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There is No Excuse: Sexual Harassment & Assault

November 21, 2017

Unless you have been living under a rock and have had no human contact for the last six months, you cannot have failed to notice the huge number of rich and powerful men being confronted by women and men they have sexually harassed and/or assaulted in the past.

Yet still people are making excuses for it, and I intend to deal with them one by one, starting with the least shocking excuse perpetuated most recently by Morrissey (I’m not shocked he’d make an excuse, but that’s another story belonging to another person), head caterwauler, misery-guts and ego-in-charge for The Smiths (can you tell I was never a fan?):

  1. The victim is merely disappointed, as reported by German magazine Spiegel and as translated by AV Club – “Morrissey says that the whole thing has become “a play,” and that the definition of sexual harassment has become so broad that “every person on this planet is guilty.”It may be that every person on the planet IS guilty in action or inaction.  That does not mean those who perpetrate should not be brought to account.  The volume of accounts coming forward, and the myriad accused, is not a sign that it should not be taken seriously.  It is a sign that it is being taken seriously, at last.

    Nor is it an accusation made because the abuser did not follow through with whatever promises were made on the ‘casting couch’ (a term which has been widespread and understood for almost 100 years, and which has helped normalise the abuse suffered by thousands).  That is a revolting suggestion and an attempt to put abuse on par with sex work.  It ignores the issue of consent (more on that below).  Frankly, it’s something that tends to be said by people in power who are abuser.

  2.  Dirty Old Man (AKA that pervy Uncle we all ‘knew’ about and were warned to avoid or told to put up with at parties.
    That person who hugged too long, insisted on a ‘kiss on the lips’, who was a little be too ‘handsy’; I’m sure if we think back we will all be able to remember one.  Many women I’m sure can think of that teacher that they all avoided or had tactics in place to ensure no-one was left alone with.  We knew it was wrong then.  It is only now we can talk about it, we can complain about it, and we can be taken seriously.
  3. Lie detector tests prove it didn’t happen.At least one of those accused and reported about in the media has taken a lie detector test and passed, which he claims indicates he is innocent of all accusations.  That does not take into account how lie detectors work.  The clue is in the name; it detects lies.  If a person believes they are innocent of the accusations, then they will pass because they are telling the truth when they say they didn’t assault or harass anyone.  It’s what they believe.  There is a reason why lie detector tests are not admissible in court.
  4. They (the accusers) are just after what they can gain/want fame/money etc.Given the pillorying they are getting, along with a lot of support it is true, and the fact that many have found their careers already suppressed or destroyed, I fail to see how they are gaining anything in coming forward about the abuse they have suffered.  This is simply not true and is a repulsive way of silencing anyone who may want to come forward about their experiences.
  5. Being a love/sex addict means they are not responsible for their actions.This misunderstands the fundamental nature of an addiction (and indeed there is debate as to whether love/sex addiction is an actual condition).  Addiction is harmful to the addict.  The addict is not in control whereas the abuser very much is, that is the point of the power play.

For more reading about the misconceptions surrounding sexual harassment and assault, the University of Michigan has produced this very useful article.

I’m not going to list all those accused to date, as the list will grow longer as people finally accept that this behaviour was NEVER acceptable and the change is in the empowering of those victimised to speak up and know the support and belief is there.

As for the laws, here are few graphs to show how prevalent workplace harassment is, where it is explicitly prohibited and against whom, and what you can do (contact the police, Unions, Rape Crisis centres or your human resources department in your country/company as relevant – graph featured is according to the US-based EEOC and has good basic advice).

There is No Excuse-Harassment & Assault landscape

Seldom is there only one accuser, only one person victimised by a perpetrator.  Many of those who were victimised may not even realise it, so ingrained is our attitude towards gendered sexual expression.  It took me years to realise I had been harassed, and it is only since this came up do I realise that perhaps one incident I describe may be assault.  Amnesty UK published the results of their recent survey into online abuse and harassment, and it is sobering reading.  It’s all related and it all enables abusers and harassers to carry on, regardless.

The majority of us have always known this type of behaviour was wrong, as shown by the ‘excuses’ listed above.  The only thing that is changing is that the perpetrators are being confronted and are finally facing the long awaited consequences for their behaviour.  No longer are the excuses acceptable.

Everyone should be looking at their past behaviour because I am very sure whatever your gender there may be incidents that cause you pause for thought.  This will be the behaviour of men under the patriarchal assumption of entitlement to sexual activity towards the object of their attraction, and for women it will be their behaviour under the patriarchal assumption that men always want and/or are ready for sexual activity of whatever kind.

Informed, enthusiastic and updating consent is a fairly new concept for discussion and moves the No Means No campaign along further.  It recognises that those victimised may not be able to, nor capable of, saying no at that moment in time.  For many, the entitlement to say no was not one that may have been understood to exist!

Enthusiastic, Informed, Updating Consent:

  • Means having all the information one feels is necessary to oneself in order to give informed consent.  Ask questions and expect answers.
  • Means giving all the information one feels is necessary to oneself in order to receive informed consent. Expect questions and give answers.
  • Means honest open communication.
  • Means understanding that consent must be updated; a yes for one activity is not a yes for all.
  • Means knowing anyone under any form of duress (e.g. emotional or physically abusive relationship) directly related to the situation cannot give informed consent.
  • Means knowing anyone very intoxicated on whatever substance they cannot give informed consent, especially they are unconscious.
  • Means knowing anyone who is very intoxicated may also not be able to understand whether they have received informed consent or not; be wary of this and don’t become an abuser/rapist. If you feel intoxicated or in any way unsure of your judgement, do not have sex or do not proceed with whatever activity requires consent.
  • Means never assuming consent has been given.
  • Means understanding yes may not mean yes and no definitely means no.
  • Means you are allowed to say no and you do not have to give reasons.
  • Means erring on the side of caution – if you are not 100% positive then you should assume consent has not been given.
  • Means respecting a person’s autonomy – no-one has a right to sex or to consent. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on them or what your expectations may be.  There is no such thing as entitlement.
Informed, enthusiastic consent.

Handy little chart – cut out and keep!

There is NO excuse for overstepping the line.  None.  If you are not sure if you may be pushing it, then you probably are and should stop.   If you see something and have even the slightest doubt about what is going on, step in.

There is no excuse.


From → Ideology

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