During the time I’ve been offline attending to other obligations the #MeToo campaign hit full force.
Of course I have a story to share. Nearly everyone I know, male or female, has gotten their turn on the receiving end of some level of vulgarity or criminality. My #MeToo credentials came up in conversation during the recent presidential campaign:
I don’t tell a lot of personal stories, but here’s one: I was staying with another family as a teenager, and the teenage son, same age as me, got the idea that he should to come to my bedroom and inform me he’d arrived for intercourse. The tone was a little difficult to read — was he joking? He claimed afterwards he was. But the words were not difficult to understand at all, rather unequivocal, so I kneed him in the groin.
(The fact that he was close enough to be on the receiving end of that response tells you a little more. I didn’t have to disturb myself and cross the room to carry out the counter-offensive.)
He proceeded to get upset at me for doing that, and to inform me that I needed to be more careful, as such behavior on my part could cause serious injury.
Well, darling, that behavior on your part is what got you injured.
Another word was never said. I’m sure I immediately garnered the reputation among our mutual friends as the resident prude. I also never had another untoward advance during the time I was staying with that family. Guess what? My reputation was deserved and earned. Call it prudery or call it clear communication, do not present yourself in my bedroom even jokingly soliciting sexual favors.
Nothing I did brought on that advance.
Whatever caused that young man to think he could get away with that behavior, it wasn’t me. Not every intern who’s been groped by a Clinton or Trump was “asking for it.” People who want to get away with deviant behavior aren’t sitting around wringing their hands waiting for an invitation. You cannot control the fact that there are people like Trump out there in this world.
One of the discussion topics that the #MeToo initiative has brought forward is the question of modesty. Modesty serves many good purposes, but thwarting sexual harrassment, abuse, and rape are not among them. Whom Does Modesty Serve? is my post here on Patheos on that topic.
For another angle: Modesty as the Language of Mutual Respect. When I was rummaging around the archives, this post from Dr. Greg Popcak came up: The Challenge of Authentic Modesty–5 Things to Do. 1 Thing to Avoid. Providential work from Mr. Google — that particular post focuses on the fact that we cannot control other people’s inner (or outer) life.
Harassment is different* from abuse or rape (not all abuse is rape, but all rape is abuse). Just Tell the Police is my article at Amazing Catechists about my experience being involved in two sexual abuse cases (one of them a rape allegation) and why going to the police, ASAP, is what you should do.
Why are People So Lewd??
Something that’s sad-disturbing-ironic is the number of people I’ve seen on social media expressing their shock and dismay at discovering how much sexual ill-treatment is out there. (Not everyone has been on the receiving end of sexual harassment specifically — it’s a fallen world, but the debris is littered unevenly.)
It should not be a surprise. Of course there are men and women who think all the world is their sexual stage. I know this because the ladies at the antique mall thought I was the crazy one when I didn’t think they ought to have porn out. The story’s here: When People Tell Your Kids that Porn is Just Fine. In 50 Shades of Donald Trump I review the topic from other angles, and share some #MeToo stories from back when we were all busy protesting so-called “locker room talk.”
Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Discriminate
Some of the most harrowing stories of abuse and rape that I’ve seen shared by friends on social media have come from men. #MeToo isn’t a “feminist” issue, except inasmuch as your understanding of feminism is a profound respect for all persons — as it should be.
I agree with a male friend who shared his frustration that in the current social climate women can get away with sexually harassing behavior towards out-of-power men. It’s all part of the sex-ed paradox: We’re all supposed to be utterly incapable of self-control if the topic of contraception, abortion, and STD’s are on the table, but anyone who admits to wishing we’d observe some of the decorum that helped previous generations practice chastity is a lust-crazed misogynist who just needs to learn some self-control.
Men are not the only ones who get pariah-treatment if they express unpopular opinions. At Catholic Vote: #MeToo: My Harassment Came at the Hands Of Male ‘Feminists’.
Guess what? There are women who do not condone harrassment, abuse, or rape . . . and who can also make up their own minds about public policy and personal matters both. If that’s you, visit Women Speak for Themselves.
*UPDATE to clarify and emphasize: Age disparities and the vulnerability of the victim are important in making these distinctions. The #MeToo incident I describe above would be, if it occurred between an adult and a minor at your parish, an act of outright abuse that calls for police involvement.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain].