On the other side, even among the most egalitarian progressives, is a somewhat subtle homophobia, which is cloaked in comedy and treats these allegations as somehow more depraved and freakish because of their same-sex subtext. For some, it is an extra shroud of shame that they feel free to mock and that diminishes the seriousness of the claims, and may deter others from making them. (As an experiment, imagine the objects of Massa’s attention as young women. Most of the humor drains away in a hurry.) Even former Representative Mark Foley, whose case is being endlessly compared to Massa’s, told me on Friday that these male cases need equal treatment: “It cuts both ways.”
If brotherly bonds must be forged in mostly male work environments (and it is not at all clear to me that they must), then everyone involved must recognize and respect limits far short of where they currently stand. And when someone claims that the lines have been crossed, we as a society, must take those claims more seriously. It’s all fun and games until someone gets tickled.