Thoughts on the national moment of reckoning on sexual harassment

three images consisting on Joe Campolo lecturing crowd, CMM team group around Thanksgiving table, Joe Campolo at podium speaking for panel discussion

Sexual Harassment – I like to refer to Harvey Weinstein as the Bernie Madoff of sexual harassment. There is, however, a dramatic difference – with Madoff the shock was that no one, including his wife, knew that he was engaged in illegal behavior and therefore didn’t know enough to stop him; with Weinstein, the shock came because seemingly everyone knew he was engaged in that behavior and yet did nothing to stop him. As a man, I’m ashamed that this problem has gotten to the point it has, because it’s men who have caused it. The good news is, however, that men can fix it.

To blame women – who are junior to men in physical size and strength, don’t hold many of the power positions men do in business or government, and don’t yet have economic equality with men – for not simply warding off improper advances or immediately filing reports (wherein they open themselves up to retaliation) is totally unfair. It’s going to take men, most of whom have at one point or another crossed the line by making off color jokes or remarks when they should not have, to self-correct their behavior. I’m certainly not saying that all men are harassers or predators; in our minds (and I am guilty of this) most probably thought when we engaged in certain behavior that we were just being funny or cute. In hindsight, however, most of the time we were just being jerks, and we need to look at the current state of events and realize that such behaviors hurt, devalue, and degrade women, and stop those behaviors immediately. Men, we also need to self-police our ranks, and stop ignoring (at best) or encouraging (at worst) when other men act inappropriately. We need to get more comfortable saying things like “I’m sorry, that was dumb, I shouldn’t have said it” and “Dude, it’s totally not cool to do/say that” for us to make an impact. I think our wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters deserve our efforts.

Porn – As is typical, American society is totally conflicting when it comes to sex. While on one hand we are battling sexual harassment, on the other hand the porn industry is growing at an unstoppable clip. A report this year put the porn industry at $97 billion, and Esquire estimated that on one porn site alone (Pornhub) folks watched 92 billion videos in 2016.

While I’m not a big fan of porn (the same way I don’t like to just read a menu when I’m hungry), I can certainly understand its appeal, and I do support the First Amendment. But porn has come a long way from when I was a kid – back then, we thought we had hit the jackpot when someone found a Playboy magazine, and a group of us would huddle around it looking at scantily clad women until inevitably one of our grandmothers would catch us, chase us with a wooden spoon, and burn the magazine. Today, young boys have instant and private access to whatever they type in, and what they’re watching can’t possibly be good for them on any level. That same report says that the most popular searches on that one site were for “milf, step mom, step sister, mom, teen.”

I don’t have a son, but I do have a young nephew, and I wonder and worry about how even a glimpse of any of this type of material impacts his psyche, his views about sex, and his views toward women. And while parents can and should be super vigilant with parental controls (as I know my sister is), the system is stacked against them. Porn is so prevalent that it’s impossible to block everything. And let’s face it, a curious teenage boy with much greater computer skills than I have will find ways to work around any technology challenge, the same way my generation attempted to “unscramble” the Playboy channel when cable first came out.

Again, men have to take a leadership role to change the course of this ship before it really damages the views of generations of young boys to come. Our messaging to the young boys in our lives should be clear: sex is a wonderful and natural part of being a human being, attraction and curiosity are also natural, but violence and degradation are simply not acceptable. Hopefully, we can all agree that this is one swamp that needs to be drained.

Roy Moore, redux – I received several critical emails in response to my last post about U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, because they felt I was not affording him the presumption of innocence to which we are all entitled under the Constitution. So I want to make sure my point is clear: I have no idea whether he did the things the women are accusing him of, and I can’t say whether he is telling the truth or they are – that’s what juries are for.

What I can say, however, is that in my opinion there are multiple, credible allegations that he may be a child predator, and notwithstanding the technicalities of statutes of limitations, those allegations warrant further investigation, particularly because he has chosen to run for the U.S. Senate. And my further point was that he is foolish to continue to run, because should he win, my suspicion is that the Senate will (and should) hold him accountable to answer to those allegations using their self-policing powers.

And while I totally agree that he should be afforded every right and inference of innocence until allegations are proven, in my opinion there is simply too much smoke here for him to prevail, particularly because he has chosen to defy the Republicans calling for him to step aside. If the allegations against him are lies, then I agree it is totally unfair; but if the allegations against him are true, then we are permitting a known serial predator to become a Senator – and I think we deserve to know what the truth is.

AROUND TOWN

Negotiation Business Breakfast – I had the pleasure of presenting “Mastering the Emotion & Psychology of Negotiation” at our East End Business Breakfast in Southampton on November 16, co-hosted by our friends at the Stony Brook Alumni Association (thanks for joining us, Matt Colson and Janet Masini) and sponsored by the talented team at Markowitz, Fenelon & Bank. The discussion focused on the fact that anyone can become a good negotiator by mastering basic skills, but few are willing to invest the time it takes to be a great negotiator. To be a great negotiator, you mustmaster the emotional tension that exists in every negotiation. I also reminded folks that there is a big difference between playing not to lose vs. playing to win, and that everything in life is a negotiation.

Thanksgiving – My CMM family started a new tradition this year by hosting a Thanksgiving potluck lunch. The day before Thanksgiving, the firm provided turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, and our amazing team brought in all the homemade sides as well as at least 10 pumpkin pies. Everyone enjoyed the meal together before heading home early to spend the long weekend with family and friends. It’s moments like these that build the fabric and memories of the firm.

Then it was off to Newport, Rhode Island for a beautiful and quiet Thanksgiving. I highly recommend The Chanler at Cliff Walk the next time you’re in Newport. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the Spiced Pear restaurant which was complemented with a delicious 2013 Louis Jadot Nuits-Saint-Georges, Cote de Nuits. We also saw a performance of The Nutcracker at the enchanting Rosecliff Mansion, performed by the Island Moving Company. A truly spectacular performance.

Associate Development – Training is a major part of the CMM experience, no matter what your role. This Tuesday I enjoyed spending time with CMM’s talented group of ambitious younger lawyers. We discussed effective ways to build relationships with clients – in my mind, you’re never too junior to begin fostering meaningful relationships with those people who trust us with their most critical transactions and disputes and keep us in business. These meetings are always a learning experience for me as well, as it’s important to hear from the associates what’s going on in their world and how the firm can continue to foster their professional development.

Real Estate Business Breakfast – I capped off the month with a fantastic panel event, “The Long Island Real Estate Landscape Reimagined,” on November 29. I had a wonderful time moderating a wide-ranging discussion that featured some of the most important voices on Long Island about where the ever-changing world of real estate is headed: Kelly Morris of the Suffolk County IDAMitch Pally of LIBI and the MTABrian Lee of Newmark Knight Frank, and Kurt Koegl of Marcum LLP. We talked about everything from the impact of Uber and Amazon to the housing preferences of millennials. The biggest takeaway for me was that those who control the sewers control the kingdom.

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