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January 30, 2012

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Discussion of what a lot of young, attractive women encounter every time they appear in public. You only get the full flavor by reading the comments, too:

I've just discovered that one of my manifold varieties of cluelessness was that I had no clue that the kind of encounters detailed in the first of those posts (plus many others in comments) were so prevalent.

Some clue, yes. But...wow.

I went in expecting to find out all the things I was doing wrong, only to find that I wasn't nearly as much of a creep as I thought I was. Too bad I had to compare myself to subway masturbators to feel better about myself, though. (Gosh, my life is hard.)

Doc S--thanks for the three links on the BS women have to endure. Very helpful insights.

All right, I just used up two hours on a Monday morning ignoring what I should be doing to download Dr. Science's reading and brain into my brain.

Thank you, and don't stop.

Fukuyama's thoughts were interesting, (I'm going to read the 4 out of the 5 books he recommended that I haven't yet), if only because I suspected he would spend most of the rest of his writing career following up the "The End of History" with Monty Python-type sequels entitled along the lines "And Now For Something Completely Different", which would include the type of unfettered stupidity and hubris unleashed (I recall Steve Forbes, when I had a subscription to Forbes --early 1990s--, rubbing his hands together imagining the shredding of the social safety net and deregulation of many kinds, including financial, that would be possible as the Progressive movement (I guess he thought Progressives were all Soviet agents) died and history got a reboot at circa 1890, or 1932, depending on which quant was creating the equation that would leave out all externalalilaluloties) by the death of Soviet Communism.

Regarding the song "Where Have All The Subway Masturbators Gone" sung by those early folkies, Pecker, Poopie, and Mayhem, my theory (unlike the long genesis of Fukuyama's theories, I came up with this one four seconds ago) is that the cellphone, especially those pesky cameras that come with, may be serving as a deterrent in the fervid minds of male exhibitionists.

But then I read in one of the comments sections that women are in turn subjected to being recorded furtively via cellphone by men in public places, so I suppose it's a wash.

Those articles on what women put up with were eye-opening. Not that I think male rubbernecking (a mild form of the noted rude practices) will ever stop, until men become rather advanced in age and their neck vertebrae deteriorate.

I wonder, too, why men who engage in the more flagrant rudenessnesses don't get it that the sexual revolution has in general brought a certain matter-of-fact-you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all objectivity to women's views regarding the "male form".

Don't these men realize that history has ended and their d*cks have gone the way of the Berlin Wall.

No doubt, however, the all-encompassing Internet has probably permitted web forums of various ridiculous types where men given to this type of behavior can gather and sort of chew over their plight, while perhaps exhibiting to each other, while lamenting the fact that women just don't seem shocked any longer when they depants (unlike women wearing revealing clothing for their own very fine reasons, these creeps think to themselves that, honey, I'm doing this just for you, and you, and you, too.) themselves along the public byways.

The old timers think back wistfully to when you could make a woman blush or react in some embarrassed way at every wave of the magic wand. We had power!, they tell themselves. Now women glare at you or ignore you altogether. What is this country coming too, they wonder?

Then they vote for Ron Paul, equating their loss of power with the rise of the Federal Reserve.

Slarti, McK:

It's only in the last couple of years that I've realized that most men *don't* know about this. It's such a pervasive part of many young women's lives, part of the atmosphere or background, that I always just assumed that guys knew it was going on, too.

But then I read in one of the comments sections that women are in turn subjected to being recorded furtively via cellphone by men in public places

There's now a thing called, IIRC, "upskirting", where men use their cell-phones to take pictures of women under their skirts, on stairways or elevators or in other public places. I suspect that a Google image search would reveal quite a number of those shots, although I would not recommend doing so on a work computer.

I liked the essay by the woman who let her hair go gray. I was one of the lucky ones who never got a lot of street harrassment (or was sufficiently oblivious not to notice it), but since I stopped coloring my hair I don't get nearly as many comments from men on the street. On the other hand, I get lots of compliments from women about my hair. *grin*

It's only in the last couple of years that I've realized that most men *don't* know about this. It's such a pervasive part of many young women's lives, part of the atmosphere or background, that I always just assumed that guys knew it was going on, too.

I've seen--personally seen--isolated incidents of boorishness. I say "isolated" because I don't go places--never did really--where that kind of stuff was likely to take place. My daughter runs into what I take to be a milder form of offense and seems to handle it pretty well, but then she's always been extremely blunt with young men who had big mouths.

What I'm struggling with is this: why isn't this kind of behavior routinely portrayed and criticized in popular media? What I see is the hook up culture glorified, women portrayed as, if not as aggressive in men in seeking out encounters, at least very willing participants. Most of what I see does not ring true with what I vaguely recall from my single days. Women wanted to meet men, "meet" being the operative word, not stripped bare by some guy's eyes or verbally or physically mugged.

I want to think about this more. If this thread is still around in a day or two, I may have something more concrete to add.

Thanks again, Doc. This is useful stuff, well worth thinking about and acting on.

why isn't this kind of behavior routinely portrayed and criticized in popular media?

I... kind of don't know how to respond to your question.

Because television and movies are still mostly written by men?

Because criticizing it in popular media would offend the prized target market of 18-34-year-old men? (Not that such behavior is in any way limited to that age group.)

Because critizing it would make the producers appear to be "femi-nazis" and they would be mocked on call-in shows and Jay Leno? (Find me, I beg you, a sympathetic and intelligent portrayal of a self-professed feminist on television. You won't be able to: even though many female characters on television behave like feminists, none of them will adopt the label for fear of losing the male audience.)

Because it's easier to blame the woman for dressing "wrong" or behaving "loose" than to change an entire culture that accepts and encourages men to act as though girls and women are there for their viewing pleasure? (And worse.)

Because the frequent response is: "Don't like it here? Try Egypt! Why are you complaining when women in Afghanistan aren't allowed to read?"

... okay, I'll stop now.

It's only in the last couple of years that I've realized that most men *don't* know about this.

I'd guess most men would say it happens. They just wouldn't guess how much, particularly if they are in what I'm also guessing is the majority of men who wouldn't harass women in the ways described in the links. All joking aside about comparing myself to a subway masturbator, I can't even imagine whispering a comment, even a "compliment," into a total stranger's ear just because I found her physically attractive. (Well, I can imagine it; it's just totally effin creepy.)But, if one guy in a thousand is willing to do that (and it may well be more), and he does it to hundreds of women over the course of a week or a month or several months, he can make men in general look pretty bad. And, since he doesn't do it to other men, the other men tend not to notice.

Plus most men probably do tend to like attention from strangers of the opposite sex (I do, on the ever rarer and rarer occasions that it happens - I'm getting older, too), since they almost never have to worry about being assaulted by strange women, and have to worry less often about not being taken seriously because of being physically attractive. So they may think the milder stuff women have to put up with is okay - as though it's a mirror image of what they experience from women (though likely a lot less often, which in and of itself makes it different).

Co-Fax writes, Because television and movies are still mostly written by men?

This is a thought I've had for some time, but from a somewhat different angle--which is what I'm now giving a bit of thought.

FWIW, it isn't "men" who write these shows. It's a particular kind of "man", which is going to be the point of my comment, once I'm there.

Discussion of what a lot of young, attractive women encounter every time they appear in public.

This was driven home to me when the one time I went out clubbing/dancing with my (future) wife and she mentioned, almost as an aside, that she was going to be groped. Not "might" or "usually" but, "it's going to happen." I was shocked. This was born of her experience at such places, and she went to them hardly at all.

Long ago, I used to work in Boston and I commuted by rail. For one reason or another, I went into the office on a Saturday. I went to catch a mid-morning train.

There was exactly nobody else on my side of the platform. There was exactly one person on the other side of the platform, and that was a guy who was squatting on the stairwell, staring at me, and wanking away like nobody's business.

It took me a moment to figure out what was going on, because it was so unexpected that my brain needed a minute to wrap itself around the reality. If I were a woman, I'm sure I would have recognized it immediately.

I had no idea what to do, exactly, so I just started yelling at the guy and throwing rocks at him. I ran up the stairwell on my side to go - do what, exactly? kick the crap out of him? I don't know. It wasn't a really rational response.

But, it was a response that a youngish, fit, 6'2" 200 pound guy could make.

The guy ran away.

It's hard for me to think the guy was really getting much out of the experience, sexually. I think it was more like a monkey in the zoo, wanking away to express its general spleen toward life in general. Frankly, I have no idea what the guy was about.

But it was one of the creepiest, weirdest experiences I've ever had. It got inside my head, and made life seem generally slimy, for a couple of days. I had to go find some normal people and hang around with them to shake it off.

As noted above, I'm not a small person, and at that time was fairly strong. The guy was no realistic physical threat to me. He was on the other side of two train tracks, with a chain link fence in between. And, when confronted with the possibility of actual face-to-face contact, he ran away.

But it weirded me the hell out. This guy, with all of his bizarre issues, was out there, walking around somewhere. How many other strange dudes like that were around? Riding the bus, riding the train, walking the sidewalks, sitting next to or even just near me in a restaurant.

It got inside my head.

The sister of a good friend of mine once put her coat on after an afternoon spent at the library, only to discover that some guy had left a gooey surprise in her coat pocket.

Apparently she was not surprised by this, didn't find it at all unusual. Gross, yes. Unexpected, maybe, at the library anyway. Surprising, no.

I had a conversation with a guy once, who explained how he had somehow hacked some woman's phone and spent some quality recreational time eavesdropping on her conversations. Kind of a stalking thing, but in his mind harmless, because she wasn't aware of it.

What you don't know won't hurt you, right? It seriously did not occur to this guy that what he was doing was not just illegal, but seriously bizarre, transgressive, and wrong.

Women put up with an amazing ration of crap, just in the course of their daily lives. I'd say one solution might be taking weird creepy guys aside and explaining firmly that behavior was not welcome, but I'm not sure that's really practical. It appears that weirdness is surprisingly general.

Regarding climactic zones, maybe this year is just a weird, fluky, anomaly, but it's the second to last day of January and we already have crocuses peeking up. That ain't right. Just saying.

Regarding orphan trains, there was no particular train involved, but my mother in law had something like that situation when she was a kid. Her old man had no work, they were very poor, so she and her brother took turns living with aunt and uncle who still were on the family farm.

Brother went during the summer when they needed the brute labor, she went during the winter. They worked their @sses off, their cousins gave them unending crap, and their aunt and uncle never let them forget whose dime they were living on.

That's what being poor was back in the day.

That's what being poor was back in the day.

Yup. My grandmother lost her parents young: she was only 10 or 12, I think. She was shipped off to NY to live with an aunt, her mother's sister.

Aunt Grace put her to work. Celie never finished school, just cooked and cleaned and sewed and worked as a maid for her older male cousins. She only left the house for good when she got married, where she did the exact same thing for her husband and his drunkard father.

And I expect she was told to be grateful that someone had taken her in.

Frankly, I have no idea what the guy was about.

My guess: making damned sure you knew he existed, and maybe that you'd remember him for a while, maybe even for the rest of your life, because that was the best he could do in terms of human interaction. He needed to affect someone somehow for his existence to matter in some way. (All of which may be a longer version of the monkey thing.)

I see an important difference between looking quietly/discretely (objectifying, still!) and going out of your way to make sure she knows you're doing it (via commentary, or just being really blatant about the staring/drooling).

The latter is some sort of dominance display.

Boys are socialized to do it (or at least socialized to think it's ok) and girls have been socialized to put up with it fairly meekly. Perhaps that's changing. I hope so.

why isn't this kind of behavior routinely portrayed and criticized in popular media

I'm guessing it's because they don't know about it, just as you and I didn't know just how bad it could be.

I mean, even now: we're thinking that these women who have shared their stories could be an example of sample bias, no? That's what I'd like to think, even though I kind of know better.

As to why...here's what I think: quite honestly, Archie Bunker was right, talking to Meathead about soiges. What your Archie of your dad don't tell you, though, is that some people (we're talking about men, here, for the nonce) provide a direct path from their urges to their behavior, with little or no filter in between. If they were monkeys, they'd be engaging in perfectly acceptable behavior.

We're not really anywhere near as far from our animal roots as we'd like to think, but society has given us a facade of simulated humanity that lets us pretend otherwise.

Those stories are outliers, you see.

why isn't this kind of behavior routinely portrayed and criticized in popular media

If by popular media you mean TV and movies, I think that's because those industries tend to be quite risk averse. My wife and I recently started watching a TV show called Prime Suspect which showcases a female NYPD homicide detective who gets a ton of harassment from her coworkers when she joins a new taskforce. After the first episode, we both turned to each other and said, 'wow, I bet the series gets canceled after one season because people don't want to be challenged like that'.

I mean, making a TV show or a movie is a risky business; lots of good TV series get canceled early on. So for every story writers want to tell, they have to ask themselves, will this piss off enough viewers to get us a crummy review or to hurt our numbers? There are plenty of people who defend or minimize street harassment, so if you portray it negatively, you're going to piss of some fraction of your audience. Every showrunner has to ask themselves, 'is it worth the risk'?

I haven't seen this recent version of "Prime Suspect" and have no idea about its cancellation possibilities, but it is based on the great "Mystery" series of shows, called "Prime Suspect", the British import from years ago starring Helen Mirren as the heroine, or as critic David Thomson called her performance, never had the movies, "had a fuller portrait of an attractive woman soured by career."

Also, from Thomson, as Jane Tennison in two or three subsequent "Prime Suspect" series, her character made it all the way to superintendent without turning into a serial killer herself."

She would have been murdering some of her unprofessional fellow officers who might as well have been jumping up on their desks, waggling their arms over their heads, and "presenting" like the chimpanzees described in the posts above when "she" was brought it in as a detective.

The role catapulted Mirren's popular image on this side of the pond. She had been doing theater and film in England to acclaim for years.

Now we all know who she is.

Why isn't this behavior routinely portrayed and criticized in the popular media?

I can't count the number of popular movies and TV shows that portray women as a certain kind of male would have them be: whether it's fulfilling a menage a trois fantasy, bisexual (strictly young, attractive women with young, attractive women) activity, sexual aggression, really visible and pronounced sexual desire, virtually instant sexual reaction to a man, and so on and so on.

In pretty much every instance, my thought is: what kind of sh*thead would write a role like this for a woman? What kind of mindset produces the idea that this is the way women are?

Call me cynical and suspicious, but it isn't just because there is a market for that stuff; it's that the writers like writing roles they know young women will compete to fill in which they pretend to enjoy activities (which they surely do not) as a means of validating/fulfilling their own creepy a** desires.

I mean, for someone who is a sick, voyeuristic slime bag, what better way to get paid good money AND have a bunch of young hotties perform your fantasies for you?

Or, maybe I'm just old-fashioned. And cynical and suspicious.

There are plenty of people who defend or minimize street harassment, so if you portray it negatively, you're going to piss of some fraction of your audience.

I have to think the number of pervs is substantially less than the number of women who find pervs to be odious in the extreme. What I can't figure is why women haven't pushed back more on the highly sexualized stereotype Hollywood and the major studios perpetuate.

What I can't figure is why women haven't pushed back more on the highly sexualized stereotype Hollywood and the major studios perpetuate.

What about men pushing back, too? Fair question. For my part, I can't really articulate, from a woman's perspective, how demeaning and how wrong these shows portray female sexuality. If I could, I'd be willing to give it a try. Since I can't, I'd look to women to set the tone of the conversation and then I'd join in. Or send a check. Further, mass entertainment writers don't give a damn what cranky old men care for or not. Women, suitably organized, however, carry weight.

I remember years ago, just after college, taking my mother to a day time matinee of "Gone With The Wind" when it was re-released for theaters in the early 1970s, at one of those old, cavernous, plush, ornate downtown theaters.

There were maybe 20 people scattered throughout the theater; we were sitting in a middle row, no one else nearby, my mother laving two seats on the aisle empty with me sitting to her other side.

Some time in the first third of the movie, a man sat down in the empty seat next to my mother, which seemed vaguely odd to naive me with my popcorn and malted milks going full tilt as Scarlett O'Hara made everyone miserable on the screen.

Not too much later, but before Atlanta could burn, my mother seemed to be tugging at my shirtsleeve, which oblivious me ignored, thinking she was just moving around in her seat and then, she started giving me an elbow in the upper arm and finally leaned over and issued, in a very plaintive loud whisper, "Count-me, please help!"

I finally asked "What, already?" and she jerked her head at the guy on the other side, so I leaned forward and across my mother to peer at him, and though I didn't get a good look and my brain, like Russell's refused to register what my eyes saw, like Russell's, as the man was frantically zipping up the evidence, the better to make haste up the aisle after getting wind of the fact that I was a distant monkey cousin who might go all Rhett Butler on his Ashley Wilkes butt (I had long hair at the time, so he probably thought I was a woman as well as he skulked his way to his seat originally), he had been, well, shaking hands with the unemployed for my mother's sake, as she confirmed at the end of the movie once we hit the sidewalk afterward and had a chance to review what turned out to be, for her, a double feature.

Funny thing is, as we walked to our car and were at a light to cross, yet another guy walked past my mother and leaned in close for her benefit and belched the loudest belch (outside of one of my brother's abilities in that area) I've ever heard in public.

It cannonaded off the walls of the buildings around us and, I believe, mussed my mother's hair.

My Mom laughed and said something along the lines of "My lord, what is wrong with people?" while stifling a laugh.

I looked at her and, stupidly, I expect, said "well Mom, the ones we've met today seem to feel very comfortable around you."

But, yes, what is the reason for these particular tiresome male displays, besides, as hstd wrote, leaving an indelible witness to the perpetrators' existence. And then, or first, there is power and dominance.

The "marking his territory" story in the library Russell related made me think that maybe the perpetrator had been browsing in the Philip Roth fiction section. Roth was, .... is.... pretty good at depicting chimp behavior among adolescent boys and, for that matter, full-grown men.

Finally, for a slightly different and more humorous view of the lengths men will go to in pursuit of a glimpse of the female form, as we well-mannered chimps refer to it, I like "Some Like It Hot", especially the scene wherein Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, now dressed as fairly winsome women, smuggle themselves into the train's sleeping car with the rest of the soon to be pajama'd all-girl band.

It's amusing to watch the two male leads try to maintain some propriety (expressed very cleverly by the actors as maleness underneath a patina of "we're all just girls here, aren't we girls?") despite their howling horndoggedness in the midst of what they imagined would be their Valhalla.

I don't even think they got a pillow fight. Or, did they? Must rent the movie.

Lemmon, of course, gets his reward in the end, a marriage proposal from Joe E. Brown.

"Nobody's perfect."

As to the less threatening, but still tiresome, practice of looking at women, besides keeping it discrete and gentlemanly, I don't know what to do about it.

As a Paul Newman character said in another movie, when accused of some over-active eyes, "Everyone's got to look somewhere."

The screenwriter was, of course, a man, or probably a committee of chimpanzees around a mahogany table, chain smoking and swapping lines.

Good points, MckT.

I wonder, too, about the cliches today's male mass entertainment scriptwriters use and the women who assume the roles.

Yes, the women view the roles as just a job.

The males, I'm not so sure. I can imagine them, in Gollum's voice, saying to themselves, "no it's not, no it most certainly is not, please lean over the desk for one more take so we can peer down your blouse."

Within, of course, a very professional atmosphere on a set.

Further, mass entertainment writers don't give a damn what cranky old men care for or not. Women, suitably organized, however, carry weight.

Did you miss the rest of my original comment, McKinney? About how every time women do push back, we get castigated as "frigid" or "femi-nazis" or told "it's just tv, what's your problem?" or "women keep competing for these roles, so clearly they like it!"

And it's not just men who say such things: there are women who agree, because they haven't experienced street harrassment, or don't think it's humiliating to see women on display, or they've convinced themselves it's the fault of the women on the receiving end, or that it's an appropriate way for young women to seize their power (Camille Paglia in particular likes that one).

That said, women do push back. Geena Davis runs a foundation addressing the issue of representation of girls and women in the media. Jennifer Siebel Newsom made a documentary about the issue. Sites like Women in Hollywood, The Mary Sue, Feministe, and Girl-Wonder.org, and bloggers like Dr. Science and Alyssa Rosenberg talk at length about women's representation in popular culture, and encourage people to take action via letter-writing and how they spend their entertainment dollars.

I watch Fringe and not Hawaii Five-O because I want to see women heroes who wear reasonable clothes and practical shoes and still save the day.

But it's a long, grinding battle, most of it uphill, because people don't like to change their minds. And they certainly don't like the idea that most of the women in the culture spend a lot of time and emotional energy dealing with harrassment.

Yes, the women view the roles as just a job.

Most women are smart enough to know when they're being demeaned. But if you want to work in Hollywood, you don't kick about your working conditions.

ISTR Megan Fox complained about how she was treated, and just like that Michael Bay found another leading lady for the next Transformers movie...

Really interesting phenomena.

First of all, masturbating in public is very disturbing to people who witness it. Not sure it has anything to do with the "cuteness" of the person who happens to witness it. When I've seen it happening, I was a child coming home from school (cute? I don't know - definitely young!), and then again in a situation where I'm not sure who the "victim" was, since there were quite a few people who could have been "it". I'm not sure that the behavior belongs in the "attractive woman can't go outside" category of things.

As to catcalling and rude comments about appearance: Rudeness is horrible. In some cases, it seems to be a matter of peer behavior - construction sites [used to be/still are?] a place where men felt comfortable/thought it was cool/thought it was entertaining/broke the boredom to yell ridiculous crap at women to make them feel uncomfortable. Another common occurrence in the olden days: women who dressed fashionably at certain colleges were, in the '70's, victimized by horrible frat boys who catcalled.

Technology crap (surreptitious pictures): Icky! Don't know what we will do about it. Even un-icky pictures without permission are icky IMHO. I find it creepy to see my face on somebody's facebook page, much less my nether regions.

"Smile!" Yes - probably annoying to most people. I think some of the perpetrators actually mean well, hoping that they're bestowing a rainbow to the recipient.

Talking to strangers? Compliments on appearance? Honestly, most people who do that probably aren't trying to harass. And there is a spectrum of reactions among recipients. Some people like positive feedback on their appearance, even from strangers (if it isn't threatening, obviously). Especially if people are wearing especially beautiful clothing, etc.

I think people who are offended by polite compliments are overly sensitive. They should certainly feel free to express their negative reaction to the "perpetrator", but they don't necessarily speak for everyone.

Leering? Leering is staring at body parts. Checking out? Checking out is looking. There's a difference. The second is okay, although the first is not.

In this culture, it is a very practiced art to refrain from objectifying. That's true for men and women. If people think that women aren't also guilty of objectifying others, they really aren't paying attention.

I guess I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that some people think "I am pretty, therefore all of these assholes are making my life miserable when I go out in public!" The situation is actually this: assholes don't care about how pretty other people are, since they just want to be assholes. There are misogynists out there, but they can be a lot more subtle than the subway masturbators.

Sheesh. More heaps over politically correct drek from the usual suspects.

Fact: Most women, who are secure in their womaness, like to be looked at - or checked out - by men. That is why they take hours putting on make up and selecting the right flattering attire.

One caveat is that they generally prefer to be checked out by by men they find attractive or powerful or interesting in some way.

Just a subtle acknowledgement and a smile is much appreciated by a woman who takes care of herself.

Google something like, "do women like to be checked out looked at by men". You will see that most women respond in the affirmative. It is, however, a fact of life that you should already know if you're living life.

Of course no one - not even men - likes to encounter the public monkey spanker, but that sort of thing is the obscene extreme end of the spectrum. It's even a crime. Even the loud hoots and whisltes are too simian for most (but not all!) women.

But a little gaze? Come on. Outside of militant fem circles and planet ObWi it's appreciated, not an offense.

Fact: Most women, who are secure in their womaness, like to be looked at - or checked out - by men.

I would say that women get the final say on what women do and don't like.

Also, if you happened to actually read the articles Doc S cites, "a little gaze" is not what is under discussion.

Well, speaking of misogynists whose behavior is not under discussion, there was an editorial in the New York Times (okay, I've already confessed that I pay for it since I support intellectual property) by Caitlin Flanagan. I will not link to it since I refuse to link to anything she says. But she is an example of someone who is really trying to stereotype women back into the stone ages.

In case you want to take issue with this, please google her interview with Stephen Colbert. OMG. If someone wants to get pissed at someone else for being a misogynist, let me count myself as someone, and her as someone else.

And they're giving her prime time. Much more damaging, IMO, than these dweebish hapless morons who offend people in social situations.

Well now, avedis, I don't know who got your politically incorrect panties in a twist, but remember, as Aurora, the Shirley McClain character in "Terms of Endearment" reminded the leering Garrett Breedlove (good name choice there), played by leerer-in-chief Jack Nicholson, at lunch, "Sometimes impatient boys miss dessert."

Which is to say that I don't see anyone here, male or female, in the OBWI hothouse NOT differentiating a little polite and interested looking across a crowded room, even a shower room, by either sex for whatever reason from a having a crotch-grabbing contest on a subway platform.

"Smile!" Yes - probably annoying to most people. I think some of the perpetrators actually mean well, hoping that they're bestowing a rainbow to the recipient.

Let's be very clear here: no one has ever stopped a male police officer on the street and told him to smile more. That shit just doesn't happen. These people who "mean well" never "bestow a rainbow" on recipients that have real power. Because it has nothing to do with making random strangers happier; it has to do with exercising control over women.

Really, now, if you want to make a complete stranger happier, you don't bark orders at them. They're not your pet waiting for your commands. If someone isn't smiling, they probably have a pretty damn good reason why and it is none of your business.

I think people who are offended by polite compliments are overly sensitive. They should certainly feel free to express their negative reaction to the "perpetrator", but they don't necessarily speak for everyone.

A mid-20s female friend of mine just experienced this recently. She stopped at a convenience store just down the street from her apartment on her way home from work. As she left, an older guy followed her out, whistled, and said 'nice legs' to her. Now she has a choice: confront him or ignore him. Either way, she has to decide: should she go home? If she does, he will know where she lives. If she confronts him, will he follow her? Are there enough people on the street to help her if he attacks her? Is he big enough that she'd have a chance in a physical confrontation?

All this crap goes through her head because there's always an implicit threat of rape or further continued harassment when street harassers do their thing. She's not a visitor: this is her home; she has to deal with the fact that this guy might be hanging around on a regular basis. He might follow her every damn day.

So sapient, what exactly do you think she should have done? Was she being overly-sensitive to debate whether she should go straight home and telegraph her address to this creep? Was she wrong to determine that getting into a confrontation with this guy was not safe?

And most importantly, why should she have had to deal with any of this crap?

O.K., could more of the OBWI ladies chime into this thread, before we males regress into the usual competitive gallantries, which as Phil has pointed out on the threads regarding abortion, seems to be the fork in the road well forked.

I'd also be interested in hearing from gay men and lesbians regarding their experiences with boorish sexual behavior.

I don't think sapient was prescribing any reasons why she should have to deal with any of this crap.

She shouldn't.

But outside of the context of the stupid "nice legs" on the street (not that women don't have nice legs and are happy to display them, even if they are just legs used for propelling forward motion, so what's with the garters, but then again who is the craphead who invented pantyhose .. questions, questions), I'd be happy as a now single man if women would just take over the entire enterprise of whatever this dance consists of because, as with all of the mysteries of life, I haven't a clue, which is different then when I was younger, when I thought stupidly that I had a clue and didn't.

Merlin lived life backwards, to no avail.

He should have taken tango lessons.

Well, I do, actually (remember, I exaggerate; it's the internet for crap's sake). I think men and women, and gay men and gay women, and dogs and Rick Santorum want the same thing, which is to be left alone when needed, but not be, you know, "ALONE" in this howling wilderness.

It's the scheduling of "left alone" and "ALONE" that is problematical.

You want to be left alone?

Yes.

Now?

Yes.

O.K. so do I.

But what about me?

Me? I thought I was me?


Fact: Most women, who are secure in their womaness, like to be looked at - or checked out - by men. That is why they take hours putting on make up and selecting the right flattering attire.

How amazing that you are able to read my mind when I am picking out clothing for the day! How do you do it?!

Seriously, dude: any sentence that begins, "Most women X" is to be avoided: women are not a monolith. And you don't know why women wear makeup and care about their clothes, but it has much less to do with sexually pleasing men than you think.

Women wear flattering clothing because it's expected of us; because it's required of us; because we like the way we look (we are not immune to social constructs of beauty); because we like to impress other women; because we like to impress men; because it's an expression of our personality or our personal creativity; because it's a tool in the professional world, like learning to use spreadsheets; because it gives us an edge up on the competition; because it signals our sexual preferences; because it signals our class status; because our mothers taught us to dress for the job we wanted, not the one we had. Because we have been told that we're not real women if we don't wear makeup and the occasional skirt.

I never confront street harrassers, or people who tell me they like my hair or my smile. It's not worth it: the guy could be one of the dangerous ones.

That said, I have done some reading that a lot of street harrassment has to do with men posturing for other men, performing masculinity, and not so much with picking up women. I mean, really: do any of these guys really think the woman they yell at is going to go home with them? I think not: it's for show, like the way my old (male) dog would pee on every. single. tree. for a half-mile radius around my house.

Which doesn't make me feel any safer, actually.

That is why they take hours putting on make up and selecting the right flattering attire.

Also, HOURS? I'll have you know I get my makeup on in six minutes.

Your implication of the value of women's time I leave as an exercise to the reader.

Depressing thread, lots of "men are pigs" sentiment here, mostly from guys. Predictably enough, when women raise the issue it becomes imperative to show one is not among the pigs...

Hairshirthedonist got it right with the volume issue: It doesn't take very many men to give very many women unpleasant experiences. There's also the other side of the picture, that just like a very few men do this, a very few women do respond positively to it (and yes, avedis is right that these few women might still respond negatively if they don't find the advancer attractive).

In our society, men are expected to make first advances, women are expected to be advanced to. Facing rejection and scorn is not fun, so a few men cope by adopting a "spamming" strategy, just don't giving a shit about the 99 women who think they're disgusting for every one that responds positively. I guarantee you for each of these, there is a "forever aloner" who never dares rejection, and who is completely invisible to women.

There's a middle ground, sure, but it's narrower the less attractive you are (not something I expect people who proclaim themselves on top of the attractiveness curve to appreciate).

Now spammers are not nice people, and we certainly want to apply social pressure to get people to stop spamming.

But while we do it, how about we realize that men aren't any more or less related to baboons than women are, and gender norms haven't been constructed, they have grown. (I'd say evolved, but that suggests more selective pressure than I think existed, and anyway it sounds too evo-psych.) They exist for reasons outside any individual's control, and it's going to take more than self-congratulatory tut-tutting of men as a group to change it.

should she go home?

Oddly enough, I had this happen once also.

I was riding a bus from downtown Philly to my place in West Philly and some guy starts chatting me up. Like, in a very bizarre way, with lots of asides about how he wasn't gay, don't take his jabber the wrong way, etc.

Just weird disturbing inappropriate blather.

So when I got to my stop, I waited until the last possible second before getting up, so as not to signal to the guy that this was my stop, and then bolted out the door. I looked back, and he was trying to also get off, but the door had shut.

So, what now? The guy can still see where I'm going. The next stop is basically just a couple of blocks away.

Do I walk home? Do I give any clue about where I actually live?

I walked the opposite direction from where I lived and went several blocks before making a big circle back around to my place. Then, I waited across the street to see if the dude was hanging around before crossing over and heading in the door.

Again, not likely that it was a real physical threat, just freaking weird and creepy. I for damned sure did not want this guy knowing where I lived.

That happened to me once in my life. For women, it's not uncommon.

Women have a whole other set of issues that they have to factor into their daily lives. If that kind of crap was something I had to not only anticipate but expect on a regular basis, I'd think about carrying mace, or maybe a baseball bat.

They exist for reasons outside any individual's control

Everybody is responsible for how they, themselves, behave. If you can't be responsible for your own actions, it's time for professional help.

And I don't see anybody congratulating themselves on this thread.

More heaps over politically correct drek from the usual suspects.

I consider myself to be keenly attentive to politically correct drek[sic], but I'm not seeing any of that here. Maybe you, with your penetrating insight, can point some out. Specifically, I mean.

Also, the usual subjects could use some identification. Because we don't like to speak in generalities, here; any of us.

Fact: Most women, who are secure in their womaness, like to be looked at - or checked out - by men.

The only way you could know this is if you were most women. I don't know of any way of considering that possibility that doesn't scare the hell out of me.

If you're wondering why your excessively generalizing comments result in objections from both sides of the political fence, here, it's because they are generally (YSWIDT?) flailing, nonspecific, knee-jerk, and predictable. Which, as a result, is practically designed to piss people off more than make any kind of point.

russell, this is missing the point in a downright offensive manner. Who said I'm not responsible for my own actions?

I am not responsible for men's actions in general, however. And I think a moral condemnation of men as a group (which is certainly something I see a lot of in this thread, and in the two linked articles) is counterproductive.

This is because men as a group are no better or worse than women - as individuals we have choice, as groups we respond to social pressures and expectations.

These problems must be met institutionally, not merely individually. The classic diagnosis of "men need to change!" is ideological comfort food.

Self-righteously comparing other men to monkeys is not a good institutional solution.

Who said I'm not responsible for my own actions?

No one did. Not even you.

am not responsible for men's actions in general, however.

No one's asking you to be. No one is blaming you.

think a moral condemnation of men as a group (which is certainly something I see a lot of in this thread, and in the two linked articles) is counterproductive.

I agree, but no one is doing that.

This is because men as a group are no better or worse than women - as individuals we have choice, as groups we respond to social pressures and expectations.

I don't see anyone doing an en masse comparison of women to men. Perhaps you could point out some of those.

These problems must be met institutionally, not merely individually. The classic diagnosis of "men need to change!" is ideological comfort food.

What do you mean by "institutionally"?

Self-righteously comparing other men to monkeys is not a good institutional solution.

russell didn't do that, and I got no sense of self-righteousness from that. Although there was a certain amount of (IMO, justified) WTF-ness about the whole scene. Also: russell is not offering any kind of solution. He's just discussing.

The occasional averse-ness to discussion I see here is more than a little disappointing.

sapient: I think people who are offended by polite compliments are overly sensitive. They should certainly feel free to express their negative reaction to the "perpetrator", but they don't necessarily speak for everyone.

Turbulence: A mid-20s female friend of mine just experienced this recently. She stopped at a convenience store just down the street from her apartment on her way home from work. As she left, an older guy followed her out, whistled, and said 'nice legs' to her.

This is not what I was referring to when I said "polite compliment." It's not polite to mention body parts (especially below the chin). It's not polite to whistle. It's not polite to follow.

If you couldn't say it to your grandmother (or grandfather) as well as to the attractive young woman (or man), it's probably not a polite thing to say to a stranger. Telling someone that he or she has a nice smile can be a nice thing to say. Would you say it to a policeman? Probably not. Would you say it to someone who comes into your shop occasionally? I think that would be okay.

This is a big country, and some parts of it are more "friendly" than others in the sense of short, trivial exchanges. I reject the idea that we all have to be totally isolated in order to be considered polite. Obviously, it's safer never to speak to a stranger, only to speak to people to whom you've been properly introduced, preferably with a chaperone in attendance. I'm glad that hasn't been my world.

sapient, when I read your original comment "Smile!" Yes - probably annoying to most people, I thought you were referring to street harassers that command women to smile. This behavior appears quite common: the harasser barks orders at women on the street because he thinks he's entitled to their obedience. But now it seems you're talking about someone saying "you have a lovely smile"...so which is it? Because "Smile!" is generally a command and not considered shorthand for "you have a lovely smile".

But a little gaze? Come on.

You have an amazing capacity for missing the point.

"A little gaze" is not what's under discussion. Leering, catcalling, stalker behavior, groping and the public spanker... those things are under discussion.

I can only conclude you failed to actually read the links Dr. Science provided, since they are long discussion threads in which a large number of women discuss this stuff. If you actually care even the tiniest bit about what "most women" think, you might want to try listening when large numbers of them are saying the same things (and not on specifically feminist websites, either).

Or you can whine about political correctness some more.

russell, this is missing the point in a downright offensive manner. Who said I'm not responsible for my own actions?

Not me. I didn't say anything about you, at all.

If you're not the guy humping women on the subway, I have no beef with you.

You alluded to the pressures of social norms and expectations. Yes, those are real. And yet, in spite of that, people are responsible for what they actually do.

Some people are messed up, and that's not always their fault, or completely their fault. If folks are messed up in some way that prevents them from being able to control their actions, then they need to get some help.

And yes, there are segments of society in which behaving somewhere between boorishly and threateningly toward women isn't really seen as inappropriate, or even a problem. Perhaps it's even applauded.

IMVHO, those people actually do need to change.

This is because men as a group are no better or worse than women

If you read my posts, you will find that I have made exactly zero statements about "men".

I related two events, from my own experience, that to some degree reflected the kinds of things that the women in the articles Doc S cited talked about.

Basically, it was an attempt on my part to relate what they were describing to something in my own experience.

Why do that? Because it's a way to try to understand where people are coming from. It's never an exact match, it's just a way to try to understand in some tiny way what someone else's experience is.

I did make a blanket statement about women, which is that they are subject to a category of bad behavior that men, in general, are not.

I stand by that.

Self-righteously comparing other men to monkeys

There was nothing self-righteous about it. It was just a comment about what the masturbater's motives might have been.

It was obviously some kind of acting out on his part. At a minimum, it was inappropriate.

Can we agree about that?

In any case, it wasn't, or at least wasn't primarily, an attempt to engage in any kind of meaningful consensual sex. It was a display.

So, it reminded me of when monkeys masturbate at the zoo.

If the guy had stood on the opposite platform and flung his feces at me, it would have left the same impression.

not a good institutional solution.

What does an institutional solution look like? Pass laws against looking at women, or talking to them on the street?

How long can you look at an attractive person before it crosses the line from OK to unlawful? What parts of their body or face can you notice without transgressing the institutional line?

If I say, "you look great in that outfit!", have I broken the law? How about if I say, "that dress really brings out the curve of your @ss"? Does it matter if it's someone I know? How about if it's my wife?

Good luck drawing those kinds of lines.

I personally don't think there is an institutional solution. Cultural and social, maybe, which is not the same as institutional.

IMVHO, to change stuff like this, you need to change people. Which is hard, much harder than making institutional changes, but it does happen.

The issue here is a combination of the intent of the person doing the looking and talking, and the reality of how that is received by the person looked at and talked to.

Humping a stranger on the train, obviously always bad. Jerking off into somebody's coat pocket at the library, ditto.

Saying "that dress looks great on you", not always so obvious.

It's a complex, interpersonal exchange. Sometimes it's OK, sometimes it's not, and you will find it damned hard to legislate or otherwise embody institutionally.

Far from comfort food, "men need to change" is actually pretty accurate. Not all men, but some men. And not out of some some weird finger-wagging tut-tutting vibe, they need to be made aware that their behavior is harmful and unwelcome, and that it won't be tolerated.

Men and their issues aside, what's probably more important is that women be able to both be, and feel, safe when they go about their daily lives. Perhaps there's a role for institutions there, I'm not sure.

Free aikido classes and discount mace? Tasers? Pocketbook-sized bullhorns for everyone?

You are interested in the institutional approach, you tell me.

I tend to treat women not as fragile, dainty things, but as people who could potentially kick my ass if I were construed as being rude.

Not that I am afraid of people, just that that works for me.

I would no more think of walking up to a near-complete stranger and saying something intrusive, offensive, or even uncomfortable-making than I would say one of those same things to a female police officer or Gina Carano. You could wind up in jail, or in a hospital. I try and deal with men in the same way.

That's a way of looking at courtesy, I suppose. There are others. I'm not saying it's the best.

I made a longish reply to Harald, which got lost, but slarti has very kindly covered the main points.

I am also curious to know what Harald has in mind by way of institutional solutions. IMVHO stuff like this is not well addressed by institutions. Again IMVHO, "men need to change" is actually a not-bad plan.

And obviously not all men, but some men.

No doubt there are women who need to change in any number of ways also, but as regards the issue under discussion, not really.

No doubt there are women who need to change in any number of ways also, but as regards the issue under discussion, not really.

Sure: change along the lines of please don't dress in a way that gives me the uncontrollable urge to hump you in a crowded subway or those shorts make your ass look so good that I can't NOT follow you for a mile or two telling you how good your ass looks aren't really discussions that interest me.

Brief diversion: I clicked over to Sir Thomas More's Wikipedia pages and read, a bit. Interesting guy:

More coined the word "utopia" – a name he gave to the ideal and imaginary island nation, the political system of which he described in Utopia published in 1516. He opposed the king's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to accept the king as Supreme Head of the Church of England, a status the king had been given by a compliant parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act because the act disparaged the power of the Pope and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535, he was tried for treason, convicted on perjured testimony and beheaded.

Not the first or last to have been shortened by King Henry VIII, but probably one of the best.

Regarding the advisability of comparing some men, or women, to monkeys, or chimps, or baboons, it's probably also advisable to realize that the comparisons are just a linguistic shortcut to an explanation, not precisely literal.

I don't think Russell was attributing simian traits to all men, just those who are monkeying around, with themselves or others.

When the Monkees sang, hey, hey, we're the Monkees, it was a pop song. The first time I heard a Beatles song, no one literally ran out and bought some bug spray, though my grandfather threatened to as soon as my brothers and I stopped monkeying around.

Of course, there is a racial aspect to this which is not harmless, by any means, but there I go being politically correct again.

If I call a guy a monkey who is inappropriately shaking hands with the unemployed on a subway platform and he wants to challenge me, I'm apt to go all diplomatic and explain that I'm actually comparing him to Mr. Charles Moncky, and would he please put down that tool and quit brandishing it about where someone might get hurt because now its a weapon not a gun for fun, to wit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_wrench

Besides, the most recent prequel of "Planet of The Apes" illustrated the fact that chimps, monkeys and apes of all types are good people.

I visited a chat room for baboons (the intertubes open unfathomable inter-species worlds to the layman, which is another term that could be misconstrued) earlier this morning before coming over here and if I could summarize their thinking regarding the subject at hand I would say never stare into the eyes of a male baboon (they refer to it as "acting like a human" for any length of time because they will tear your face to pieces, bite your hands off, and pretty much ruin your day.

Now the female baboon is slightly different in her approach, because she will take some considerable time to apply her makeup (on average it takes the female baboon four and a half hours to perform this task once they get done hitting everything in sight with the powder puff and drinking the cologne) and then will present rearwards, but if you are a wanker like the few human males on subway platforms up for discussion here and are not polite and gentlemanly in your next gambit and actually think this behavior is meant for you, she will tear your face off, eat your hands all the way to the elbow, and generally put you off the dating scene all together.

Read Walker Percy's novel "The Thanatos Syndrome" for an entertaining but disturbing use of the human-chimpanzee conflation metaphor.

Metaphor or simile: like when I compare to some Republicans to reptiles for wanting to deny affordable medical care and health insurance to 60 million Americans.

I know very well that crocodiles would never do such a thing, but they look like they might, considering their feeding habits.

For example, to change the subject slightly, I find female Democratic Rep. Carol Maloney's legislative behavior regarding doing Elsevier's bidding for cold hard cash to be crocodile-worthy.

Turbulence, I agree that there is a difference between the "Smile" command, and a compliment on a smile (something that cofax raised as potentially offensive). My point was that there are social interactions that aren't offensive to some people, but are to others. Someone who is offended by attempts by shopkeepers, etc., to be "charming" along the lines of a compliment to a smile or a comment about hair - those people are likely to be unhappy more often than people who accept those comments as an attempt at kindness.

There are a lot of behaviors lumped together to prove the point that attractive women get harassed. A lot of these behaviors are very different in their motivation.

The indecent exposure people have a psychological problem (and are committing a crime in most places) - and their behavior probably has little to do with their victims' appearance (but who knows - maybe they get more out of it if their witnesses are attractive).

People who are with other men who yell catcalls are engaged in a destructive group behavior - objectifying women for the sake of male bonding.

Some people (like the guy russell described who tried to follow him) may have other disorders that make them clueless about boundaries. People who make inappropriate sexual overtures, actually hoping for intimacy, are perhaps afflicted by this inability to understand boundaries.

People (misogynists) who just like to harass women because they can are in another category.

Finally, there are people who are attempting to be polite in a manner that conforms with how they were taught. Some of these people miss the mark by ordering "Smile!" Some people do much better by attempting a gracious compliment. Some recipients won't be happy about any of this. I'm in favor of giving people who aren't obviously trying to be malicious or destructive the benefit of the doubt.

I am not responsible for men's actions in general, however.

I don't think "men in general" are the issue here. Women and men, in general, pretty much play by the rules. No one is perfect, we've all said and done things we wish we hadn't. And, as Count notes, the rules of engagement between young men and young women remain murky, as it seems has always been and will always be the case.

That said, many men are in a position to take responsibility for what other men think, say and do. Beginning with how we raise our sons and daughters. Continuing with what we tolerate in our work environment. And continuing still to our social and professional circles outside of work.

It's good to reminded that there are men who go beyond privately objectifying women and act out. Saying or doing something, or imparting values that prompt others to say or do something, when this happens is part of a man's responsibilities.

(something that cofax raised as potentially offensive)

They did? I don't see cofax saying anything about being offended when a shopkeeper tells her "you have a lovely smile". More to the point, can you cite anyone complaining about that? Because the conversation seems to mostly be about harassment that's far removed from that.

People who make inappropriate sexual overtures, actually hoping for intimacy, are perhaps afflicted by this inability to understand boundaries.

Street harassers are not looking for intimacy; they're not trying to meet that special someone. If you read what women say about street harassers, their behavior makes no sense as a way to meet women. I mean, on my local ihollaback site, there's a story from a woman who got repeatedly harassed while she was walking home holding hands with her girlfriend. If you're looking for a life partner, you would not choose someone who not only had a significant other right there next to them but someone was attracted to the opposite gender.

Moreover, given how many street harassers turn on a dime from "compliments" to cursing a blue streak when women ignore them, the intimacy angle doesn't make any sense. Do you really think there are women who say to themselves "I thought he might have been special when he screamed at me 'nice ass!' but when I ignored him and he called me a 'stuck up bitch', I knew he was my one true love!"?

I have to say that the ridiculous lack of self-awareness among U.S. intelligence agency officials would be high-larious if, you know, people didn't end up getting exploded and stuff as a result.

I mean, the first fncking sentence says it all: U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States in response to perceived threats from America and its allies, the U.S. spy chief said Tuesday.

OMG! Who has ever heard of one country attacking another because of "perceived threats"!!?! Outrage!

And oh yeah, does anyone remember this:

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in prepared testimony that an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington that was uncovered last year reflects an aggressive new willingness within the upper ranks of the Islamist republic to authorize attacks against the United States.

You didn't?

The entire article is a farce. Jeebus.

I agree that there is a difference between the "Smile" command, and a compliment on a smile (something that cofax raised as potentially offensive)

No, I didn't.

That said, many men are in a position to take responsibility for what other men think, say and do. Beginning with how we raise our sons and daughters. Continuing with what we tolerate in our work environment. And continuing still to our social and professional circles outside of work.

Yes, this. Women can and do speak, raise awareness, educate, and comment publicly on these issues. But far too often the response is similar to Avedis' above: accusations of political correctness and frequent use of the term "femi-nazi".

What is often lost in these discussions is the fact that a certain percentage of this misbehavior has less to do with women and more to do with men performing masculinity for other men. The behavior is learned from watching other men, in person and through the media: this is how men behave. (Setting aside the true pervs, for whom the message has gotten even more twisted through some fluke of biochemistry or personal trauma.)

And the solution is therefore, in some part, in the hands of men. Men who laugh at rape jokes over a beer, men who egg one another on in catcalling women on the street, the young men in the frat house with the sign that said "No means Anal" -- how much could be changed if men who didn't agree with this behavior took a stand?

Men can say, as they do in this thread, "This is not acceptable. I don't want to raise my daughter in a culture that treats a thirteen-year-old like a sex object." And that would make an enormous difference in the world. It has done, in fact, already. And it can continue to do so, if men are willing to speak out.

There's a pretty famous blog post by an online friend of mine on this exact issue, but I'm afraid to post the link for fear of being filtered out (I lost a long post yesterday because I had two links in it). So I'm going to put it in the next post so at least I don't lose this response.

Okay, here's the link. Lucy's post, in which she challenged men to be the guy who didn't take advantage, who looked out for his female friends, who confronted the assholes and pervs, got thousands of comments. It got widely linked at the time (almost 3 years ago), and I suspect it continues to get comments to this day.

(Unfortunately, I can't access LJ from work, so if that's not the post I'm thinking of, I'm going to be very embarrassed.)

Women can and do speak, raise awareness, educate, and comment publicly on these issues.

The easiest job in the world is someone else's, so here is me telling you (you = women with some degree of clout or a platform) what might be a productive avenue. I would like to see an organized effort to collect examples from television shows, movies and commercials and confront the writers and sponsors and networks/studios up close and personal. The message: quit sexualizing women in the manner your demented mind would have then be.

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/personal-invasion-by-davidoatkins.html

What happens if a creep on a subway platform forcibly subjects a woman to an ultrasound and then rifles through her purse to pay for the assault?

Shouldn't she subject the perpetrator to a purely defensive rectal exam?

Sorry, cofax. I misinterpreted this:

I never confront street harrassers, or people who tell me they like my hair or my smile. It's not worth it: the guy could be one of the dangerous ones.

I read it to mean that people who tell you that they like your hair or your smile are people who are similar to people who harass you on the street. I was confused, obviously.

As to men changing the dynamic, I'm all for that. McKinney's comment was right on.

My only problem with the amount of attention that's paid to the issue of street harassment is that I think that there are gravely worse issues for feminists to be concerned about then random men getting their jollies from rude behavior. I pointed to Caitlin Flanagan as a purveyor of what I believe to be pernicious attitudes about women. For example, her recent New York Times commentary brings back the concept of "female hysteria." You don't see street harassers getting prime space in the New York Times, The New Yorker, etc., spreading that kind of destructive message.

Thank, Countme-In. That's another example of something that I think is far more worrisome than a catcall.

From Count's link:

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

More please.

As long as I'm on a roll, I threw a link to this story up on TiO, it begins:

Since it began a decade ago, the federal government’s massive investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks has been plagued by missteps and complications.

Investigators initially focused on the wrong man, then had to pay him a nearly $6 million settlement. In 2008, they accused another man, Bruce E. Ivins, who killed himself before he could go to trial.

Now, in the latest twist, the government has argued against itself.

In documents deep in the files of a recently settled Florida lawsuit, Justice Department civil attorneys contradicted their own department’s conclusion that Ivins was unquestionably the anthrax killer. The lawyers said the type of anthrax in Ivins’s lab was “radically different” from the deadly anthrax. They cited several witnesses who said Ivins was innocent, and they suggested that a private laboratory in Ohio could have been involved in the attacks.

Golly.

Count me as a person who has a pretty low "ticked off" threshhold for catcallers -- if you call me "baby" or "sweetheart" and I am not in fact your baby or your sweetheart I am likely to cuss you out.

I more or less go out of my way not to perform femininity, and I don't dress to impress anybody or get compliments. So when I hear "hey sexy," I don't hear "I am acknowledging that you are an attractive person," I hear, "You are constantly subject to being evaluated on your appearance. You will be viewed first as a person whose job it is to be pretty and only second/third/fourth as anything else." It really kind of spoils the illusion that I get to be a human being.

Count me as a person who has a pretty low "ticked off" threshhold for catcallers -- if you call me "baby" or "sweetheart" and I am not in fact your baby or your sweetheart I am likely to cuss you out.

Again, me giving suggestions on how someone else might do her job. Here's a retort I heard once: "Sorry, is that your penis down there or just a very small acorn wearing a turtleneck sweater?"

It really kind of spoils the illusion that I get to be a human being.

It seems that you're giving ridiculous people a whole lot of power. They should be accorded the significance they deserve - none. Their goal is to cause an emotional reaction, and they'd be a lot less successful if people could manage to ignore them.

I'd like to defend the use of all simian (chimps, monkeys, baboons, etc) similies and metaphors to describe certain inappropriate behaviors, unless they involve unhelpful racial slurs, but there goes my political correctness again.

After all, when the Monkees sang hey, hey, we're the Monkees, I don't know anyone, besides one of my grandfathers, who took that literally. Not even a real monkey.

Kids with apposable thumbs monkey around and its not unknown for people to throw a monkey wrench in the works, which leads me to believe it's O.K. to call a guy a monkey who is inappropriately shaking hands with the unemployed on a subway platform or brandishing his tool in a threatening manner because it's not a weapon, its a gun and its for fun in the privacy of your own addled mind, you dope, though I'm aware that various Redstaters often get the two confused.

Should the guy not cease and desist and instead threaten me, I'm apt to go all diplomatic and explain that I was merely referring to him as Mr Moncky, who had the good taste to use his tool on his own plumbing, not others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_wrench

I stopped in at a chat room for baboons (the internet is fabulous for inter-species communication for the average layman, which is another term that can be misconstrued in the literal mind) before coming over here this morning.

The gist of the baboons' conversations was, in short, never, ever, stare an uncaged male baboon directly in the eyes for any length of time or any reason because it's a challenge to their dominance and they will respond by ripping your face to shreds, eating your hands in two bites, and pretty much ruining the rest of your day.

Now, the female baboon has a different approach to these matters. First, she will, in her own good time and for the male baboon of her choice, apply her makeup (it takes the female baboon on average four and a half hours to apply her makeup once she's done hitting everything within reach with the powder puff and drinking the cologne) and then present rearwards.

Be aware that if you are a wanker on a subway platform and don't commence your next gambit with gentlemanly courtesy and respect and if you're stupid enough to think this female baboon's behavior is directed at you, she will chew your face off, bite both your hands off clear to the elbow and generally make you give up on the subway platform dating scene altogether.

For a dramatic and disturbing example of the human/monkey conflation as metaphor, read Walker Percy's novel "The Thanatos Syndrome".

Remember too that the latest Planet of the Apes prequel showed apes of various kinds to be decent, hard-working, but sometimes moody taxpayers.

Metaphor and similies: To change the subject a little bit, when I compare female Democratic Rep. Carol Maloney to her reptilian co-sponser, Republican Darrel Issa, because she takes Elsevier's cold hard cash just like he does, I'm not saying a crocodile would do such a thing, because they obviously wouldn't despite those mighty jaws and that primitive brainstem, but I am saying that Democrats can act just like Republicans at feeding time.

You have a lovely simile, Count. (Have we metaphor?)


sapient: It seems that you're giving ridiculous people a whole lot of power. They should be accorded the significance they deserve - none. Their goal is to cause an emotional reaction, and they'd be a lot less successful if people could manage to ignore them.

Uh, wha? Isn't that the whole point of this thread? That these people can't be ignored, and/or that ignoring these people is the default reaction of women (for whatever reason) and so the behavior perpetuates, thus the need to speak up?

More generally, has a strategy of "ignore it" ever been successful in, well, anything?

an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test

Rectal exam is pretty much de rigeur for men over 50.

Colonoscopy, on the other hand...

We do, hstd.

See, that was easy.

A little polite repartee will let a person make some headway. On the other hand, I'd give you my phone number but I'd like to keep our relationship in its present keyboard-reliant state. ;)

Now, seriously for a moment before I call it a day, I'm interested in the psychological roots of our friends' behavior on the subway platform.

NPR had an interesting segment the other day about the man who redesigned zoos years ago, in particular the ape enclosures. I'm sure we're all familiar with the old cages (bare concrete walls and floors, etc) which provided absolutely no appropriate environmental stimulus for the apes, who would then grow bored and listless, to say the least, and begin acting out compulsively and full frontally --- continuous masturbatory activity, repeated vomiting, you get the gist.

I wonder to what extent some of these few men who engage in the more radical behaviors we are discussing here have been somehow deprived of appropriate stimuli in their lives and react compulsively in the same way.

If it is true that some women turn to prostitution after being subjected to abuse from their surroundings, is this a similar phenomena? And what is it about women that at least keeps them off the subway platforms? Do they find other outlets for compulsive exhibitionist behavior.

However, I have noticed, haha, that the more Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, for example, get their desired environmental stimuli of constantly reduced taxes over a period of 30, or even 60 years, that THEIR behavior (poo flinging, chest pounding, frothing at the mouth) grows steadily more bizarre and dysfunctional, even to the point of baldfacedly asserting that their taxes have gone UP over that period of time, so maybe my theory doesn't cross the ape/human species barrier, apes being more reasonable and, well, human.

Slarti: Rectal exam is pretty much de rigeur for men over 50.

Something to look forward to I guess, (unless legally required earlier)... :-)

My only problem with the amount of attention that's paid to the issue of street harassment is that I think that there are gravely worse issues for feminists to be concerned about then random men getting their jollies from rude behavior.

On your own blog, you can decide on what's important enough to write about. But good job minimizing the problem to just rude behavior.

I pointed to Caitlin Flanagan as a purveyor of what I believe to be pernicious attitudes about women. For example, her recent New York Times commentary brings back the concept of "female hysteria." You don't see street harassers getting prime space in the New York Times, The New Yorker, etc., spreading that kind of destructive message.

I think we can all stipulate that Flanagan is a fool. But she's also a powerless fool. She doesn't control policy and her writing is so vapid as to be devoid of any policy content. She doesn't affect anyone's lives. In contrast, there are many women who suffer every single day from street harassment. They have to alter their lives to deal with the constant barrage of threatening behavior. Feeling threatened whenever you leave your home is a real problem that matters.

It seems that you're giving ridiculous people a whole lot of power. They should be accorded the significance they deserve - none. Their goal is to cause an emotional reaction, and they'd be a lot less successful if people could manage to ignore them.

Amanda Marcotte wrote something interesting on this point: her theory is that there is no proper response to street harassment. There just isn't. It is wrong and there's nothing much the victim can do to undo that wrong. Telling victims to ignore it isn't helpful; from what I've read, almost all victims DO ignore it all the time. And yet it persists; ignoring it is clearly not sufficient to reduce or eliminate the problem.

...almost all victims DO ignore it all the time.

I think the rub lies in the meaning of "ignore." Victims ignore street harassment in the sense that they don't confront their harassers, not in the sense that they don't have an emotional reaction, which is what sapient seems to be intending. Given that women are human beings, their having no emotional reaction is likely impossible, even if it would be effective (if possible).

And yet it persists; ignoring it is clearly not sufficient to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Certainly, what McKinney suggests - that men try to change their own culture - is a good one. But ignoring it actually is the best policy for women to pursue in cases of street harassment that is not threatening. Even your link to Amanda Marcotte suggests that ignoring is probably the best thing that can be done.

Most harassment is not threatening. Truly threatening behavior should be greeted with mace or pepper spray, or police calls, etc. Obviously nobody should have to worry about it at all - you're right - no dispute. But rude, annoying misogynistic language by strangers on the street should be ignored, and women are best off treating it in their own minds as insignificant nuisance. Because that's what it is.

I think we can all stipulate that Flanagan is a fool. But she's also a powerless fool. She doesn't control policy and her writing is so vapid as to be devoid of any policy content. She doesn't affect anyone's lives.

This is absolutely untrue. In fact, her theories, that women are tender, hysterical creatures who can't make their way in the wider, threatening world, resounds in this very thread.

...that women are tender, hysterical creatures who can't make their way in the wider, threatening world, resounds in this very thread.

Other than perhaps in avedis' comments, where do you see this? Or are you referring to people acknowledging that women tend to be physically weaker and smaller than men, making physical confrontations dangerous in most cases?

This seems to be a rehash of the argument on the convention-harassment thread, where you suggested women who speak out against the harassment should somehow do something about the situation, as though speaking out was simply complaining, rather than one way of doing something about the situation, IIRC.

Amanda Marcotte wrote something interesting on this point: her theory is that there is no proper response to street harassment. There just isn't. It is wrong and there's nothing much the victim can do to undo that wrong. Telling victims to ignore it isn't helpful; from what I've read, almost all victims DO ignore it all the time. And yet it persists; ignoring it is clearly not sufficient to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Wouldn't the decision to respond be largely situational? If a woman is positioned to make a scathing or shaming remark and make a good point of it without risk, why not? The sense of hurt etc Marcotte describes would be mitigated, maybe significantly, maybe entirely? I am asking, not telling. For me, way back in the day that confrontation occasionally was the price one had to pay, I didn't like (and rarely did) take an insult, verbal or otherwise, without rejoining. What's wrong with pointing out that no real man, i.e. one that can get and keep a girlfriend without money changing hands, stands on street corners and uses some other loser's lame-ass lines?

Most harassment is not threatening.

How exactly do you know which street harassers pose a threat and which don't? The whole point here is that you can't really know apriori. For a woman on the street, there's no way to know whether any given street harasser is a harmless jerk or a psycho who will get pissed off and follow her home.

But rude, annoying misogynistic language by strangers on the street should be ignored, and women are best off treating it in their own minds as insignificant nuisance.

russell describes being pretty shaken up by both his encounters, including the one on the bus. Was he wrong to take it so seriously? Tightly timing your departure from a bus and altering your route home don't seem insignificant to me...so, do you think russell acted incorrectly? Should he have completely ignored the creepy guy? He certainly doesn't seem to think of that guy as an insignificant nuisance...is he wrong about that?

Other than perhaps in avedis' comments, where do you see this?

Turbulence: ...there are many women who suffer every single day from street harassment. They have to alter their lives to deal with the constant barrage of threatening behavior. Feeling threatened whenever you leave your home is a real problem that matters.

How many women, really, feel threatened whenever they leave their home? Please compare to the number of women who feel threatened when they're in their home. My guess is that the latter number is as significant as the former, at least when we're talking about really, truly "threatened" rather than just annoyed. Certainly the sexual assault statistics would indicate that women have reason to feel threatened at home.

People who live in urban areas encounter lots of people every day, many of whom are annoying. Catcalling is a societal phenomenon that bears no relationship to the actual identity of the woman to whom its directed unless she lets it affect her.

Wouldn't the decision to respond be largely situational? If a woman is positioned to make a scathing or shaming remark and make a good point of it without risk, why not?

Women should react however they wish to react. I'm not suggesting that if they'd rather confront someone, they should instead ignore him (although I think whether one response is more of a deterrent than another is questionable). I'm saying that women should try to minimize the behavior in their own minds. What should it matter to a woman's self-image that these ridiculous people don't respect her? They are nothing. A woman's ability to walk down the street ignoring them is proof.

russell describes being pretty shaken up by both his encounters, including the one on the bus. Was he wrong to take it so seriously?

No. One of the encounters was with someone exposing himself, committing a crime. The other was with someone who seemed a bit mentally imbalanced who was trying to follow him. In the first situation, he should have called the cops. In the second, if it seemed that the guy wouldn't go away, pepper spray would have been appropriate (and women have every reason to carry it). Neither situation is merely rude, misogynistic language.

My first comment on this thread noted that there are all manner of behaviors that were being lumped together. I am not talking about ignoring actual crimes and threats. I'm talking about ignoring attempted demeaning comments on the street.

Wouldn't the decision to respond be largely situational? If a woman is positioned to make a scathing or shaming remark and make a good point of it without risk, why not?

I agree, it is situational, and if people find it helps and think it is safe, sure, go for it. But I think Marcotte's point is that there is no one correct response which will stop street harassment. Some street harassers get off on the response, including the cutting remark. Some get off on the silence. But there's no one correct policy that women can follow that will end street harassment.

To follow in Turb's wake, when something is happening right then and there, it's not so easy to just blow it off and move on. Adrenalin kicks in, threat sensors go up and--if you are a woman and not comfortable with physically confronting male strangers (few men are comfortable with this, IMO)--wondering what will happen regardless of what you do or don't do, I would think there is more than enough potential to leave someone rattled and angry. Or frightened. Or furious. Or all of the above.

Personally, I hate the helpless anger I feel when I see or experience someone hurting or abusing someone else. Not that it's a common experience, but I've had it: employers abusing employees, judges bullying lawyers or witnesses, lawyers bullying witnesses or other lawyers. It's sickening. Street harassment is a form of bullying. Groping is bullying plus assault. Most women are not socialized to deal with physical assault and even those who can unfreeze and attempt a response, well, bullies seldom pick a fight they can't win.

Sorry about the 'most women' thing. I know that grates, but really, in the area of physical confrontation, that just isn't in the playbook of many women I know. Nor am I saying it should be. Mixing it up with strangers is a bad idea for most of us.

Should he have completely ignored the creepy guy?

The creepy guy was basically not ignorable. I had no idea if the guy was harmless, or if he was going to follow me home and kill me.

Maybe he was just really high.

What I did know was that the guy was completely and blatantly out of all normal bounds of social interaction. It was absolutely impossible to predict what he might, or might not, do.

My personal feeling about this stuff is that the person who is on the receiving end of the behavior gets the final word on whether it's annoying, threatening, amusing, welcome, or unwelcome. In other words, whether it's significant, or not.

I'm sure there are people who are overly sensitive to what other people say and do, but I also do know a lot of women who are anything but tender, hysterical creatures who find the kind of stuff we're talking about here both ubiquitous and unwelcome.

So, it seems to me that it's a real issue, and not just something that women need to get over.

Other than perhaps in avedis' comments, where do you see this?

I see it, for example, in this remark by Turbulence:

Feeling threatened whenever you leave your home is a real problem that matters.

But in reality, as many rapes occur in the home than out of it, and more by acquaintances (or lovers) than strangers. So where's the real threat? Is it really true that so many women feel so incredibly threatened whenever they leave their home by random rude strangers? Or do as many women feel even more threatened when they're at home by people they are taught by people like Flanagan that they should be dependent on?

I think a reality check is in order here.

So, it seems to me that it's a real issue, and not just something that women need to get over.

The thing that happened to you, russell, with the guy following you, is not the typical experience of women. The possibility that it could happen is why women carry pepper spray. I'm definitely not suggesting that people ignore truly threatening people or criminals (people masturbating in public, for example). These behaviors need to be addressed with the help of cops.

In my first comment, I stated that lots of different behaviors were being lumped together. These aren't the behaviors I was referring to as being merely annoying.

I don't really care what women do about it - they should do whatever they want. As Turbulence says, the behavior isn't going to go away because of what women do. These people get their feeling of power from the reaction they get. My own personal preference is that they don't get a reaction at all. Women who can get over it have triumphed. In the alternative, they can be crippled by it. If you can't stop it, which would you choose?

I think a reality check is in order here

Well, there are a lot of different realities. Women who get home after dark, who live in neighborhoods with appreciable crime rates, who live in neighborhoods with a high incidence of street harassment, and on and on. Maybe Turb overstated the case a bit, but if he did, not by much.

I live in fairly nice neighborhood, but we access our garage by an alley that is closed, i.e. once I or my wife have turned into the alley, there is no getting out.

I am very aware if someone appears to be following me, as this is one of the more common MO's for crime in my part of town. If someone were to pull in behind me (the alley services only four homes), I'd have to guess whether I've been trailed or whether it's just a very odd coincidence that one of my neighbors happens to be coming home at the same time I am. My wife is often out alone and faces the same problem. I'd like to think I could defend myself with some degree of success, my wife, however, could not.

You may think this is paranoid, but many years ago, my wife and sister were followed by a man. They went to a grocery store and called me. My neighbor saw me leaving our apartment with a shotgun and expressed concern. It turned out he had a better way of dealing with the situation (which was very cool to see), which was good. I can assure you that when something like this happens, reality transitions to surreality at light speed. I would have used that shotgun, if push came to shove, and this being Texas, probably would have gotten away with it.

If I get a little nervous at night, I can well imagine a woman, particularly one on foot, feeling at least the same way.

If I get a little nervous at night, I can well imagine a woman, particularly one on foot, feeling at least the same way.

Sure, me too. Everyone has the right to be nervous about crime on dark, secluded streets, especially women. That has very little to do with the phenomenon of cat calling. Believe it or not, even I've been in situations where I have been afraid. Most everyone has those experiences, and some don't get out of them alive. However, I'm not sure there's any correlation (much less causation) whatsoever between men who shout "Hey baby" from a construction site, or men who say "Smile" to a woman who's a stranger, and real threats of physical assault. If there is, someone should point to the statistic. Whereas there are real statistics about people being assaulted at home.

I'm not sure how many times I have to say it, but being hooted at is not the same thing as being followed to your home by a stranger.

The thing that happened to you, russell, with the guy following you, is not the typical experience of women.

It's more typical of them than it is of men. As far as I can tell, anyway.

The possibility that it could happen is why women carry pepper spray.

I guess what strikes me is that the fact that a lot of women carry pepper spray sort of points to the fact that there's a problem.

In my first comment, I stated that lots of different behaviors were being lumped together.

I don't think anyone is disputing that.

I don't really care what women do about it - they should do whatever they want.

From your comments, it seems that you do care what women do about it. You would prefer that the things they do about not include objecting, or at least not making a large issue out of, to what seems, to you, to be casual or harmless statements or actions, from men, directed to women.

What I keep coming back to is the idea that it's not really the place of men to say what is, or is not, significant, from a woman's point of view or experience.

If a lot of women are saying that they would prefer to not be subject to un-asked for comments about their appearance or availability, perhaps they should be taken at their word.

Being hooted at is, in fact, not the same as being followed home by a stranger. Maybe they don't want to be hooted at, either.

I wouldn't. Would you?

If a lot of women are saying that they would prefer to not be subject to un-asked for comments about their appearance or availability, perhaps they should be taken at their word.

Being hooted at is, in fact, not the same as being followed home by a stranger. Maybe they don't want to be hooted at, either.

I wouldn't. Would you?

Those particular women should, by all means, be taken at their word.

And no, I wouldn't like to be hooted at, but people are allowed to hoot, and I am capable of ignoring hoots. What I find it more difficult to ignore is that actual sexual assault is hugely common, that cultural retrogrades want women to be beholden to their husbands, that women's reproductive rights are under threat (and hanging in the balance by one Supreme Court vote), that unmarried women who express their sexuality are still considered to be "sluts", that women still do a disproportionate share of housework and childcare in homes where both partners work, that people are often valued for their appearance over their abilities, that in certain professions, women are expected to starve themselves, that more than half of women in the U.S. have eating disorders, that people are allowed to carry concealed weapons into bars, that workers in China who are working 16 hours a day are killed and disfigured because of American companies won't spend a few bucks for a ventilator, that the oceans are imperiled, that animals are abused and tortured, .....

Yeah, I can ignore hooting.

"Fact: Most women, who are secure in their womaness, like to be looked at - or checked out - by men"

I think that this is a fact. With the exception of a woman who prefers to be looked at by other women. I have no proof of course other than a lifetime of being female myself.

It might be a generational thing. My generation was under tremendous pressure to be considered attractive and it is very hard to avoid internalizing cultural norms.

I think men probably like being considered attarctive too.

However just because someone would like to be attractive does not mean that a person wants to be accosted physically or verbally. My preference is that men keep their appreciation to themselves. After all it isn't that hard. I see guys that I think are attractive but I don't holler, whistle, comment, salivate, or drool. I just think "Nice butt" to myself and move on.

Why?

Because it's rude to intrude oneself upon another uninvited. And clothes, hair etc do not constitute invitations.


I also think that there is hostility behind the intrusions. When men ogle or hoot or comment in public the intent is not to get acquainted or to make the feamle target of that behavior feel happy. It's intended to embarrass. It is done to boost the ego of the guy, to make him feel like an alpha in his own eyes or the eyes of his friends. If the guy wanted to get acquainted with the woman he'd take a much more tactful approach, work up to compliments, try to get into a situation where a little flirting would be appropriate. Most guys know this. Even the guy that hollers "appreciation" at a passing girl knows that if he wants to date her he shouldn't start off by yelling things at her in public. And if he doesn't want to get acquainted with her what possible positive motive could he have for yelling at her?

It's rude. And I think I can safely say that most women do not like being subjected to rudeness.

Or men either.

sapient, would you mind answering the questions I asked you in my 5:04pm comment? Thanks.

And russell, just to clarify, I think you reactions to creepy bus guy are 100% reasonable. I'm not trying to call that into question at all.

Also, I'll happily cosign McTex's recent comments.

The thing that happened to you, russell, with the guy following you, is not the typical experience of women.

I know at least two women who have mentioned similar experiences. If you look at the hollaback sites, these sorts of experiences don't seem terribly uncommon.

Turbulence, I answered some of your questions. As to russell's situation, pepper spray or mace would have been helpful. Also a cell phone to call the cops. I agree, being followed is dangerous. Not sure how many millions of times I have to repeat that.

As to whether I can tell what street harassers might also be rapists, I have no way of knowing. I have no way to know whether Roman Polanski's going to be a rapist. I had no way of knowing that a baseball coach in my neighborhood was going to murder his wife. As far as I know, neither Polanski or the coach were ever street harassers. Do you know which street harassers or husbands or movie directors are going to turn out to be rapists or murderers? Answer me that.

But in reality, as many rapes occur in the home than out of it, and more by acquaintances (or lovers) than strangers.

We're not automatons sapient. We're still carrying around all the neural hardware bequeathed to us by our primate ancestors. The limbic system has no interest in statistics. And when people follow you on the street and don't respect your boundaries, that's scary. It is scary even if you're a big guy like russell. And it is especially scary if society has drilled into your head that stranger rape is a terrible danger that you have to constantly be on the lookout for.

Now, it might be totally awesome if everyone was an emotionless automaton capable of reason only. It would be double awesome if society didn't drill into every woman's head that they have to constantly watch their surroundings or else they're going to be raped by a stranger. But that's not the world we live in. We have to deal with human nature and our society as they are, not as you might wish they were.

As to whether I can tell what street harassers might also be rapists, I have no way of knowing.

Thanks for that. I'm glad that we agree that when women encounter street harassers who are violating boundaries, there's really no way to tell whether those guys are harmless or violent people who are going to follow you home and rape you.

Do you know which street harassers or husbands or movie directors are going to turn out to be rapists or murderers? Answer me that.

Yes, I have a statistical model that is 107% accurate, but I can't share it with you as the patent is still pending.

Yes, I have a statistical model that is 107% accurate, but I can't share it with you as the patent is still pending.

In that case, I will spend the rest of the evening cowering in my living room, in fear that one of my neighbors is planning physical violence against me. After all, some of them said a very unwelcome hello to me when I took my morning walk.

"I wouldn't. Would you?"

Well, depends on who is hooting.

This is a subject where I think most everybody is trying to cover way too much territory. So I will focus on one.

I rode the train, T (Boston subway), and bus to Boston for about twenty years. I witnessed almost everything that has been mentioned about public transportation in that time.

I really only have few things to add.

There were many times I was on a packed T car that I was really uncomfortable with the position, motion or just proximity of someone around me. (Sometimes it wasn't packed enough for them to be that close) Mostly they were oblivious of my discomfort but occasionally they seemed to enjoy it. It made me feel really icky sometimes, and really the only thing I was afraid of was a pickpocket. Except....

More times than I would like I was catching the last train home at an empty T station. It is a scary place to be. Anyone who is not wary, avoiding being close to the odd person hanging out on the empty platform, making sure they know where the exit is in relationship to that odd person, is much more certain of their ability to protect themselves than me.

And a few times the odd junkie(male and female) approached me with an offer of sex in exchange for money.

Twice quite aggressively.

Quite an intimidating experience.

All that said, I would have to know more about the situation where one of the women let a guy dry hump her for stop after stop on the L to understand why she didn't move. In a crowded car he could hardly have been a big threat, in an uncrowded car it should have been even easier to move. That seems like a level of fear that is harder to understand. Perhaps irrational.

This leads me to another experience. I rode the commuter bus for a few years. Same time every day, mostly the same people. There were three or four women who you learned to just not to sit next to. They regularly complained of being touched and groped to the bus lines, and often yelled at a man sitting next to them.

Initially it was quite a discussion whether they had a good reason to complain, but over time it was clear that they could not be touched, brushed up against, or even think they had, in any way without reacting. Their fear was as real as it was unreasonable. So we made sure they sat next to women and felt sure that there was a real reason in their past for the hypersensitivity.

Last, a perhaps amusing, if icky, story. I worked for a few years across from the bus station on Tremont near Arlington Street (its been gone a long time). I was standing in front of the building one night waiting for my wife to pick me up when a younger guy approached. He kind of sidled up and asked if I would get in the limo that appeared in front of me. When I declined he said the guy paid well, at which point it dawned on me what was going on. When I smiled and said that my wife would think that it wouldn't be a good idea he scampered off very quickly.

This was on a major Boston street at rush hour, tons of people around. I was dressed in my Levis, and a jacket. I couldn't figure out whether to be mad or not. But I always felt like it should provide me with some perspective.

Thanks, Laura. That's what I'm talking about, a little back up for once. So many posts on the blog are about how "abused" women are, how they are cultural "victims" in such varied - and seemingly endless - ways and then so many people commenting here stumble over each other trying to prove they are more sensitive to women's "issues" than the next commenter. It's kind of pathetic. Strike that, it *is* pathetic. I call BS on the whole scene.


You're right. Rudeness is rudeness and it has nothing to do with woman specific issues......or with man specific issues. Thank you for having the good sense and honesty to write that.

So why always couch rudeness, stupidity and general bad form in terms of a battle of the genders? Or, if fixated on gender issues, why not balance out with posts about the bad behavior of women?

Why always with the terribleness of men? What is up with these sheep like male commenters that go along with that? Post after post after post. Why the F____ has this once good blog degenerated into, predominantly, two women fixated on posting silly women's issues. It used to be Publius, Eric Martin, Hilzoy, Olmsted (heck, I even appreciated Gary Farber) ...


I did read Dr S' links (above). Seems like there is a lot of complaining about males simply looking at females, by immature females. And of lot of subjective interpretation (divining motive?). Reminds me of Dr S' comment on a recent thread, "if a woman says she has been raped, then she has been raped". Sure. Right. Why do we have a legal system? So much better to just point a finger and have a man instantly thrown in prison for life. No need for due process or any of that patriarchal misogynistic dominance based Constitution crap.

Whatever. More better posts please.

As to russell's situation, pepper spray or mace would have been helpful.

Actually, it wouldn't have been.

First, this all happened on a city bus. Not a great place to whip out the pepper spray.

Second, assuming he had gotten off the bus at my stop, had assaulted me in some way, and I had pepper sprayed him, I would still have to go home at some point. And, at that point, I would have needed to make sure he didn't know where that was.

Basically, I lived directly in front of the bus stop.

So, back to square one.

Last but not least, I'm not really into pepper spraying people if I can avoid it.

People who are clearly physically threatening are easier to deal with than people who are sufficiently bizarre that you simply don't know what they are likely to do.

I'm not even really presenting my stories of urban oddness in the spirit of saying that my experience is the same as that of a woman who is being sexually harrassed. It's not.

I'm just trying to relate the experiences that the women in Doc S's articles describe to something in my own experience, and the examples I gave are the closest things I could come up with.

There are also difficult experiences that men have that women don't have. Like, can I tell my co-worker that she looks pretty today, when she does. I would mean nothing more or less by it than what I said, but it could be taken in any number of unintended ways.

I also know men who have been, falsely, accused of sexually harassing co-workers - I don't mean they said something that was misunderstood, I mean the accusation was made up out of whole cloth, maliciously. And that can be a difficult and often expensive thing to counter.

Sexuality, for good or ill, is a context for a variety of kinds of power trips.

What I'm interested in, in the context of this discussion, is understanding what will make the world a place where women can go about their lives without feeling subject to harassment, or worse.

Yes, hooting is not as bad as being raped. But why should women put up with any of it?

Men should learn to treat women with a basic level of respect. Everyone should learn to treat everyone else with a basic level of respect, for that matter, but the conversation we've been having here is focused on the men / women thing.

It used to be Publius, Eric Martin, Hilzoy, Olmsted (heck, I even appreciated Gary Farber) ...

Publius got outed and had to quit.

Eric made partner and had a couple of kids.

Hilzoy retired her pen, for reasons of her own that are no doubt eminently legitimate.

Andy died.

Gary has his hands full with his life.

Lots of things ain't what they used to be, dude.

Whatever. More better posts please.

We do our best. Pretty much all the active front pagers have jobs, family commitments, and a whole other life to attend to. Nobody's doing this for a living.

And it takes a lot of work to write a decent blog post.

Long story short, if the current offerings don't suit, it's a big internet out there. Live it up.

I read one of the comment threads and it did not seem to me to be women complaining about men just looking. The complaints were about more than just looks.

And I think bad behavior of men toward women is much more common that vice versa. Also men are scarier. Bigger, for one thing.

But Russel is right about this: "There are also difficult experiences that men have that women don't have. Like, can I tell my co-worker that she looks pretty today, when she does. I would mean nothing more or less by it than what I said, but it could be taken in any number of unintended ways.

I also know men who have been, falsely, accused of sexually harassing co-workers - I don't mean they said something that was misunderstood, I mean the accusation was made up out of whole cloth, maliciously. And that can be a difficult and often expensive thing to counter."

With this caveat: uless looking pretty is part of someone's job, or unless the coworker is a friend, it doesn't seem appropriate to me to make a comment about physical appearance. I can't imagine telling a guy that he was looking handsome. Maybe if he grew a beard or shaved one off or made some other unexpected dramatic change in his appearance, then people could say something positive.

Generally I thinks it's just better so save comments on appearance for closer relationships than coworkers. And I don't mean out of fear of lawsuits. It just doesn't seem to me to be the kind of thing to say to just another persona at work. FWIW.

Yes, hooting is not as bad as being raped. But why should women put up with any of it?

Why should anyone put up with any behavior that isn't ideal? Why should I put up with the fact that I can sometimes hear my neighbors argue? Why should I put up with the fact that my coworker talks to himself? Why should I put up with my friend's bad table manners? Why should I put up with the fact that all of the bars in town have sports on TV? Life is a b&*(% and then you die.

But wait! When I walk down the street, there are not only hooters, but public art. Sometimes there's a great street musician not too far from the panhandler that I wish I didn't have to put up with. There are a whole bunch of fashionable people showing off cool looking outfits right nearby that guy ranting to himself on the sidewalk.

We put up with stuff because we live in a big world, and we take the bad with the good.

"Men should learn to treat women with a basic level of respect."

If I may, not really trying to be too critical, this is where these discussions always break down for me.

Men who do really obviously rude and threatening things should not do them.

Other men can probably still work on specific things that they don't necessarily understand are insulting to some women.

Generically, I believe, men treat women with a basic level of respect. Many men I know go far beyond a basic level of respect to being very respectful. So, to me, it would be better to be just a little more precise, because I take some offense to the over generalization.

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Whatnot


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