I really didn’t think this piece had to be written. As late as this morning, I was like “Come on, Julie, no one is seriously defending Jeffrey Toobin jerking off during a work meeting.”
Then I hopped on Twitter. And behold!
There was this guy:
And this one:
German Lopez over at VOX at least had the decency to delete his — eventually:
But let’s back up. Jeffrey Toobin is a bad guy. You don’t need me to tell you that. You can read about it on the intertubes and see various tweets about it on the Twitter machine. He seems to have a long, storied, and fairly well-known history of sexually harassing and intimidating women.
So how does Toobin still have a job at CNN after being caught taking it out during a Zoom chat with colleagues? That’s a question for the powers that be at the network, but given what Brian Stelter, who covers the media for the CNN, had to say, I have a feeling I know why:
But see Jeffrey, whether or not you were visible isn’t really the problem here. The problem is that you were jerking off at work. You know, WORK? It’s called “work.” and not “Fun-Time Sexy Place” for a reason. And the fact that so many men are focused on the technical issues (he thought he muted Zoom chat! He didn’t know people could still see his video!), as opposed to the fact that Toobin was cranking it while on a work call with multiple women, including Jane Mayer and Sue Halpern.
I just finished writing a book with a chapter on sexual harassment in sports media workplaces, and nearly every woman I talked to mentioned things like finding porn on shared computers and walking in on male coworkers discussing female body parts in graphic detail. Given how many men in sports have been accused of sexual harassment and have gone on to have absolutely nothing happen to their careers (Peyton Manning, Isiah Thomas, Brett Favre, David Cone, the entire Washington Football organization, just to name a few), it’s not surprising that men have gotten the idea that taking out one’s dick at work is no big deal. Just locker room stuff. All guys do it.
A lot of guys out there seriously don’t get it, let’s be clear: You aren’t supposed to be jacking it at work. It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s not “boys being boys.” No one is going to see it and then decide they’re into it, no matter how many times you’ve seen that exact same scenario on PornHub.
It’s sexual harassment of your co-workers, even if they don’t know you’re doing it.
I know that last part is going to trip up a lot of dudes. I can already hear the screams: “But if they don’t know I’m doing it, how is it sexual harassment?”
First, if you’re unable to go through a standard work day without taking your dick out for any reason other than using the bathroom, you need serious help. I’ll send you a hotline number. Secondly, if you’re doing it at work, at least part of the thrill is... doing it at work? Because you’re not supposed to, right? And that means part of the thrill is the danger of getting caught. And if there’s a danger of getting caught, there’s a possibility that you WILL get caught. And that puts your co-workers in danger of walking in on you. And also... why do you have to do it at work, again? I really can’t get past that part.
But the thing is, not all guys do it at work. And the “work” part of this entire equation seems to be getting lost. No one is denying Toobin’s right to treat his body like an amusement park on his own private time. But work is not one’s private time. In fact, being on a Zoom call for work, video on or not, is the exact opposite of one’s private time.
And Toobin knew he wasn’t supposed to be doing it at work, either. Which is why he tried to mute the video.
Maybe it’s the preternatural nature of 2020 that has fried everyone’s brains. Maybe people equate Toobin’s “accident” to people who unintentionally get caught doing harmless embarrassing things on Zoom, like using the bathroom. Maybe we’ve heard so much about sexual harassment by powerful men that it just doesn’t register with us anymore.
As Kaitlin Byrd astutely said on Twitter: “PSA: Men, before you rush to defend masturbating in front of your colleagues, consider that you’re about to defend masturbating in front of your colleagues.”
2020 has been wild. So let’s reset.
Work is for work, not hitting on colleagues.
Working from home is working.
Leave your dicks in your pants at work.