Male Fear of False Accusations Is Irrational

In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abusing women, a lot of men have retreated to a position of fear. What if the only way to avoid having your life ruined by a woman’s false accusations of assault is to never be alone with a woman? Like Vice President Pence?

Calm down, men. I’ve got you. You’re gonna be okay. This fear is completely irrational. In fact, it’s sexist, and you have been taught to have this fear by sexists. I can help you understand. This is an opportunity to grow and mature. Let’s do this.

Scared Man

First, let’s talk about why men are scared that women can get them in trouble. It’s simple: because the majority of abusing, raping, bullying, intimidating men who get caught will categorically deny it. And the media “impartially” reports, and creates an impression that the words of a serial abuser and his many victims are to be given equal credence. Surely all the women can’t be telling the truth, so some of those men have to be innocent, right??? Maybe a lot of them. Oh shit! What if it happened to me???

That’s why some men are scared. Look, a bunch of powerful scared people were quoted in this surreal New York Times article:

Some tech investors have taken similar steps. “A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyperaware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters,” said a venture capitalist who spoke anonymously for the same reason.

Some are avoiding solo meetings with female entrepreneurs, potential recruits and those who ask for an informational or networking meeting.

“Before, you might have said, ‘Of course I would do that, and I will especially do it for minorities, including women in Silicon Valley,‘” the investor said. “Now you cancel it because you have huge reputational risk all of a sudden.”

Is there really huge risk in meeting women without a witness to keep you safe? Let’s talk about what’s more rational to believe. Take the following two-part quiz:

  1. How many men do you, personally, know who’ve been falsely accused of sexual assault/harassment? Not someone you’ve heard of, someone you know.
  2. How many women do you personally know who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted or the like?

I don’t know a single man who’s been falsely accused. I am not even aware of any second-degree connections who have been. Chances are very small that a man accused of sexual assault is being slandered.

I know dozens of women who’ve been abused, and so do you even if you’re unable to name any, because 1 in 4 women has been by the time they’re 25, and most of them keep it private. Heck, a lot of women are paid to do so; just look at the $85 million of hush money Fox News paid for Roger Ailes alone.

The reality is that when a woman says a man abused her, the odds are like a million times higher that she’s telling the truth, than when a man says he’s been falsely accused. When women say they’ve been abused, the rational thing to do is believe them.

Now for the easy part: how to avoid being falsely accused. There are two steps:

  1. Calm down, it basically doesn’t happen.
  2. Live your life being decent to others. Just be a normal human being.

Here, listen to Jon:

Or Claire:

Finally, let’s wrap up with why it’s sexist to act as if it’s not safe to be alone with a woman, and why if you have felt this twinge of fear you need to lean into it and examine it until you see through it and grow from the experience. There are at least three major types of sexism that I’ve identified in this pattern.

The first is sexism masquerading as chivalry. To illustrate this story, I will reach back to my childhood, when I asked my father why he didn’t think women should vote, work, or hold public office. In my memory, my father’s face grows serious, his voice lowers to a reverent hush, and he says “it’s not that I think women are lesser than men, it’s just that God designed women with a higher purpose in mind, and it’s such a shame if…”

Or my former coworker, a deeply insecure man who leered at women constantly and commented on their bodies openly. He fetishized jazz to prove his superiority over people who listened to lesser music, and one day I trolled him by name-dropping some Sade songs. He immediately changed his tone, similar to my father. He said, “you have no idea how much I respect Sade!” There was such emphasis on respect. I never saw him respect someone (as a verb) in the years I worked with him.

You see, these stories illustrate men who are overcome by feelings whose nature they misunderstand. I know, because my father taught me well, and if you ask people who knew me in my early twenties, you’ll find out that I was just as bad. It’s sexism masquerading as chivalry because it’s really just desire to own women, which requires objectifying and seeing women as lesser, as beings whose existence is justified in relationship to a man. And a man in that frame of mind can tell himself that he has tender, loyal feelings towards a woman. This is terrifying to women, not incidentally. Because hell hath no fury like a man whose tender loyal feelings are scorned.

The second reason the Mike Pence attitude is deeply sexist is because it blames women for men’s immaturity and lack of self-awareness and self-control. It reinforces the narrative that a man is an enlightened being who can be corrupted by a baser person. It says that a woman wields control and power that a man is incapable of resisting, and the only safe course of action is never to put oneself in that position. This is explicitly victim-blaming and denial of responsibility and agency, which women are all too familiar with. Don’t do this.

And again, it cloaks itself in honor, virtue, righteousness, a false moral high ground. It’s patronizing and condescending to the extreme. And you can’t condescend without assuming an attitude of being loftier, which is sexist.

The third reason it’s sexist is because it reinforces the structural norm that men believe men. What we need to end sexism, more than any other single thing, is for me to call out other men on sexism. We need men to stop protecting each other. We live in a society where sexism is part of the structure of how power works (as evidenced by the undeniable gender differential in who holds power). This is quite apart from individual, personal sexism. And it will persist as long as men are complicit in it en masse.

So, men, grow the hell up. I know it will be hard if you’ve been trained and cultured to see women as lesser, while guarding yourself against realizing it by labeling it as honorable and noble. I know, because I’ve come from that place myself, and it was humiliating to realize I’d been such a boor. When some people helped me realize that men had been protecting me (and themselves) from seeing it, it was a hard awakening. But you need to be responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. Mature people do not blame others for those things.

You aren’t going to get falsely accused of sexual assault. You aren’t going to be trapped into ruining your life. These things are like shark attacks: they theoretically happen, but they happen way more on TV, and they’re not going to happen to you.

Pic Credit

I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.