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Confused About What IS and IS NOT Sexual Harassment? Let's Break it Down...
This is part one in a series. Not sure how many parts. It'll be like Game of Thrones, but with harassment.
Last week a Twitter follower submitted what she believed was a simple request: please define sexual harassment in black and white terms. Twitter is not, despite the added characters allowing morons more room to word vomit, a great place to dissect the sexual morays of our culture. Nor is it the proper venue to discuss what defines sexual harassment, and what defines flirtation. So here we are.
Before we unzip our pants in a consensual environment, I must first beg for your indulgence. A number of assumptions are floating about the internet -- and our time -- like Louis CK's misguided emissions. To adequately cover what I think sexual harassment is and isn't, we must first cover a few bases with several prophylactics. They're shaped like potted plants.
Also, trigger warning: double entendres galore. You're now entering a sexual zone.
- Sexual harassment is real, despite it being a celebrated cause of feminist hog-beasts. In the past six weeks, I've noticed many sexual harassment allegations have been dismissed, not because of lack of merit or believability, but simply because "feminists are awful screech demons." Just because a group of people, like third-wave feminists, act like rampaging boars, doesn't mean we should automatically dismiss one of their causes. Multiple things can be true at once. Ashley Judd, for example, can be a crass sicko who you wouldn't invite for dinner. But also a victim of Harvey Weinstein's roaming pecker.
- Men and women are different. Hopefully you were in a seated position for that revelation. While our differences should be celebrated, they also create understanding gaps. Gaps which have become clear in the past six weeks of the Weinstein Effect. We need to spend more time listening to each other, less time engaging in pointless gender wars. Or dismissing one another.
- Women are sexually harassed, men are sexually harassed. Men are harassed by other men. Women are harassed by men. Women harass men. Women harass women. I need to cover this base lest I get a "BUT, BUT, EQUALITY!" hate tweet from someone who refuses to read the entire post. Or simply comments on Facebook, basing all of their assumptions on the title. Happens all the time.
- Life isn't fair. Physical attraction is not fair. If at any point in this post you want to scream "That's not fair!" don't. The mating game wasn't based on a set of rules written to protect your feelings or fairness. See also Sorry, Pajama Boy Leftists: Women Still Aren’t Attracted to Weak-Ass Beta Males and OPINION: Sorry, Not Everyone is ‘Beautiful.' And That’s a Good Thing.
To spare you a long read, here's a simple formula for sexual harassment: Unequal Power x Inappropriateness + Lack of Consent = Sexual Harassment
Example: Your boss x In your boss' office with no witnesses (talking about your body) + You've never given any indication of romantic interest = sexual harassment.
Another example: Your teacher x You're underage + You're too young to legally consent = sexual harassment (regardless of gender).
If you're not sure if you're simply flirting with someone, or harassing them, err on the side of not getting sued. Then learn how to read social cues.
Rather than writing a long essay, I'm going to open this up to the audience.
@Courtneyscoffs Where the line is between friendly banter/flirtation/harassment and when we should be offended vs d… https://t.co/c1Oj9oXuiQ— Breezy Sweeney (@Breezy Sweeney) 1511379548.0
This is the prevailing question. In general, friendly banter is friendly banter. It should be friendly. Light. Bantery. Fun, not dangerous. Not disgusting. Not sexual.
The moment sexual suggestions come into the mix, it's not friendly banter. Now it's sexual, and maybe not even banter. And if it's at work, inappropriate. Especially if the other person is uncomfortable (use your eyes, read body language and tone). Even more so if you're in a position of greater work authority.
Most reasonable people will give a signal they're done with the line of conversation. They'll stop smiling. Or they'll smile awkwardly. They'll shift the conversation. Their tone will change. They may get up and leave. Or just leave.
Speaking from experience, if the banter devolves into areas that get weird, I stiffen up and move on. If it's over the interent, I will not respond. If I do respond, I'll call it out for being inappropriate. This is also known as a "cold shoulder." I'm not going to file charges or talk to HR (unless you keep doing it, in which case now you're harassing). But I won't engage in banter with you again. Ever. If you can't pick up on this cue, I'll say "Knock it off" in some form or another. Rebuffing you is not encouragement to "try harder." No means no. Again, read the signs. Brush up on social cues. Body language. Tone.
Telling you to fuck off is much harder if you're my boss.
In general, if you're not sure if it's appropriate or not, it's probably not. Don't say it. Don't say it at work. If you're really confused, poll the audience (not Twitter, god) but real people. Including men and women. Who are not behind bars for rape.
Sexual harassment would probably vanish if people knew how to act like ladies and gentleman. But there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what that means...