I’ll Make It Simple

Dr. Jose Montoya has been fired from Stanford University after an investigation into alleged violations of Stanford’s rules of conduct, including sexual harassment, misconduct and assault. The Stanford Daily published an anonymous statement from a group of people affected by Dr. Montoya’s actions:

This past March, a large group of women who have worked under Dr. Montoya came forward with extensive allegations of sexual misconduct, assault and harassment,” they wrote. “The allegations included multiple instances of Dr. Montoya attempting unsolicited sexual acts with his female employees, among many other instances of harassment and misconduct, and were confirmed in an investigation.

I have seen a lot of hot takes about this on Twitter in the last 24 hours, but I’m going to make it very very simple:

This is not about us.

Dr. Montoya’s patients are obviously affected by this, as is his research to some extent. But it is not about us. Neither his patients, nor his colleagues, nor his research subjects are the primary victims here.

This is about the women who reported the allegations, and Dr. Montoya himself.

Stanford conducted an investigation over several months and concluded there was cause to dismiss Dr. Montoya. Remember, though, Stanford’s primary interest is protecting itself from lawsuits–either from the women who made the allegations or from Dr. Montoya. A university investigation is not a court of law, but it’s also not a joke.

Dr. Montoya can appeal Stanford’s decision, and potentially sue Stanford as well. The women who made the allegations can also sue Stanford and/or Dr. Montoya himself. These cases take a long time, but we may eventually learn more details about these incidents. Right now, we have very few facts and speculation is not helpful.

But I’ll make it simple: THIS IS NOT ABOUT US.

This is about the women who made the report. That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s even harder to be the target of harassment and assault. We cannot minimize that harm. If the report is true, then multiple women have been hurt professionally, emotionally, and perhaps physically. And if the report is untrue, then Dr. Montoya has been harmed.

So all the hot takes I saw yesterday? Sit down. This is not about prejudice against ME research or patients. It’s not about finding a way for Dr. Montoya to stay involved in ME research. It’s not about whether we will ever know what really happened.

This is not about us.

If the allegations are true, then I don’t want Dr. Montoya anywhere near ME research and people with ME. I know how hard it is to make a report of sexual harassment. Stanford’s finding of sufficient cause to dismiss, while not definitive proof, is strongly suggestive that the allegations are true. We’ll know more if/when more details become public.

Until then, the most important thing is preventing further harm. No employee, student, or patient at Stanford should be put at risk.

Updated June 6, 2019: The Stanford Daily published a statement from Dr. Montoya provided through his attorney. I will not be commenting on the statement.

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63 Responses to I’ll Make It Simple

  1. itga says:

    Finally, a balanced voice of reason. Thank you!

  2. Pat says:

    Stated beautifully!!👍

  3. Lolly Vann says:

    I recall my primary physician sitting me down and telling me his office was closing. at the time he was one of the few, in 1993, who had an interest in ME/CFS PATIENTS. I found him through the article he co-authored with Nancy Klimas. Some of his former patients were peturbed because he did not take insurance (no so common at the time). Fellow physicians were not always supportive of his many tests, supplements, IV cocktails, and meditations. Rumors suggested he endorsed medical canibus. But want he told me was he was under investigation because he had carried on an extra marital affair with a married patient for nearly a decade. He had several children with her for which he paid child support, but once the patient filed a divorce action the husband filed a complaint against the doctor with the state licensing board despite his ongoing knowlege of the affair and cashing of the child support payments. Audio tapes given to patients recording office visits were played over the radio trying to portray my doctor as a cult leader as he attempted to teach people to meditate using a mantra. There was never a trial at this witch hunt, there was a settlement. I lost my doctor, he forfeited his career and moved out of state. I never heard what happened to the patient the children or the husband. In my mind, it was about the patients. It was about not being able to find a replacement doctor. About an industry that provides doctor contact information by zip code rather than appropriateness. About a medical cartel that does indeed find ways to expel outliers within their system. Out hero’s are human and riddled with flaws and in too short of supply.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Lolly, that situation (long term affair with a patient) is completely different from what has been alleged here. Yes, there are few experts and yes, patients are harmed when one leaves the field for any reason. That does NOT mean there is a witch hunt here, nor does it mean that the needs of ME patients outweigh protecting victims of harassment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Speaking as a physician, I know that having a relationship with a patient (married or not, children or not, “consensual” or not) is considered a very serious offense and if discovered, a doctor is likely to lose their license because of it. Too many TV shows, stories, etc. makes that sound like a “quaint” way to meet but in fact, there are a lot of issues to unpack.

      There is a power differential between doctor and patient and a relationship is seen as exploitation of that power. That is even if the doctor and patient feel as if they are “equals”; unconsciously, the differential still exists. (And sexual harassment laws recognize that even if a relationship seems consensual.) Patients should also keep in mind — like sexual harassment — doctors who do this aren’t usually just targeting one targeting, they are usually conducting relationships with other patients before, during, or after as well.

      As an patient and already an MD, I had one doctor make a move on me while I was seeing them AS A PATIENT. I dropped that person as my doctor more or less immediately. Not because they weren’t technically proficient or not a nice person but rather if they were willing to cross this ethical line, what other lines had they crossed before or will cross in the future?

      The laws aren’t entirely unreasonable: depending on the state, there are slight allowances. For example, if the visit is a one-time occurrence (e.g. emergency room visit), if the patient is not and has not been a patient for several years, etc. But any doctor who tries to have a relationship with a patient one has to be extremely skeptical about.

  4. Liz says:

    YES. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. This is spot on.

  6. Marc Simon says:

    I think this means that the Stanford CFS patient care clinic will probably close soon – unless someone fairly well established (i.e, with sufficient institutional standing) takes over to spearhead the patient care effort. Thankfully Ron Davis’s efforts will continue.

    • Marc Simon says:

      That was fast – get an error when I try to visit: http://chronicfatigue.stanford.edu/

      • Alyssa H says:

        That might not mean too much. Yesterday his name was still all over the website. The clinic might have just shut it down until they had time to make the updates.

        In my experience institutional websites are rarely updated except for blog posts. I would be surprised if they had the resources or staff time to change the more static part of the website so quickly.

    • Amy says:

      I am a patient at the clinic, and Dr. Bonilla us another doctor and researcher in the clinic. I have been seeing him for a couple years now, and have an appointment just nect week. I suspect the clinic will stay open, perhaps under his leadership, or someone else’s. I’ll be asking at my appointment next week though. Just wanted to clear up any confusion that Dr. Montoya isn’t the sole doctor at the clinic.

  7. Nancy S says:

    Yes, this. Thanks Jennie.

  8. Anne Boyd says:

    The sad truth is that this kind of behavior by accomplished and powerful men isn’t some strange, unusual anomaly that needs to be explained away by conspiracy theories. It is unfortunately extremely common, so common in hierarchical institutions like universities that you really have to understand it as a part of how these institutions work. The perpetrators don’t do this because they have some crazy need to endanger their powerful positions: they do it because they see the ability to do it as a *perk* of their positions. And sometimes the need to be seen as a helper/savior and the need to control and manipulate are two sides of the same coin.

    • Jennie Spotila says:


      • Kathy D. says:

        Jennie, thanks for your post and comments. I agree with you. Women who have been sexually harassed or suffered from other sexual misconduct need to be protected and believed. That is a lesson of the Me Too movement.
        Since that movement began, I have heard so many stories long buried from friends who were sexually harassed or abused and could not speak about it and were not believed at the time or felt they couldn’t say anything.
        What happened to Dr. Montoya was his own doing. He was in a position of power and felt a sense of entitlement. He is a doctor, as others are producers, heads of film studios, executives, owners of restaurants, etc.
        And using his culture is an excuse. Many men from his cultural background do not violate women’s boundaries or institutions’ rules on workplace conduct. Dr. Montoya should have controlled his own behavior and put science and medicine first with respect for coworkers or other Stanford employees.
        What angers me in addition to his harm to women is that he was in an important position in researching ME/CFS and treating patients — and he abused his role. He jeopardized some of Stanford’s work on our disease. He put his own needs and sloppy behavior first — before the needs of people with ME/CFS and Stanford employees.
        We have Dr. Ron Davis and his project and it looks like Stanford will continue Dr. Montoya’s work somehow, which we hope will happen.
        And thanks to all of those who work with Ron Davis and those who, hopefully, will keep Dr. Montoya’s work going without him.

    • Cecelia says:

      That is an interesting take, Anne. My mind goes to why something might be happening, too, rather than stopping with judgment and rejection which is understandable, of course. There are different sub rosa motivations with different offenders, but the power differences between males and females leave the door open to their happening.

      We are all responsible for ourselves, all our choices, and can’t just hide out in whatever society wants to believe in and validate. I am grateful that the rules have changed and now this kind of behavior can actually be « seen », acknowledged and responded to, as it was not in the past. Yet we have to keep going forward in truth, responsibility—and humbleness. We with M.E. are emerging from the shadows, just as women are, and this results in more than a few overturned apple carts.

    • Holly says:

      Yes, this! Exactly.

      I am a former patient of Dr. Bonilla at Stanford, I’m going to try and go back (my absence from there was due to obstacles in my own life, nothing about the care).

      I recently moved to a new city, and began looking around to find a doctor who might help me with my low back problems. I found what seemed to be a well-reviewed back surgeon’s office, did a Google search on his name, and found out he’d been sued for over a million for sexual harassing one of his nurses. He’s still practicing and doing fine, apparently. It was surreal to know that had I not done a more thorough search,

      • Holly says:

        Apologies, brain fog –

        – surreal to realize I could have been sitting in his office knowing nothing about how he had treated his staff. His life just moved on. I’m hoping the nurse was able to get the same luxury.

  9. 35 years missing says:

    This is about believing those who are speaking out. It is not unfamiliar territory for those of us with ME. Do we want to be believed? Of course we do. Do these women want to be believed? Of course they do. Do both groups have to deal with a tendency in our society toward disbelief and victim blaming? You bet. Due to my experiences as an ME sufferer, I have empathy for what it took for these women to come forward, knowing full well that they would be met with skepticism. We all live this every day.

    I am deeply saddened by this turn of events and what it will mean for the ME community and the patients who were being seen at this clinic. But I am not going to respond to that by dismissing the lived experiences of these woman who cam forward. I don’t want it done to me, and I won’t do it to them.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      I agree 100%. I am concerned about the vulnerability of women with ME, especially. It’s very difficult to get an appointment with a nationally recognized expert. We need our doctors to believe us, and it’s easy to imagine that someone could use that in manipulation. Let me be clear, I have NO knowledge or belief that Dr. Montoya harmed his patients in any way. But it is easy to see how the power dynamic could be abused.

  10. Lauren says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for writing this. What you (correctly) stated in this post is being ignored by too many people.

  11. The important thing is to not rush to judgment without any facts but what we’ve been given.

    The unfortunate part is that, with the legal profession as convoluted as everything else, it is highly unlikely we’ll get those facts (issues are often ‘settled’ with non-disclosure), and if at all, that we get them any time soon.

    This hits hard, as I’ve just moved to California – with Stanford finally as a possibility (I’ve never seen a specialist).

    • Amy says:

      Alicia, just wanted to let you know that Stanford may still be a possibility, as there are other providers at the clinic. I see Dr. Bonilla there. I would see about getting on the wait list ASAP if you can, as it was about a year long I believe, when I first got on the waiting list around 5 years ago. It may be even more lengthy now with this news, so I’d get on it ASAP if you may want to be seen by them in the future

  12. Marc Simon says:

    It’s interesting to compare the case of Dr Montoya to Ian Lipkin. Ian Lipkin is still in his position.


  13. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for posting this.

  14. Anita says:

    I differ on one point: this IS about “us” if “us” are the patients seen at this clinic. Yes, the primary focus is appropriately on those who brought the allegations and who the investigation shows were affected. It is a terrible situation for them, and they deserve our concern. But, those of us who are patients are terrified of having the clinic closed. Please respect the potential impact on “us” as well.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Yes, the impact on patients in the clinic is huge. I’m sure the uncertainty of what will happen next has a big impact as well. Sexual harassment has effects far beyond the people immediately involved. Dr. Montoya’s patients, as well as others who work on the ME/CFS Initiative, are all affected by this. It makes his conduct (if the allegations are true) even more despicable. My primary concern is the safety and well-being of the women allegedly subjected to the harassment and any other vulnerable people involved. That includes patients in the clinic. I don’t want an abuser anywhere near any of you.

    • Randomly... says:

      The decisions and judgements and facts of what happened are not about us and we should not be involved – the consequences affect us, but that isn’t the same thing.

      At worst, the research is set back a little bit, and some individuals go without access to someone qualified. But the active research into ME is spread across multiple institutions and fields now, with many different names. No one person definitely has the answer, or ‘must’ be preserved. And even at this clinic, there are other doctors involved with ME, and a body of data from all the previous patients and studies, so it won’t all evaporate. He may be acquitted and simple pop up again after a short absence.

      At best… at best, more and better doctors and staff get a chance to step up and shine, without someone harrassing them/the people they need to work with, and abusing his position. That would absolutely have impacted the quality of work and the retention of staff in his vicinity, and possibly even his reputation and funding behind the scenes, which would have led to much poorer outcomes for ME patients overall. And while it is to be hoped that any abuses did not extend to patients, ME patients are often extremely vulnerable to abuse, and anyone who might be a risk should not be working with them directly.

  15. Janet Dafoe says:

    There is no intention at Stanford to either stop ME/CFS research or close the clinic. I have spoken to people who would know. All this speculation is not helpful. Jennie Spotila’s blog about this that is right on. This is not about ME !

    • Karen Scott says:

      Thank you for the update, Janet. And thank you for supporting Jenny’s well stated, rational response to this situation.

  16. Creek says:

    Thanks for this blog. Let’s remember also that the women who were victims of harassment were also professionals in the field of ME research. No woman in any field should have to put up with harassment or get out of their profession. How many brilliant women might we lose, from ME research, if they’re expected to tolerate illegal harassment?

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Just to clarify, the Stanford Daily did not say that all the reported victims were associated with the ME/CFS Initiative. At least one appears to have been, but we do not know for certain about all of them. We don’t even know how many women reported.

  17. Barbara McMullen says:

    Well said.

  18. Andrew C says:

    I didn’t see the “hot takes” on Twitter, but it is hard to believe anyone would think Montoya’s firing had anything to do with ME patients or Montoya’s clinical focus on ME. Given that Ron Davis has presumably gotten Stanford’s blessing to pursue ME research, it seems unlikely, to say the least, that Stanford would fire Montoya for pursuing ME clinical care and research under the pretext of an investigation into sexual harassment/assault allegations.

    If anything, the community of ME patients should be grateful that Montoya was not integral to the Open Medicine Foundation or the research of Ron Davis.

  19. Nancy Blake says:

    There are so many powerful people and institutions that will stop at nothing to block research into ME/CFS that one can’t help thinking ‘wait a minute’. While also knowing that powerful people and institutions have been prepared to ‘stop at nothing’ to prevent women speaking out about harassment and abuse.
    I have seen nothing to suggest that Montoya ever had inappropriate relations with patients..don’t know how that path got started. Many patients report nothing but concern and kindness.
    The report suggests that it is colleagues are the ones reporting the abuse…that isn’t to minimise it…there is still power imbalance and nothing can justify it. But taking advantage of patients would be another level of violation.
    It is to be hoped that this whole matter is investigated in every aspect and in depth. Women’s reports must be respected. We also need to be very well- informed about the ways of working of those who make life difficult, in various overt and covert ways, for those who try to take this disease beyond the control of psychiatry.

  20. Karina says:

    Couldn’t agree more. The focus should be on protecting the women he has harmed.

  21. Karen Scott says:

    Bravo, Jenny! Thank you for a rational response to this terrible situation. Dr. Montoya may be (or may have been) a hero to many in the ME/CFS community, but he is a human being with all the inherent frailties and foibles and weaknesses that human beings possess. There are people who take advantage of others (if indeed he is guilty of these charges) in every profession and every strata of society. Losing a practicing physician with knowledge of this disease is bad, but overlooking/ignoring these charges would be worse.

  22. Loyal American ME says:

    My Creep Radar is pretty spot on.
    I do not agree that an Investigation that hasn’t resulted in Criminal Charges holds merit. I think that any true forced sexual anything would be reported to the police. None of this would be allowed to be discussed. Stanford has really become a hot bed for Bizarre behavior lately.

    We have a little thing called the Constitution.
    Innocent until proven guilty. If you were forced into anything sexual or truely harassed you would call the police period.
    If there are multiple reports etc this would be front page news and we would see his mugshot.

    The list goes on and on…
    Gravely Negligent…
    Breach of Loyalty…
    I vote we step up for this dude & shut these theatrics down.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      I am going to confine my reply to facts that I know 100% to be true:

      1. There is conduct that would violate Stanford’s code of conduct that would not be criminal.

      2. The Stanford Daily reported that Dr. Montoya was dismissed for sexual harassment AND misconduct AND assault, not just “true forced sexual anything.”

      3. Many things constitute sexual harassment that are not illegal, and therefore would not have been reported to the police or, if reported, the police would not investigate.

      4. It is possible that reports were made to the police. I have no way of knowing.

      5. Your statement that someone forced into anything sexual would always call the police is patently false.

      6. Your statement that someone who was truly harassed would always call the police is patently false.

      7. Victims of assault and/or harassment do not always report to the police. Period.

      8. No one’s “Creep Radar” is 100% accurate.

      • Lynn says:

        You are so right Jennie. Reports are often not taken to police.
        A neurologist my mother saw whom I would never have believed to take advantage of patients or staff did.
        Let the facts come out, the investigation may take time, lots of time, it took almost three years for the one I am talking about. I Respected this neurologist, I respect Dr Montoya, but until the facts come out and investigated they have done the right thing. This has nothing to do with us, unfortunately he was a great Doctor and researcher, but there are many sides of a person, we are not privy to all. I pray for those involved that a fair investigation happens and it is completely unbiased. I also hope someone steps up and the clinic and research continues.

      • Justin Reilly says:

        Good points, Jennie.

    • Joey H. says:

      My Creep Radar is pretty spot-on too. It’s been blaring like a fire alarm the entire time I was reading your comment. If you consider protecting the safety of women to be “theatrics,” I don’t want to be within arm’s reach of you.

  23. Justin Reilly says:

    I think we just don’t know enough to say what happened or whether it has or had not anything at all to do with trying to delegitimize ME. We may never know.

    From the few facts we have before us, particularly the fact that he was fired and the anonymous claim that numerous unnamed employees alleged he had engaged in misconduct I would guess that he probably engaged in misconduct sufficiently serious that he should be fired. But we really don’t know. A group of anonymous people claimed numerous people made allegations. How do we know this anonymous group is even a group?- it could be one anonymous and untrustworthy person.

  24. Gay Lyon says:

    Thank you. I’ve been wanting to say roughly the same thing, but have been too crashed to compose it. I’d just add that the whole thing makes me very sad, both for the people involved and for us patients, because Dr. Montoya’s research has been a source of hope and he’s been an outspoken champion for us, and no matter how this turns out, that’s tarnished. But it’s much worse for those directly involved.

  25. Janet Dafoe says:

    Stanford’s statement of support for ME/CFS patients and research can be found at the bottom of this page:

    • Marc Simon says:

      I don’t read this statement as a commitment to maintaining a CFS/ME centered patient care clinic at Stanford. Instead I read it as a commitment to assisting individual patients with their continuity of care and a commitment to continuing research efforts. Treating CFS/ME patients is likely not profitable for Stanford without some sort of research subsidy / fund raising – I believe Lucinda Bateman came to the same conclusion with her clinic (The Bateman Horne Center). Given that Stanford receives government subsidies as a teaching hospital I think they have a responsibility for making an effort to sustain a CFS/ME focused patient care clinic – we are a very much under-served population. Institutions that receive tax dollars in the name of improving public health need to start honoring those commitments by spending some of that money on CFS/ME.

  26. Hip says:

    We don’t know the details of this case yet, but if it turns out that these women have simply misunderstood the cultural norms of Latin countries, where it is common and healthy for men and women to flirt, and to do so with a sexual body language and emotional energy that you rarely find in us comparatively limp and emotionally-desiccated Anglo-Saxons, then that would be very unfair. If we want to live in a multicultural world, then you have understand and accommodate other cultures.

    • themupsmuppet says:


    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Dr. Montoya has been in the United States for decades. Stanford mandates training on their sexual harassment policies for all faculty in supervisory capacities. Furthermore, Stanford (like other American universities) have faculty and students from all over the world with many cultural differences. You are basically suggesting that we have different standards of behavior for people based on their country of origin, which is patently ridiculous. The claim that Dr. Montoya was unaware of what conduct constituted harassment because he is from a foreign country—despite his decades in the US and his mandatory training—is also ridiculous.

      • Hip says:

        JS SAYS: “Dr. Montoya has been in the United States for decades”.

        That does not mean much. Consider the reverse situation: do you think if an American went to live in say India they would turn native, and assimilate all Indian cultural norms? Of course not; they would still maintain many American ways and behavioral characteristics, even after decades. People transplanted into other countries do not become identical to the natives. That’s just a fact of life.

        JS SAYS: “You are basically suggesting that we have different standards of behavior for people based on their country of origin, which is patently ridiculous.”

        I am suggesting that people should use their brains when it comes to interpersonal dynamics.

        If you are empathetically sensitive and intuitive, it would be normal to interpret someone’s behavior in the context of their cultural background.

        We do not know the details of this case, but if it turns out to be primarily an issue of body language, then this would be very unfair to class as harassment. Body language is not behavior.

        In Protestant countries, due to their puritanical history, emotion and sexuality have been eradicated from human body language. No such emotional lobotomy occurred in Latin Catholic countries, thus the body language is different. Emotionally and sexually expressive body language is almost part of the genes in Latin Catholic countries.

        • Jennie Spotila says:

          I did not say that a person becomes “identical to the natives.” I said that given the amount of time Dr. Montoya has been working in American academia, and given that Stanford required him to take training in sexual harassment policy, he has had ample opportunity to learn what constitutes inappropriate behavior and modify his conduct.

          You said, “We do not know the details of this case, but if it turns out to be primarily an issue of body language, then this would be very unfair to class as harassment. Body language is not behavior.”

          Stanford has a sexual harassment policy, and defines sexual harassment as:

          Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
          a. It is implicitly or explicitly suggested that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or evaluations, or permission to participate in a University activity (Quid Pro Quo), OR
          b. The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance or creating an intimidating or hostile academic, work or student living environment (Hostile Environment).
          Determining what constitutes sexual harassment depends on the specific facts and context in which the conduct occurs. (emphasis added)

          Sexual body language, “emotional energy,” and flirting can–under some circumstances–meet this definition of sexual harassment. You may think that is “very unfair.” Perhaps in your opinion, Dr. Montoya’s right to culturally express himself takes precedence over the right of his colleagues/staff/students to work in an environment of mutual respect that is free of harassment. I disagree.

          Your earlier comment suggested the possibility that the women had “simply misunderstood” Dr. Montoya’s behavior. Again, I refer you to Stanford’s policy on sexual harassment.

          If your hypothetical is correct, then after reporting Dr. Montoya’s conduct, a “third party(ies) meets privately with each person involved, tries to clarify their perceptions and attempts to develop a mutually acceptable understanding that can insure the parties are comfortable with their future interactions. . . . Possible outcomes of third party intervention include explicit agreements about future conduct, changes in workplace assignments or other relief, where appropriate.”

          And it is possible that this was done here. Perhaps after one or more reports, the University followed this third party procedure and tried to work out a solution acceptable to everyone involved. We don’t know. That approach would seem well-suited to resolving any misunderstandings of body language.

          However, the policy also says, “If significant facts are contested, a prompt investigation may be undertaken.” We know that this provision was followed because Stanford’s official statement said that not only was there an investigation but, consistent with policy, Stanford engaged an outside attorney and at least one faculty member to conduct the investigation.

          If after following all these procedures (and others specified in Stanford’s faculty discipline policy) Stanford dismissed Dr. Montoya simply because his body language was misunderstood, then we should expect Dr. Montoya to file an appeal of his dismissal through the formal grievance process. We shall see.

          • Hip says:

            JS SAYS: “Sexual body language, “emotional energy,” and flirting can–under some circumstances–meet this definition of sexual harassment. ”

            In which case, many women might routinely be guilty of sexually harassing their male colleagues.

            The offices and academic environments I frequented (when I was healthy) were full of women dressing in a sexually expressive sartorial style. I can certainly vouch for the fact that the clothes and makeup of some women was a major distraction to my mental focus. I always found women in the office or university with low-cut dresses, slit skirts showing lots of leg, tight leather pants, strong eyeshadow and bright red lipstick, etc, were far more interesting than my work.

            Now personally I am not complaining about women wearing sexy clothes in the workplace, and I am sure most men would not either, because they like. But the things we like are not always good for us. Thus women get away with it because men are not complaining, even though ultimately women’s sexy dress style at work may be detrimental to men.

            And we can go further: women wearing sexy clothes and makeup to work may not only be a form of distracting sexual harassment to males (or lesbians for that matter), but may itself be in part responsible for the unwanted sexual attention women get from males in the workplace.

            Yet feminists always vociferously reject this argument, saying that women have the right to express themselves in an erotically attractive manner using sexy clothes and makeup if they so choose, and they say that any sexual effects that such sartorial style has on men is not their problem.

            I think that view is irresponsible and unjust.

            I guess my comment has gone beyond the just the individual case we talking about, and is now addressing wider issues of the MeToo movement, a movement which has rightfully addressed some serious cases of uncouth predatory male sexual behavior, but which some are concerned has become a bit of a witch hunt.

          • Jennie Spotila says:

            I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. Your detailed description of your former co-workers and their clothing completely ignores most of the requirements for a finding of sexual harassment. You say you enjoyed the fashion show, so it fails the first element of the definition that the conduct be unwelcome. You didn’t specify but I’m assuming your work evaluations were not tied to your feelings about your co-workers’ wardrobes. And finally, the way your co-workers dressed did not create a hostile work environment for you, but quite the opposite.

            Despite your story failing almost every element required for a finding of sexual harassment, you are quite clear on one thing. Not only did you “suffer” because you were subjected to eye candy (which you admit was more interesting than your work), but any sexual harassment inflicted on women is partially their fault. After all, what do they expect if they put on “sexy clothes.” You could not be clearer on that point if you said “she was asking for it.”

  27. Hip says:

    JS SAYS: “You say you enjoyed the fashion show, so it fails the first element of the definition that the conduct be unwelcome.”

    Sure, in my case I enjoyed it, and the erotic frisson triggered in my mind by sexy-dressed females in my workplace was welcome.

    But let’s consider a situation where a man might not find such erotic frisson welcome. For example, a man who previously destroyed his marriage by an affair with a sexy office colleague which was later discovered by his wife. Perhaps such a man has learnt his lesson, and would now prefer not to be confronted with erotic temptation each day.

    I know that sounds unlikely, given the one-track mind of many males! But hypothetically, is he allowed to ask his female office workers to dress more modestly in the office, and if they refuse, can he bring a sexual harassment case against them?

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Your hypothetical is that a male employee wants his female co-workers to dress more modestly. The appropriate action is for the male colleague to go to HR to get assistance in addressing the issue. Procedures would be followed to find a solution, and take disciplinary action if necessary. Context and specific facts of the case would be essential to determining whether there is sexual harassment, as Stanford’s policy stipulates. Appropriate work attire is determined in part by the context of the workplace, eg a law firm vs a pub.

      The hypothetical male in your question who wants his female colleagues to dress modestly does not control that determination. No university or private company would force women to wear burqas to accommodate such a man’s preferences. The right solution to your hypothetical might include counseling for this man so he can learn to keep his mind on his work.

  28. Hip says:

    I gave that example of a women whose “hot” sexualized appearance in the office was disturbing to males as a point of comparison to the case where a male’s Latin body language and perhaps Latin tactile gestures (hugs, etc) were the issue.

    In both cases, we have a person bringing a sexualized “energy” or “aura” into the office, which is unwelcome to others.

    When this is done by a man, you suggest it is appropriate to bring a sexual harassment case against him, which leads to his job being terminated.

    When it is done by a women, you suggest that men in the office need to be given training to ignore the sexualized “energy”.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      That is not what I said at all. In the case of the way women dress, I said HR should be involved to find a mutually acceptable solution. As long as everyone is wearing context appropriate attire, it is more likely that it’s a personal difference that can be worked out. Obviously, if I wore a corset and leather pants to my job at a large law firm, the issue would be my professional behavior, not sexual harassment per se.

      There is a HUGE difference between objecting to someone’s clothing and objecting to unwanted tactile “gestures.” Hugging or other touching is completely inappropriate if it is unwelcome. Just because I hug a friend at work does not mean I get to hug everyone at work, and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean that everyone gets to hug me. If a supervisor hugged me and I was uncomfortable, I would say something directly or go to HR. I don’t care what the cultural differences are.

      We’ve gone back and forth a number of times. You seem determined to accuse me of having a double standard. I don’t. Stanford’s sexual harassment policy, quoted at length above, is correct and applies to everyone there regardless of gender, sexual preference, or culture. That makes sense to me.

  29. Hip says:

    Not accusing you of anything, Jennie, I am more interested in the way the system in general works in these cases of sexual harassment, and exploring whether there might be any double standards within the system. When I checked your MEpedia page, I saw you have a legal background, so it is interesting to hear your views.

  30. Kathy D. says:

    Thinking about who is sexually harassed, it is usually women. Many work at low-wage jobs, like McDonald’s or in hotels where many male customers think the cost of a room entitles them to the women who work there. The restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of sexual misconduct. Immigrants, such as farm workers are very vulnerable, isolated, in fields, many afraid to report assaults because of problems with immigration authorities. Disabled women are vulnerable, too.
    And then there are young athletes as the Michican State University/Olympics case showed with over 200 women having been abused and the authorities from coaches on up to the top officials ignored their complaints until the dam burst.
    This is a societal problem. Women are still not considered equal and entitled to respect, no matter what they wear or how they look. That’s just basic human rights.
    So, I applaud the women who came forward at Stanford as anywhere else. This mistreatment has got to stop – everywhere.

  31. kathy d. says:

    Most women do not report rapes or other sexual abuse. I think of things that happened to me in my younger years and I would have been terrified and mortified to go to any authorities to report anyone. The worst things didn’t happen to me, but enough did that I didn’t even realize were illegal for many years.
    So many friends have confided stories about rapes and other sexual misconduct, even in their families, and they had never told anyone, more or less gone to a law enforcement agency. Me Too is a very good development.
    Women have a basic human right to live free of harassment and violation of their boundaries and choices.

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