While I was able to avoid most political discussion this Thanksgiving weekend, it did find its way into my ears on Saturday when I was talking with a male friend of mine. This friend told me about how many of his guy friends feel concerned about dating in the future because with women now coming forward about their sexual discomfort and how they felt pressured into sex or sexual situations, they might have a woman accuse them.
“How are you supposed to know you are doing something wrong if she doesn’t say something?” Now, when he was telling me this I had a kind of sarcastic smile on my face, the more he spoke it became clear to me that guys really worry about these things. He also directed me to an article in The Economist which showed how men and women view different things as sexual assault depending on age, nationality, and of course sex:
- In general, younger respondents were more likely to think that a behaviour crossed the line than their older peers were. For example, over half of British women under 30 said that wolf-whistling was unacceptable. Less than a fifth of those over 64 felt that way.
- Both sexes tended to have similar views on whether a man who places his hand on a woman’s lower back or comments on her attractiveness has gone too far. However, female respondents were much less tolerant of men looking at women’s breasts than their male counterparts were: among Americans 64 and older, for example, half of women but just a quarter of men said they would consider such ogling sexual harassment.
- Swedish men, for example, seem to feel entitled to make sexual jokes around women: only a quarter of them said such behaviour would be harassment. In contrast, three-quarters of American men expressed that opinion. Similarly, a quarter of French women under 30 believe that even asking to go for a drink is harassment, whereas almost none of their counterparts in Britain and Germany share that view.
The take away is that the definition of sexual harassment is one that is growing and changing the more women come forward and make their experiences known. Women are now reading other women’s assault stories and finding a vocabulary to describe feelings they have never been able to express before. Rape is no longer seen as just the stranger danger of a man in the alleyway, it could be someone who was kind to you, someone you liked taking advantage of, or not paying attention to, signs of your enjoyment. And that’s a good thing.
Men are afraid of being misinterpreted and it’s not just men who fear losing something. On the amazing podcast “Yo, Is That Racist?” that I have been binge listening to this weekend, an episode featuring comedian, Jessica Chaffin called “Harassment in Hollywood.” Chaffin spoke about how we have to be careful because there are cases where if a man catcalls her she would take it as a compliment so “we have to be careful about like, also totally destroying mating rituals and things like that” and that because of what it is going on she jokingly said, we have, “five years of the least sexy movies” on the way.
It is true that we do not have a set of guidelines in place to explain sexual consent or what sexual harassment is. Yes, it is also true that one woman can have one interpretation of sexual harassment that another may not have, but that means you should be having a conversation with the woman you are about to sleep with. I don’t think we need to have Christian Grey levels of contracts or even recordings of every woman you sleep with giving consent, but men need to understand that the reason why women sometimes do not say anything is out of fear.
Also, asking women if they want to have sex before penetration, is not gonna kill the mood. When you are on a date with a girl going in for a spontaneous kiss is totally hot, especially if you are vibing well. However, drunkenly trying to kiss someone especially someone you work with, is an invitation for trouble. The reason why people often say “don’t shit where you eat” when it comes to dating at work is that it can end badly, especially when one party holds a higher position of power.
Instead of asking “how am I supposed to know?” ask yourself “would that make her uncomfortable?” Be empathetic to the fact that your actions can make people uncomfortable. I have given women I’m attracted to complements, but I say it and then I go about my day. The idea that our “mating rituals” are going to be destroyed is ridiculous because while there is a paradigm shift right now, I know women who were coming up post-Anita Hill thought that what happened with her would be a shift as well. Also, no one is telling men or women not to flirt.
The answer to dealing with the consent crisis to talk more about the issue, not to have everyone wear bonnets.
Being paranoid about past sexual actions or habits should only be used as a way to ensure you do not make the same mistakes in the future. Do not use it as a way to turn yourselves into victims because you have a notion of women as manipulative people who just decided if something was or wasn’t assault on a whim. Flirt with people who are into you, and take no for an answer. Life is not a movie and kissing someone out of nowhere for dramatic tension is not something that happens. Don’t masturbate in front of women. Don’t ask out people who work for you. If you can’t hold your liquor, don’t go drinking with co-workers. If a woman isn’t responding to you in any way just move on.
When you ask for verbal consent women who want to have sex with you, will have sex with you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even give them an orgasm.
(via: The Economist, image: Shutterstock.com)
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