The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 April 2005

Wondering Y

Guys (of whom I am one of which, to borrow a phrase) tend to be somewhat anxious when contemplating the scary prospect of dating. Women's anxieties go beyond that, as Jacqueline Passey observes:

I and almost all my female friends have been sexually assaulted at some time in our lives, ranging from the very common but minor unwanted grabbing or pinching of body parts, to the less common but unfortunately not rare drug- or alcohol-facilitated date rape, to the thankfully much rarer violent assault and forcible rape. And even despite its relative rareness, I personally have several female friends who have been brutally raped, including one fairly recent incident. Many women are also sexually abused as children, and the abusers are almost always men.

I know that this behavior is not representative of how the majority of men act. Unfortunately, though, it seems that the men who do act this way each victimize several women. So a minority of men are assaulting a majority of women, ensuring that almost all women, through either their own personal experiences or hearing about the personal experiences of their friends, have good reason to feel afraid of men.

I don't know if it's truly a "majority" of women who are thus victimized, but even one is too many.

I'm not being singled out here — if anything, I'm likely to be criticized for being insufficiently libidinous — but I do feel a certain responsibility for this situation, if only because I worry that merely behaving myself might mot be enough to reassure someone who's been beaten up, perhaps literally, in the course of her love life.

Passey suggests that men need to "do a better job of policing their gender," which seems innocuous enough, but I'm inclined to think that those of us who aren't the target of her wrath aren't likely to have much influence on those of us who are: we can snub them, editorialize against them, pull them aside and tell them to clean up their frigging act already, but some of these guys seem to be a lost cause, and all of us, women and men alike, suffer for it.

Posted at 7:31 AM to Table for One

I calculate that greater than 50% of my friends have been physically abused on some level by a man. I don't know how other men would police such behavior because it is almost always done secretly, but I do believe the acceptance of pornography goes a long way to suggest that the behavior is not really so bad. Of course, everyone knows that rape is horrible, but a lot of men don't realize the emotional scars left by a pinch here or a pat there. Whether its a squeeze, molestation or rape, it is all demeaning and scary to a woman.

Posted by: Jan at 9:17 AM on 1 April 2005

"...we can snub them, editorialize against them, pull them aside and tell them to clean up their frigging act already..."

How about LOCKING THEM UP when they force unwanted sexual contact on women?

The man who molested one of my friends as a child has never been to jail for it because the local police and sheriff couldn't sort out whose jurisdiction it was to arrest him and thus decided not to bother.

Men still have most of the political power in this country, so they have the opportunity to make a big improvement by strengthening the laws and enforcement of the current laws against sexual assault.

Posted by: Jacqueline at 9:38 AM on 1 April 2005

Where a crime has been committed, then yes, let's put them away, and let no tears be shed. If men are being sheltered by some good-ol'-boy network, then the network must be overridden and justice must be done.

Where I worry is the point at which behavior becomes criminal. Obviously there's no question about rape or physical assault: these are on the books and should be enforced. (And likewise in the less-common, or at least less-commonly-reported, case of woman-on-man violence.) But are we going to haul people before the magistrate for the "very common but minor unwanted grabbing or pinching of body parts," annoying as it may be? I'd like some clarification on that. (I figured prosecuting rape and assault was a given; my last paragraph was intended as a discussion of peer pressure against the louts who try to cop a feel in the aisle.)

Posted by: CGHill at 10:02 AM on 1 April 2005

Do you think it should be legal for a man who is bigger and stronger than you to push you up against a wall and grab your dick through your pants?

Posted by: Jacqueline at 11:02 AM on 1 April 2005

Or your balls, to give them a "friendly" squeeze?

Posted by: Jacqueline at 11:08 AM on 1 April 2005

In a word, no.

Is there a point where any previously-undiscussed physical contact is not actionable?

(I'm not trying to defend this sort of thing, but I am trying to get to the heart of the matter.)

Posted by: CGHill at 11:23 AM on 1 April 2005

No, no one ever has a right to force physical contact onto anyone else, and forced physical contact should be illegal.

I think it's interesting that you trivialize men groping women as merely "annoying" but I suspect that you would consider the equivalent assault on your own person described above as a lot more than just "annoying," wouldn't you?

Posted by: Jacqueline at 11:36 AM on 1 April 2005

Just checking.

And, well, having never had any such assaults, I hesitate to gauge what my reaction would be, though I'm reasonably certain I wouldn't like it.

It's not so much that I'm trying to trivialize these matters; rather, I'm just trying to see if there's a boundary between what is merely reprehensible and what needs to be addressed by the legal system. And I don't have any problem, per se, with outlawing the entire spectrum of affronts outright — it's unlikely that I'm going to have a problem with it personally — but I wonder, mostly on general "Do I want the government involved?" principles, if that's the best way to handle it.

I do thank you for your input.

Posted by: CGHill at 12:03 PM on 1 April 2005

As a libertarian, I think the appropriate purpose of government is to protect individual rights so the the strong cannot abuse the weak. So this is *exactly* the sort of situation government *should* be getting involved with: men, who are generally stronger, are forcing themselves onto women, who are generally weaker.

Posted by: Jacqueline at 12:27 PM on 1 April 2005

How about Florence King's idea, that all women should be allowed, even required, to have a concealed carry permit and carry a gun with them at all times? It won't stop all rapes or even "unwanted touching", of course, but it sure would cut down on the incidents.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 12:37 PM on 1 April 2005

Andrea, you'll also have to rescind all the laws that prevent women from carrying guns in some of the situations in which they are most likely to be raped: to bars, on college campuses, etc.

Posted by: Jacqueline at 1:05 PM on 1 April 2005

I support Florence and Andrea's idea. And not only would it reduce the incidence of such assaults, but drastically cut down on repeat offenses.

Posted by: McGehee at 1:05 PM on 1 April 2005

In the last several years, *men* my age have made comments about how difficult it is to find a woman that hasn't been abused at some point.

The numbers are just... grotesque.

Posted by: aldahlia at 3:09 PM on 1 April 2005

Now that's scary. Is this sort of thing on the rise, or is it just reported more often these days? (Back in the Pleistocene era, when I was that age, this was on the list of Things You Didn't Talk About.)

Posted by: CGHill at 3:25 PM on 1 April 2005

"you'll also have to rescind all the laws that prevent women from carrying guns in some of the situations in which they are most likely to be raped: to bars, on college campuses, etc."

That's the idea. It won't be done, of course -- and I have the awful feeling that that will be more due to women being against the idea than men. Guns aren't "nice" or "feminine," see.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 3:44 PM on 1 April 2005

Some people will take an innocent touch and go ridiculous, too.

I watched a man walking past a woman when she suddenly backed up into his path. He put -one- hand on her back, quickly stepped to the side to avoid running into her and said "Excuse me." She went ballistic on him over something that was entirely -her- fault. There may have been "history" between them, but in this particular instance, he had done nothing wrong.

I watched another man playing pool. He was down and taking aim on his shot when a woman walked into his hand spoiling his shot. She went wild and accused of grabbing her crotch. He was allowed no explanation and was ejected -and banned- from the bar in spite of eyewitness accounts. Again, there may have been a "history" of inappropriate touching prior to this event, but at that time, he had done nothing deliberately wrong.

The problem lies in the determination of fault and how to decide if there even is any blame to be assigned. Some will overreact in unnecessary situations while others won't react at all in situations where action is warranted. It is a sliding scale and changes with each individual involved.

Mind, I'm not trying to excuse improper and/or inappropriate behavior, but there are times when "foul" is cried when no foul has occurred.

Posted by: unimpressed at 9:55 PM on 1 April 2005

No doubt, but I suspect (and I, pace Jacqueline, tend to underestimate these things, so it's probably worse than I think) that the genuine article far outnumbers the bogus.

Eugene Volokh wrote this past week about the difficulty in teaching a criminal-law class on rape, and here's why:

(1) it's fairly likely that at least one women in the class has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, (2) many women in the class are deeply and personally concerned about the risk of being raped, in a way that people aren't with regard to homicide (which is rarer) or burglary (which is less serious), and (3) many men and some women, knowing this, are reluctant to speak candidly about some of the thorny issues in this area, which deprives everyone in the class — men and women alike — of a thoughtful, substantive discussion.

At least this group is candid. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 9:40 PM on 2 April 2005

"Mind, I'm not trying to excuse improper and/or inappropriate behavior, but there are times when "foul" is cried when no foul has occurred."

Hrrm. Way more than I ought to say on someone else's blog.

I had to take a polygraph test and pass in order for a my sexual assault trial to go to jury--I agreed to at the defenses request. The test proved conclusively that we were both telling the truth (though the results are inadmissable in a Texas courts.) The point being, he thought he was innocent "of wrongdoing," though he doesn't deny that that act occured.

Posted by: aldahlia at 10:57 PM on 5 April 2005

aldahlia, -you- may not be one to call foul, but apparently, not all live up to your standard.

Gee. Some people -lie-. On both sides of the issue. If some men will commit these acts against a woman and lie to get out of trouble, why is it such a stretch of the imagination to believe that some women are capable lying to get a man into trouble when nothing was done?

Both are reprehensible. As was my point.

All I commented on were -those specific occasions- where I saw a bad call made. I'm sure others have occurred.

Posted by: unimpressed at 11:50 PM on 5 April 2005