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October 27, 2005



erin c.: "That's awful, bmmg39 -- in no way should you have had to put up with that. And you make a good general point about unwanted sexual attention; it's not just about the physical threat -- you obviously weren't worried about psychogranny wrestling you to the ground -- it's about embarrassment, having your space invaded, etc."

Yes, Erin, and, indeed, I wasn't really worried about being wrestled to the ground, even though I'm a fairly small person. The point is that if she kept trying to make a move, and I pushed her hand away, a lot of people would be admonishing ME, not her, for "hitting" her (even if I were merely blocking her with my hand). The smaller person has a strength disadvantage but that can be trumped by society's permission to do something, and society's disallowance of the bigger person's right to say "no."

"This is one of the ways gender stereotypes can damage men as well -- some women assume that sort of thing is okay, or only a minor indiscretion, because a 'real man' is always ready and willing. Yuck."

My point, exactly. Thank you.


Creeping Jenny

Jaketk, I apologize for making unwarranted assumptions about you personally, and yes, sexual harassment does sometimes affect men, and it's equally wrong when it affects men. That said, I don't think you can really get to the root of sexual harassment without talking about gender, because sexual harassment does not affect women and men equally (as groups -- I am not saying that every woman is harassed more than every man). It would be like talking about the prison system without talking about race (when black and hispanic men are incarcerated at much greater rates than white men for nonviolent, drug-related crimes). So yes, I want to extend sympathy for male victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment. But I don't want to shut down discussion of gender as a contributing factor in sexual harassment.

As several other commentors have pointed out, men are often happy to assume that a woman is a "ho" if, after thorough and careful investigation, they can manage to discern a breast through her shirt.

This is a perfect example of why I am taking issue with this. How do you, or the other women, know for a fact, that all men (you stated men so I am going to assume you are speaking of men in general) assume a woman is a “ho” if they can see her breasts? Is that really what men think, or is that what you assume men are thinking?

First of all, I do not think that all men have sexist attitudes; I think that men often do (i.e., one often finds men who do). Second, I can't read anybody's mind, but I have some good evidence indirect evidence that many men (and possibly many women as well) view women largely or primarily as sexual objects for men's use. Nor do I have any reason to think that I can exempt myself from being seen as a sexual object for men's use, simply by wearing a baggy shirt and not behaving in a sexual way.

As a bit of evidence I notice several commentors on Hugo's blog and elsewhere asserting that women (always? usually?) dress for the purpose of sexually enticing men. I find that many newspaper articles, when they discuss a powerful women, will make some sort comment on her attractivness. I notice that one commentor on Hugo's blog tried to convince me that rape was not really assault (unless it was the rape of a straight man), since it was merely stealing a commodity that women and gay men often sell.

There are also sexist nutters like Mike Adams and Leon Kass to contend with. While I realize those guys are on the lunatic fringe, I find it interesting that no one on the lunatic fringe suggests that (straight) men who have sex are whores. (Some of them suggest that men behave immorally when they have premarital or extramarital respect, but I don't really see a anyone suggesting that promiscuous straight men are dirty and unworthy of respect. Feel free to find me some nutters who take this view.)

And if I'm exempt from all this when I wear a baggy shirt, then why do people still harass me?


Hugo, thanks for this post. I'll never forget walking in a parade as one of a troop of twirlers when I was 14 only to have the old guys stare, make ugly comments and try to touch me as the group moved down the street. And this was in the 70s, in a fundamentalist religious area.

I've seen that staring look many times since then. It's the type of stare where the man is too intense, never looks away, doesn't smile (but might lick his lips). It's like a sick attempt at ownership. It's profoundly disturbing and frightening. The ones that smile are a little less threatening (depending on the type of smile) but it's still aggressive if he doesn't look away.

Do any of you guys arguing that you have the right to stare, do you REALLY think that's OK? And if you think that's OK, then how about the following, which aren't even considered aggressive?

Staring at a cancer patient who'd had half his/her face removed?

Staring at a bald child who'd been undergoing chemo?

Staring at a burn victim?

Staring at a person with cerebral palsy who uses a head stick to type on a keyboard?

Staring at the nose of someone who has a huge booger protruding from it?

Most people would make a huge attempt not to stare at these folks, even though they're curious (or whatever), BECAUSE IT'S BAD MANNERS AND IT'S NOT OK. How, then, is it good manners to stare at some woman or girl who doesn't know or care that you exist?


Jodie, most people DO "make a huge attempt not to stare at these folks, even though they're curious (or whatever)". Those who bahave as you describes are rude, boorish, pathetic, jerks. I don't believe anyone disagrees with this. As for having a RIGHT to behave this way, well we really cannot legislate manners, so I suppose a person has the "right" to place his/her gaze wherever s/he chooses, in public. That's not to say that it's okay. We just cannot arrest a person for being a jerk. You wouldn't wish to live in that world.


I didn't say they should be arrested -- I said it was bad manners. Just as it's bad manners to stare at a good looking person.


"As another pointed out (in this thread or the other related one earlier this week), girls and women are (or at least should be) fully aware that when they dress provocatively (e.g., with langerie, undergarments, lace, skin, etc., exposed) this will turn men on."

Out of all the points raised in this decidedly long comment thread, I take issue the most (by a wide margin, too) with the idea that women should build their wardrobes around other people's opinions. Dressing for other people's reactions (or lack thereof) means that women react full-time so men can avoid momentary distractions, and what does that say about the worth of women's convenience as compared to men's?

As a general rule, other people's opinions/reactions/nonreactions have no bearing whatsoever on what I choose to wear. I dress to please myself, to be happy with how I look and feel, and occasionally the weather gets to put its two cents' worth in. I don't care in the slightest if someone stares at me--what they see is light reflected off me, and once that light enters their eyes, the image it carries with it belongs to them, and their interpretation of it is their business. I don't dress to attract attention and I don't dress to avoid attention--I dress to feel beautiful, confident, powerful, and, yes, sexy, but in a self-affirming, worthy-of-only-the-best, I-deserve-to-feel-like-this way, not a come-fuck-me way that's designed to be recieved by anyone and everyone who I walk by; the message I send is for me. It's like lighting a candle so that I have light, not so that I'm visible in the darkness to everyone else.

Couple things to point out---1) There's a difference between lust and appreciation of beauty; one can certainly have a nonsexual, aesthetic appreciation for another person even if you also find them attractive sexually. 2) Much of people's "lustful" reactions are not even remotely complimentary by any stretch of the imagination, although some of it regularly succeeds at being complimentary, and I wonder how they managed to get put in the same category---oh, wait. Patriarchy, of course. Men's reactions get sorted from their perspective when their effects on women are completely irrelevent. 3) In my opinion, society takes much of the blame here. It is highly irritating that attraction is defined so exclusively by visual stimuli, by *bodies* instead of people---hence, much of the success of purely visual porn. Then there's sort of the reverse of that---that bare skin and tight clothing are read to scream "sex" in such a way that overpowers everything else about the woman in question. What I think would be nice is if our society made it possible for a beautiful woman to walk around topless (like men do), and not be stared at, catcalled, or dismissed as a person, or otherwise reduced to her appearance, because sex appeal did not center so totally on a pair of nice tits, and anyway, it's not like it's something unusual--every woman's got 'em. (Back in the Victorian era, an exposed ankle could inspire lust---now they're sort of ignored---nothing new, nothing special; people are used to them.)


Jodie--just wondering about your analysis of the difference between a disgusted/horrified/morbidly-curious stare and an admiring one. Are they, to you, not significantly different?

Obviously the more lecherous types fall into the former category, as that is not an emotion that one generally cares to inspire in people. But people tend to prefer admiration to disgust, and sometimes they prefer admiration to being ignored. Wondering where you draw the line between good and bad, and why you draw it there. Do your beliefs regarding lust have something to do with it? Do other people's? Which side of the line is admiration on, and how do you distinguish admiration from lust? Anyone else want to answer (politely), have at it.


I see the exact opposite as true

It is true that men are taught that women can't possibly be a serious threat, and therefore aren't allowed to take aggression from women seriously. But it's also the case that women are not supposed get angry at men who are sexually aggressive--boys will be boys, what did you expect the way you were dressed, you could have told him to leave you alone nicely instead of being a bitch. (And I promise you, a woman who assertively refuses unwanted advances is going to be called a bitch.)

As for 'applauding', do remember that there is a best-selling nonfiction book called the Girl-Watcher's Club, and we have plenty of shrieking about how women like to be appreciated and shouldn't do all that PC whining about a mere appreciative glance.

Harris Taylor

Staring at someone is akin to making physical contact.It can be an intrusion on someones privacy and space and is most certainly a form of sexual harrassment.The perpetrator is excercising dominance over the person stared at.The only way to respond is contempt - perhaps staring at their crotch in return and laughing in disdain.

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