Archive for the ‘#sexualharassment’ Tag

#MeToo with a Proviso   2 comments

I’ve had several friends say I need to post something on Harvey Weinstein and his reprehensible behavior toward women. It’s wrong … wrong … WRONG.

I guess I could just stop there and collect my feminist brownie points, but ….

Contrarian, right?

Image result for image of casting couchI’m a pragmatic feminist. I don’t need to acquire brownie points because I qualify in that I can chop my own wood, change my own tires and not cry about any choices I make in life that my “sisters” disapprove of.

It’s wrong when anyone pushes sexual advances on someone who has told them to stop. It’s wrong to expose your sexual organs to someone who doesn’t want to see them. We all ought to be more cognizant of the right of individuals to not be imposed upon by other individuals. That would affect a whole lot more than sexual harassment, but let’s just stay on topic.

I have experienced sexual harassment in my life. Brad earlier confessed to “pestering” me for a date. I couldn’t care less about that. I don’t have a problem with men in a business relationship complimenting me so long as it is something I could compliment them on. “Nice jacket!” “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” That doesn’t bother me in part because I hear men and women compliment the same sex along those lines and nobody objects. How does it suddenly become sexual and harassment when it’s a man saying it to a woman, but it’s almost never considered harassment when a woman says it to a man? If I believe in actual equality of the sexes, then I hold men and women to the same standard.

To me, sexual harassment is the coworker who continually makes sexual advances after you’ve told them you’re not interested. The only time I’ve ever been close to filing charges on a coworker for that it was a lesbian doing the harassing. Male coworkers have always accepted “no” for an answer. Brad didn’t, but he was a customer and when I told him to not bother me during my shift, he waited politely on a bench outside the office until I was off duty. I worked in construction settings for several years and even construction workers – not known for their social graces – understand what it means when a woman says “leave me alone.” Karen, the lesbian, hit on me every time she saw me for four years until she got “asked to resign” (so as not to ruin her career) for hitting on another female staff member who filed charges. But before Karen was asked to resign, that female coworker was fired for complaining.

Why was she treated differently than Karen? The executive director was also a lesbian. You can draw your own conclusions.

I saw that coming along time before Leslie put her head on the chopping block, so instead of filing charges, I informed Karen that I’d been journaling our encounters and someone who grew up during the pipeline construction in Fairbanks Alaska knew how to embarrass someone sexually in public and she’d better back the hell up, take her hand off my shoulder and keep it to herself. I kept my job and mostly managed to avoid Karen for the next couple of years, until she was shown the door for doing the same thing to Leslie. But Karen was allowed to leave with dignity while the woman she harassed was fired, so it was kind of a Pyrrhic victory.

You see, I’m an old hand at sexual harassment – real sexual harassment. When I was in junior high school, the Transalaska Pipeline construction boom overwhelmed Alaska. There were prostitutes in the streets and horny construction workers on every block. The male to female ratio in Fairbanks before the pipeline boom was 2:1. During the pipeline construction it was 4:1. Ordinary women could be crossing a parking lot and a man would offer her hundreds of dollars to scratch his itch. My sister-in-law once negotiated a man up to $600 for 15 minutes, a blowjob only … while my brother was standing beside her laughing hysterically. Then she told the guy that he was a creep and rube and continued on with my brother.

Walking home from school, men would stand on the balcony of a local hotel and shout innuendos and rain coins down on us trying, to convince us to come up to their rooms. They knew we were underage. It didn’t matter to them. While I don’t think it was okay, I don’t think it particularly harmed me to have to say “No, get away from me” to men twice my age. Maybe it helped my self-esteem a little to know I had a value in the hundreds of dollars, even if I never collected because I thought what those men were offering was creepy. I learned a lot from that era of my life that I have brought forward into my adult life. I’ve never had a problem telling a man that I’m not interested and I’ve had very few not believe me. (I never told Brad I wasn’t interested. I told him I was working).

After my pipeline days, I worked as a waitress when I was in college. I saw a lot of sexual harassment there, but not what you might think. Some of the waitresses would harass a bus boy who was way handsome and way shy. They’d grab his buns, they’d say things, they were quite blatant. I never saw the manager or any of the cooks try that nonsense with the waitresses, though.

I’ve heard a lot of flirty talk between men and women in the work place. I don’t engage in flirty talk with men I’m not involved with, so when I hear women doing it, I always think “Do you realize how much that degrades any sort of respect a male coworker might have for you?” When men do it with me … not as much these days since I’m middle-aged … I always just let the lob go unresponded. I’m a very quippy person in my personal life and I love to banter back and forth with people, but never on sexual topics.  Unless it is with Brad. He and I do sometimes do that as a sort of fully-clothed foreplay … when the kids aren’t around and we’re alone.

And, so, not too surprisingly for me, I’ve encountered little sexual harassment. I’ve been able to deflect the advances of men with an honest and gracious “not interested, I’m married and don’t cheat” and stayed friends with male coworkers and lesbians like (Karen excepted). I’m not embarrassed by dirty jokes, but most people who know me know I don’t participate, so they just don’t tell them around me, or if they do, I walk away and I guess they continue on without me.

So, when I read about Weinstein and all these women, I think –

This happened because people allowed it to happen. Sexual harassment in Hollywood is nothing new. The casting room couch was an out-there joke that even got airtime on Johnnie Carson. Weinstein always seemed like a bully to me, which is consistent with what Matt Damon said about him – a bully and a womanizer. Brad will tell you that he knows men from the construction field with the same attitude. Does he automatically assume they’re making the female electricians put out? No, but it could be happening and he wouldn’t know it because he’s there to wire buildings, not to investigate the sexual encounters that might be going on in the job shack.

Same with me. I’ve had bosses that were bullies and a few that were womanizers. If they weren’t hitting on me, I never thought they might be coercing my coworkers into sex. Why? Because I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove my trust to be misapplied.

So, I believe the many Hollywood people who say they didn’t know, but weren’t particularly surprised to find out, that Weinstein’s bullying and alpha male act went that far. I’m guessing, Harvey Weinstein – a heterosexual male — was not hitting on Matt Damon — a heterosexual male. I suspect the women knew more because women gossip among themselves. I also suspect that many of the women coming forward now actually never had more than a passing encounter with Weinstein in which nothing approaching actual sexual harassment happened. They’re merely trying to get attention, like the media whores they are.

It particularly disturbs me that so many people are willing to paint so many men with a broad brush of DEPLORABLE because it’s the “appropriate” time to do so. It seems right now in Hollywood, if you didn’t directly work with Weinstein and help him abuse women, then you had to have known and are therefore guilty anyway, or else you’re just like him, you just haven’t been caught. That’s ridiculous. It is every bit as bad as what Weinstein did.

Are You Sexually Harassing Me?   3 comments

Hi, this is Brad.

Although Lela has a lot to say about the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, I asked to go first. Yeah, here I am – a man commenting on sexual harassment. Go on, throw vegetables. Lela will make soup!

Lela says I should start with a disclaimer.

I think men like Harvey Weinstein are disgusting jerks who deserve what they get. There’s no excuse for abusing a woman or requiring her to give up sex for a job. That’s just totally degrading and shouldn’t be accepted by anyone.

Image result for image of sexual harassment female to maleNow that you’re done cheering that at least one man in the world “gets” it, let me burst your bubble. I think it goes both ways and it’s not just a man-woman thing.

When I think about my high school sexual encounters, I was probably a sexual harasser by today’s standards. I “pestered” girls to date me. It didn’t usually take a lot of “pestering”, but I didn’t usually take “go away” as the only answer. I’d try back a few times. That worked with a girl I dated for over a year and it certainly worked with my wife. I “bothered” Lela at her job … I was a customer and she was staff. I made “unwanted” comments and gave her compliments. At first, I was just an annoying and noncompliant (well, my employer was noncompliant, I just was there to receive the note) guest of the campground where she worked, but later she accepted my compliments and my request for a date and the rest is history.

When I was a young man catting around, it was assumed that if a girl willingly got into bed with you without any clothes on and didn’t say “No, stop!” that it was consensual sex. According to our 20-something daughter, you now have to ask permission at every step of the process. Wow! Sex as a contractural relationship? Well, that sucked all the fun out of it!

I hear there’s a list of alleged sexual abusers in the media circulating. I’m sure there are men on that list who deserve to be there. However, as a heterosexual white male, it disturbs me that members of my gender are presumed guilty until proven innocent and that most of the nation doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. On at least one talk show, I have seen concerns of false accusations brushed aside with “well, women are being protected, so it doesn’t matter whether a few reputations or professional lives are destroyed in the process. Seriously, if you’re the one who hasn’t done anything wrong and your career is destroyed by false accusations – it matters … to you, to your spouse, to your kids, and to your creditors and business partners.

Anyone familiar with comedian Christopher Titus?

He was the first physically fit white male I ever heard admit publicly that he had been abused by a woman. This is a man whose psychotic mother credibly threatened to kill his father on numerous occasions and did eventually kill one of her husbands. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he hooked up with and eventually moved in with a girlfriend who regularly hit him. When he finally had had enough and called the cops, they arrested him rather than her.

I appreciated his social bravery because I dated a girl who, a few weeks into our relationship, got drunk and tried to crack my head open with a bottle. I’d been raised not to hit women. I didn’t know what to do to make her stop. Fortunately, the neighbor lady came over to investigate the noise and I made my escape. I’m sure she thought I was the one abusing my date, not the other way around. The girlfriend called me the next day, all apologetic and promising never to do it again. We continued to date for a little while after that until I heard her laughing with her girlfriends about how scared I’d been when she swung it at me. And, yeah, I know how screwed up that is.

Lela and I have since encountered several men who quietly admit to having been abused by women – more often than not emotionally, but also sexually and physically. Since we men almost never admit to be terrorized by someone smaller than us, you can bet our few encounters translates into thousands, maybe millions, of men who have been victims of domestic violence, but are too embarrassed to talk about it.

But let’s talk about sexual harassment. When I was in school, girls weren’t usually the initiators in relationships, but by the time our kids were in high school, they were. Our daughter is a knockout … that’s not just Dad saying it. The dozens of boys I had to beat back from the car whenever I picked her up at school said it. A bold dancer who is now a semi-professional musician, I’ve never met a girl who better turned aside sexual harassment while hardly breaking her stride. She is pretty. She doesn’t need what most guys are offering. And, she’s known that since junior high. I’m sure there are plenty of other girls who feel harassed and scared, but that was never a problem for Bri in school, though she tells me that out on the road, she has had more issues with that.

On the other hand, our son would come home wondering why girls insisted upon embarrassing him by making comments about his (toned) body, his hair, his walk and his general sexiness. He didn’t kiss his first girl until middle of sophomore year, not because they weren’t throwing themselves at him, but because he was shy. He was surprised one swim team meet when a girl on an opposing team asked him to go have sex with her and when he turned her down, she spread a vicious rumor that he was gay. He isn’t. He just thought he should respect girls enough not to have sex with them standing up in a bathroom stall in the boys locker room.

But, let’s talk about the sexual harassment I have personally encountered. I’m going to skip the times I think they were coming onto me because I’m so hot and just go with the times I know they were crossing a line.

There’s the  woman in a professional course who decided to pull up her t-shirt, barring both breasts so that she could nurse her baby. Yeah, you have a right to nurse your baby (I think all mothers should), but there are ways to do it that don’t sexually harass the men in the room. I’m pretty sure, if I unzipped my pants and “let it all hang out” you’d scream sexual assault (and that is a criminal offense that will see you on a sex offender registry), so why is it different when you do it? Oh, that’s right. Men are disgusting pigs for being turned on by sight, but women aren’t held to the same standard.

When I was 20, I was broke – between decent jobs, working for minimum wage at a bakery. I rented a room from this guy I met on the bus. I didn’t know him other than to have a couple of conversations with him as we rode. Seemed like a nice guy. The room was affordable and in a decent building. It beat the alternative to living under a bridge. Two days after I signed the lease, I discovered he was gay. No big deal. I didn’t care. He was dating someone and it didn’t seem to matter … until, about three months into the lease, he didn’t have a gay guy to hook up with and he started harassing me. The next three months were hell. I had no desire to have gay sex. I couldn’t afford to move out. He would not leave me alone even when I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t interested. It even came to blows one night when he and a “friend” decided to “teach me what I’d been missing”. They came into my room while I was sleeping and tried for force the issue. I had to fight back and I was a strong construction worker while they were wimpy office workers, so I was able to make them stop. Two days later, my father asked me to come to Alaska with him and I jumped at the chance just so I could break my lease and run somewhere “Mike” couldn’t follow me. He found me on Facebook a few years ago and I literally felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I think I know how women feel who have run from a stalker and he finds them on social media years later.

Like the “women who have terrorized men”  scenario, I suspect this happens to a lot more straight people than they’re willing to admit.

So, here’s the thing – I think sexual harassment is wrong no matter who is doing it to whom, but I also think we can’t be so mechanical about the definition. If we want to insist that a man can’t compliment a woman on her appearance at work, can’t ask a coworker out, ask more than once, etc., then we should insist that women and homosexuals do the same. What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose and the turducten, too. But if we’re planning that level of scrutiny of sexual attraction, we might want to consider the problems we’re causing with it. I met Lela at her place of work. In fact, every girlfriend I ever had, I met at work (school is work for teenagers). Most people met their spouses at work. Few Americans go to church anymore, so that’s out. That leaves meeting women to date … where? The bars? Laundromats? Seriously, where do we meet people we’re attracted to where we can actually spend time getting to know one another? Statistics say most of us do it at work, but if that’s not allowed … what substitute do you propose?


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