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Masha Gessen On Sex Panic: 'We Need To Talk About The Abuse Of Power'

"We really need to try to distinguish between situations where the man had the power and abused it," New Yorker staffer Masha Gessen said.

There was an actual intelligent conversation about sexual harassment on Morning Joe today, featuring New Yorker writer Masha Gessen (who also just won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction).

"You wrote in the The New Yorker an incredible piece that was entitled 'When does a watershed become a sex panic,' and we're talking about sexual harassment and all the stories in the news that have been coming out. Can you explain what you mean by that, just that question alone?" Mika Brzezinski said.

"So I think that there's something that happens when we talk about sex, which is that -- certainly when we've been talking the last few weeks, we started lumping everything together and basically the line between rape and bad sex has begun to sort of blur. When we're talking about actual rape, actual abuse of power, actual systematic stuff, that's one thing," Gessen said.

"When we're talking about somebody like Glenn Thrush, the New York Times reporter who was just suspended on allegations of sexual misconduct, from the one piece that has been published so far, in Vox, basically appears to amount to several bad dates. That is too far on that spectrum."

"I guess the counter to that would be --and I've been studying that a lot, reading a lot about Glenn Thrush -- and I'm not sure where to put that in this conversation as well, but it involves alcohol, office parties, not blaming anybody involved who shouldn't be blamed, but it is in a different category. How do we categorize? How do we categorize in the world of Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin on our show?" Brzezinski said.

"Do we want to hear from them? Because my concern has been that there are some men that do want to come forward and -- and admit to their failings, do we want to hear that?"

"I don't know. I don't know, actually, that we want to hear that," Gessen said. "I think what we need to talk about is power and we need to talk about abuse of power and we really need to try to distinguish between situations where the man had the power and abused it and I think the way that I think of the Weinstein stories, for example, they're stories of hostage taking --"

"That's a different category,"

"They couldn't leave and even -- even if they went up to get their Oscars, they knew they came tainted, they came tainted with the silence to which they had acquiesced. I don't think that when we're talking about Al Franken we're talking about power," Gessen said.

"And yet when you talking about a sex panic, you open up websites and they'll have a picture of Harvey Weinstein and Glenn Thrush and Roy Moore," Joe Scarborough said.

"So everybody as far as the sex panic goes, everybody gets painted with with the same brush."

"That's why we call it a sex panic," Gessen said.

Dr. Evelyn Farkas, who was a senior official at the Department of State, cautioned about the real effects a sex panic can have on women's careers.

"I think we will need categories," she said.

"Because someone like me who made my career because powerful men helped me and I had access to them, I could travel with them when I was a junior and that led me to really important jobs because I got to know those males very well, professionally and personally, and then once I became senior and I was working in Congress, some members there, you may know, Joe, had either outright bans, they wouldn't travel with women because of how it would appear, nothing was even happening, but and others would just not talk about it but you knew that you couldn't travel with your boss unless there was another person, a male on the trip.

"If you're really senior, you need to be on the trip where your issue is being discussed, let's say it's in Afghanistan and you're the counterterrorism expert."

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