OK. What is your value system here?

Can’t you see the total clowning, and one of the clowning clowns who produce it? Matthews feigned utter confusion—he just couldn’t figure this “value system” out! And now, concluding his segment with Allred, he showcased his low, smutty character:

ALLRED (continuing directly): Well, it is very clear. It is not unlawful, although I don’t think it is wise, to have a sexual relationship that is consented to in the workplace.


ALLRED: But, if it is unwelcome in the workplace, as is alleged against Arnold Schwarzenegger, that’s unlawful. If it is true, it is sexual battery that he committed, Mr. Schwarzenegger. And that is potentially a crime.

MATTHEWS: Great. OK. My producer is telling me to shut you up. OK? I’m trying to be polite. Go ahead, Kim [Serafin].

Matthews—“trying to be polite”—didn’t tell Allred to “shut up” himself. He just said his producer was saying it!

But Matthews was hardly alone this weekend. Many pundits seemed confused by the concept of consent. Of course, few of them clowned any harder than Matthews. But he’s long been an industry leader.

THEY’VE GOT YOUR CONSENT RIGHT HERE: Many pundits were having trouble with the “consensual/nonconsensual” distinction. Wow, it was hard to sort out! Luckily, Susan Faludi explained why that might be. Why was Matthews so utterly puzzled? Why should Allred just “shut up?” Writing an op-ed in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Faludi offered a general suggestion:

FALUDI: A Schwarzenegger spokesman told The Times that [one of the alleged groping episodes] was just a case of “locker room humor.” Which actually explains a good deal of Schwarzenegger’s appeal to male voters. He comes out of the testosterone-ruled world of weight rooms and action movies, where women are the designated observers and adorners, and where men find their place in the wolf pack through a well-established ordeal of hazing and humiliation.

The men who don’t make it to the top in that world still have the compensation of identifying with the one man who does, as long as they don’t identify with any of the women, as long as they don’t “say nothing.” They still belong to the pack, by virtue of being male.

No matter how much sand gets kicked in their face, they still can fantasize that one day they, too, like Charles Atlas, will do enough leg lifts to rise in the ranks…The locker room game works as long as only men get to play, and only as long as they agree to play by certain rules. One rule is that sensuality is verboten, but aggressive jocularity is not. Humiliating women in a “playful” way can signal a powerful rejection of “the feminine” and a powerful reinforcement of male bonding.

Of course, Matthews has always been a sand-kicking bully when female guests talk back on Hardball. We have written in the past about his rude putdowns of Norah O’Donnell, Elizabeth Holtzman, Kiki Moore, Mary Boyle. Let’s say this for Bill O’Reilly—he tells men that they ought to shut up. Matthews—a 98-pound bully and coward—likes to say “shut up” to women.


Clever Republicans think that by bringing up Clinton/Lewinsky shenanigans they are pointing out liberal hypocrisy. What they really do is reveal something scary about themselves–that they can’t understand the concept of a consent boundary.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And keep your daughters away from these rowdy, playful men.

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About Brian Flemming

  • jadester

    “mothers, lock up your daughters; Arnold is in town!”

  • This is just shameful behavior by Matthews – and by anyone else who makes this point. Comparisons between “lying about sex” are one thing, but Arnold’s behavior is indefensible if true. That anyone would try is just mind-boggling.

    Neither President Clinton’s nor Candidate Scwarzenegger’s behavior is “okay,” but as I’ve explained a few times lately, there are differences even between bad things, and Arnold’s alleged behavior is a new level lower than President Clinton’s ever was.

  • Where on a scale, I wonder, would Davis’ alleged fits of anger and violent assaults on women in his office fall as compared to Schwarzenegger’s alleged fits of horniness and, well, grotesque assults on women over the years?

    I’d personally put them both at about eigth. Maybe 7.5 for Davis, since it seems to have happened less often. Anybody else?

  • Geez, Brian, you are really groping this story overtime, aren’t you? I get it: you don’t like Arnold. You’ve made your point. You are as relentless with this as that other blogger here that was going on and on about racism (but thankfully that critic moved on topic-wise). After awhile people began to tune those out who don’t let things go.

    And Phillip, it is nice to see you adding the “if true” part now to your comments regarding this Arnold stuff. Maybe you have more of an open mind on this issue than I had thought 😉

  • A comparison is definitely in order.

    Gray Davis allegations: He’s been a candidate for or occupant of statewide office for decades, including being twice elected governor. The dirt on him amounts to this: Two uncorroborated allegations of aggressive behavior printed in the column of Jill Stewart, a partisan, in New Times L.A. in 1997.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger allegations: Within 60 days of announcing his first run for a statewide elected office, 15 women have been found with corroborated stories of sexual harassment. Ten of these women are named, five are anonymous. Of the five anonymous women, all five have their stories corroborated by named sources.

    This is black and white. Fifteen corroborated stories is not the same as two uncorroborated ones. And those 15 are only what has come out in a rushed campaign.

    If the standard is “any uncorroborated allegation printed by a partisan columnist,” then it is only fair to bring in the allegations against Arnold that meet that standard.

    Anything else is apples and oranges.

    So the formulation, really, is this:

    What’s worse, Gray Davis’s alleged aggressive behavior with two staffers, or Arnold’s alleged belief that all black people are inferior?

    Of course, that really isn’t fair–the racist allegations are supported by a named source and printed in a mainstream news article in a major newspaper, not an opinion column in an alternative weekly.

    It’s only fair to compare apples and apples. If uncorroborated stories printed in alternative weeklies are the standard, just about every bit of gossip about Arnold is also fair to put in that same category.

    But if you want to talk about the stories that meet a higher editorial standard–a standard which the L.A. Times has freely revealed–there are no comparable Davis stories.

  • Nat,

    The Times has been very public about what their standards are for publication. There’s almost no chance they would hold back a real story on Davis–their own reporters have a history of turning on the Times when the Times makes policy decisions with which the rank-and-file disagrees.

    Those 1997 stories about Davis simply can’t be confirmed. If they could be, they would have been long ago by one of the extremely competitive papers here in the state. Nobody likes Davis, frankly–not even the “liberal” papers.

    The Jill Stewart story fills the same role in the Gropenator controversy as Joe Wilson’s donations to Al Gore fill in the Intimigate controversy.

  • Well, this much I will say: I can’t speak for New Times LA, but I have reported and edited for a number of alternative weeklies, including Baltimore City Paper and Washington City Paper, and we always worked to maintain the highest standards of journalism.

    There are varying degrees of quality and professionalism between alt-weeklies, to be sure, but please don’t assume that because a newspaper bills itself as “alternative” it must be less credible than a mainstream daily. The LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, Washington’s Times and Post, et al exhibit points of view in their reportage too.

    Bottom line: Let’s be fair here.

    It would be interesting to find out why the editors of the LA Times didn’t find the story of possible abuses by the governor newsworthy back in 1997.

  • For the same reasons the Sacramento Bee and San Jose Mercury News didn’t: They couldn’t be corroborated.

    Certainly alt weeklies have done some great reporting, and especially the New Times when it was around. But Jill Stewart’s assertions about an anonymous person who spoke to another anonymous person who told the first anonymous person about the stories doesn’t rise to a very high editorial standard. It’s not hard to imagine the kind of stuff the L.A. Times could print if it held to that standard.

    New Times L.A., for all the good features it published, was notorious for printing thinly sourced gossip in its columns. I spoke once with a reporter for New Times who bemoaned the habit.

    If Michael Moore printed something sourced to an anonymous person who heard about it from another anonymous person, I wouldn’t give it the same credence as 15 corroborated stories with names, dates and locations, either.

  • TDavid, I’ve always been open on this issue. Arnold isn’t legally presumed guilty.

    Nevertheless, that many allegations don’t come from nowhere, any they’re probably not all politically motivated given Arnold’s own initial apology. “Where there is smoke, there is fire,” remember?

    So if you ask whether he should be in jail, I say wait for a trial. If you aks whether I think he’s a power-mad pig who dislikes weak people, I say yes, I do.

    If you ask whether he should be the next Governor of California, well, actually, sure, I do. I’m just weird that way.

  • Speaking of uncorroborated stories, the very partisan Buzzflash presents an interview that doesn’t paint Maria Shriver in a very flattering light (although it does make her look like a stereotypical “Kennedy woman”). Shriver of course denies making the statements alleged in the interview.

    Thoughts, folks?

  • RE #9: Phillip, actually I think Arnold fits a certain part of a common stereotype: dumb jock. He’s got enough money to buy brains to surround himself with, but I think he’s about as one dimensional as the movies that he has played in. The millions he’s been paid for some of the crap celluloid he’s starred in are beyond me. I’m a sucker too, though, I’ve paid to see some of these godawful flicks.

    He’s a great bodybuilder, he knows how to hit the roids, he knows how to utter cheesy one-liners, but what is his IQ? (and whether a high IQ really matters for a politician, I don’t know)

    I think Jessie Ventura had a lot more brainpower than Arnold. I could be, and actually hope that I am, wrong about Arnold when and if he should get into office.

    It doesn’t sound like Arnold can do much worse than Gray Davis has done in California.

    May the best candidate win!

  • Forget the best candidate, it’ll be more amusing for the rest of the country if Arnold wins! 😉

  • For some. Others will weep.

  • sean

    You are setting up a straw man comparing Arnold’s beehavior with the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Any comments on Arnold’s alleged behavior v. Clinton’s alleged behavior with Kathleen Willey and/or Juanita Broddick?
    I think that comparison cuts a little closer.

  • Neither man is fit for office, IMO. I am proud that I did not vote for Slick Willie in his second run for the White House.

  • When even Linda Tripp and the Independent Counsel think Kathleen Willey is a liar, well…there’s not a whole lot of credibility there.

    Interestingly, Willey’s claims apparently would not have passed the L.A. Times smell test for Arnold Schwarzenegger claims–I believe she had no corroborating witness to say that, yes, at the time of the meeting she made the claims she did.

    If you look at the A.S. stories, the Times is careful to support each claim.

  • Does anyone know when the results for the California gubernatorial tragedy will be projectable? (Assuming they can be projected, of course.)

    Note to T. David: I will be posting a review of Charles Moose’s book soon, and (gasp!) racism is an issue in it. Run!

  • Why don’t you do a search on california recall election results and see what comes up?

    Not that I’m bragging.

  • Jeannie

    Desperate for publicity and affirmation much?

  • There is an exit poll though it won’t include voters who voted before the election, but the results of it can be announced at 8 pm.

    And then the precinct reports will start coming in.

    You’ll be able to see detailed results on the Secretary of State website. Watch the recall go down to wide defeat in San Francisco county and win by a landslide in Orange County. More exciting than an Arnold action movie.

  • Yank

    Clinton defenders should forget about Monica and think about Juanita Brodrick. She claimed Clinton raped her when he was Attorney General. Rape by definition is non-consent and far worse than an apish grope.

  • Indeed. Remember Juanita!

  • Oh man, not Clinton comparisons … pretty soon somebody starts talking about the blue dress and the cigar and then all perspective from a conversation is lost.

  • Thanks, Steve. This is gonna be a cliffhanger I may not be able to stay up for.

  • fred

    Are you lefties still saying Lewinsky consented? If Clinton were a Safeway manager having gotten a BJ from a young cashier, he’d be in jail. Young people CANNOT consent to sexual conduct with their employers.

    As for Schwartzenegger, he sounds like he was a rowdy jerk, but… implied consent? How many came on to him? Why no complaints years ago? Too early to tell. If he done it – out with him – but how can you possibly make offensively judgmental statements so soon.

  • mike

    I just love it. A GOP candidate could open fire at a Target store and Republicans would defend him. Worse than sheep.

  • Joe

    Walmart, maybe, but not Target.

  • Obviously, since Lewinsky was an adult, she could (and did) consent.

    There is no evidence any of Schwarzenegger’s gropees consented.

  • Scott Harris

    The Consent vs. Non-consent argument doesn’t wash for Clinton supporters. Does anyone remember Cathy Willy or Paula Jones. These were not “consenting adults” incidents. I’m not defending Arnold. I wouldn’t vote for him if I was in California. But the comparison to Clinton is apt because Clinton had many allegations of boorish behavior on the non-consenting type. One assumes that Arnold has had some consenting encounters as well. So to claim innocence for Clinton is absurd on its face. If you are going to convict Arnold on the basis of unproven accusation, then Clinton also stands guilty. I don’t care for either man personally, but Clinton did a pretty good job on the economy, and so might Arnold. Who knows?

  • Total Equality

    We women are tough, stop defending us please. Those women without common sense are just as dumb as men in the same situations.