The Highly Selective Dignity Code

Following up on Steve’s earlier post about this, um, remarkable statement by David Brooks:

“You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.”

Brooks was expanding on a column he wrote about the loss of what he calls the Dignity Code. Apparently, this Inner Thigh Moment is supposed to be evidence of its collapse.

News flash: This has been happening to people forever, at least if you count women as people. Back when George Washington was writing out his “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”, which Brooks cites as an example of the Dignity Code, Thomas Jefferson was hitting on Sally Hemings. A professor whose class I was enrolled in once grabbed my breasts at a party. Every woman I know has stories like this. Maybe being groped in a public setting is a novel experience for straight guys; not being a straight guy, I wouldn’t know. But if it is, that isn’t because no one ever groped anyone in a public setting before.

Honestly: this is like complaining about the recent breakdown of our longstanding social strictures against violence, and citing as evidence the fact that some white person somewhere got lynched last year.

So I’m left to wonder: why did David Brooks write this column? Is it (a) because none of his female friends and relations ever told him about the existence of sexual harassment? Or (b) because he doesn’t think that public groping violates the Dignity Code when you do it to women, because for some reason women just don’t count?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(PS: Ann Althouse’s response (h/t) is an inadvertent classic: “Perhaps the Republican Senator just periodically patted him on the thigh and technically the fingers extended into the inner part.” “Technically”, indeed.)