Just after graduating college, a friend of mine and I went to some dive bar to have a few drinks and shoot some pool. After taking a break to go to the bathroom, I came back to find him chatting up a pretty girl who just happened to have a, well, body-positive friend with her.
Being immediately thrust into the unwelcome role of wingman, I found myself with a particularly aggressive young lass who was dead set on taking advantage of the situation she found herself in. As I cast daggers through my eyes at my callous friend, the two girls pulled us onto the dance floor.
I believe it was at this time that she landed her first kiss on me. I managed to dodge about two thirds of them, but she got plenty in, and somehow always managed to use the tongue. I’m not sure if she just pried her way through my clinched lips or took advantage of the normal human reaction of disgust, which involves a slightly agape mouth. When I told her “I want to slow down” she noted it was “cute” and “just made her like me more.” I think that was right before she gave my manhood a quick grab on her way to the bathroom.
I brushed the thought of strangling my friend’s neck aside and told him to get his girl’s number and then we were going to bounce. Even a seasoned wingman like myself could only put up with so much. I grabbed a beer to try and wash away the distaste before my body-positive accoster returned. I tried to make small talk, if nothing else I hoped it would stave off her attempts to slobber all over me.
“So what was your name?” (Yeah, the kissing began before this question was asked.)
“Oh, my friends just call me Buffy.”
“Um… like the vampire slayer?”
At this point she leaned in and casually observed that “I’m going to do to you whatever I want to do you.” I believe she thought this would be a turn on or something. Instead I dropped my beer on the floor leaving the bottle as shattered as my nerves.
This farce went on for several hours before I was finally able to convince my friend to leave. The lengths a man will go to be a good wingman…
I have told this story many times, particularly in a bar settings, and whether the audience is male or female, it has never failed to elicit a sizeable amount of laughter. Yet, as should be obvious, if the genders were reversed, this would be another horror story lauded in Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post as yet another example of #MeToo and all the horrible things men do to women.
And don’t get me wrong, male sexual harassment of women is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar and the many others that has come out is utterly despicable. But even aside by the risk of false accusations, it would seem that something is missing from the discussion of sexual harassment. Indeed, take the genders out and the story I have noted above is as bad as at least a good number of the stories that have come out recently. And that is not the only story I have, just the most egregious. One girl in my dorms during college would literally put her hand on every guy’s ass that came by. It probably happened to me about 10 times. I don’t know why she thought she would get away with it, other than the fact that she basically did. No one said anything more than a polite request for her to stop.
And I know stories that are even worse than what I just mentioned. Of course, I know some for women too. But what I’ve heard from others, as well as the survey data on this subject seems to validate my experience as not being unique.
For example, The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project has analyzed over 1700 studies and found that domestic violence is committed by men and women in roughly similar proportions, although men do more harm. Regarding sexual harassment, an AAUW study in 2006 found that 62 percent of women in college and 61 percent of men had “experienced sexual harassment.” While “both male and female students are more likely to be harassed by a man than by a woman,” the difference isn’t as large as many would think. According to the study, “Half of male students and almost one-third of female students admit that they sexually harassed someone in college.”
Even more perplexing, The Atlantic reported, “sexual victimization by women is more common than gender stereotypes would suggest.” Indeed, the oft-quoted “1 in 5 women are raped in college” statistic comes from a CDC study which has a weird category under “Other sexual violence” called “Made to penetrate.” One would think that forcing someone to have sex is rape, but who am I to say? Anyways, here’s how men and women answered for the last 12 months in 2011:
•Women (rape): 1,929,000
•Men (made to penetrate): 1,921,000
The vast majority of the men who were “made to penetrate” were by women.
I must admit that I’m not really sure what to make of all this. Some of it doesn’t shock me, such as domestic abuse perpetration. But with regards to sexual assault, it sounds rather unbelievable to me. Although, as many others have noted, the questions that have routinely been asked for such surveys are so mushily worded as to be all but useless. The counts for both genders are too high and the overcounting for men is probably much more significant.
Perhaps, to one degree or another, it can be encapsulated by a friend’s experience who had a bit of a nymphomaniac for a girlfriend when he was in high school. One night, he came home tired and despite her requests, told her no. Later on, he woke up to her “riding me.” He pushed her off only to have her “beg for it.”
“Were you upset?” I asked.
“Yeah dude, I was tired and wanted to sleep.”
Not exactly the response you would expect from someone who was just “raped.”
That being said, I don’t want to dismiss men who have been deeply affected by such experiences. I certainly think this problem receives too little attention and assuming it doesn’t bother men probably keeps a good number of men quiet. At the same time, I also don’t think we should get carried away as some Men’s Rights Activists have and assume these studies prove the problem is “gender neutral.”
If we go back to my own experience I think it even better highlights the crucial difference between the genders. During my body-positive groping, at no time was I ever concerned for my safety. I knew both consciously and subconsciously that she could do no more to me than what I was willing to put up with. A woman in a similar situation has no such luxury. In the end, the experience was just gross, not traumatizing. One cold shower later and the event was just a good drinking story.
But we should be careful not to go so far as to assume every awkward or bumbling advances is criminal when men do it too, even if they cross the line a bit. As Claire Berlinski writes,
“In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers… I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, ‘I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!’”
She continues, “I did not freeze, nor was I terrified. I was amused and flattered...” But she notes, she could reexamine this and realize she was viciously harassed. That’s what Natalie Portman has done, stating “I went from thinking I don’t have a story to thinking, Oh wait, I have 100 stories. And I think a lot of people are having these reckonings with themselves.”
Some reexamination is important, but I could play the same card (or at least I could if anyone cared). I remember an old work colleague who used to always grab my arm and shoulder and call me “sweetheart” or “hun.” Did I like this? Not particularly. But it was such a trivial offense I didn’t even bother to ask her to stop.
But what if I “reexamined” these experiences?
Overall though, I do believe that men should be held to a higher standard in this regard (as well as for domestic violence) both because men are generally stronger and, it would seem, that most men aren’t affected quite as badly. However, this goes completely against feminist theory of “equality,” or more aptly sameness. Shouldn’t men and women be treated the same?
It would seem the only way that such “equality” can be maintained is by pretending this doesn’t happen to men. Sure, that requires ignoring all the surveys and studies out there as well as the testimony of pretty much every man if you actually asked them. Just try it. Ask a guy if a woman has “ever got overly grabby” with him and I guarantee the answer will be yes. So far, I’m sporting 100 percent on this question.
The evidence goes against the theory leading us back to the position that it’s not simply men’s avarice at play here, but a difference between the sexes. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should ignore male victims. And how we address this is a question on both sides should be open to debate. Perhaps we should go back to the more structured dating arrangements of years past, at least in part.
But let’s start by acknowledging the differences between the sexes, dropping the idea this is a simple issue as well as the anti-male bias and stop pretending that only men do this kind of thing.
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The Righteous Mind
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