The Cuomo sexual harassment claims appear to follow a disturbing pattern

The new accusations of sexual harassment by the governor are being treated differently because of the gendered nature of such abuse. But Cuomo’s alleged treatment of Boylan and Bennett is not unrelated to his non-sexual degrading, humiliating and controlling treatment of other subordinates, or to his more generalized sense of entitlement and impunity in the exercise of his own power. Rather, the sexually harassing behavior that Cuomo allegedly directed towards Boylan and Bennett seems to be an extension of his pattern of manipulation and degradation more broadly. Sexual harassment is its own phenomenon with its own dynamics, but it is also part of a spectrum of abusive behaviors alleged against the governor, all of which stem from the same origin: his desire to assert his own power by degrading those around him…

But at the same time that the statement attempts to cast Cuomo as clueless and incompetent over his own interactions with Boylan and Bennett, it also attempts to assert his own authority over how those interactions should be interpreted. Cuomo says that he “never intended” to make inappropriate or sexual suggestions to the women. He says they “misinterpreted” him. This framing says that it was not the governor’s behavior that was wrong – that it wasn’t wrong of him, say, to suggest strip poker or to ask his 25-year-old executive assistant if she slept with older men – but rather that the women were wrong to interpret these words as sexual.

To Cuomo, it’s not his behavior that’s a problem – it’s the women’s behavior, their audacity in feeling uncomfortable. In the statement, Cuomo shifts responsibility from himself on to the women who allege harassment. It’s not his job to behave appropriately. It’s their job to accommodate him, and to ignore their own discomfort.