Hello dear reader, I’m not sure if you noticed, but the world has kind of exploded with sexual harassment/sexual abuse news. I’ve been just kind of rolling with it to the best of my ability. It is ultimately a good thing that this is all coming out. But I’d really like to address some things I’ve been hearing… address them with rage.
OMG! We’re all going to be prudes and NEVER have fun AGAIN.
Ok, first of all, what the fuck do you do for fun? How the hell does “remembering that other people don’t exist for you to torture them” infringe on your fun times? Maybe you’re an asshole who doesn’t deserve to have your “fun.” Ever thought of that?
Oh. OOOHHH. You weren’t saying you’re sad that you don’t get to make other people miserable? You were just saying:
It could’ve been a mistake! Those dudes were just keeping things friendly and casual!
There’s a saying I learned when I was studying music that applies here: Once is a mistake; twice is a habit.
I won’t say that I’ve never made a co-worker or friend uncomfortable with stupid shit that I’ve said and done. Stuff happens, we’re all human. BUT! But once I realized that I did stupid shit, I stopped doing it.
And for the record, the stupid shit I’ve done does not include making people fear for their fucking safety when they’re in my presence. It doesn’t include making people worry whether or not I’ll make them do stuff they hate to keep a job or a good reputation. Because once you start making people uncomfortable and then move on to making them afraid, you have a fucking MO. It’s not a mistake.
If you make people uncomfortable by giving surprise back rubs and they act like your hands are covered in spikes AND THEN YOU TRY TO GIVE MORE BACK RUBS IT IS NOT A MISTAKE. If you make weird sex comments after people tell you to stop or do that thing where they really want to tell you to stop but are scared to do it and you know and they know that you know, IT IS NOT A MISTAKE.
If you really listen to victims’ stories, you’ll hear how fast things happened, how quickly control was taken from them, and how deliberately things were done. It wasn’t a fucking mistake.
Ok, well, but:
You can’t really blame someone for feeling attraction. How will we be able to sexual relationships without acting on it/being persistent? (Also she’s flattering herself/misremembering.)
The usual response to feeling attraction is not disgusting and scaring the shit out of people. It says a lot about out society by how often people are willing to conflate sexual predation and/or sexual harassment with sexual attraction.
Let’s first address whether or not a person (in this case, usually women) can tell whether or not someone is attracted to them. Most women are told in large and small ways that they are broken, disgusting hags, so most of the time, for most women, they will not believe someone is attracted to them if they are not. I think a lot of women even have (at least) one story about someone trying to flirt up a storm and they didn’t even realize it.
Now, can someone show their attraction without being skeevy? Even at work? Yes! Usually it’s through things like making an effort to talk to the person you’re attracted to and doing things you think they’ll like, such as getting a them cup of coffee or trying to make them laugh. If I’m being perfectly honest even the less genteel version of attraction isn’t necessarily skeevy. Sometimes, I can tell that a dude’s feelings consist not of “You walk in beauty like the night,” and more of “I’d be really happy if you wanted to touch my penis,” and maybe I don’t want to but I’m not nervous. You know why? The important part is if you wanted. Because people who don’t get off on other people’s discomfort care about consent, even if they can’t articulate it well.
People who actually care about other people will stop their displays of attraction whether they consist of small gestures or ostentatious flirtation if those displays are unwelcome. Because continuing to do stuff that someone doesn’t like means you probably don’t like that person very much or don’t respect them. I know people like to act like dudes are stupid, meaty, hormone bags who don’t understand that a weak smile and a hesitant, “Hunh. Yeah. Great,” is not encouragement. But most of people understand what are called “soft noes.” It just so happens that shitty people CHOOSE not to “understand” when it’s self-serving: https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/
But what if they couldn’t tell other people didn’t want it? Maybe they’re awkward/don’t socialize well/have autism.
If you’re the kind of person who would group sexual predators with people with autism, then I fucking hate you. I have seen over and over again randos on the internet trying to cover awful people by throwing those with disabilities under the bus. As if people with autism have no idea how to behave and naturally make other people uncomfortable or even afraid. As if people with autism don’t work their asses off to work within a society and social conventions that don’t work with them. Fuck off with that shit.
I’m not saying that people with autism can’t also sexually harass people, but autism and harassment are not connected. At all. Having a disability doesn’t mean that someone isn’t in control of their behavior.
Now, moving on to the whole “He’s just awkward!” thing.
I’ve known PLENTY of awkward people who didn’t whip their dicks out while cornering someone or say gross shit out of earshot of everyone else or were somehow awkward enough to “not know any better” and yet carefully include plausible deniability in all their actions. If these people were only awkward or socially inept: 1) You would be able to tell them about their behavior, and they would apologize and be embarrassed. They would stop that behavior. 2) They wouldn’t be playing the system so fucking well.
Let’s also remember that telling someone, “He’s just awkward,” is also saying, “I don’t give jack shit about your comfort or well being.” If you actually have awkward friends that need help socializing, you talk to them about how they can do better; it’s doing them a goddamn favor. If you tell everyone who just happens to be mistreated by this person that they’re imagining things/taking things too personally/need to just suck it up and deal with someone else being terrible, then you’re complicit. You’re complicit, and you have drawn a line in the sand.
But I didn’t know.
The fuck you didn’t. Of course you knew. Your “I didn’t know” is the same flavor as their “I didn’t know”: you’re trying to excuse yourself. You’re trying to excuse all the thousands of tiny indignities you inflicted when you shut someone down, when you told them to be quiet, to not make a scene, when you kept inviting that same asshole to events and watched other people stop showing up, when you ignored the body language of people who felt unsafe, when you tried to make their fear seem illogical, when you defended a predator because of “talent” and “art” as if other talent and art wasn’t lost because of them, when you positioned your sneering disbelief as neutrality and lack of bias, when you laughed at shitty jokes instead of speaking up, when you made shitty jokes to fit in, when you chose to believe a predator’s weird, convoluted lie instead of a victim’s hard truth, and on, and on, and on.
It’s not that you didn’t know; it’s that you didn’t care. Because victims didn’t deserve to be people in the same way you got to be, not to you. The only reason you even care at all now is because you’re afraid for yourself. If the sexual harassment in the news doesn’t make you sad or angry or both, but worried, then you deserve all the shit that’s coming to you.