Since October 2017 when the movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, was accused of multiple acts of rape and sexual violence in the US and in the UK, the term “sexual misconduct” has been constantly in the news. At the last count, the number of women who have spoken up, and denounced Weinstein has risen to 82.
During this time, several legal terms assigned to sexual have been used by journalists, whose meanings seem to overlap; sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
According to Wikipedia, sexual misconduct comprises all of the above, and it is defined as any conduct of a sexual nature that is without consent, or has the effect of threatening or intimidating the person against whom such conduct is directed. Wikipedia does not mention when this broad term was first created nor if there are any exceptions. I was wondering if the following case could be an exception.
On January 2nd, 2018, the American senator of Minnesota, Al Franken, will resign from the Senate due to accusations of sexual misconduct by eight women. The first of the eight accusations–and the most damning– was a photo showing the then-comedian Franken pretending (there was no actual physical contact) to grope a woman's breasts while she was sleeping. The photo was taken in 2006.
I wonder if he had drawn a moustache on her face, or duct-taped her and a man to their seats, would the term sexual misconduct still have been used? I have a feeling it would have. Although I would classify these pranks as being childish; disrespectful and potentially humiliating for the victims involved, somehow the term “misconduct” seems to be used ubiquitously and has recently earned darker and more sinister overtones.
For elucidation I searched on Etymonline, while the entry for misconduct is brief and to the point, the dictionary completely fails to mention its related expression, sexual misconduct
1710, "bad management, neglect;" see mis- + conduct (n.). Meaning "wrong conduct" is attested from 1729.
What is the current meaning and history of the term sexual misconduct? Is its meaning changing in light of recent events?
Did this phrase originate in the UK or in the US?