A culture of harassment

By Richard Nelson

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August 29, 2013

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The nation was thrust into the midst of a strip-club act earlier in the week when MTV televised Video Music Awards showed Miley twerking in a nude bikini and Gaga stripping down to a thong and sea shell pasties.  The only thing missing was a shiny pole and strobe lights. The two undoubtedly talented artists who exposed and degraded themselves before millions, made even the glitterati uncomfortable. What of the parents and children who wanted to see a grown-up Hannah Montana perform? After all, she popped out of a harmless Teddy Bear in the beginning of the act, with all her clothes on as well. Brooke Shields, who played Cyrus' mom on the Disney Channel show told the Today show "I was Hannah Montana's mom! Where did I go wrong?"

Has anyone ever said no to Miley? Or at least “you should not put a large foam finger on certain parts of your body and simulate certain acts in public?”  Did anyone really need to see that? Or her gyrating bottom rubbing singer Robin Thicke while he sang “Blurred Lines”? Get a room. Perhaps we’ve blurred our own lines of conduct and should accept some blame as a people to allow our entertainers, especially women degrade themselves, and reward them with our attention and dollars. The 20 year old Cyrus is worth some $150 million. It’s easy to criticize and I’m sure I’ll be called a scold. But maybe we need more scolds in times like these, which brings me to another sex scandal. This one is in the state legislature where long-time Democratic House incumbent John Arnold from Sturgis has had three ethics complaints filed against him from women whom he’d sexually harassed dating as far back as 2008.

If politics is downstream from culture, then it might explain something of John Arnold’s treatment of women in the capitol. Arnold, who has been apparently   drinking the cultural  swill, asked Legislative Research Commission employee, Gloria Morgan in 2008 if she was going to “come out and play” that night while he stroked her back. After being rebuffed, Arnold  continued to rub her back and said “all work and no play was dull.”  Arnold became angry after she declined his advances. Morgan complained later that evening to LRC’s assistant director for legislator services Anita Muckelroy who told her not to worry about it. “Instead, her only question for me was whether I was ‘nice’ to a legislator as he propositioned me and engaged in unwanted and unwelcomed touching of my body,”  Morgan said in the complaint.

House leaders apparently knew about this for several years but have done nothing about it.  This is the latest saga of sexual harassment in Kentucky’s state House. In the 1990’s, the director of operations for the state House of Representatives, Kent Downey, hired strippers with state funds, sexually harassed women and drank with staffers and friends in state offices. Downey was sentenced to three years’ probation in 1998 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to promote prostitution and gambling.

Former State House member and current Senator Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) told CN2 Politics that the state House was a "sad culture of good-ol'-boyism.” State Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) said "At the core we are not just talking about these individuals. We are talking about a culture that may or may not exist here at the Capitol that allows that kind of activity to continue unabated."

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center