How Will They Learn Without A Teacher?

Saturday over on TGH, I posted #TheOtherMeToo in which I confessed I have been guilty of sexual harassment. What I did was minor compared to what many men have done, and what most women have experienced, but it was wrong none-the-less.

How Will They Learn Without A Teacher?

Some will argue I should have known what I did was wrong, or that I should have realised the girls involved might feel bad about what I did. Yes, I should have, but how could I if no one explained it to me? If a girl had done such things the vast majority of boys would have been all about it. Even those who were not interested would have been proud of the fact a girl wanted to do that with them. And, they would have had no problem saying, “thanks, but no thanks” or something similar. Given how we were being told men and women are the same, treating them as we would like them to treat us seemed like a valid idea.

None of this is an attempt to excuse myself, and it certainly doesn’t apply to more aggressive forms of harassment and abuse. However, if I’d know these things might make a girl feel uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have done them. I might have asked about them rather than just going for it, and that would certainly have been better.

Some will argue things have changed in the last 40 years. I’d say not as much as we want to think. Just today I was watching some teens. A couple of boys were throwing leaves at one of the girls, who was running and screaming and saying no. But she kept coming back to give them another chance. It was just innocent fun, but the girl was teaching the boys that “no” doesn’t always mean no. In a few years, those boys may hear a no in a sexual situation and apply the lesson they learned with the leaves. It’s not right, and it’s certainly a bit of hearing what you want, but if no one ever talks to them about it, how will they know?

My dad told me sex was for marriage. That’s great. (It would have been nice if he’d told me what qualified as sex, but that’s another issue.) But once I crossed that line, I had zero guidance. He never told me girls may be too scared or shocked or polite to say no. He never told me no is no, and by the way saying nothing should also be taken as a no. I wish I had known yes means yes, and everything else means don’t act, ask.

Fathers absolutely have an obligation to educate their children, both boys and girls about this issue. But you ladies should also be involved too, and with your sons as well as your daughters. I know it’s not a comfortable conversation, but think of all the pain and suffering it could prevent.

Yes, some guys are jerks who will take as much sex as they can with any woman they can. But most of us are really pretty decent and we don’t want to take advantage of the ladies in our life. Give a decent guy a good understanding of this and he won’t sexually harass anyone.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m sorry for all the harassment great and small you ladies have had to deal with.

BTW, I mentioned to the men on Sunday that I’ve done a poor job of asking for donations this year. If you value what we do, please consider helping out.

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13 Comments on “How Will They Learn Without A Teacher?

  1. “Give a decent guy a good understanding of this and he won’t sexually harass anyone.” I would rephrase this to say he won’t “intentionally” harass anyone. Even when harassment is not intentional, it is still harmful.

    Patriarchy, sexism and misogyny are systemic, insidious and deeply ingrained. We all participate and often are not aware.

    • @StandingTall – I agree unintentional harassment is still harmful. But if you teach a decent guy what that looks like, he won’t do it.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Believe Her!My Profile

      • I don’t think it’s as simple as saying “don’t do this.” I think we must all be constantly aware of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny and talk about their daily appearances in our daily lives.

  2. “If a girl had done such things the vast majority of boys would have been all about it. Even those who were not interested would have been proud of the fact a girl wanted to do that with them.”

    This is actually a really interesting thought worth expanding into a separate blog post. It shows that some acts of sexual harassment are due to entirely different communication wiring and a different theory of mind. Not to excuse bad behavior; but this only underlines the need for training, because in cases where the intuitive action is not the best, moral rules must be taught and followed.

    What happens when “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is applied to someone who doesn’t see it the same way as you do? To actually apply this principle correctly requires a deep understanding of the other, not just of one’s own self.

    I would guess a simple majority of husbands would be thrilled if wife gave them a new tool (belt sander, pressure washer, etc.). Most wives are at all impressed with a gift of a new iron or vacuum cleaner; but these gifts are given because of this same miscommunication.

    I would guess a majority of men would appreciate the butt-slap every time their wife walks behind them; the comments I have seen from women on these blogs indicates that is not really appreciated by the majority of women the same way – and even then that is within the context of a marriage relationship – and this is not even talking about unwanted physical contact on the street by a stranger.

    I would guess that if a strange woman catcalled a man on the street the average man would walk a little more confidently and peacock a bit more, if only to himself. The normal situation in which the roles are reversed is harmful to most women because their entire perspective is different.

    And so on…. because the blind (ignorant of disparities in power and privilege) intuition of “x makes me feel good, I will make others feel good by doing x” is often faulty and x may not be well-received at all or even harmful.

    • This morning my running club had an interesting discussion. Two of the women were talking about how much fun it was to volunteer at the last race because of all the hot guys. I mentioned that if I said the same thing about women, they would consider it creepy. They agreed with that, and asked why. I pointed out it is unwelcome for women, it isn’t for men. If I got cat called by moms having coffee while I was running, I’d stop and flex for them, all the guys in the group agreed. Same would be if there was the stereotypical construction site where it was women whistling at men, the guys would run laps around it and soak up the attention. If my wife drunk groped me, I’d be all about it, not the other way around though.

      • I think there are dozens of factors to this good observation, and a primary one is simply the difference in average physical size and strength! There’s an instinctive self-protection that kicks in when a man you don’t know announces that he’s attracted to you and he’s technically capable of acting on his words.

        Maybe a man needs to imagine a scenario where other bigger men come onto him, some kind of targeted attention from people you’re not attracted to or remotely thinking about. Even if you can rationally assume it’s totally innocent or meant as a compliment, if it’s not what you want and you just know you’re smaller and weaker, it’s not a positive mix of emotions!

        • @Lizzy, the size thing might work, some guys are picked on by others because they are smaller. It is hard for men to get this with women, very few men would be physically afraid of even the most imposing female. The example that I can think of would be how prison is portrayed in the movies where one big guy rapes or assaults the smaller men. It is unwanted, and the person has the power to do it whether you agree or not.

          That just isn’t how most guys see this. They would not usually see a woman’s advances as unwanted, unless they were afraid that woman would make a SH claim against them. Most guys would smile and enjoy being physically objectified (temporarily) by women, they perceive a number of things completely differently than a woman in the same situation would.

          • @Andrew
            “They would not usually see a woman’s advances as unwanted”

            It’s interesting that many women become uncomfortable with unwanted sexual attention whereas, a good many men would love that type of attention.

            Do you think it might be because it’s all about the sex?

            Sexual attention ‘often’ means sexual intention.
            Most guys seem to enjoy both.
            My opinion only, it’s because their sense of self (ego) is tightly tied to their sexuality and masculinity which thrives on that type of attention.

            Women, on the other hand, are usually more about the relationship.
            For most (not all) women, sexual attention or intention is unwelcome outside the context of a relationship.

            Then there is always the fear that a man’s sexual attention or intentions or urges might get the better of him and transform Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde.

            It’s a wonderful lesson for the younger generation to learn.
            Men and women view sexual attention differently, under different circumstances .
            It’s important to clearly know where the other one stands. Ask.
            It’s important to clearly express where you stand when you are uncomfortable. Tell.

            I was drilled to never “lead a guy on.” Does that expression even exist anymore?

            • @Jolie – I think the threat thing Lizzy touched on is a major part of this. No guy fears being forced into sex by a woman, while I’m sure almost every woman has feared being forced by at least a few men. Any sense of enjoying the attention would be undermined by the fear it might become far more.

              The whole “lead a guy on” thing is such a mess. When I was a teen that was a backhanded way of blaming girls for those times when a guy took something she wasn’t offering. “It’s not my fault, she wore a short skirt and flashed her panties at me several times.” She was stylish and unaware and he used it as an excuse to force himself on her.
              But that said, there is some reality in it. Her actions are not “asking for it” but if he thinks they are she is putting herself in danger. To give an example, I’ve read that when people hit dogs they usually do it with an open hand. This makes the open hand threatening to such a dog, while a fist is not threatening. Knowing this, I show strange dogs my fists. I think we must teach our daughters how boys think not to tell them that’s right, but that’s reality. I agree girls “shouldn’t have to do those things” to be safe, but if those things make them safer then I want them to know.
              Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Letting GoMy Profile

              • Wish I could remember where I saw this quote:

                “because what men fear most about going to prison is what women fear most about walking down the sidewalk.”

                Hits home.

            • @Jolie, I think part of it is that the attention is thrown at women constantly, whereas men see it as a novelty. Beyond that, your point about masculinity being tied to sexuality has merit. Men want to be desired by women, this would be ego massaging.

              @Paul is also correct, since being physically forced is not a concern it really allows them to only see the positive outcomes of the situation.

  3. Perhaps men should ask themselves how they would feel if other men treated them the way they treat women.

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