It should be clear by now that people can’t justify their inappropriate sexual behavior by claiming that they’re fond of locker-room talk or that they came of age in a bygone era with different mores. That’s just as true for the LGBTQ community as for any other.
But apparently that message hasn’t reached West Hollywood Mayor John Duran.
Duran is under pressure from his colleagues on the City Council to step down as mayor and perhaps even resign his seat on the council following accusations of sexual misconduct. Several current and former members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, of which Duran is the longtime board chairman, accused him of making crude sexual comments and engaging in unwanted touching.
Accusations have also been leveled against Duran at City Hall. The city paid his former deputy $500,000 in 2016 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit (Duran admitted no wrongdoing), and last year a city employee formally complained about Duran’s language and behavior on the job. The council members argue Duran has become a distraction.
Duran has said, “Hell no,” he won’t resign. He’s called on his council colleagues and critics to wait for the results of an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct.
It’s fair to ask for a full hearing. But it’s worrisome that the mayor is so unapologetic about his self-declared “hypersexual” personality, and his “bawdy” humor and flirtatiousness — and his unwillingness to seriously reconsider it in the #MeToo era.
“We fought too hard in the ’70s and ’80s for the right to be, the right to create a gay male subculture, the right to maintain sexuality in the midst of plague and to come out on the other side into marriage equality,” Duran wrote in a Facebook post last week. “Am I the only gay man in town who uses bawdy sexual humor? Or says inappropriate things? Nope.”
Sure, not every boorish comment is sexual harassment, and not every unwanted advance is a sexual assault or a cause for termination. Duran is also right that an allegation is not the same as a guilty verdict. Still, it’s troubling that Duran — who should be a role model in his community — is unwilling to even acknowledge that crude comments and a proclivity for hitting on people could be problematic for a person in his powerful position. It should be obvious by now that hypersexual behavior is out of line in most professional settings — and it’s especially inappropriate for people in power, including elected officials, who have a responsibility to create a culture of respect.
Harvey Weinstein tried to justify his sexual predation on the grounds that he came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, when the rules and behavior in the workplace were different. When an old recording of Donald Trump bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women surfaced in 2016, he and his supporters dismissed it as locker-room talk. The #MeToo movement has empowered men and women to speak up and declare that what was once deemed acceptable — or quietly tolerated — in the past is no longer acceptable.