In part one I noted that some industries -- such as rap music production and pornography -- are built on sexism. It's ironic that the same groups who tend to push sexual harassment laws are also the strongest supporters of public, ubiquitous sexuality. Now, a writer's assistant named Amaani Lyle who worked on Friends is suing because the writers she worked around engaged in sexually suggestive banter in her presence. Gee, did she ever actually watch the show?
David Bernstein writes about Lyle's case and makes similar points to mine.
The very concept of brainstorming, which is based on the spontaneous contribution of ideas and has provided the first spark of inspiration for many great (and not-so-great) works, would be seriously compromised in any workplace, classroom, or studio if everyone had to self-censor for sexual content before throwing out a thought. It doesn't seem like much of an exaggeration to predict that the drying up of new, edgy, and provocative art would not be far behind.Look ladies, if you're offended by the men at your job the answer isn't to sue, it's to go get a different job -- and maybe be a little smarter as to what industry you get involved with. As a general rule, men are pigs. Some hide it better than others, but I absolutely guarantee you that the men you know talk and act very differently when you're not around. If you happen to interact with them in a sexually-themed environment you shouldn't be surprised at what you get.
Moreover, the Lyle case cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment. Surely, if the Constitution protects the speech rights of for-profit pornographic website operators, as the United States Supreme Court has recently reminded us it does, it also must protect the casual, if not always classy, discussions of creators at work. Otherwise, we risk sacrificing productive banter, discussion, and debate in deference to whatever subjective notions of propriety and good taste the most sensitive person in earshot may have.
More generally, if the Lyle opinion is allowed to stand, any Californian whose job involves dealing with controversial matters that raise issues potentially offensive to some people -- AIDS education, abortion counseling (pro or con), civil rights and affirmative action and much more---will be at risk of a harassment lawsuit. The only out provided for defendants by the California Court of Appeals is to prove that any "offensive" comments are made "within 'the scope of necessary job performance,'" a determination that, as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes, will necessarily involve vague and subjective perceptions of what speech is "necessary" to any particular job.