OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Two women, both Democrats, say they aren't accusing former Vice-President Joe Biden of sexual harassment, but they do say he crossed a boundary.
"I'm not in any way suggesting that I felt sexually assaulted or sexually harassed. I felt invaded," said Lucy Flores, a Democrat and former Nevada State Assemblywoman on the "Kasie DC" program on MSNBC.
Amy Lappos, a Connecticut Democrat, says she was a campaign aide for another politician when Biden came to an event and approached her in the kitchen with other volunteers present.
"He walked up to me and wrapped his hands around my face like that and pulled me and started rubbing noses with me," said Lappos, "It didn't feel sexual, it just felt like a total invasion of my space
Flores and Lappos say Biden's behavior was inappropriate behavior which THE Democratic party should not dismiss...As just being affection or friendly old school campaign contact.
That was echoed by Biden's friend and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi who said 2019 is a different world in this era of the #metoo movement.
"I think that it's important for the vice president and others to understand is it isn't what you intend, it's how you are received," said Speaker Pelosi.
Professor Margo Okazawa-Rey teaches at Mills College in both the Department of Public Policy and the Department of Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She says past notions of acceptable conduct have shifted.
"Just because something was done in the past doesn't mean that it was okay then," said Professor Okazawa-Rey, "I think the standards are being made very explicit, like they weren't before because women, women's movements didn't have the kind of voice that we have now. And we didn't have the kind of media exposure."
Professor Okazawa-Rey notes that what is perceived as acceptable contact depends on many factors and it's important for people to ask some fundamental questions.
"What's the relationship between the two people? What's the power difference between the two people? What are the racial and class dynamics between the two people?" she said.
Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, says in her case a 2015 video of Biden holding her shoulders and whispering in her ear while her husband speaks at a podium was not offensive to her
"The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful," Carter said in a statement.
"This is the particular political moment in which we're living...different tests of what proper, in particular, male conduct is in politics," said James Taylor, a University of San Francisco Professor of Politics.
Taylor says all candidates in the 2002 election will need to be vigilant.
Some spoke in support of Flores and Lappos.
"I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country." said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I), a 2020 presidential candidate whose 2016 campaign staff dealt with their own sexual misconduct allegations.
"We need to live in a nation where people can hear her truth," said another Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.
Professor Taylor says these allegations against Biden, which come before he has officially declared his candidacy, might delay but not necessarily derail any Biden presidential campaign.
"I think they're trying to buy time to see how this plays out," says Taylor, "As those heads of the Democrats assess the viability of Joe Biden's campaign in relationship to these issues. They'll tell him up front, you have a viable campaign or you don't."
Professor Okazawa-Rey says despite the polarized political climate, this issue should be bipartisan and both Democrats and Republicans should agree to hold everyone to the same standards. Moving forward, she says into the upcoming campaign, the responsiblity rests with the candidates and all people in positions of power to set clear boundaries that show respect for people's personal space.