I Am a Shitty Feminist

So I’m reading this article about catcalls and how men make women feel uncomfortable with overt sexual advances:

A guy at a bar saying he wants to buy me a drink because I’m cute followed by a hand on my thigh. A business meeting where a man interrupts my discussion of the contract to inform me he thinks we would have great sex. A man standing on my lawn right outside my study window, watching me. A man standing beside me at a crowded bar, crossing his arms to hide his fingers as they reach toward me to caress my breast through my blouse.

It’s really easy to read this and sort of roll your eyes. Like, Jesus, these are just people who are demonstrating their attraction to you. Yes, they’re obviously coming on too strong and they should tone it down, but this attention is fundamentally positive. I can imagine a guy reading this and saying ‘I’d love it if a woman did that to me!’

You could compare this with gay male culture, in which explicit sexual advances are known as ‘small talk’. Getting this kind of attention from creepy old dudes is par for the Friday night course, and I never come home traumatized. Can’t these women just get over it?

This is an objectively shitty attitude and, I imagine, one of the primary factors preventing this kind of low-grade sexual harassment from being taken seriously as a kind of bullying.

When I guy thinks ‘this wouldn’t bother me,’ he’s probably envisioning himself being aggressively pursued by a (probably decent-looking) female.

I think it would be instructive for men to instead imagine of a scenario in which they are aggressively tickled by a 300-pound bald man in a prison jumpsuit. ‘What, you don’t like this?’ he would say, picking you up and slinging you over his shoulder. ‘I’m just playing.’

It’s not the harassment itself that creates the anxiety for women. It’s the implied threat of violence. This is why muscled gay men over 6’4” should make it their duty to sexually harass fratboys at least once per week. For solidarity.

10 Comments

Filed under America, Serious

10 responses to “I Am a Shitty Feminist

  1. elephantwoman

    I don’t think you can claim that this attention is fundamentally positive — but that aside, reading this somehow made me think about an older friend of mine, who’s gay, and he’s experienced serious sexual harrassment in the past from women who became completely infatuated and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It became bullying because these were work contexts so that was why he didn’t explain he was gay — but he shouldn’t have to explain anything and no means no!

    • @elephantwoman. As a gay man, I’ve had the same thing happen to me a number of times in contexts where I haven’t come out. There have been women who didn’t take no for an answer, and who became angry and quite vindictive.

      The question, though, is whether I ever felt the threat of physical violence. No, but there was certainly unwarranted physical interference with my person, which didn’t stop after I made it clear such advances were unwelcome. And it went beyond what I would consider de minimis.

      And some of these were in a work context, so it was technically sexual harassment.

      @rottin and EW

      For a woman, does the possibility of physical violence from another who can overpower you make a difference? Does a verbal sexual advance, or even just a longing stare, imply a threat of such violence? (Remember that the threat of violence, technically, is an assault)

      Someone once said that gay men say hello with their dicks. Are men more open with their bodies, because they fear less for their safety, or care less about their bodily integrity?

      Remember, while women are victims of violence from men, men are victims of violence from other men with great frequency, too. I’m tempted to say that men are more often victims of violence from other men—65% of all murder victims are male according to the DoJ— but the instance of reported violence has declined and tended to even out between genders in recent years. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/vsx2.cfm

      And does being in a gay bar or sauna imply some sexual availability? That is, imply some consent? The answer, in those contexts, must surely be “no”, just as much as in any other public place. But does a touch, a stare, a compliment imply violence, or even disrespect your right to consent? That must always be judged in context.

      • elephantwoman

        @THH…I think your comment about bodily integrity is interesting. I’m sure that’s part of it.

        I wasn’t going to go into it all but I don’t know that the threat of violence is necessarily implied when someone (a man) hits on someone else (a woman) inappropriately. It’s more that it’s forceably intimate and disrespectful to the other’s personal boundaries. Maybe for most women, those boundaries are greater than they are for most (gay) men. All I can say is, from personal experience, it’s degrading being objectified so that you’re reduced to tits, legs and a vagina. But anyway, it’s all contextual.

        @Mike, I was also going to add that you’ve got a thick skin and random and unwelcome come-ons such as you describe would be like water off a duck’s back to you. I know I would get totally freaked out if creepy old dudes were hitting on me everytime I went out on a Friday night!

  2. Lol. Thanks for sharing this post. Check out a gay version of the “Shit Girls Say” video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWzJ88G5neI&feature=colike

    • Patrick

      With you all the way right up until…

      “It’s not the harassment itself that creates the anxiety for women. It’s the implied threat of violence.”

      Rude, crude sexual advances by men don’t imply a threat of violence. They imply self-centeredness, coarseness, and a lack of manners.

      99% of the men who behave that way towards women are not a violent threat. They’re just cretins. It’s easy to back those men off.

      Yes, violent men also score very high on those same undesirable traits but they’re coming from a different population altogether. It’s important, and not so hard, to spot the difference between the two.

      • I think it may be more that the women feel that there is a possible threat of violence implied in those acts. A man that acts that way and a woman who feels that negatively about the act are obviously on different wavelengths. While the man may just be a cretin, the woman can’t be sure of that. What if he gets mad that she isn’t interested and follows her out of the bar? That’s just one scenario that could be running through her head.

  3. Ccurtis

    When I hate the feel of someones touch I hate the feel of someones touch. They touch my breasts. I hate them and will make it hurt them. The threat of violence has nothing to do with it. The bodily integrity is what it is all about. My body. Don’t touch it in a sexual manner if you are not invited or you get hurt. The harrasser has the issues not me. Anyone who thinks otherwise should let me just trespass into their house anytime, make myself at home and leave a huge mess.

  4. Anonymous

    I appreciate this – “threat of violence” to me doesn’t mean I think men behaving this way have violent intentions, but instinctively, as a woman and thus physically weaker than most guys, come-ons are essentially physically intimidating on a basic level. A woman has to be on her guard, especially if she is not inviting the sexual attention, so as not to find herself in over her head later. And who wants to deflect pick-up lines in a business meeting? Moments like that are demeaning for a woman trying to maintain a professional image.

    As a teenager, when I first experienced cat-calling on walks to school and internships, I remember mentioning in passing to my own father how annoying and intimidating I found it. His guileless response was that I should just feel flattered. It’s nice to read a brief and rare validation of my annoyance, so thanks!

  5. Danny Campbell

    91% of United States rape victims were female and 9% were male, with 99% of the offenders being male and 1% of the offenders being female (the exact accuracy of this statistic of course has to be taken with a grain of salt but the gist is indisputable) . It is not as safe for a woman to walk around alone at night as it is for a man. This is why unwanted advances are generally different and creepier for women.

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