08 December 2011


Sexual harassment is no laughing matter. During the '60s and '70s, one stereotypical image was that of an attractive woman receiving wolf whistles and catcalls as she walked past a group of construction workers. Other, more sinister images exist ~ a coworker or supervisor persistently making unwelcome suggestive remarks, telling off-color jokes, even becoming physically intrusive. When rebuffed, the aggressor's response might range from verbal to physical abuse. (Note that I've painted a picture of male aggressors. Female aggressors prey upon males as well, something which is underreported in police reports and academic research.)

So here we are, decades later, and in some ways things have improved. Those men who are prone to becoming socially evolved, do not indulge in harassing behavior. But ask most women, and you'll come to understand that we're a long way from universal respect. Case in point ~ recently the prolific blogger on all things social and sexual, A.V. Flox, posted a powerful essay titled I Just Want To Go For A Walk. In it she describes a number of scenarios involving male strangers in which she feels uncomfortably defensive and alert to signs of trouble. She did not grow up feeling this way ~ she's lived all over the world, and didn't experience feeling unsafe until she moved to Los Angeles. The essay is an eye-opener for men and women alike, regardless of your feelings for or against feminism. It's not about that. It's about gender predation, and how that feels to the recipient. It matters (or should) to everyone. Harassment is not only disrespectful and predatory, it is illegal.

In direct response to IJWTGFAW, a male writer shared an anecdote, a scene he witnessed in which a woman was working at her computer in a public setting, minding her own business, and a man kept making increasingly aggressive passes at her, refusing to see (or admit) her polite nonresponsiveness as refusal. The piece is called Sometimes A Girl Just Wants To Get Her Work Done. I'm happy that it was written by a male. At least not all of us are Neanderthals.

Finally, and with no small measure of hilarity, I'm here to pass along an older study on homophobia, one which is receiving new attention in light of gay-bashing remarks made by some of the current field of Republican contenders for their party's presidential nomination. Sarah Jones reports in Proof That Homophobia Is Associated With Homosexual Arousal that "those who hate homosexuals are actually suppressing homosexual urges .... [Research] participants consisted of a group of homophobic men and a group of non-homophobic men. The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire. Both groups exhibited an increase in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection in response to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies .... Heterosexual men with the most anti-gay attitudes, when asked, reported not being sexually aroused by gay male erotic videos. But, their penises reported otherwise."

Darn penises. The Republican Party flees in terror.

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