When Charlotte Bennett alleged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked her sexual questions in the confines of his Albany office, leading her to feel he was propositioning her for sex, his initial response was denial.

“I was trying to be a mentor to her,” he said in a statement published when Bennett’s allegations were made public. “I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.”

Mentorship, often touted as a gateway to a promotion or the next big career move for young professionals, was thrust into the spotlight by the #MeToo movement, which unveiled how powerful men, deeming themselves mentors or professional guides for younger female colleagues, team members or clients, sometimes abuse those relationships for sexual gain.

"'Mentorship' as a defense for sexually harassing conduct ... fits the larger myth that women frequently fabricate or exaggerate claims of sexual harassment, and often file false charges against men," said Lilia Cortina, professor of Psychology-Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan.

The drumbeat of women alleging negative experiences with men in power had a dampening effect on the mentorship space, and it likely underscored the myth that it is "dangerous" for men to mentor women and they should avoid taking on female proteges, Cortina said.

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