Harassment of Men
The past few days have seen a lot of stories of harassment on social media, and the beginning of men feeling bolder to say “I too have been sexually harassed”, often assuming they won’t be believed or they’ll be attacked for it. I guess there’s a couple things to say about this (and the predicted reactions from a Feminist Big Other that most of these posts fear.)
(I’m not really qualified to talk about what it feels like as a woman being harassed, so all I can say is my sympathy for them.)
First off, fighting fire with fire is dangerous territory. Many of those men (not all, but many) have felt an atmosphere in liberal circles that has become very hostile to insecure, low-status men, because of a pervasive assumption of male-guilt. Sexual assault is real, but so are misguided accusations, and both of them have ruined lives. A lot of rationalism was at least socially driven by a desire to push back against “guilty until proven innocent” social norms.
It’s always so tempting to fight back by first calling hypocrisy. Rather than stand up for IUPG, why not throw in a “men should get this protection too!”
I can’t say “don’t do that, don’t share your story.” But if your concern was “victim mentality” and an atmosphere of fear, giving both sides the opportunity is only going to double the fear, not cancel it out. The assumption that 50% of the population is guilty is not good, but the answer is not to say “100% of the population should be presumed guilty.”
(If you really think “the fights social justice have been picking are tactically sound, they just need to include my group too”, then by all means, take up their methods.)
Is this a story you need to share because it’s burning your chest until you get it out, or are you trying to balance some political scales? My support if the former, but if the latter… think about what you want to stand for.
Obviously there’s going to be feminist pushback against these harassment of men stories, and it will feature “it’s different when it happens to a man. Because of the patriarchy.”
The thing is: this isn’t wrong. Context really does matter. Given the subliminal threat of violence, a governmental and economic playing field tilted to men, romantic narratives in our society about purity, and the humiliation around bruised reputation, the same example of sexual harassment and assault really is worse on average for women. We do not need to hide from this truth.
But social justice culture has turned “it’s worse for women” into “this never happens to men.” Which is where the willful dumbness comes in.
Of course women sexually harass. Of course they grab ass, and send pushy texts, and ignore no’s (both direct and indirect.) Women even get men drunk and rape them. There’s no gender monopoly on the desire for power and blithe indifference to the agency of others.
We can acknowledge that we live in a world where “it’s really worse as a woman to get harassed (or more) than it is for men” and “men are possessed of no special malice that makes them harass that women don’t have too.”