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Jeffrey Toobin: An Explainer

The name Jeffrey Toobin has been flying around the internet in the last few days in connection with a Zoom related scandal. The whole fiasco is prompting questions about workplace etiquette in this work from home era. It’s also reraising the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Who is Jeffrey Toobin and What Did He Do?

Jeffrey Toobin is a writer for The New Yorker who is currently suspended from the magazine after he exposed himself on a Zoom call. The call was between staff writers for The New Yorker and employees of WNYC radio. They were working together to prepare for election night coverage.

In a break in the call, Toobin apparently switched over to a different call for the purposes of having Zoom-style phone sex. His colleagues then caught him masturbating on camera.

“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.” Toobin said in a statement. Toobin believed that no one on the Zoom call could see him.

The Larger Conversation

The incident has people talking about what is and is not appropriate on a Zoom call, and whether these mistakes should be tolerated. Many prominent male members of the media have rushed to Toobin’s defense. Obviously, masturbating in front of one’s coworkers is not a good thing to do. Many, however, have asked, if it is indeed an honest mistake, how much should one man be punished for an ill-timed session in his own home?

On the other hand, many have pointed out the double standard. Earlier in the summer, there was a great deal of discourse happening about whether or not a woman should be able to breastfeed on a Zoom call. Now, this comparison between masturbation and breastfeeding is in and of itself a problem. One involves self-pleasure, which while important, can absolutely wait until the work call is concluded. The other involves feeding a tiny, fragile young human, which cannot always wait. Also, one is a sexual act, while the other has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality.

Others still are asking why any reasonable person would ever masturbate on a work call. The act of potentially exposing one’s coworkers to such behavior, accidentally or otherwise, without consent is in and of itself sexual harassment. The issue is compounded by the fact that this is not Toobin’s first rodeo with sexually inappropriate behavior.

The New Yorker suspended Toobin, and he is on leave from his position as a legal analyst for CNN. It is yet to be seen how this incident will impact his career.

This is an important lesson to all in this video chat era. Be very, very careful. And always make sure your camera is off and muted before you do things your employer might frown upon.