12 December 2017

Question for male readers

I was recently part of a rather bizarre exchange in a comment thread at Tengrain's blog Mock Paper Scissors, on this post about the resignation of Al Franken.  Here are the comments in question:

o o o o o

AuroraS:  The reason that the Dems aren't calling for GOP heads to roll over sexual misconduct is because this isn't a Democrat or Republican problem, it's a man problem. I like Senator Franken, and the reason I'm not tossing his books in the trash right now is because what he's done is basically no different from anything every man has done to a woman at some point in their lives. He appears to be realizing that his behavior was inappropriate and taking steps to remedy that, which is a good start.

The Dems are sacrificing Franken on the altar right now because the men in their party are probably all guilty of the same, and treating Franken like a “lone wolf” exception to the rule takes the heat off them. The entire government is basically a boys' club and they give a few passing fucks (if any) about women. Republican women will easily accept victim-blaming and excuse-making for sexual misconduct on the part of the party’s men because the GOP has already made it clear that they don't care about women and think they’re subhuman–they aren’t going to have to answer to their constituents for it. Their constituents agree. So they can continue with reckless abandon and no one of consequence will care.

The Democrat governor of Minnesota will appoint a Democrat senator to replace Franken. There are some women that are possible candidates. This would be a good thing, strategy-wise and actually giving a fuck-wise.

Infidel753what he's done is basically no different from anything every man has done to a woman at some point in their lives.

I've never done anything like that to a woman (or man). I really doubt most men have.

AuroraS:  You've never grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar? Not even as a joke? Not even in high school or college? That's not to say that you would necessarily condone it now, but society says this is "normal". I understand that not every man has harassed a woman, but every woman has been harassed by a man.

Tengrain:  I believe that 100% of women might be harassed in their lifetime, but I do not think 100% of men are harassers. –TG

Infidel753You've never grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar? Not even as a joke? Not even in high school or college?

No, never. I've never in my life considered any of those things remotely acceptable behavior. Very few men I've known have given me the impression that they would have thought it was acceptable either.

o o o o o

So, here's my question to male readers.  Have any of you ever "grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar.....even as a joke.....even in high school or college?"  To say nothing of more serious acts like forcibly French-kissing a woman, as Tweeden claimed that Franken did (note that my interlocutor specified that Franken's alleged actions were no different than what every man has done at least occasionally).  Even if you haven't, do you consider such behavior acceptable or trivial when other men do it?

As I said during the exchange, I have never done any such thing, ever.  Nor have I ever remotely thought that such behavior was acceptable, not even when I was in high school or college.  I can hardly imagine I'm all that unusual.  However, I'm curious what others have to say.

14 Comments:

Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...


I will enforce Infidel753's statement by saying that over my lifetime (I have grandchildren), I have known many men who never would and never did behave as a sexual harasser or predator.

Just as an aside, today, while thinking about what Aurora S said, a memory, long forgotten, came back to me of when I was a student of a fairly well-known Boston sculptor. I remember him getting up close to me while I was carving my project in stone, and I remember him whispering to me "I bet you're good in bed."

What I find remarkable about this memory is that while I most certainly recalled the sexual molestation I suffered as a child, and sexual harassment and inappropriate remarks in the workplace, and the inappropriate sexual touching from my gynecologist after an exam, I hadn't remembered the one mentioned above until today. Why? Maybe because that sort of unwanted remark was considered harmless and nothing more than guys being guys or even considered as a compliment. I might mention that both he and I were married at the time he whispered that remark in my ear. I also think there was inappropriate touching, but it was long ago, so I can't be sure (He was Italian, if that makes any difference.)

But to get back to Infidel753's answer to AuroraS, I'll reinforce that there absolutely ARE men out there who would never engaged in this behavior. I've been lucky enough to know them in my lifetime.

12 December, 2017 08:18  
Blogger Ryan said...

There are men who think to do those things, then do them. There are also men who think to do those things, but have the sense or desire to control themselves. Then there are men who don't even think to do those things. I'm part of the third group and I don't think that it's at all unreasonable to expect even the men who think to do those things to restrain themselves.

I would lose a lot of respect for anyone if I saw him touch someone as described--probably to the point where I would not want to interact with him again. Mere comments are not as bad, but I don't really associate with anyone who would catcall or even confide to me in private what he would like to do to a woman. I just don't have any interest in that kind of conversation.

With that said, I recognize that our reactions to offenses--some minor unwanted sexual contact vs. a theft, for example--do not always correspond to the moral value/significance of those acts. I therefore try to keep these matters in perspective: different people respond differently to these behaviors, people do much worse, and the severity of the punishment can exceed the severity of the offense.

12 December, 2017 10:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if your record is so pure when it comes to actual intimate encounters. As an adult, have you ever slept with someone who might possibly have been under the legal age of consent? Have you ever slept with someone who was intoxicated? Have you always respected "no" or "stop", even during an intimate encounter? There's no need to answer, but there's no doubt that many, many men have a spotty record in that regard. Probably including some who are perfectly respectful toward women in day-to-day life.

13 December, 2017 02:42  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

You have more in you than I do Infidel, when it comes to actually debating with a lady over this ... I would have probably just told her "nope", and walked. There is that chance that the gal had also some bad experiences with guyz, so like, every gal is going to be different. I missed out on the whole high school and college thing, or the jock thing or such ... I never went to high school or college, and grew up faster I guess than many kids that were around me, I mean, I havent been home since like 13/ 14 as a kid. As a teen also I lived and worked in a brothel for awhile, it was prostitutes that took me in off the street basically and helped me out, and taught me a few things, as if I was their kid. I didnt really have many bad experiences with gals in life, most were all pretty cool with me, and didnt do negative things to me. I was a teen having sex relations with adult women even. I also played music, and was very active for years in the music scenes and night venues, and alot of the women in that scene are a little more liberated on some things, I mean, the galz in many cases were more aggressive than the guyz actually, and were likely to come right out to you, and just tell you they want to have sex with you or give you a signal of sort. But all in all, those liberated galz, would get on your ass, if you tried to force yourself on them too, and word would get around that you are not cool and treat chicks like an asshole would, if you do. But many galz would be very open sexually, and even just as open as guyz on sexual fetishes and so forth. I dated quite a bit I guess, some I cant even remember their names or whatever, one night type stuff, parties or whatever ... but never really had to force any gal to do anything. So my whole environment and experience is different than some too. Many of these cases I read about in the news, is where these dudes basically forced themselves on galz, kind of holding the gal hostage, on their job or career advance or whatever it seems. Just a f*cked up ordeal, and I dont see it stopping right away, but the awareness thing is a plus, so that guyz know how these galz feel about this I guess. ... Later Infidel ....

13 December, 2017 05:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: I'm glad you make that distinction despite having had a whole succession of nasty experiences. As I said at the original thread, it wouldn't surprise me if most women have been harassed or worse. It would only take 5% or so of the male population to be abusive for the average woman to run into abusive ones on a fairly regular basis.

He was Italian, if that makes any difference.

Culture does make a difference. I saw things in Kiev that would startle most Americans. In general I think men in the Anglosphere are less aggressive toward women than men in most other cultures.

Ryan: We do need to recognize different degrees of bad behavior. And there's no shame in thinking about things or having impulses -- we're an aggressive species, after all -- but civilization depends on being able to control impulses.

Anon: have you ever slept with someone who might possibly have been under the legal age of consent?

No.

Have you ever slept with someone who was intoxicated?

No.

Have you always respected "no" or "stop", even during an intimate encounter?

That has only ever happened once, and yes, I did respect it.

There's no need to answer

Well, of course not. You don't want it pointed out that you're just throwing slimy innuendos at somebody you know hardly anything about.

I make no claims to being "pure". I just respect other people's self-determination, as I expect my own to be respected.

Ranch: I've noticed that women can sometimes be sexually aggressive, but in my experience that only happens with someone they already know fairly well. I'm not really inclined to look upon that as a comparable problem, as I gather you don't. For fairly obvious cultural and biological reasons, a man is a lot less likely to feel frightened or threatened by a woman in that situation than vice-versa.

13 December, 2017 08:20  
Blogger Jono said...

Okay, I'll give a rare chime in. In answer to AuroraS the answer is no. Most of my close friends would also say no, but I do know men who have done these things and worse. They are assholes. I have, however, to the best of my recollection slept with someone who was intoxicated as was I. It is one reason I rarely spend or spent time in bars and that was about 40 years ago. If I had any idea where she was I would apologize. I have never understood the satisfaction someone gets having a sexual encounter with a person that is not on the same page. I can't imagine that it is any fun at all.

13 December, 2017 11:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jono: Thanks for the verification. I think most men's experience is similar.

13 December, 2017 16:35  
Anonymous Calico Jack said...

Howdy y'all!

While I don't think every man has done it, I think we are all more than capable of it. I think the dividing line between the who have done it and those who have not done it is the situation. I have promoted the theory that sexual assault and the suite of lesser sexual aggressions has evolved as a reproductive strategy. In the right circumstances, which must include a lowered level of empathy, the switch is tripped, and these behaviors emerge. The first step to combating these behaviors among men is to realize that it is possible.

All of that said, there are way too many women reporting these types offensive for it to even be a minority of men. It is like the discrepancy between reported sexual partners. The misalignment between the number of sexual partners that a man reports and that a woman reports is too great to be explained by a few women having multiple sex partners. Someone is not telling the truth.

I'm not saying that any given man who says not me is not telling the truth, but somewhere in the equation is a big discrepancy.

The problem with asking men to confess these behaviors, though, is that men lose jobs, family members, and friends over it. We need the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where the issues can be sorted out.

That's my two cents worth on the subject.

Huzzah!
Jack

14 December, 2017 03:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Well, rape certainly did evolve as a reproductive strategy, and there's at least one species (orangutans) in which it's probably the primary reproductive strategy. And I suppose "we are all more than capable of it" in the abstract sense that men, being male primates, do have inborn sexually-aggressive instincts. But these are among the many aggressive instincts we've had to learn how to curb for thousands of years, because complex societies couldn't function unless we did. A lot of men, maybe the majority, would be psychologically incapable of it in practice.

there are way too many women reporting these types offensive for it to even be a minority of men.

Not so -- see above. It would only take 5% or so of the male population to be abusive for the average woman to run into abusive ones on a fairly regular basis. The fact that almost all women have experienced abuse is perfectly consistent with only a small minority of men being abusers.

Obviously one has to be careful to verify that accusations are true before taking action, but in cases where abuse or harassment is verified and serious enough, firing somebody from a job over it doesn't seem inappropriate. Even verbal harassment can make a work environment intolerable if it's persistent. Women (or men, for that matter) shouldn't have to put up with that in the workplace.

14 December, 2017 09:48  
Blogger Ryan said...

Calico Jack,

The "situation" is not the entirety of the "dividing line." Where intentional action is concerned, there are two other factors: desire and belief. (The unintentional is unimportant here, as I do not accept that men simply cannot stop themselves from committing rape, yelling lewd comments at female passersby, grabbing body parts, etc.) If one does not have a desire to engage in these behaviors, then he has no motivation to do so. If one believes that these behaviors are wrong or that he might be caught and punished for them, then he is significantly discouraged from engaging in them. And yes, if one never has the opportunity, then he won't.

To say that the dividing line is the situation seems to dismiss the importance of the desire and belief, which in turn is to effectively relieve men of the responsibility for their actions--unless I am misunderstanding you. It does seem like you are saying that we would all do it under the right circumstances, which implies that men themselves cannot change.

15 December, 2017 00:41  
Anonymous CalicoJack said...

Howdy y'all!

Infidel and Ryan, I believe y'all misunderstand me to some degree, so I will endeavor to be clearer. Social psychology has strong evidence that our behaviors are driven much more by the situation than they are by personality. My contention is that there are two necessary ingredients for a man to commit sexual assault: opportunity and a lowered level of empathy. The lowered level of empathy is, perhaps, the most important ingredient here. Many things can lower one's empathy: alcohol, companions, anger, fatigue, etc. Fortunately, most men find their empathy levels sufficient during most incidents of opportunity.

When feminists talk of objectifying women, they are talking about losing empathy for them and even dehumanizing them. It is when that level of empathy is reached that offenses occur. There was a viral video clip making the rounds of a Brazilian TV show in which they located men who had high incidents of cat calling women on the street and dressed their mother's up as younger women. The mother's walked past them and then identified themselves after being cat-called by their sons to the amusement of the audience. The act of realizing that you've cat-called your mother restored some of your empathy for the women. They became human again.

In my conversations with men and women about the Franken groping incidents it is clear that most struggle with the notion that a grab of the ass isn't that big of a deal. But, it is clear from listening to the women who were grabbed both by Franken and others that it is a big deal. I think we can lose our perspective very quickly in discussing these things. But, I'm not saying that either of you have.

Similarly, I've yet to have a man say to me in these conversations, "Oh, yeah, I've groped a woman before." It isn't something that people generally share with one another unless they are sure of the other's approval. It is one reason why sexist or racist humor is so caustic. It gives the offender the belief that their behavior is more widespread than it really is.

Lastly, Infidel, statistically 5% of men may be sufficient to commit 100% of all sexually aggressive crimes from catcalling to groping to sexual assault, I just don't think it is likely. Just the same as it is possible for a small number of women to have provided all of the sexual services that men claim to have experienced, it is just not likely. If you were to do a similar survey of men and women about sexual harassment, you'd find a large number of women claiming to have been sexually harassed and a small number of men claiming to have committed sexual harassment just the same as you find a men claiming a large number of sexual partners and women claiming a smaller number. In neither case is it likely that, however statistically possible, that both sides are telling the truth. The numbers should align more.

As difficult as it is, we have to acknowledge that our friends may not be telling us the truth about their behaviors. And, if you want the truth about socially unacceptable behaviors, you need to have some type of protection in place for those admitting their misdeeds similar to what the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions were able to provide.

Huzzah!
Jack

15 December, 2017 21:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ryan: Yes, while people have instincts, they also have free will. Knowing what causes people to do things doesn't negate their responsibility for doing them.

Calico: statistically 5% of men may be sufficient to commit 100% of all sexually aggressive crimes from catcalling to groping to sexual assault, I just don't think it is likely.

Sorry, wrong. All that would take would be for each harasser, on average, to harass 20 different individuals, which is perfectly plausible given their lack of awareness and, yes, empathy -- and the actual behavior patterns harassers display.

Just the same as it is possible for a small number of women to have provided all of the sexual services that men claim to have experienced, it is just not likely.

Not a good analogy for obvious reasons. Most women are not highly promiscuous, but most harassers do harass a lot of people.

I think we've exhausted the subject.

16 December, 2017 09:18  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: Infidel973: "So, here's my question to male readers. Have any of you ever 'grabbed an ass, snapped a bra, made comments about her body to a random woman on the street, at work, or at a bar.....even as a joke.....even in high school or college?'"

No, never. Nor, like you, have I ever known any other man who would have done so. I mean, maybe some guy I've known has done something like that ... but I've never seen it, nor have I ever seen any clues that would suggest they might have (such as making comments about having done it or expressing approval for someone else doing it).

17 December, 2017 15:15  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PsiCop: Glad to hear it. I fully support cracking down on these bozos not only because of the primary harm they do to women, but also the secondary harm they do by giving the rest of us a bad name.

17 December, 2017 16:01  

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