miss_s_b: (Feminist Heroes: Kate Beckett)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I suspect that in certain quarters this is not going to win me any friends. I don't rightly care. Those of you of a nervous disposition might want to scroll on past right now...


Hello those who are still here. You may or may not have noticed that sexual harrassment is something of a hot button topic in the lib dems, and indeed politics in general, at the moment. This is because, despite years and years of being told over and over again, some people (mainly, but not exclusively, men) refuse to get it. I am therefore going to put this in very simple terms.

The worst thing about sexual harrassment is the absolute, wearying, relentless inevitability of it. If you present as female, wherever you go there will be some arsehole, normally a man, and I'm afraid the rest of this post is going to be entirely in gendered terms because that's my experience*, who views you as nothing more than a receptacle for his knob and treats you accordingly.

And yes, #NotAllMen. But enough men. Enough men for it to be a hazard in every single public place. Enough men that other, nicer, men don't stop from sexually harrassing because they don't even notice it happening, or if they do notice they brush it off, dismiss it, or even think it's funny.

And yes, women don't always tell such men that their advances are unwanted. Because we know what happens if we do.

I can hear the cry building up right now:
But waaaaaaaaah what is a man who wants a shag and fancies a woman supposed to do! We're not even allowed to talk to women any more! It's so unfair! Our entitlement to consequence-free sex is being taken away! etc. etc et bloody cetera.
You know how I know that cry is building up from the men who view women as nothing more than pieces of meat? Because on every single fucking article some poor woman writes about this, that's what the comment section looks like. Waaaaah not allowed to be friendly. Waaaaaah not allowed to give people a hug. Waaaaaaaah not allowed to flirt. Waaaaaaaaaaaaah not allowed to grope somebody and then pretend it was just an affectionate gesture. The species will die out if we can't conduct mating rituals without paying any attention to one party's feelings on whether or not mating should occur!

Boys, when you say shit like that, you are fooling nobody. Right out of your own mouth comes the evidence that you think of women as sperm receptacles first and human beings second, because you know what? Nobody who wasn't worried they are a sexual harrasser would talk such utter bollocks. You are not entitled to a shag just because you want one, go and have a wank just like everybody else does when they fancy someone who doesn't fancy them back, and stop bloody whining like Kevin the teenager because you can't get your end away.

You are absolutely allowed to talk to women. I speak to men all the time. I spoke to several only this morning. Quite a lot of the men I spoke to, we were both in a state of undress (I went to the gym and swimming). Only one man sexually harrassed me today (today was a quiet day for entitled arseholes, I guess). Most of them were lovely. But that one man is enough to make me keep my distance a little bit more from all men, because who knows if any of them is Scroedinger's Rapist. So if you want women to feel safer and easier talking to you? You, as a man, need to notice, call out, and stop sexual harrassment.

You are absolutely allowed to be friendly to women. "Being friendly" and "trying to get into the pants of" are not synonyms though. I have lots of friends that I don't have sex with.

You are absolutely allowed to hug or have other affectionate contact with women if they are your friends, and you know for a damn straight fact they are enthusiastically consenting. If you've just met someone in a bar, putting your arm around them marks you out as a creeper, guys. And just because nobody has said anything does not mean you are not being marked as a creeper. You put your arm around someone and they immediately tense up? You take your arm away. Not rocket science.

You are absolutely allowed to flirt with women. The trick to this is: is she flirting back? If she's got a genuine, open smile, if she's responding to you in kind, then flirt away! If she's backing away, answering in monosyllables, looking at the door, giving you a glassy smile rather than a genuine one... You need to back the fuck off and shut the fuck up because she is not interested in you. She may not outright say "Look, mate, I'm not interested", because as the links above show, that can get you beaten, raped, or killed. Learn to read body language, and you will be fine. Guys who master this skill are way more attractive to women, because when a guy treats us with respect we feel such relief that he's not One of Them...

Ah yes, Them.

You see, the thing is, the research shows that actually, pretty much all men understand this. But the sexual harrassers, assaulters and rapists are the ones who trot out the shit about grey areas and being confused by it because that's how they get away with it. So I'm sorry to break it to you, boys, but every time I see one of you coming out with some of these gems, I think to myself "that dude is an uncaught rapist". Quite a lot of you are, you know. Many of you will cheerfully admit to it, so long as nobody uses the 'r' word.

And as long as nice men, normal men, men who aren't sexual harrassers, assaulters and rapists, keep letting this shit get trotted out again and again by their mates because "Simon** wouldn't do that, he's a good guy" or "David***'s such a gentleman, though" then this situation is going to continue.

And we're going to keep having the "but whyyyyyyy don't more women want to join our club?" discussion for years and years to come. Frankly, AWS isn't even a sticking plaster on this.



*I know sexual assault, harrassment, and rape happens to men too. I know survivors of male rape have it extra difficult in terms of not being believed, and not getting justice. I rage about that too, just not in this post. OK?
**Not all Simons
***Not all Davids
I just picked those names randomly. Sorry.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 03:40 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
See also http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/she-wanted-to-do-her-research-he-wanted-to-talk-feelings.html which was my latest instalment of learning "this crap happens everywhere, no, really, everywhere".

(I may have ranted with m'mother a bit last night on this very topic.)

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 04:12 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I know :-)

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 11:11 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I mean, what started the rant was me talking about a the older man I ended up sat next to at the theatre who just wanted to enthuse at me at length about all the lovely theatre productions in Cambridge while waiting for the play to start.

Never mind if I wanted to sit quietly or read the programme or my phone or whatever, as a younger woman on my own, I was obviously there to provide him with an attentive audience for his enthusiasm. And to be told about all the upcoming productions I might enjoy (which I knew about already).

Not anywhere near as serious as sexual harassment, but the sense of entitlement was pretty wearing.

Date: Saturday, March 19th, 2016 09:04 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
Yup! So I didn't make a fuss because I just wanted to see the play without 3 hours of sitting next to an *offended* entitled older man.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] newandrewhickey.livejournal.com
Absolutely. And one thing I want to add -- if you *can't* read body language, if you *can't* tell if she's interested or not, *just don't flirt*.
There are people, myself included, who can't do those things (it's one way my Aspergers manifests itself), and it's really, really horrible. But if you can't do something that would be fun without the strong risk of hurting other people, you just don't do it, unless you're an utter arsehole.
I've basically never deliberately flirted (the *very* small number of relationships I've been in have involved the women making all the running, for that precise reason) and that *is* a horrible gap in my experiences. But it's nowhere *near* as horrible as it would be to be a sexual harasser and be harming other people.
(I also try, just in case, to make it very clear to any women or female-presenting friends that I do have deficient social skills, *BUT THAT I WILL TAKE ANY SUGGESTION THAT I AM OVERSTEPPING BOUNDARIES ABSOLUTELY SERIOUSLY*. In the worst-case scenario that someone *does* read an innocent action of mine as being harassing, I want them to be utterly comfortable with telling me so, and knowing that my reaction will be to apologise, attempt to make what amends I can, and try never to do it again, not to say "you bitch, I was only having a bit of fun" or similar).

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 10:49 pm (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Yes, I often see "what about the guys with Aspergers???" as a straw man in these debates. However, the vast majority of guys with Aspergers may occasionally be inappropriate (particularly in a group with neurotypical men) but they step back quickly and apologise, and, importantly, they don't do it again. The harassers are the ones who have the social skills to know when to push boundaries and they do it all the time.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 11:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] newandrewhickey.livejournal.com
Yep. *Some* men with Asperger's may well be sexually-harassing fuckwits, but that's because they're sexually-harassing fuckwits, not because they have Asperger's, and it's horribly ableist to claim otherwise.
I'm terrible at knowing the right behaviour in a social context, so I tend to avoid putting myself into such contexts, do as little interacting as possible when I have to socialise (except with those I know well), and check constantly that what I'm doing is right. That's what most aspies do, in my experience.
And even so, I do know *some* things -- touching people without their consent, making sexual comments to people you don't know, and so on -- are wrong, because I've been told, and also because despite the myths I have empathy.

You're right of course that it's neurotypical men who take advantage of the leeway about this sort of thing -- finding boundaries and pushing them ever so slightly -- in a way that autistic men simply wouldn't be capable of. Not only that, but their victims are disproportionately autistic women, because their own lack of social skills, poor ability to interpret others' actions, lack of as much social support network, and (occasionally) disinhibition combine to make them the perfect victims for sexual predators.

Of course, giving neurotypical men a license to prey on autistic women while claiming you're doing it to protect autistic people is pretty much par for the course when it comes to attitudes to autism...

Date: Monday, March 21st, 2016 11:33 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I love this whole post and the sub thread about Aspergers. As a non out Aspergers male within the Lib Dems I have always struggled to understand how people are supposed to deal with some of these issues but never felt able to comment for fear of getting my head blown off. But now I see that the reason I struggle is because I cannot read either facial expressions or body language myself. Like the commenter above I have only really ever been in relationships where the woman has made the first (and usually very overt) move. As an amusing aside my current partner got quite annoyed with another woman who apparently was flirting with me - needless to see I was completely unaware! Anyway thank you both for enlightening me

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 04:09 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is why I apply the rule of "Consent is necessary, but not sufficient. Enthusiasm is best."

A

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 04:29 pm (UTC)
ext_550458: (Default)
From: [identity profile] strange-complex.livejournal.com
Very, very, very well said. I will be sharing in the hope of helping it to reach some of the men who need to read it.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] magister
On the one hand, it's very encouraging how supportive, agreeable and downright sensible responses to this have been.

On the other hand, it's fucking dispiriting how different the comments thread on Lib Dem Voice has been. What a bunch of entitled cocks.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC)
nickbarlow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nickbarlow
The comments thread is relatively tame compared to the LDV forum, which has recently featured a thread full of men complaining that there weren't enough middle-aged men speaking in the diversity debate at conference.

Date: Saturday, March 19th, 2016 07:08 am (UTC)
nickbarlow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nickbarlow
I have actually pointed out a couple of times that a group of men discussing and deciding that they know best about feminism is rather stupid. The response was that I should go and persuade more women to join the forum not for them to wonder why almost all the women who have posted there in the past no longer do.

Date: Friday, March 18th, 2016 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] magister
TBF, white middle aged men are a grossly under represented group...

Learn to read body language

Date: Monday, March 21st, 2016 10:13 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I found this interesting and useful, until the 'body language' bit. I have never been able to read women's body language and I have never found anyone who would teach. They just say "Ah it comes naturally mate". Not for me it doesn't.

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