Why the #MeToo Movement Needs a Path to Redemption

Otherwise it will collapse under the weight of its own lack of discernment.

In July 1209, the Catholic armies of the Albigensian Crusade had surrounded the town of Béziers in what is today southern France. Within the walls huddled some 20,000 people, a mix of orthodox Catholics and heretic Catharists, a gnostic sect notorious for their sexual license. When the crusader armies unexpectedly breached Béziers’ defenses, they hurried to ask their commander, the papal legate Arnaud Amalric, how they should distinguish between Catharists and true Christians.

Amalric’s response, albeit paraphrased, has lived in infamy: “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.”

With the ongoing #MeToo movement and its accompanying purge of sexually abusive men, American society is currently in the throes of its own great nonreligious crusade against a highly sexualized and long hidden “heresy.” Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose makes a strong case that the medieval persecution of heresy had as much to do with sex as with religion, and Arthur Miller observed in his notes on The Crucible that “[s]ex, sin, and the Devil were early linked.” It’s no accident that the phrase “witch hunt” is being thrown around. We’ve ditched the religion but kept the sex.

There are, however, a few major differences between John Proctor’s New England and Harvey Weinstein’s America. One is that, in the latter case, our devil is truly among us. There really are sexual harassers and abusers—far more than I ever imagined—who must be rooted out. Another is that, unlike 13th-century France and 17th-century Salem, we don’t execute our sexual heretics. Even after exposure and public shaming, they will continue to live among us, and if we can’t let God sort them out in the next life, that means we have to sort them out in this one.


There’s certainly plenty of sorting to be done. In a November 21 column for the Los Angeles Times, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote, “Groping a woman’s backside is not the same thing as raping a woman. And yet [Al] Franken’s name is routinely listed alongside [Roy] Moore’s and Weinstein’s.” Even that statement partakes of the problem it claims to diagnose, since Moore has been only accused of attempted rape. Obviously all three actions are morally wrong and have rightly been brought to light, but if we fail to distinguish among them, we will also fail to devise appropriately proportional responses.

As Jack Hunter observed in a recent article for Rare Politics, politicians have the luxury of finishing out their terms. They’ve also learned from Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (though, please God, not Roy Moore) that sexual misconduct allegations aren’t necessarily deal-breakers with voters. This enables accused public servants like Franken, John Conyers, and Joe Barton to contemplate how different offenses should be punished.

In the private sector, where bad press can impact one’s bottom line more immediately, there have been no such pauses for reflection. At press time, more than a dozen men had accused Kevin Spacey of groping or other forms of sexual misconduct, yet most of the consequences he’d suffered came quickly after Anthony Rapp’s original allegation. Spacey was fired from “House of Cards” (to which I say good riddance after the godawful fifth season, but I digress), dropped by his agent and publicist, and had a finished film permanently shelved. The charges that have since emerged clearly paint Spacey as a sexual predator, but I can’t help thinking that, on the basis of Rapp’s story alone, those measures may have been overreactions.

Yes, Rapp was underage, but the alleged incident happened more than 30 years ago when Spacey was, or at least claims to have been, heavily intoxicated. Spacey even issued an apology, albeit a very strange one. My question is this: When should the accused be made an utter pariah, and when should an apology be good enough? Some misconduct, like that of Garrison Keillor or of Michael Scott from “The Office,” seems to stem more from social ineptitude than sexual predation. These people deserve to be exposed and corrected. As one blogger observed, however, there must also be a way for less serious offenders “to return to civil society if they are willing and able to redeem themselves.”

What the #MeToo revolution currently lacks is a path to redemption, and for the moment, that shouldn’t be our primary concern. This is about justice for the victims, not pity for the perpetrators. But if we fail to plan for the day after, this unprecedented movement could collapse under the weight of its own lack of discernment. Some of the accused, like Weinstein, should be permanently exiled to the wilderness, but others should be allowed to return after their 40 days and nights.

When Amalric ordered the massacre at Béziers, he did so fearing that a less extreme approach might allow some Catharists to escape, and although such tactics eventually wiped out the heretical sect, they also left southern France in ruins. God may have sorted out the souls of the 20,000 killed that day, but such buck-passing is not an option for us. For the sake of the newly empowered victims, we must find a way to distinguish between the innocent, the redeemable, and the diabolical.

Grayson Quay is a freelance writer and M.A. student at Georgetown University.

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31 Responses to Why the #MeToo Movement Needs a Path to Redemption

  1. Fran Macadam says:

    I honestly suspect that the catalyst for sacrificing all the male liberal allies, was the calculation that they are disposable if it can bring down Trump. “Whatever it takes” …

  2. pepi says:

    [Fran Macadam says: December 4, 2017 at 10:35 pm
    I honestly suspect that the catalyst for sacrificing all the male liberal allies, was the calculation that they are disposable if it can bring down Trump.]

    How you can get a conspiracy out of something as organic and spontaneous as #MeToo is beyond me but the simple fact is that no “male liberal allies” need to be sacrificed to bring down Trump. Trump is bringing down Trump.

  3. Whine Merchant says:

    Fran Macadam says:
    “I honestly suspect that the catalyst for sacrificing all the male liberal allies, was the calculation that they are disposable if it can bring down Trump. “Whatever it takes” …”

    This is the kind of conspiracist derangement that sees HRC and President Obama as the plotting Satans at the head of an army of SJWs and Trump as the beleaguered Saviour.
    No wonder evangelicals want Jar-head to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem – they think this will hurry Jesus back to Rapture them skyward.

  4. Celery says:

    Criminals with records of their wrongdoing face challenges. Why should it be different with those guilty of inappropriate sexual touch? You are a pariah according to the seriousness of the charge you were convicted of.

    If you do something bad while heavily intoxicated, does that give you a pass? If you’re a woman, being heavily intoxicated means you gave a man permission to rape you, by the thinking of some. Yet men should get a pass if they do something bad while intoxicated? Especially if they were young and foolish? I think we could get rid of the double standard there.

  5. sally says:

    On the one hand, I feel the #MeToo thing should have the discernment, minor transgressions are obviously different from rape and should be treated as such.

    On the other hand, actual crimes are different from each other, and we are able to discern and treat those differently. a parking ticket and a murder rap both break a rule, and we are able to say “a rule has been broken and now a punishment will follow’, just that the nature of that punishment is very different

    #MeToo is about detailing experiences felt by women at the hands of men (but it can also be about men suffering from men too, my brother-in-law has been on the receiving much less frequently than I have, but in a more pronounced and harmful fashion)

    Glassdoor is a good example, a site where you can tell people what its really like to work at a company, anonymously, so prospective future employees can have an inside view. I have my fair share of more minor #MeToo stories from workplaces. They weren’t ‘crimes’, there wasn’t necessarily anyone to report them to. I left, because I can move to a better job if its unsuitable.

    This is a good place to put #MeToo stories, just as I would detail if the food was cold in a restaurant review on yelp, I can do the same thing in an employer review on Glassdoor. I can also do the same with non-#MeToo stuff too, some places can have micromanaging or unpleasant bosses that dont fall into #MeToo territory

    The point is that it doesn’t necessarily matter if minor and major #MeToo’s are conflated under the same banner, they exist on a continuum.

    and if we warn people about the minor perhaps we can nip some of the major in the bud too, or at least warn people about what a workplace might really be like. If a restaurant serves its food a bit stale, and another restaurant you can see a rat run past, they both get less than stellar reviews, we’re able to discern one is more minor than the other, and only one is reported to the relevant people, but we still don’t go and eat at either of them

  6. Cash says:

    Fran, not sure I understand. Seems a bit too calculating.

  7. connecticut farmer says:

    @ Fran Macadam

    That thought has crossed my mind too, so you’re not alone in voicing this suspicion. If Trump is brought down it won’t be without a fight, and something tells me that if he falls he won’t be alone.

  8. Tyro says:

    When someone who harassed or assaults women ever ends up an ostracized pariah, we can address that problem. For now, that has never happened.

  9. simon94022 says:

    “Kill them all, and let God sort them out” is an apocryphal line. Almaric never said it, nor did anyone else.

    The Medievals were too intelligent to fall for Zero Tolerance nonsense. Would that we still had some sense of proportion in doing justice today.

  10. paradoctor says:

    You pray that Roy Moore will not be elected. But even if your prayers are effective, still >80% of Mississippi evangelicals will vote for the pedophile. This is a cultural indicator.

  11. zic says:

    Most of the men who commit sexual harassment and assault are not rich, powerful men like those listed, they are regular folk, the manager at the fast-food shop, the department head over in accounting, the editor or reporter at the local weekly newspaper.

    And most of those men could easily be replaced by a woman who could do the job just as well as they could. Those men could disappear into the night with all their shame, and the stuff they do would still get done, perhaps refreshingly so, with the diverse view that a woman replacing them might bring.

    The need for a path to redemption arises not because Spacey or Moore or the pastor we don’t know about yet is so valuable that their loss would be a devastating blow to culture; there needs to be a road to redemption so that all those harassers and abusers, too small to make the national news, have a path forward, away from abuse and harassment.

    But make no mistake: not one of these people (mostly men) is so valuable that he cannot be replaced. The voices, experience, and expertise of the women shut out over the centuries are proof of that.

  12. Dan Green says:

    After new legislation, probably as effective as age discrimination, a manual from HR best route possible is to separate boys and girls. As for Hollywood and TV they exist because of sexism. Their fans thrive on it.

  13. Robert Paulson says:


    This one of the dumber comments I have seen to this article. “Those men could disappear into the night with all their shame, and the stuff they do would still get done, perhaps refreshingly so, with the diverse view that a woman replacing them might bring.”

    This is an interesting use of the word “diverse”. You seem to be using to mean “women” = “diverse”, since, as all goodthinking people know, all men think exactly alike all the time. We have no diversity among us. We are identical and interchangeable with no variety in experiences or views.
    Once you have seen one man, you seen them all.

    Furthermore, since women = diverse, and diverse = good, and since men are not diverse, and not diverse = bad, and since all men are the same, we must, by your own logic, conclude that all women are better than all men always. We should eliminate men from society all together, that will solve the sexual harassment and “diversity” problem at the same time!

    This is the same lack of discernment the article talks about albeit in a slightly different context. Not only cannot differentiate between different types of male behavior, they cannot differentiate between males, full stop.

  14. Will Harrington says:


    You make a logical mistake. How can you prove that the initial accusations were spontaneous and organi (whatever carbon based chemistry has to do with this, sorry pet peeve). You can’t. If I have to referee this argument, then your refutation fails and Fran’s point stands. Please try again. Mere rhetoric is not good enough (sorry, bad argument is another pet peeve).

    Whine Merchant, Ad Hominem, same ruling.

    About time to bail on these comments and go teach a crash course in essay writing. The point being that many of the things that people jumping on the #metoo bandwagon are calling abuse simply aren’t. These instances of people just wanting to search their past to try to portray themselves as victims risk discrediting the entire movement. From what I have read of Keiller (and I admit, I don’t bother to keep up with this stuff) he committed nothing that could be considered a crime. This has turned into a witch hunt and if it follows that pattern then it will collapse as a movement when people realize that anyone can be accused of being a witch. That is not an optimal result if it results in victims being afraid to come forward to the police. Anyway, that’s my prediction My opinion is that crimes need to be dealt with by the judicial system and if bad behavior isn’t a crime, then it shouldn’t cause this hysteria. Maybe victorian sensibilities will return vis a vis how the sexes inter-relate. It will be interesting to watch.

  15. Nelson says:

    I’ve thought about this too. Because there wasn’t a death penalty, or even imprisonment (the accused merely lost their jobs) there is plenty of time left for redemption. These men were successful and could survive a 5 year self-reflection period (for example) before returning to work with (hopefully) a little more humility. Or they could accept retirement, spend the rest of their lives trying to better people, and make room for others who don’t use their positions for sexually predatory inclinations.

    For the time being, I think it’s right that there are consequences for such behavior even it has been hidden for a long time.

  16. pepi says:

    @Robert Paulson

    I literally laughed out loud at your rant because your “take it to the extremes ridiculous” scenario – eliminate them from society – is exactly what men did to women for centuries and still do in many areas of the world.

    If diverse = good then getting rid of all men, while a nice momentary fantasy, would not be indicated. Your logic suffers rather a lot in other places as well. You men are just too emotional.

  17. zic says:

    @Robert Paulson, you obviously haven’t looked at the research; which shows companies, for instance, tend to be better run and more profitable when there is gender diversity in management and on the board. I could provide you with links, but perhaps you should have the fun of googling the research yourself; you might begin with the discussions from the late 2000’s about how the alpha-male culture on Wall St. contributed to the Great Recession and then move on to the research on profitability.

    So, to quote you, “This is the same lack of discernment the article talks about albeit in a slightly different context.”

    Diversity isn’t a dirty word, and that you need a safe-space from it to avoid triggering your SJW fears in sad.

  18. Andrew J Harvey says:

    Grayson, nice piece here. Keep up the good work.

  19. B. says:

    Amazing how no commentator actually got this affair correctly.

    1-Sexual harassment is an artificial term. Like every other new fake term, it is meaningless and meant to manipulate. The right term is simply harassment or bothersome actions or unwanted advance. Since men are initiators of overt sexual advances, versus complex indirect and opaque advances of women, the term sexual harassment targets men. Also because it limits the harassment to sex, it targets men. Similarly, if you had ‘deceitful behavior’ or ‘trickery to incite impregnation’, it would almost exclusively target women. Therefore, the whole affair is set up against men from the start. It is another attack on men by women who are hopeless to get attention any other way, by women who are no longer in the game, or by the old hag who want revenge. This is the psychology of what is happening.

    2-This is not about harassment. Unlike modern Cairo or Delhi. harassment is not an issue in America, outside of gay circles. It happens, but its occurrence is not beyond the normal range of things. Yes, there is a normal acceptable range of things. If you try to eliminate it, you would need a massive enforcement of brainwashing, control, and ideology. The feminization of men, the taming of men’s rage and turning it to female-like conceit has dangerous consequences. It will make the American women even more narcissistic than what they are now, and it will drive men away, and it will be annihilated righteous masculinity too. As Chivalry has died in the age of feminism, soon basic masculine protection can die too. This can only work for a highly synthetic and lifeless society.

    3-These women were not innocent. They were in it until they grew old. When you turn on the sexual games, to expect to have full control over each outcome is narcissistic.

    4-Men and women mingle, chat and befriend with each other in ways never seen before in the history of mankind. Even more important, they now share power and money. You can not expect the same strict behavior you have in non-mixed societies. You, of course, can, but you will pay a price.

    5-When a habit or a culture is tolerated for many years, you cannot turn around and kill someone’s career sanctimoniously. It is not fair and humane. It is also very pretentious. So this is not a moral victory, it is a moral defeat: sexual behavior was condemned, lies and malice were endorsed. If sincere (no one is ), they could have given a private warning.

    5-This obnoxious reactionary coup can get ugly in many different ways. Think of all the new guns lawyers have.

    I can go on and on. I don’t have a cent in the fight (no love for Hollywood, and no case of sexual misconduct). But the herd behavior and the numb reaction of bloggers fascinates me.

  20. An Anachronistic Apostle says:

    You pray that Roy Moore will not be elected. But even if your prayers are effective, still >80% of Mississippi evangelicals will vote for the pedophile. This is a cultural indicator. ~ paradoctor

    Piffle. This peculiar attempt at divination of the collective mind can at once be dismissed, as but a breech-delivered form of mental malpractice.

    There is no evidence extant, that the Mississippian evangelicals will cast their ballots for Moore in droves, seeing as how the candidate is participating in an election hosted by the state of Alabama.

    Even if they were allowed to do so, there is likewise no firm evidence that the troglodytes would pledge their undying allegiance to an unrepentant pedophile, or support lend wild-eyed encouragement to the heinous activity of such.

    They might instead, one supposes, see the unhappy Moore as a bulwark, if albeit a flawed one, against the continuing slaughter of developing children within the “protective” sanctuary of the womb; or as being a likely impediment against the volitional cerebral vacuuming of the late-gestational, viable infant.

    Such procedures, directed against the most vulnerable and unassuming bearers of our DNA, are no less “cultural indicators” of the state of this country’s soul. Still, I suppose there is less green-house gases delivered to the atmosphere we breathe, than offering the little ones’ bodies to Moloch.

  21. qvole says:

    Paradoctor, if you’re not interested or intelligent enough to know where Moore is running for office, then you should probably keep your trap shut.

    And, of course, there is a significant difference between the Moore case and several of the others, and that is that Moore denies doing any of it. The last that I checked the claims of random women (or men) about actions that they claim to have happened decades ago are not dispositive, and there are plenty of reasons to mistrust the sources (both the accusors and the media perpetrating the various witch, or more accurately here, warlock hunts).

  22. Whine Merchant says:

    Will H writes: “My opinion is that crimes need to be dealt with by the judicial system and if bad behavior isn’t a crime, then it shouldn’t cause this hysteria.”

    I think you missed both the form and the substance of the flood of disclosure if you feel the need to hunker-down in the statute books. Harassment and abuse of many kinds do not meet criminal stature while still causing lasting and significant negative effects upon lives, careers and relationships.

    Thank you –

  23. Good Reason says:

    I’m all for redemption if we can also talk about redeeming the lives of the women who were traumatized, silenced, disbelieved, shamed, and in some cases destroyed because of what these men did. How do we redeem what they would otherwise have contributed to our world?

  24. TR says:

    Will Harrington: I agree that real offenses should be left to the judicial system. And those not rising to the criminal level to either civil procedure or corporate policy.

    The real question is a cultural one: why is everyone else not listening to two intelligent fellows like us?

  25. Renita Patterson says:

    I worked for Molina Health Care in Houston, i constantly told my Supervisor i was being bullied and harrassed however nothing was done, slight of protecting the bullier, who kissed up to the New Supervisor to tell her no body liked her but it was not the case whe was the one hararrassed me to change shifts with her in the mean time my supervsior changed the number in order to protect her and down graded me and got on the side of the Evaluator who harrassed me without due cause because she thought she was right when you have a Medicaid contract with the State of Texas you have to treat everyone with dignity and respect which didnt happen to me instead my tires were slashed along with other employees this same person harrased them also with her using FMLA which is a state law to go get lunch and do call avoidance, Samantha Russell, Damaris Moreno, Ryan Rochan continued to make my life unbearable at this company because i had complained to them of the unfair treatement by this person by demeaning my character due to unfair and harassing treatment, and thy slurred my name so i couldnt get Unemployment when they fired me of due false accusation and to say i am a disgrutile employee which is not the truth they have employee who hang up on the member so they have to continue to call back for the same issue, Lue Nyguen was in HR but she didnt do anything nor did the HR head person they slandered my name along with the Company calling to get benefits for the Affordable Health Care plan which i was not trained to quote benefits for. The call was transfered to me due the person being mad, and not able to help the Vendor on the line.

  26. Benjamin McLean says:

    The relevant difference between Franken and Moore is that we have actual evidence against Franken.

  27. Dale McNamee says:

    Dear Benjamin McLean,

    Great post and very true !

    Also, it is very pithy.

  28. pepi says:

    “This is about justice for the victims, not pity for the perpetrators.”

    Then why is the article all about “over-reactions” and “redeeming abusers” and “less serious” offenses and “proportional responses”? Not a word about how we can protect victims and make it safe for them to come forward or anything else meant to help victims. Every word is about protecting and redeeming and minimizing the behavior of abusers.

  29. DyingPhoenix says:

    @pepi, Fair point on the article. But can true justice be served without a proportional response?

    Sexual abuse and harassment are serious crimes that hurt the victims and there are plenty of voices and laws around protecting victims officially, in fact, there has been a gross overreach with the title 1X laws in the US where you are presumed guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, thus making a mockery of the justice system.

    While there are no laws that protect those who are innocent and wrongly stigmatized and traumatized. Now, in fairness, laws are not meant to serve the victims but they ought to follow a legal maxim of “innocent until proven guilty”. The current route taken is only going to incite a backlash that will put the progress made for the sexual assault victims and women obsolete. IMO, it already happened with the rise of Trump and Moore in popular politics.

  30. pepi says:

    [DyingPhoenix says: December 9, 2017 at 10:04 am
    Now, in fairness, laws are not meant to serve the victims but they ought to follow a legal maxim of “innocent until proven guilty”.]

    Seriously??? “In fairness”??? Explain the freaking fairness in that. Is it necessary to also have a policy of “the victim is lying until proven otherwise” so that they are traumatized repeatedly? That is not the approach taken in most other crimes. We don’t have an “innocent until proven guilty” system anyway – explain warrants, arrests and bail if that is actually the case.

    We need things like making forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements and other vehicles for protecting abusers and silencing victims to be made illegal. We need mechanisms for reporting that protect the victim until investigations are pursued. The list of possible measures is actually very long. But this article and it’s sentence about “justice for the victims, not pity for the perpetrators” is pure bull.

  31. DyingPhoenix says:

    @Pepi, I probably misused the use of the word “fair”, so it led to a misunderstanding. Laws are not meant to serve the victims because then it becomes a one-sided law, that does not cater to a balance that is necessary. Due process is important, that is all. Whether that process leans towards the accused or the victim is the real question.

    I never said or implied that the policy of “the victim is lying until proven otherwise” is something that I am agreeing with. If it came across in my words, it wasn’t meant to be so. But the victim too has to prove his/her point, just as the accused has to prove that he/she is innocent. Since the accusation has been made by the victim in this case, the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt lies on him/her. Now, all that said, in a case of “he said, she said”, it is ridiculously difficult to get justice for the victim, and the system needs measures for that, but not at the cost of creating more victims. I know that is a hard ask.

    The title IX laws, as I said, put the onus on the accused to prove that he/she didn’t rape/assault someone which is a notoriously difficult thing to prove. Are people supposed to record their encounters now? Although I do see and hope that the falsely accused are now able to empathize with the true victims who also go through hell to prove that they were assaulted, that they weren’t lying, that they are believed. But the same belief is not lent to “I believe the accused that he/she didn’t rape” which also is understandable in the context of the history of sexual violence in this world. False accusations are not at all common as sexual violence. But is the current system fair? I do not think so.

    Yes, the current paradigm changes with #metoo will lend more power to victim’s voices but they will also create more victims who were falsely accused, their lives ripped apart and in no way am i equating the pain of an assault victim with pain of someone who has been falsely accused. All I am saying that someone who is falsely accused also justifiably feels victimized and mortified. Paying attention to the latter does not and should not be taken as a backwards step against the fight against sexual violence because the falsely accused IMHO, can become big cheerleaders for eradicating this menace from our society but right now, the political climate is incendiary and polarizing so there is not much hope if all accused are demonized and seen in the same bucket.

    I almost agree with your last paragraph, forced arbitration and NDAs are something that need to be reassessed. I do not share your view or the article’s view about the “justice for the victims, pity for the perpetrators”. I believe that Trump & Moore are different than Senator Al Franken and that discernment is lacking in the #metoo movement, but it is not the responsibility of the accusers to bring along that discernment, as the article sort of implies. The fact that they are courageous enough to come out is enough, for now.

    But I do agree with you, we need to do much more.

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