How to prevent sexual assault and harassment: a guide, for men.
This post has been written for men.
That’s not say women aren’t welcome to read it – feel free – but they probably won’t need to. It’s unlikely to tell them anything they don’t already know.
In fact, there have been numerous articles, commentaries, and posts published by women lately; discussing their experiences of being sexually harassed – or assaulted – by men, in the wake of recent high-profile cases coming to light. For women, it’s evidently difficult to avoid being abused.
If you’re a man, though, it’s surprisingly easy not to harass or assault women. In fact, nothing could be simpler – because you don’t have to do anything at all.
Consider the following scenario – there is a woman, alone, walking along a path; it’s a dark night. There you are. You do nothing – you both go your separate ways.
It’s just that simple.
And yet – would you believe it? – there are some men who seem to struggle with this as a concept. If you are one of them, and you’re not quite sure how to avoid harassing or assaulting women (or anyone else, for that matter) then this guide is for you.
If you’ve never said anything untoward about a woman, never taken advantage of somebody, or hurt anyone – great! You’ve done the aforementioned nothing. You can congratulate yourself every time you do nothing, in fact – should you feel the need.
But maybe you know somebody who would benefit from a bit of guidance; and you’re not quite sure how to get the message across to them? If so, you’re welcome to read on, too.
How to prevent sexual harassment and assault – or anything related: a man’s guide, for men.
If a woman is using social media – DON’T threaten to rape or kill her.
If a woman is jogging late at night, and she runs past you – DON’T sexually assault her.
If you’re a film director, and you’re casting a part – DON’T force somebody to have sex with you.
If you’re in a bar, and a woman leaves her drink unattended – DON’T spike it, then rape her when she’s unconscious.
If you’re in a relationship with somebody, and they say they’re not interested in having sex – DON’T force them into doing it.
If there’s a woman walking along the same street as you – DON’T harass her.
If someone makes a joke about rape – DON’T laugh at it.
If you see a woman on a train – DON’T sexually assault her.
If a female colleague is alone with you at your workplace, DON’T molest them.
Stay alert: if you suspect you’re about to harass someone – DON’T do that. Cover your mouth with your hand, if need must.
If you can’t stop yourself staring at women, even when it’s obvious that it makes them uncomfortable – cover your eyes with your hand.
Know your limits – if half a beer makes you prone to harassing or assaulting someone, stay sober.
Wear appropriate clothing when you’re out in public – for example, a t-shirt with the message ‘I am a danger to women’ on the front.
If you feel you can’t keep other people safe from your actions – stay at home.
If you suspect you’re about to harass or assault someone, create a distraction – carry something shiny with you at all times; and use it to divert your own attention when necessary.
Be a good friend – don’t grope anyone who trusts you.
Carry an alarm – if you are worried you might wolf-whistle at someone, set the alarm off, so that women can’t hear you whistling.
Enlist the help of others – if you can’t control your actions, tell a trusted authority figure to lock you up for everyone’s safety.
If you find that your friends encourage you to harass women – find better friends.
Is it necessary to say any of this? I would say so, personally. If you disagree, there are some questions you could ask yourself:
Why are men who make rape-threats online, not being traced and arrested?
Why do so many men deride women as “sluts”; but then denounce feminists for being prudish over even the mildest critiques of the sex trade – an industry which is rife with exploitation?
Why do men who feel victimized by articles describing other men’s bad behaviour not stop to consider what it’s like to be constantly on the receiving end of sexism? And for that matter, sexism which affects people on a structural level; not just arbitrarily?
Why do so many male readers of articles about this issue constantly try to derail any discussion of it?
Why are there so many men who think that our feelings, egos, jokes at women’s expense, chances of having sex, workplace banter – or right to feel like a man – are more important than discussing the violence and abuse, happening all around us, all the time?
It really isn’t up to women to solve the behaviour of men who are abusing them. Women have been telling us about the miseries they endure at our gender’s hands, for years; and for all the complaints raised in objection, that it’s not all men – there it is, in our midst, continuously.
It’s not good enough to keep saying that it isn’t all of us. There is a status quo that we are a part of, whether we like that or not – precisely because we are men. The people with the foremost voices in the media, arts, politics, business, society – or virtually anywhere else – are male. The people who have the most clout to make the important decisions are men.
But there’s more to it, even than that. As reassuring as it is that you’re not abusive towards women, men who do mistreat women are liable to think you’re on their side, unless you actively let them know that you are not.
I’ve written this piece – not because women aren’t capable of making these same points far better than I ever could; but because they do not carry as much weight with men as we do. We are in a much stronger position to change the attitudes which underscore male mistreatment of women. You can do nothing – but you could also do more.
We have a role to play in society, and in a culture that stands by and silences – or shames – women whenever they speak out against our gender’s misbehavior. We have to choose which role that is.
This is why it concerns you, and me, and every other man: because how we behave, how we treat other people – especially women – is important; and there are too many men who do ignore and excuse these things until it’s too late.
So what type of man do you want to be?