It was the cartoon that launched a thousand letters to the editor. Earlier this week, The News-Gazette printed a syndicated political comic titled "Teen Angst in the Era of #MeToo."
The comic depicted a couple parked on Lovers Lane, and the male unwilling to make the first move for fear of future consequences.
The cartoon engendered an enthusiastically negative response, with its detractors flooding The News-Gazette with calls and letters.
The syndicated cartoonist issued a statement to the paper, claiming that people misunderstood the intent of his satire — by his words, to point out the "chilling effects surrounding the #MeToo movement" and as commentary on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's sexual-assault allegations. I would argue that the problem was, in fact, the opposite.
With the gripping testimony of judge Kavanaugh's accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, captivating the country Thursday and inflaming polarization along partisan and gender lines, one can understand the impassioned reaction from readers.
The artist stopped short of apologizing for the cartoon, noting that he wasn't a "rapist or a misogynist," and pointed to recent satirical work lampooning the GOP to prove he was balanced in his satire.
I have certainly said stupid things in this newspaper in search of a laugh, and The News-Gazette has always been good about giving me just enough rope to tie my own noose but never quite hang myself with (you may argue with their decision to publish this comic, but they also let me review "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" in the voice of Alabama judge, and alleged pedophile, Roy Moore, so cut them a little slack), but as a piece of comedy, this cartoon failed because it violated the cardinal rule of not being funny.
In the future, I suggest the author, and men at large, spend less time sympathizing with possible offenders and more time empathizing with possible sexual-assault survivors.
One in 3 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. One in 3 men will not be victims of false sexual-assault allegations. Be honest about the threat.
Men, it's time for some real talk: I know you're worried because you've been watching the building momentum of the #MeToo movement and its ability to destroy the lives and careers of rich and powerful men with a single accusation, and you're not as rich and powerful as those men, and holy moly, everything you've ever worked for could be wiped out overnight.
But there's good news, gentlemen; you can drastically reduce your chances of being accused of sexual assault in one easy step: DON'T COMMIT SEXUAL ASSAULT.
If you are still unclear what that entails, I have more detailed guidelines to follow:
1. Don't be a creep. Don't engage in creepy behavior. Don't say creepy things to women. Don't leer at them like a creep. Don't approach them in a creepy manner, in creepy locations or with a creepy intent.
2. Keep your hands to yourself. You learned this in preschool, and it remains relevant. Do not touch people in unwelcome ways. If you have trouble discerning which ways are unwelcome, simply do not touch people at all until expressly invited to do otherwise. You were not born with the unalienable right to touch another human being, no matter how pretty she is or how pretty you think you are.
3. Seek consent. Consent is a sexy word. It should make you randy. To put this in little-boy terms (since grown men should already know what consent is), if one of the Super Mario Bros. is trying to rescue the princess, consent is the Warp Whistle that takes him to the final boss. Find consent. If you don't see it, ask around for it. Don't be embarrassed. You need that Warp Whistle, boy-o.
4. No means no. Not "Maybe," not "Reply Hazy; Ask Again After Beer." Believe them the first time they tell you. If she wants to be friends, you must let go of your romantic aspirations like a hot potato. Rejection is hard, but you were not born with an unalienable right to be desired by the person of your choosing. There are literally billions of other people out there. You are someone's preferred flavor, I promise.
5. Treat women with respect. They are human beings. Not objects to fulfill your gratifications and to brandish in public as trophies of social status. You don't get to keep them in a shadowbox. You don't get to tell them what to feel or how to think.
Ryan Jackson has two daughters and knows the future is female, he can be reached at email@example.com.