Do Not Expect too Much from Individual Senators

A Platonic Dialogue About Sexual Harassment in and Out of the Workplace

Vancouver Queen Elizabeth Park Statue

Alkibiades: You remember what we used to talk about? “Who has the time?“?

Thrasymakhos: No. Remind me...

Alkibiades: OK. Suppose you are a psychopath.

Thrasymakhos: I strongly urge everyone overhearing this conversation to note this: The position I adopted for the sake of argument in Plato‘s Republic was just a position that Sokrates could dismantle. I wanted to amuse him, and amuse the other onlookers who suffer (like me) from the strange vice of enjoying watching Sokrates dismantle arguments. I do not really think like that, OK? I am not a psychopath. Everybody clear on that, OK?

Alkibiades: Yes. But suppose that you really were a psychopath. And suppose you did not care that screwing around would make your wife feel really sad.

Thrasymakhos: Okay.

Alkibiades: And suppose that you were also an idiot—that you were so shortsighted not to realize that, if you screwed around, your wife would find out, and then you would face the consequences of living with a wife who hated you; or living without a wife, and thus living without children who hated you.

Thrasymakhos: I would point out that we are no longer plausibly 4th Century BCE Athenians but rather 21st Century CE liberal Americans. But OK.

Alkibiades: There was still the question: “who has the time?“ Sustained sequential dalliance takes a lot of time to set up and pursue. Hence prostitution is a thing. Sustained sequential dalliance is only a thing for social parasites without occupation—say, courtiers at Versailles or Whitehall. They could find the time to do it. In our modern world, we are too busy. And yet there are people who seem to do it.

Thrasymakhos: "Dalliance" is overly polite. You are, repeatedly and casually, screwing people who can never, ever be sure whether you really like them or are just exercising power by extorting sex by threatening to withhold the mentorship, promotion, or grade that they deserve. Indeed, screwing people who often know that you do not like them and are exercising power by extorting sex by threatening to withhold the mentorship, promotion, or grade that they deserve. But I follow you.

Alkibiades: Now we have the answer: you grab everything female that comes within reach. A small fraction react "positively", and you are off.

Thrasymakhos: But there is a large fraction but do not react "positively", and think you are a real asshole. And you are a real asshole.

Alkibiades: So? You are a psychopath, remember? You fear not God nor woman. And you make it clear to them that you will call “crazy stalker bitch“ if they try to call you out. And as long as each woman thinks they are the first or the second, they will stay quiet. And you will be golden.

Thrasymakhos: Well, “Golden“ only if you really enjoy being an asshole to your fellow humans.

Alkibiades: We already posited that you are a psychopath, remember?

Thrasymakhos: Touché.

Alkibiades: So am I right?

Thrasymakhos: Partially. But there is also, I think, the thrill of power: grabbing somebody's ass and feel them tense up, as they frantically think "do I dare disrupt the photo shoot for this?" Some people get a power thrill out of that. Or just making young women feel uncomfortable—Leon Wieseltier really enjoyed doing that, and his enablers like Marty Peretz and all the other editors of The Old New Republic (with the honorable exception of Peter Beinart)—all those who dismissed what was going on with "Oh, Leon's just a 'Groucho' Marxist"—seem to have enjoyed watching it.

Alkibiades: Yes: Groucho Marx is funny only because his behavior is so inappropriate that one cannot imagine it in any real workplace or social setting. The fact that the owner and top executives of TONR normalized it speaks wonders.

Thrasymakhos: I agree.

Alkibiades: And are you sure you are not a psychopath? I find the depth of your psychological insight here... disturbing.

Thrasymakos I am not! Let me reiterate: the Thrasymakhos portrayed in Plato’s Republic is a fictional character! It is not, me, the real Thrasymakhos. I am actually a nice, sensitive, new-age guy. Ladies, if we were to fall in love you would be able to trust me with your heart. Dial +30-21-THRASYMA

Alkibiades: So do you agree with me?

Thrasymakos Well, the game theoretic equilibrium is only metastable. The whole thing could come down in a roaring collapse at any moment—it's only the threat of being called "crazy stalker bitch" that keeps women quiet. Gay-bashing was a political and cultural winner only as long as most men thought that they would be judged weird if they did not approve of in gay-bashing. Once it emerged that most men actually simply did not care, the gay bashers where I revealed as the moral idiots and morons that they are. Cf.: Niall Ferguson and his flight from Cambridge...

Alkibiades: Yes. And this roaring collapse is what we are seeing now. There are right now a whole bunch of people, psychopaths, trying to deal with the fact that threatening to call "crazy stalker bitch" works well with zero, and can even overcome one or two complaints, but not five or ten.

Thrasymakhos: Except in Alabama. Or at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Alkibiades: Still: we do have an answer to our initial puzzlement about "who has the time?"

Thrasymakhos: Yes. Who knew? How did I live for more than 50 years without understanding this?

Alkibiades: Perhaps because you have the social intelligence and empathy of a cabbage?

Thrasymakhos: Touché...