Brown Study

Brown study

27 January 2018

9:00 AM

27 January 2018

9:00 AM

You may be wondering what the connection is between the federal government’s innovation initiative and the developing sexual harassment scandal. Well, there is one, it concerns me and I will tell you about it.

First, I have been anxious over the last few months to see what had happened to the innovations scheme; you know, the one where a country abandons its old industries and goes into new and eccentric fields and gives them a handout before the business goes bankrupt. That’s right; the one that almost lost Mr Turnbull the last election. I actually thought it was a good program because it involved getting money from the government and all you had to do was to be agile and nimble, grow a beard and use words like ‘disruptor’. But then I was afraid that, having almost lost the election because of this scheme, the PM now being covered with embarrassment and the minister in charge of the scheme having lost both his portfolio and his seat, the government might quietly drop the whole thing. It is true that the scheme faltered a bit and did not find many starters. But agility is back on the agenda again, with nimbleness not far behind, and there is a lot of confidence that the whole scheme can be revived to promote new products with immense potential. In fact, I’ve a worthy project in mind, something really useful and practical. That is where the gathering storm on sexual harassment comes in.


I am glad we have now got some clarity into the whole harassment debate. For a while there, I thought we were going to get bogged down in meaningless generalities so vague that you could not tell what the man did, what part of it was wrong or what sort of conduct would not be permitted in the future. You cannot tell, in other words, whether the hug is in or out. What about a playful chuck on the cheek or stealing a surreptitious kiss? What about buying your secretary a bunch of flowers? Are you allowed to say ‘did you have a good weekend?’ We all know of course that leering is definitely out, as a result of my ground-breaking work defining the leer and men have stopped leering ever since. For the first few months of the whole sex saga, the best we had from press reports was that various perpetrators were guilty of ‘inappropriate behaviour’,  being  ‘a general creep’, ‘groping’, making ‘unwanted comments’, and, in some cases, committing ‘indecent assault’ and being ‘physically abusive.’

But after that ground work was laid, there was a swing back in the opposite direction from a band of French intellectuals led by Catherine Deneuve who said that things had gone too far. Voila!, they exclaimed, it is the natural order of things for men to flirt and pester women and that men should not be ruined for life for making a ‘clumsy pass.’ But the refinements of the academe still left me uncertain as to what was in and what was out. Where was the dividing line, to put it bluntly, between courtship and rape, between romance and harassment?

Then, along came Aziz Ansari, a TV host who won an Emmy last year and who was a star of the fantastic US satire Parks and Recreation. Regrettably for this young Lothario, Aziz has just been named by an anonymous accuser alleging that he committed some grievous sexual sins against her. The two met at a party, played ‘flirtatious banter’ for a week and, after the young lady consulted the sisterhood on how to meet the ‘cocktail chic’ dress code, went out for a date. Returning to Aziz’s flat they proceeded to have sex on the kitchen bench and as she remained for more, one can only assume it was consensual. However, the rest of the encounter was a dud in every sense and eventually the young lady went home seriously disappointed. What then was her complaint? How is any of this encounter a justification for Aziz being humiliated in public and losing his latest TV job and presumably his career. Well, as she explained to that renowned journal babe, her complaint is that Aziz made advances despite the fact that she was physically giving off cues that he should not; her ‘non-verbal cues’ were ignored. Don’t ask why she did not simply walk out. But it really hit her that she had been ‘violated’ when Aziz put on an episode of Seinfeld! Perhaps, also, there is a message in the fact that she promptly fired off a text to a friend: ‘I hate men.’

So, now we know the real complaint that is behind at least some of the rash of allegations of sexual harassment. The perpetrator is guilty of not being a clairvoyant, not being able to read the mind of the victim when she was sending out ‘non-verbal cues’ and not reading her signals to mean there should be no more romantic advances, even if she had just had sex with him on the kitchen bench! When the odds, like the dishes, are stacked so clearly against the man, how can he ever be confident that he has read the cues the right way and is acting appropriately? There is only one thing that can now save the brotherhood and that is to revive the government’s innovation scheme. And I am pleased to say that research is well underway on a device that will enable young men to read the minds of their partners. They will simply feed the salient facts, including non-verbal cues, into the device, point it at his companion, press a button and the screen will flash red for Stop, green for Safe to proceed and amber for ‘you are on your own, buddy’. And its name so accurately reflects its function, to protect men from being ruined. No wonder it is called the Triggs Warning.

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