Sexual Harassment – A Man’s Perspective
A Man’s Journey
Sex, let’s talk about it. In today’s world, relationships between men and women are as tenuous as they have ever been. Men are walking on egg shells, and it seems women expect something obscene to come out of our mouths at any moment. The reality is that new social norms are being formed, and both men and women are trying to figure out where they lay.
But First, a Story…
It was a chill March morning in the city of Baltimore. I was staying downtown(ish) with my female cousin, when she decided to go for a run and invited me to join. Thinking it would be like any other run with my buddies, I agreed. But shortly after heading into the winding streets, I realized I was wrong.
The birds were chirping, leaves buzzing, and men hollering. At first, I shrugged it off. But it kept happening. Men were rolling down the street, constantly whistling and barking outrageous and crude comments to my cousin… with me jogging beside her. After our 45 minute run, I stopped exhausted and asked, “Does that happen every time?” To which she replied, “Does what happen every time?” I was dumbfounded. “The crazy cat calls!” I exclaimed. “Oh yeah,” she said. “I guess you just get used to it.”
My jaw fell to the floor. My cousin had become so conditioned to the verbal harassment that it didn’t even strike her as noteworthy. I honestly thought the women who spoke of being harassed were making it a bigger deal than it was. Yet, here it was in front of my eyes — raw and in person. The point being, it happened (and happens) a lot. As men, we need to reflect on how we navigate our relationships with those we’re attracted to, men and women alike, and reconsider our approach.
The Conundrum of Sexual Harassment
Let me start by saying sexual harassment and assault happens, and this problem is not bound by political party, sect, or income level. If you want to be informed, check out this report. As men, there are a couple of ways to navigate the conundrum of searching for a short-term relationship or a lifelong partner, while not knowing what that person considers to be appropriate behavior. We have to understand three things: 1) the grey and how we fit within it; 2) that it’s all about location; and 3) how we as men can rise above the uncertainty and return to a place where we can work and engage with women confidently.
Everything about relationship building is grey. From first introducing yourself to having a substantive relationship with someone to all the actions in between, it can all be uncertain and nerve-racking. If we are honest, that is what makes the whole experience so exhilarating, for men and for women. It’s all about taking risks and being confident even when you’re not. We’ve all been there. So how do we take risks without crossing a line that we can’t see? The solution: there isn’t one, but we must have enough respect for others to know where their red line lies. This is a part of life that we must trudge through, and there are a couple of ground rules that we can use to guide our judgment. One of which is location.
Location, Location, Location
There are some environments that should just be off limits. For example, schools and workplaces at a minimum. These settings are where men and women develop themselves personally and professionally, and we shouldn’t let our sexual attraction get in the way. So before you make a move, ask yourself, “Am I in a place of business or school?” If the answer is yes, whatever your move is, it better not be sexual in nature. Not appropriate! But what do you do if this is your only chance to talk to the love of your life?
Speak with confidence, and ask her if you can talk outside of the workplace or school. You could say something along the lines of: “Hey, I was wondering if we could grab lunch this weekend? Just me and you. No pressure, of course. But if you’re up for it, text me.” Boom. Not creepy. She knows that: 1) you want to spend time together apart from your typical, professional setting, and 2) if she’s not into it, then no worries. Message received, and you’re not a creep. Most importantly, it’s not sexual in nature. We must also consider the position from which we are engaging them. If this colleague is a subordinate, where your kind gesture could be misread as a quick trip to promotion, then use your brain. Not appropriate!
Bear Your Cross
Finally, as men we need to bear our cross. Religion aside, sexual harassment is as much a man’s problem as it is women’s. As men, we should stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, give more than we take, and provide a loving and safe environment for those around us.
Where to start? Try this.
In a world where harassment is prevalent, let’s acknowledge the problem, and be the solution. I challenge you to man up, and help us reach the world we’ve always set out to achieve.