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Gore Sexual Assault? I Don't Think So!

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Just weeks after former Vice President Al Gore grabbed headlines for announcing that he and wife Tipper were divorcing after 40 years of marriage, newspapers are latching on to a four-year-old story claiming that Gore sexually harassed a massage therapist in Portland, Oregon. The only update is that local authorities have dismissed the masseuse's claim of "unwanted sexual contact," due to insufficient evidence. (It was a civil case. Read: for money, not jail time.)

Al Gore

The story's sources are mostly tabloid. The National Enquirer broke the story four years ago, and this week, the New York Daily News tells it this way: In 2006, while staying at an upscale hotel in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Gore apparently scheduled a massage under the name "Mr. Stone." Then, while the massage therapist was doing the abdominal portion of the massage, he allegedly made some moaning sounds and asked her to go lower, even attempting to guide her hand down.

There are few things to consider here. Included in my own thought processes are these: the physiological possibilities of a man in deep relaxation; the wide range of services and specialties available in the massage industry; and -- the biggest issue of all -- personal boundaries verses perception of personal injury.

For the purposes of this hypothetical examination, let's assume that this woman's allegations are true. (And that's a big assumption, considering the lack of evidence.) Let's start with what happens to a man in deep relaxation. As anyone with a husband knows, spontaneous erections happen all the time, during sleep and especially during massages -- which is one of the reasons women dominate the massage industry. (Heterosexual male clients feel too uncomfortable having a spontaneous erection at the hands of a man.) So, let's assume that an erection happened during the massage. When some men get an erection, all the blood from their brains apparently drains out to puff up their appendages; thus, they make poor decisions when they are aroused. Let's assume -- solely for the purposes of scientific examination -- that this was, in fact, an inconvenient truth for our dear former VP.

Biology aside, let's place a little blame on the massage industry. In America, the quality and nature of massage services can run the gamut from licensed physical therapists (who work with doctors) to spa therapists (who focus on sports massage and relaxation) to masseuses who offer a "full-body release" (yes, that's code for "happy ending") to illegal massage parlors that offer sex for sale. Who knows which kinds of massage services Big Al has used in the past? Mightn't he have mistakenly assumed that he was getting a full-body service in Portland? If so, then oops! Wrong kind of massage therapist, Mr. Gore.

Finally, there is the issue of boundaries. Everyone has a comfort level when it comes to sexuality, both in which acts they can tolerate and how comfortable they are with making sexual requests. Maybe Al Gore (again, if the story is even true) has a good ability to communicate his sexual needs. If so, kudos to Al. On the flip side, maybe the massage therapist was particularly sensitive to sexual injury. Injury is in the eye of the recipient: What one therapist might perceive as sexual assault, another might just brush off with a "Tsk, tsk!" and a little admonishing to the cheeky boy.

Let's hope the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, and that Big Al will learn to stay alert during future massages.

P.S. Yes, Al Gore was married at the time the massage incident allegedly occurred. Is it OK for a married man to have a sterile hand-job in a professional setting? Our guest blogger Gina thought so! She encouraged her husband to get a happy ending. Check out her story here.

next: Three Things Eliot Spitzer Taught Us
48 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris June 28, 2010, 11:19 AM

I can’t believe that you are blaming the massage therapist for this. Shame on you as a professional and as a woman.
To say that a man can get so deep into relexation, that he can’t help himself from wanting to take it to the next level is the same as saying that a man shouldn’t be blamed if a sexy woman in a tight shirt and mini skirt turns him on so much that he couldn’t help him from raping her. Your twisted way of letting Al Gore or any man off the hook for sexually insulted any woman is just wrong wrong wrong! What the hell is wrong with you?

Anonymous June 28, 2010, 11:38 AM

This is horrible! Massage therapists have the right to object if a man thinks they’re prostitutes! Men are not idiots who can’t be blamed for what they do when they’re turned on. Don’t let your love for Al Gore lead you to justify this kind of thing. I doubt even Gore would want that.

Anonymous June 28, 2010, 12:52 PM

Mr.Clinton is that you???

Anonymous June 28, 2010, 1:04 PM

This is a pathetic article from someone who is clearly misinformed about sexual assault. You should be ashamed of yourself.

“When some men get an erection, all the blood from their brains apparently drains out to puff up their appendages; thus, they make poor decisions when they are aroused”

Are you kidding me? That is the most pathetic excuse for sexual assault I have ever heard, and I’ve heard a lot. All men can control what they do when they are aroused (as a man I would know better than you), it is just the entitlement of some men that leads them to commit sexual assault.

“Mightn’t he have mistakenly assumed that he was getting a full-body service in Portland? If so, then oops! Wrong kind of massage therapist, Mr. Gore.”

So men are allowed to assume that someone wants sex based on other sexual encounters they have had? Well, I’ve had sex with a couple of brunettes, so can I assume all brunettes want to sleep with me? No. If I acted on that, I would be guilty of sexual assault. People need to get consent for every sexual act (under the law as well as ethically), and it doesn’t matter what type of massage Gore thought it was. If he did that, it was sexual assault. Period.

“What one therapist might perceive as sexual assault, another might just brush off with a “Tsk, tsk!” and a little admonishing to the cheeky boy.”

Again, it doesn’t matter. Assuming this all happened, it was Gore’s responsibility to get consent and know the person’s boundaries.

David Bertone June 28, 2010, 1:18 PM

I am not sure what type of “doctor” you claim to be but I am appalled by your classification of massage and including my profession as a licensed physical therapist in the same sentence as this story. Secondly physical therapists are quite often doctors of physical therapy, receive 7 years of education, can be board certified in several specialities and must take a licensing exam before practicing. We also function as an independent profession in the medical field, working in collaboration with physicians.

Maybe its time for you to learn about a profession before placing it in a story about “Happy Endings”!

fart June 28, 2010, 3:03 PM

i really wanted to tell you what a stupid loser you are for blaming the massage therapist here, but obviously everyone else agrees with me so i don’t need to say anything. carry on.

amazed June 28, 2010, 6:27 PM

I am stunned and disgusted that the author, hopefully having heard the victim’s testimony would suggest that given what she said it might be a matter of not understanding boundaries. THIS IS WHY WOMEN DO NOT COME FORWARD because the implication is that she was at fault. Whether or not it is true is a separate matter, but given what she said: repeatedly telling him “no” while he persisted, him grabbing her, holding her against her will, kissing her against her will, holding her down, etc., it is DISGUSTING that you suggest that it might just be a case of “boys will be boys”. Written by a doctor and a woman, I am truly stunned. Honestly, shame on you.

doctor? June 28, 2010, 6:35 PM

If you’re a doctor you should get out of the profession now because you lack an iota of professional understanding about what sexual assault is. Good job with perpetuating the idea that women ask for it and get what they deserve. God forbid, you ever have to deal with it. You’re a sham. This kind of pathetic article does a lot of harm to women.

Mike June 29, 2010, 3:55 AM

No one here seems to think that the opinion of the writer is valid. Well I do.

If I was considering (innocent) physical therapy but I thought the masseuse might have me up on a sexual assault charge if I got an erection, I’d be a lot less likely to be interested.

Seriously, if you’re providing this kind of treatment to a man and you cannot deal professionally and sensitively with an erection or two from the occasional client, you’re in the wrong job.

And if Al was a bit pushy? That may have been wrong, but a firm “no” is all that is needed: end of story. To have him up in court is disgraceful and clearly motivated by his wealth and public image. Some might consider this blackmail.

Anonymous June 29, 2010, 7:52 AM

You are so wrong Mike. I thought we were past the days when men were cave men who beat their chest and dragged women in the cave by their hair. Every women has a right to be educated and go into this profession if she wants to. I seriously doubt that the majority of women decide to became professional masseuse hoping that they can give “happy endings” to men. My sister studied hard to become a sport masseuse and I know that she would never lower herself to be anything less than totally professional with her clients. You have the senseless attitude that again blames women if they are too sexy and get raped. No women should have to go to work and fight off men who CAN’T control their erections.

Justin June 29, 2010, 7:55 AM

Have you guys ever had Cheetos? They are delicious.

Mike June 29, 2010, 9:24 AM

@Anonymous: Right. Respond to what you’d like me to have said, rather than what I did say.

At no point did I suggest that women (or men - who’s being sexist now?) would or should choose this profession in the knowledge that they would want, be required or even be asked to provide “Happy Endings”. Your caveman comment was nonsense, but if you need to resort to insult to belittle my argument, it doesn’t say much for yours.

Perhaps you can explain how believing therapists should be grown-up about arousal (that the client might be more embarrassed about than the therapist) is even on the same page as blaming a rape victim for the attack? That’s a terrible thing to say. And ask you sister about the parasympathetic nervous response: erections are not always under a man’s control during a massage or a signal that he’s expecting anything but professionalism from the therapist. To suggest that any man with a stiffy needs to be “fought off” is ridiculous and insulting.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this woman was entirely in it for the cash (do you think that couldn’t happen?), how could Al Gore or anyone else defend themselves against that sort of behaviour if people like you pop up and try to claim that any attempt at defense is somehow taking us back to prehistory?

Dave June 29, 2010, 9:43 AM

OK, because of ideology, we can say ALGORE could not have done anything wrong. The (false) message he spews is more important than his actions.

Leigh June 29, 2010, 11:12 AM

Had any of the Al Gore defenders read the reports of the woman’s detailed statement, they would know that most of their defences of Al Gore’s conduct fall apart. It is repeated sexual assault on and off the massage table. It is not a matter of “works for some, doesn’t work for others”.

Ridiculous that in this era we still have women 100% to blame for being sexually assaulted.

Mike June 29, 2010, 12:21 PM

@Leigh: I assume you’re including me in that.

I don’t know what happened - I wasn’t there. It might have been quite unpleasant and I’m certainly not even slightly defending Gore if it was. But neither were you, so you shouldn’t give any more credence to her story than can be backed up independently and the decision was taken not to launch a criminal prosecution because there wasn’t enough evidence. Arguments don’t fall apart because of what one side claims.

It’s ridiculous to equate being suspicious of her story (her story she sold for an incredible amount of money but not to the Washington Post or New York Times, but to the National Enquirer) with blaming all women “100%” for sexual assault. Like the anonymous correspondent earlier, you are responding to arguments that no one made because they’re the only ones you can debate.

A. Hick June 29, 2010, 10:52 PM

I lot of people here are dancing around the obvious. Gore (or any man) getting a spontaneous erection during a massage has nothing, in itself, to do with sexual assault. Neither has not being able to “control” whether or not he might get an erection during a massage. Such a thing could be a little embarrassing for either or both parties depending on expectations or assumptions. If the guy is expecting it to be a true medical massage only, probably more embarrassing for him. If he is under the mistaken assumption that the provider will provide a “happy ending” for such an occurance, both might end up pretty embarrassed once the subject is discussed.

Now if he grabbed her and kissed her, and demanded she jerk him off after she said that would not be part of the service, that would be assault. That seems to be what this masseuse has alleged about Al. It all hinges on how credible you think her story is.

The doctor is right about one thing: the massage industry, taken as a whole, is nebulous at best. Without any intent to insult true medical professionals who takes their jobs seriously, it is nonetheless accurate to say a lot of even “licensed” or “certified” massage providers do often stray willingly into sexual services, often illegal under the laws of the states that license them. Many Midwestern and Southern states define any sort of “erogenous” touching of the genitals during a compensated massage as illegal. I have no idea what the statutes in Oregon say about this.

If most of this is true, Gore is a man of monumental stupidity. And the doctor’s (I suspect deliberately ironic) statement that men can’t think straight during an erection because of blood flow is equally stupid, if she actually meant it seriously.

MassageMaven June 30, 2010, 9:26 AM

I’m glad that most of the comments in here challenge the writer’s lame argument. The doctor’s writings are shameful for several reasons. As a licensed massage therapist, owner of a best rated clinic and an employer of many massage therapists, I am struck by the doctor’s ignorance and arrogance. She appears to know nothing about therapeutic massage and the way she speaks about “happy endings” shows me that she lacks the moral foundation and credibility that a healthcare professional should have, especially a PhD. I can’t help but to wonder how the doctor would have handled this article if the accused were George W. Bush. Doctor, are you blinded by leftist stupidity?

shane June 30, 2010, 1:02 PM

Classic case of a person that is so in love with a sleazy politician that they would throw a decent woman under the bus to protect a liar.

Reminds me of the Clinton years when all the women came forward that Clinton groped, cheated with, and tried to rape. I remember how the media turned all the women into the monsters. Later we find out after a blue dress and a lot of lies that Bill was the monster.

anonymous June 30, 2010, 1:05 PM

Gores actions speak of guilt.

They guy has been avoiding the public spot light for months now. He has said nothing about the oil spill.

He refuses to answer any media question on the incident.

When a loud mouth like this shuts up you know something is up.

Matt July 1, 2010, 9:46 AM

Al Gore has done plenty to shred his own credibility in the past so this deserves to be looked into.

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