Where’s the feminist outrage over David Letterman?!?

So conservatives think they’re calling out feminists on the lack of response to David Letterman’s recent reveal that he has slept with several members of his staff. Where are the protests, the outrage? To that, I have a similar reaction to Tracy at Broadsheet: We simply don’t know enough to do anything.

As far as we know, Letterman’s affairs with staffers were consensual. Workplace canoodling happens all the time, and so are young women frequently drawn to male superiors. Many find power imbalances to be very sexy — and more power (or less, as it were) to ‘em. There is nothing inherently wrong about a sexual relationship between two adults who are at different points in their careers. It would be awfully patronizing to suggest that women aren’t capable of meaningfully consenting to sex with a workplace superior. That isn’t to say I don’t pass personal judgment on Letterman for sleeping with young women who were from the sounds of it at the starts of their careers — oh, judgment abounds, believe me! But is it illegal, is it sexual harassment?

She acknowledges a few potential situations around this story, and if we find this is the case – yes, Letterman will have a sexual harassment suit to deal with. And yes, the power dynamics of sexual relationships at work between superiors and their staff can be fucked up. But it would also be fucked up for us to label these women as powerless victims who didn’t know what they were doing when as far as we know, it was consensual sex. Do I personally think it’s gross? Did Letterman do a really stupid thing? Totally. But that doesn’t mean what Letterman did was illegal. People have sex. And he’s not a politician preaching sexual morality; he’s a late night TV show host. When we see something to get up in arms about – even offenses committed by liberals – we do it. But for now, is this really worthy covering?
What is worthy to post about is the fact that conservatives can act all enraged that feminists aren’t enraged all the while making comments about Letterman’s wife being ugly and equating Letterman’s doings with the rape of a 13-year old – all for the sake of trying to call us bad liberals out. And they’re just replaying the classic conservative view of women – that we’re too stupid or not mature enough to make our own decisions (hello, “informed consent” laws). Now that’s some hypocrisy for you.
UDPATE: Reader fsu points out that Shakes has been covering the story.

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47 Comments

  1. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most of what you’ve said here.
    I know almost nothing about the women Letterman had affairs with, nor do I really care to. Other people’s sexual relationships– whether they’re married or not– is none of my business. I would, however, stop short of personally judging him for his choices. I know of plenty of smart young women who are attracted to David Letterman, and would not need to feel coerced to sleep with him, even if they were employed by him. I see no evidence that the women he slept with fell into a different category.
    Additionally, we don’t know the nature of his relationship with his wife– i.e., whether or not it’s monogamous– nor should we. They’re clearly very private people who are very private about their relationship.
    Sex is not a moral issue and we don’t have the right to judge another person’s consensual, adult relationships.

  2. alixana
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s important to remember that boss/employee relationships have a high potential for being inappropriate and/or sexual harassment cases, no matter what combination of genders are involved. That doesn’t mean that Dave’s case is one of those situations. But just because he wasn’t married and they were both adults doesn’t mean it’s NOT one of those situations.
    Which is also to say, yeah, we don’t really know enough to judge either way yet.

  3. Athenia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I would be interested to know how the rest of staff feels about these relationships–maybe, Dave and these women felt fine about it, but does that mean it was fair to everyone else?
    I mean, at my workplace, I can’t date anyone in a superior position in my department, or I think at the very least, I need to let The Powers That Be know.
    So, I guess my question is what policies were in place at the show about dating? Is Dave really the last stop for how the show is run? Does Dave have anyone to answer to?

  4. Athenia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Oops, and when I meant “dating”, I meant “sleeping around.”
    Which I guess HR wouldn’t really have a policy about.
    Which is probably part of the problem.

  5. era4allNOW
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Athenia, Dave’s show is a Worldwide Pants production; there, they had no rules on dating within the company. The employees were free to date each other, even superiors, as they like. I heard this on the Bill Press show. CNN does have rules against this, and his show is on CNN, but he is not an employee of CNN. He is a WWP employee.
    Also, MarySophia, Dave was not married to his wife yet when he slept with his work colleagues. They were dating on and off when he had the affairs. However, he said on his show last night that his wife is horribly upset. So, I am just going to guess that they do not and did not have an open relationship.
    Hope this clears some things up.
    And I agree with Vanessa’s assessment :)

  6. Women's Voices for Change
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    From one of the board members of Women’s Voices For Change
    “We fought for our rights in the workplace, including the right to make the same stupid mistakes as men and to have the same bald ambitions. Why do we think, when a powerful man says he’s had sex with a number of women who work for him, that their part of that equation involves being somehow blinded by the man’s power?”

  7. era4allNOW
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Athenia, Dave’s show is a Worldwide Pants production; there, they had no rules on dating within the company. The employees were free to date each other, even superiors, as they like. I heard this on the Bill Press show. CNN does have rules against this, and his show is on CNN, but he is not an employee of CNN. He is a WWP employee.
    Also, MarySophia, Dave was not married to his wife yet when he slept with his work colleagues. They were dating on and off when he had the affairs. However, he said on his show last night that his wife is horribly upset. So, I am just going to guess that they do not and did not have an open relationship.
    Hope this clears some things up.
    And I agree with Vanessa’s assessment :)

  8. kb
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    “I think it’s important to remember that boss/employee relationships have a high potential for being inappropriate and/or sexual harassment cases, no matter what combination of genders are involved. That doesn’t mean that Dave’s case is one of those situations. But just because he wasn’t married and they were both adults doesn’t mean it’s NOT one of those situations.”-this.
    It doesn’t matter if the affair was consensual, or if there are any number of women who would sleep with him without a problem. It doesn’t even matter if these women would have slept with him no matter what. It matters that there was an unequal aspect of power-when he evaluates their performance, that’s an abuse of power, no matter what. Now, to be fair, I’m assuming that when someone says “they worked for him” that means he evaluates their performance, or the performance of their boss. That may not be the case. but it’s absolutely the crux of the matter for me.

  9. fsu
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  10. fsu
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    So my answer to conservatives: Don’t lament about what feminists are or aren’t doing, when you don’t know what feminists are doing.

  11. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really draw that much of a distinction between a long term relationship (they’ve been together for 23 years) and “marriage.” As far as his wife being upset: it’s possible that she’s upset that this is being made so public, though upon watching it it doesn’t seem that way. Regardless, it just still feels like none of our business to me. I can’t imagine a 23 year long relationship of any type, especially a primary romantic relationship, in which both parties don’t hurt the other at some point. It happens, and I choose not to judge people for it.

  12. cattrack2
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry but I think we as feminists are being plenty hypocritical if we don’t call Dave out for this. With existing evidence there’s no sexual harrassment case to be made, but there’s plenty of evidence for felony bad judgement.
    There’s a huge feminist critique to be made based on the imbalance of the power relationship. Sleeping with a peer is ok, or a subordinate in a different organizational chain, but sleeping with someone who works for you in just wrong. This is not a patronizing argument; it prevents the exploitation of employees.
    There may not have been any laws broken, but personal ethics are absolutely at stake here.

  13. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    There’s certainly an argument to be made against employee/employer workplace sexual relationships, but it’s not a particular ethic to which I subscribe, so for me not to call a person out on it is not hypocritical.

  14. Andra8888
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    David Letterman owns Worldwide Pants production company. These women’s careers were in his hands. The company might not have had a policy against a boss sleeping with subordinates, but that does not mean it was ethical and it does not mean that we should not call him on it.
    He works in an industry that expects women to provide sexual favors in exchange for jobs. We don’t know if the women were coerced, but I don’t believe cases in which a boss keeps a “secret bedroom” for having sex with female staff members (whose careers he could ruin if he wanted to) are just affairs between equals. Such an environment would not only be unfair to the women who feel like they have to sleep with the boss, it is unfair to all the women who are assumed to have climbed the ladder on their backs.

  15. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    He could have ruined (or unfairly helped) their careers if he wanted to. Other women could have felt pressured to sleep with him. Where is the evidence that these things ACTUALLY happened? As far as ruining their careers– he hasn’t mentioned anyone by name thus far, out of respect for their privacy. (Anything we know has come from other sources.) The attitude that women who have sexual relationships with colleagues– or even bosses– are “climbing the ladder on their backs” needs to change, and the way to do that is not through judging or policing people’s choices.

  16. Andra8888
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I did not say he did ruin their careers. I said that he had the power to. If he wanted to cheat on his girlfriend/wife, he could have slept with people who did not work for him (which he might have done in addition to sleeping with his employees). You could argue that an inmate really wants to have a sexual relationship with a prison guard, but that does not mean it is ethical and it does not mean that it is harmless. If two people are turned on by power imbalances, that’s great…if it is roleplay. It is different when it is real life and affects other people.
    I absolutely disagree with you that not judging male bosses that sleep with female employees somehow changes the attitude that women sleep their way to the top. I believe that it reinforces the belief.

  17. Comrade Kevin
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s a major temptation for anyone in the role of a superior and isn’t strictly relegated to men pursuing women. One of my friends is in the process of getting her doctorate and finding a job in academia, and she has mentioned that in the process of teaching English Comp classes as part of her responsibilities as a grad student, she has found many of her female students very attractive and appealing. Still, what has prevented her from making a move in that direction is the knowledge that they are so young and little more than overgrown children in many respects.
    Letterman acted the way many people would in similar circumstances and I have to say that I too would have felt the same temptation. At times I have violated one of those workplace unwritten rules and have dated women who were co-workers, which creates its own potential problems.
    This is everywhere and aside from the charges and counter-charges is a lack of self-reflection that, if acknowledged, would state resolutely that many of us would act like Letterman if provided the chance.

  18. faithdarwin
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’m not sure if this really has anything to do with the topic, but as a feminist and woman I have a problem with David Letterman in that I’ve just always found him kind of creepy. Does anyone else feel this way? Whenever he has a female guest, he never fails to introduce her in a way that is somehow commenting on her appearance. “The very lovely so and so,” “The very beautiful so and so,” and then he proceeds to essentially hit on them, and they can’t really do anything about it because they’re on television and they’re supposed to be being funny and charming! Maybe it’s just me, but when I heard about this scandal I immediately said, “I knew it!!”
    I’d rather watch Conan.

  19. alawyer
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I strongly disagree with this. When a boss wants to sleep with a subordinate, it is extremely likely that the subordinate will feel very pressured to sleep with the boss whether they want to or not. Even if the boss is 100% “sincere” and won’t fire/demote/promote the subordinate depending on whether or not they sleep with the boss, there’s no way for the subordinate to know this. As a result, it’s likely that subordinate will feel pressured to sleep with the boss even if the boss subjectively doesn’t want to exert any such pressure.
    Conclusion: whenever a boss wants to sleep with a subordinate, there’s a significant risk that the subordinate will sleep with the boss because they feel pressured to, not because they “want” to. Bosses should just stay away from sexual relationships with subordinates.

  20. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    My point is that we shouldn’t judge a relationship based on what might have or could have happened. I have seen NO EVIDENCE that anyone received an unfair advantage or disadvantage based on whether they chose to sleep with him or not.
    As to the last paragraph– how on earth does it help societal attitudes to judge a person who is not getting an unfair advantage from their relationship?

  21. Athenia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I agree. When I’ve watched late night, I’ve watched Leno.
    I think what upsets me most by this is that Dave thinks he has every right to make fun of other people sleeping around/attire, when he’s doing the same thing!
    Thankfully in his most recent monologue, he highlights that fact….but I’m surprised that he felt he had every right to make bad jokes about others i.e. the Palin jokes
    I mean, I wonder if he thinks what he did was because of “slutty” women and not his own doing.

  22. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    It’s his job to make jokes about public ordeals and scandals. I don’t like a lot of what he’s said about Palin (especially about her daughters), but his jokes about sex scandals have never really been scathing (except maybe Clinton, and, if I recall correctly, his larger problem there was the lying), so it seems to me inaccurate to call him a hypocrite for this.

  23. kb
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    this is satire, right? You’re not telling victims they need to prove harassment, not on a feminist site? I hope.

  24. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    What? What victims? I’m talking about people who are uninvolved in the situation passing judgment on it. If anyone expressed that s/he felt sexually harassed, I would be saying something completely different.
    (As to Halderman’s claims that he has evidence of harassment: first, I’d really like to hear it from the victims, if there are any. Second, and more importantly, if he really believed it, how is blackmailing him for millions of dollars the constructive choice?)

  25. Andra8888
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I believe that one person sleeping with subordinates, a person that has power over their livelihood, is unethical. I believe that it is unfair to everyone in the company. It may be in this one instance, it had no negative ramifications. We don’t know this, but it may be possible. However, because the likelihood of feelings of coercion is extremely high, I believe it is still unethical. In my thinking, it is akin to driving while buzzed. One may drive while buzzed for 10 years and never hurt another living being, but taking the risk is still unethical.
    I don’t know Letterman’s entire company’s demographic…I do know that he does not employ a single female writer. To me, it suggests that the workplace is not sexism-free.
    As for “sleeping her way to the top” attitude, I believe it applies more to industries where it is more prevalent, where women’s bodies are considered perks of the job. Letterman definitely is part of such an industry. To just say that it was consenting adults and we should approve just maintains the messed up tradition AND it perpetuates the belief that if a woman succeeds, she had probably used her “feminine wiles.”

  26. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s possible for adults with a professional imbalance of power to have a fair relationship, and you think there’s too high a risk of coercion and appearance of impropriety. Both perspectives have merit, and at this point we’re just going to be talking in circles.

  27. cattrack2
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    The other issue is how this affects the promotion of other women at the office. There’s a lot of women who feel forced to sleep with the boss in order to get promoted & behavior like this is a big reason for it–even if, yes, it was consensual. Do you think that, maybe, Letterman showed her some kind of favoritism? Maybe she got limited camera time? Or better assignments? Or, how ’bout promotions & money?
    Do you think the other women at the office knew or suspected this & felt like they needed to sleep with him to get ahead as well. Geez, people, sexual harrasment isn’t just something you do to a person, its also an environment you create. And we, of all people should know this. We fought freakin hard to get it enshrined into law.
    Maybe David Letterman is some kind of demi-god, but I really don’t see how he could’ve separated his emotional interest in her from his professional treatment of her. And this demeans all the other women–and men–in the office.

  28. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Of course it’s possible that all of those things happened– but for us to say one way or the other is just speculation at this point. I personally don’t agree that those are inevitable results of sex between boss/subordinate, but I understand the other side also. As for him being a demi-god, I like him, but I’m not even a huge fan. It’s just my genuine opinion that a person’s personal relationships should not be open to judgment from the general public.

  29. Anonymous
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I agree with this – it’s very, very difficult to know if the boss is going to be an a-hole or not should you refuse his advances, when you’ve never seen him do anything like it one way or the other. You tend to find out the hard way. You’re in the double-bind of having to trust him; then, if you do, and he *is* an a-hole, you get screwed, but if you *don’t*, you might get fired for *not* trusting him, because somehow you are “sullying his character”. You may even be accused of libel or slander. In many ways you can’t win. This said, it doesn’t look like these women were ambivalent. It looks like they were star-struck. The other question to wonder about is whether their affair with the boss created an unfair workplace environment for everyone else – because the other workers sure a as hell probably wonder about that. Did these women get special treatment, good evaluations and positive reviews, while they were sleeping with the boss? Is it possible to know whether they would have gotten positive evaluations *without* sleeping with him? *That* is what causes problems in a workplace even where there is consent.

  30. cattrack2
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Sleeping with someone you employ conveys the impression to other women that they must (or should) sleep with the boss in order to get ahead. You don’t really think he treated her the same as he treated all other women in the office do you??? Quite simply this is a hostile environment.
    It demeans everyone from Dave & his family, to the poor woman who faces accusations that she’s climbing the ladder on her back, to the other women in the office who feel they must add, ‘sexually gratify boss’, to their job description in order to move up or get that 3% COLA. As much as we talk about community on this site, I don’t know why we forget it now.

  31. allegra
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    A Yahoo! article on three women who’ve come forward to talk about the affairs: http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/the-women-of-the-david-letterman-scandal–666 . Are there MORE than three? ‘Cause, wow.
    *waits for someone in media to call Letterman an immoral dirty-dressing slut and whore*

  32. alixana
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Erm, I’m not disagreeing with you. But while I stated that I’m adamant that such relationships shouldn’t be merely written off as, “They’re all adults and they consented,” I’m also not going to use extreme always/never language and erase the experiences of anyone in workplace relationships that don’t fit the harassment model.
    As of this morning, the only real information I’ve read about this situation is that Dave admitted that he’s slept with women who work for him, and that someone tried to extort money from him. The only factual information I’ve seen about these women is an anonymous report calling one woman his “assistant” and another his “peer” without more information. Should it be investigated with a heightened presumption of harassment or inappropriateness? Yes. (And for the record, I’ve read that they DON’T plan on investigating, which is BS). But I can’t say anything more past that ’cause I don’t know anything more.

  33. Anonymous
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    and btw, I am absolutely *not* saying that anyone assuming a woman couldn’t get a positive evaluation without sleeping with the boss would be right. Not at all. I’m saying that the perception out there will be detrimental to the woman whether this is fair or not, and that sleeping with your boss too often means you don’t get the chance to prove yourself on your own merit – something talented men *very* rarely have to worry about.

  34. Mollie
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    If Letterman slept with a male subordinate, would it make a difference? Probably. I still don’t get the big deal of powerful people sleeping with people who work for them.

  35. mandoir
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I am angered by the situation. I get that it’s patronizing and paternalistic to imply that these women just didn’t know what they were getting themselves into with their boss, and that they were pressured, and yadda yadda. But I think it’s important to remember that – as others have mentioned – in the context of the entertainment industry there exists a HUGE element of quid pro quo between male superiors and their female employees. Sure it may be consensual, and the females may be getting something they want in exchange for something they don’t terribly mind doing, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t inappropriate and unfair to their co-workers.
    I honestly think it’s a bit naive to treat these affairs as if they were in a vacuum, wherein the participants were just two adults having sex. It’s more than that. Even if the women were involved completely of their own volition, and even if the women weren’t expecting anything in exchange, I don’t think we can ignore the power dynamic at play, ESPECIALLY in the entertainment industry. There is too much history with these types of scenarios for SOMEONE in that office to not experience discomfort (at best) upon the revelation of something like this.

  36. kb
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    and this is the problem. It’s really not. It’s not okay to sleep with people that you are responsible for job performance rating. and yes-I do believe that it’s the job of the one in power to not do this. Why is this so complicated for you to understand?

  37. MarySophia
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow, all right. Was it when I said “. . . you think there’s too high a risk of coercion and appearance of impropriety. Both perspectives have merit . . .” that you got the impression that the concept was too complicated for me to understand? Disagreeing with and not understanding a concept are two totally different things.
    (Also, you never explained to me who’s claiming to be a victim of David Letterman’s sexual harassment.)

  38. Anonymous
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Something I find puzzling is how no one has speculated that Dave might be the one who sought out talented female writers, and got them infatuated with him to advance his own career. That certainly seems to be what happened with Merrill Markoe, who has publicly stated she only stuck around on the show (which btw she helped create with her own genius) because she was in love with Dave. Now that puts a whole new spin on things, doesn’t it?

  39. Anonymous
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Something I find puzzling is how no one has speculated that Dave might be the one who sought out talented female writers, and got them infatuated with him to advance his own career. That certainly seems to be what happened with Merrill Markoe, who has publicly stated she only stuck around on the show (which btw she helped create with her own genius) because she was in love with Dave. She’s a five-time Emmy award winner. She’s the one who came up with Stupid Pet Tricks, which helped put Letterman on the map. Now that puts a whole new spin on things, doesn’t it?

  40. lovelyliz
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    EVERYONE should be enraged by this issue, not just feminists. It’s totally inappropriate, and the fact that the Letterman show is more popular than ever at this point is predictable, but disappointing. He took control of his own story before the media did, which was wise. Many people praise him for coming out with the revelation – but, he was just being smart, not moral.
    David Letterman is not supported by my family or myself, and I think this article makes the whole issue seem minute by “sticking it” to the conservatives, and because of this, not taking a clear stand.
    And yes, David Letterman is definitely a creeper to the extreme.

  41. lovelyliz
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    EVERYONE should be enraged by this issue, not just feminists. It’s totally inappropriate, and the fact that the Letterman show is more popular than ever at this point is predictable, but disappointing. He took control of his own story before the media did, which was wise. Many people praise him for coming out with the revelation – but, he was just being smart, not moral.
    David Letterman is not supported by my family or myself, and I think this article makes the whole issue seem minute by “sticking it” to the conservatives, and because of this, not taking a clear stand.
    And yes, David Letterman is definitely a creeper to the extreme.

  42. lovelyliz
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    EVERYONE should be enraged by this issue, not just feminists. It’s totally inappropriate, and the fact that the Letterman show is more popular than ever at this point is predictable, but disappointing. He took control of his own story before the media did, which was wise. Many people praise him for coming out with the revelation – but, he was just being smart, not moral.
    David Letterman is not supported by my family or myself, and I think this article makes the whole issue seem minute by “sticking it” to the conservatives, and because of this, not taking a clear stand.
    And yes, David Letterman is definitely a creeper to the extreme.

  43. MadamaAmbi
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The criteria to use here is not whether a younger woman might be attracted to Letterman and might want to have sex with him. The criteria is what has been known to happen and what is likely to happen. When a subordinate says NO and, furthermore, your advances are NOT wanted, the rejected boss has the power to get revenge. I can tell from the comments of people who think it’s OK that they’ve never had a good job ruined by a lascivious boss breathing down their neck at the copy machine, or a boss who touches you too much, or who gives you inappropriate neck rubs. Or who suddenly starts giving you bad performance reviews because you’ve put up a very big wall, or who, after unsuccessfully hitting on you, then moves on to someone else in the office, and the two of them seem to be in some strange collusion. The strange collusion becomes well-known in the office and poisons the feeling that people are rewarded for their work, or that the boss gives a shit about anyone who doesn’t feed his narcissistic needs.

  44. MarySophia
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    The situation that you describe is terrible, and I don’t mean to diminish that that happens, and when it does, it is most certainly sexual harassment.
    The fact is, no one (besides the blackmailer) is accusing him of doing these things. It is possible that he viewed the women with whom he had affairs as individuals, and that they conducted themselves in subtle, respectful ways that did not create a hostile environment. I have seen respectful employee/employer relationships occur that did not make anyone in the workplace feel uncomfortable.

  45. kb
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t answered your question because I thought on feminist sites we don’t say “she wanted it” “maybe it was consensual, what’s the problem?” the problem should be obvious. If not, we’re looking at such different reality, that I want directions to your world. I’d love to live there. as to your comment before-blackmailing him isn’t productive. but it happened because this was wrong, and Letterman knows that.

  46. MarySophia
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Of course, in cases where there are legitimate accusations of sexual harassment, there’s no place for an argument that “Maybe it was consensual” or “She wanted it.” But no one actually involved in the situation is accusing him of sexual harassment. The man who’s blackmailing him, and some members of the general public are making these accusations. Not the women he slept with, not his other employees.
    There is no possible way you can make the argument that Halderman’s motives in blackmailing Letterman were to punish him, not because he was in debt and resentful that his significant other cheated on him. If Letterman “knew it was wrong,” then why did he immediately come forward with the information and refuse to take part in the blackmail?
    And I have to say, your comments that imply I’m stupid (“Why is this so complicated for you to understand?”) and/or crazy (“we’re looking at such different reality, that I want directions to your world. I’d love to live there.”) seem completely unnecessary when I’ve been nothing but respectful of other people’s perspective on the matter.

  47. Charybdis
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    There’s a New York Times story from October 12, written by a former writer on the show, that outlines what some of the problems are: http://ethicist.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/who-is-letterman-hurting/?hp

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