Harassment and Understanding It (split from Do Men Have a Problem with Empathy)

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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:49 pm

ElizaJane wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Take cat-calling. RealMen are supposed to want sex any time, anywhere, with anyone who is vaguely attractive. Asking Guy A how he would feel about being cat-called wouldn't lead to any kind of empathy, because even if deep down he would be uncomfortable with unwanted attention, he's been socialized that sexual attention is never unwanted. The closest I've come in discussions to seeing certain guys emphasize with how women feel is to add a gay slant to it ("How would you feel if a gay guy was catcalling you?"), but that edges far too close to homophobia and just perpetuates more stereotypes.

Asking Guy A how he'd feel about being catcalled makes him think, "Hm, how would I feel about a woman catcalling me," and then picturing a woman, (translation, someone reasonably attractive in her 20s or 30s) offering him sexual attention.  Score! he thinks.

Whereas, as a woman, when it happens to me, I have all the baggage from being a 12-year-old girl having 40-year-old men calling sexual comments at me, and the scope of "man" runs a wider gamut, from old men outside shops to scary groups of 8-10 large, muscular guys while I'm alone on the street, to okay, that guy's pretty cute, but I deal with this crap way too much, jerkoff.

Yes, this. I think it's true that the Purely Theoretical Cat-Calling Experience for guys tends to look nothing like what the actual equivalent would be for them. I think on the old forum a couple of the guys had, I'm sorry to say, some actual experiences of being sexually harassed by women and one thing that seemed to be a common thread was their surprise that they didn't like it. That it wasn't fun and at just how uncomfortable they felt. And the worst thing is, in different environments to this one, how many guys would even feel comfortable admitting that? Which further leads to the cultural idea that guys always want all female attention.

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Post by reboundstudent on Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:03 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:
ElizaJane wrote:

Asking Guy A how he'd feel about being catcalled makes him think, "Hm, how would I feel about a woman catcalling me," and then picturing a woman, (translation, someone reasonably attractive in her 20s or 30s) offering him sexual attention.  Score! he thinks.

Whereas, as a woman, when it happens to me, I have all the baggage from being a 12-year-old girl having 40-year-old men calling sexual comments at me, and the scope of "man" runs a wider gamut, from old men outside shops to scary groups of 8-10 large, muscular guys while I'm alone on the street, to okay, that guy's pretty cute, but I deal with this crap way too much, jerkoff.

Yes, this.  I think it's true that the Purely Theoretical Cat-Calling Experience for guys tends to look nothing like what the actual equivalent would be for them.  I think on the old forum a couple of the guys had, I'm sorry to say, some actual experiences of being sexually harassed by women and one thing that seemed to be a common thread was their surprise that they didn't like it.  That it wasn't fun and at just how uncomfortable they felt.  And the worst thing is, in different environments to this one, how many guys would even feel comfortable admitting that?  Which further leads to the cultural idea that guys always want all female attention.

I think that's a great point from both of you. The times when a male friend has admitted to me he didn't like the sexual attention, it was always with some sort of shame or embarrassment, like I would think less of them for not liking being harassed. In a few cases, the guy also hurried to insist that the girl was undesirable in some way, as if to rescue his sense of masculinity. (Really gross, complicated issue: wanting to emphasize that it is a-ok to not like harassment, that he did not deserve to be harassed, that the girl was out of line, but holy cow it's not cool to say if only the girl had been skinnier/had longer hair/younger you'd be all over it.)
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Post by inertia on Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:53 pm

The Wisp wrote:
nearly_takuan wrote:
It may be worth noting that a few trans men have recently reported that following their superficial transition to looking more "manly" they stopped getting unwanted catcalls, but they also missed getting genuine unsolicited compliments, ever.

I think this is important. A lot of feminist women seem to implicitly believe men get to inhabit this great place where we have none of the problems women do without any unique problems. Of course, even cis white guys deal with a lot of gender issues on the opposite extreme, like the lack of unsolicited compliments. Probably not as bad on balance, but not ideal.


My question would be "what genune unsolicited compliment?"

I have yet to recieve this.... so if you really want a stab and getting lewd comments yelled at you from a car. Or have someone who probably has 40-80 lbs on you follow you in their car while you are walking down the streets. Please let me know how much you like it, because I would gladly not recieve any of this

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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:04 pm

inertia wrote:
The Wisp wrote:
nearly_takuan wrote:
It may be worth noting that a few trans men have recently reported that following their superficial transition to looking more "manly" they stopped getting unwanted catcalls, but they also missed getting genuine unsolicited compliments, ever.

I think this is important. A lot of feminist women seem to implicitly believe men get to inhabit this great place where we have none of the problems women do without any unique problems. Of course, even cis white guys deal with a lot of gender issues on the opposite extreme, like the lack of unsolicited compliments. Probably not as bad on balance, but not ideal.


My question would be "what genune unsolicited compliment?"

I have yet to recieve this.... so if you really want a stab and getting lewd comments yelled at you from a car.  Or have someone who probably has 40-80  lbs on you follow you in their car while you are walking down the streets.  Please let me know how much you like it, because I would gladly not receive any of this

I think you're misunderstanding. I'm not saying street harassment is good. Indeed, I even said it was worse! Maybe unsolicited comments was a bad example, but I think sometimes some women seem to think that we men live in the golden mean of (lack) of gender issues when in reality often we have to deal with the reverse issue (even if it may not be as bad on the whole). Take emotional vulnerability for example. Women are seen as weak and overly emotional, which sucks, but they get to be emotionally vulnerable. On the other hand, it's not like men get to be emotionally vulnerable AND seen as strong and rational, not at all. We are pressured to be repressed.
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:31 pm

inertia wrote:My question would be "what genune unsolicited compliment?"

I have yet to recieve this.... so if you really want a stab and getting lewd comments yelled at you from a car.  Or have someone who probably has 40-80  lbs on you follow you in their car while you are walking down the streets.  Please let me know how much you like it, because I would gladly not recieve any of this

This isn't ideal, but I've been unable to track down the particular source I was originally thinking of. This one contains some similar ideas, but TW: the Oppression Olympics is strong on this page (no shit, it's r/MensRights).

17versus5 wrote:
errythangthizzin wrote:Norah [Vincent] said [in the book "Self-Made Man"] that she [sic] initially felt a freedom when "unsolicited compliments" stopped, but then truly felt their absence, and missed them, when she realized there were no compliments coming. How was your experience with this?
This is something I actually agree with. When I was identifying as female, I definitely got more compliments. It was something I didn't really expect to be different, but it DID bother me a bit. Women, you have people telling you "oh that's great!" or "you look great!" or "you got a haircut - looks nice!". As a dude? Almost never, unless it is a formal affair. It took a toll on my self confidence for a bit, but I did get used to it after a while.
Me, personally, I do have low-normal self esteem, but my current partner makes sure to compliment me when he sees I'm down. That is something that, as a woman, I would not have needed to ask for, but as a man I did need to address.
Personally, I think men should compliment each other more without worrying about being called gay. Like, why can't I tell my bro that he's got a nice new shirt without being called a homo? That's something we as guys need to start moving past.

And though certain other things are suspicious and anecdote-y, the basic idea I want to pull from this is that this person didn't notice some of the benefits he had in his previous identity until he had entirely lost access to them in his new one. I think it's just fundamentally really difficult to connect to someone else's entire lifetime of experiences—you can have empathy for specific shitty things that happened to someone, but when it's a long build-up of contextual presence (or absence) of a thing, that's significantly harder for either group to sufficiently explain to the other.

ElizaJane wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Take cat-calling. RealMen are supposed to want sex any time, anywhere, with anyone who is vaguely attractive. Asking Guy A how he would feel about being cat-called wouldn't lead to any kind of empathy, because even if deep down he would be uncomfortable with unwanted attention, he's been socialized that sexual attention is never unwanted. The closest I've come in discussions to seeing certain guys emphasize with how women feel is to add a gay slant to it ("How would you feel if a gay guy was catcalling you?"), but that edges far too close to homophobia and just perpetuates more stereotypes.

Not to derail here, but your comment on this also made me think that part of this problem is how we define "woman."  Now, I am not a man, but it seems to me that for a lot of men "woman" is read as "desirable sex partner" (or else, "that thing that grows the babies"), which leaves out the real lived experience of millions of women who stop being "women" in a lot of male eyes when they A) gain weight, B) deal with an accident or illness, or C) get old.

Asking Guy A how he'd feel about being catcalled makes him think, "Hm, how would I feel about a woman catcalling me," and then picturing a woman, (translation, someone reasonably attractive in her 20s or 30s) offering him sexual attention.  Score! he thinks.

Whereas, as a woman, when it happens to me, I have all the baggage from being a 12-year-old girl having 40-year-old men calling sexual comments at me, and the scope of "man" runs a wider gamut, from old men outside shops to scary groups of 8-10 large, muscular guys while I'm alone on the street, to okay, that guy's pretty cute, but I deal with this crap way too much, jerkoff.

Anecdote: I've been hit on and asked out (because I didn't get what was going on until then) exactly once, and it was by a man I had no interest in. Disappointing him sucked, but seeing that someone found me attractive really was super, super great*. Maybe it wouldn't be if there was something similar happening all the time, but there isn't. Maybe if he intimidated me (I don't mean to bluster but frankly, intimidating me generally requires a weapon) I would have been less comfortable, but he didn't. So I just have to make these academic speculations about what that might feel like. You see?

*At the time I thought of myself as "straight", but even then, I didn't take it as an insult that he thought I might be gay. Homophobia probably does color this issue for some, too, though.
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Post by inertia on Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:33 pm

The Wisp wrote:
inertia wrote:
The Wisp wrote:
nearly_takuan wrote:
It may be worth noting that a few trans men have recently reported that following their superficial transition to looking more "manly" they stopped getting unwanted catcalls, but they also missed getting genuine unsolicited compliments, ever.

I think this is important. A lot of feminist women seem to implicitly believe men get to inhabit this great place where we have none of the problems women do without any unique problems. Of course, even cis white guys deal with a lot of gender issues on the opposite extreme, like the lack of unsolicited compliments. Probably not as bad on balance, but not ideal.


My question would be "what genune unsolicited compliment?"

I have yet to recieve this.... so if you really want a stab and getting lewd comments yelled at you from a car.  Or have someone who probably has 40-80  lbs on you follow you in their car while you are walking down the streets.  Please let me know how much you like it, because I would gladly not receive any of this

I think you're misunderstanding. I'm not saying street harassment is good. Indeed, I even said it was worse! Maybe unsolicited comments was a bad example, but I think sometimes some women seem to think that we men live in the golden mean of (lack) of gender issues when in reality often we have to deal with the reverse issue (even if it may not be as bad on the whole). Take emotional vulnerability for example. Women are seen as weak and overly emotional, which sucks, but they get to be emotionally vulnerable. On the other hand, it's not like men get to be emotionally vulnerable AND seen as strong and rational, not at all. We are pressured to be repressed.

having privillege doesn't mean your life is perfect. Or that your group doesn't have issues. I agree that there are definately societal pressures that men learn... and it is incredibly messed up. It's probably the reason why men have high committed suicides than women... I believe I once saw the rates were the highest for white men, but I would have to find that again to to swear by that... It is part of a system that privilleges things that are coded masculine over things that are coded feminine...

what you said about "Women are seen as weak and overly emotional," it usually translate into women being seen as incompetent... which privilleges males in the career sense... The cost is not feeling like you are allowed your feelings... which is horrible for mental health reasons.

I don't think that there aren't issues. but it is part of the same system. but they do not equate the same thing. But everyone shoule be encouraged to be a full human being and not half of one.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:47 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:

ElizaJane wrote:
reboundstudent wrote:Take cat-calling. RealMen are supposed to want sex any time, anywhere, with anyone who is vaguely attractive. Asking Guy A how he would feel about being cat-called wouldn't lead to any kind of empathy, because even if deep down he would be uncomfortable with unwanted attention, he's been socialized that sexual attention is never unwanted. The closest I've come in discussions to seeing certain guys emphasize with how women feel is to add a gay slant to it ("How would you feel if a gay guy was catcalling you?"), but that edges far too close to homophobia and just perpetuates more stereotypes.

Not to derail here, but your comment on this also made me think that part of this problem is how we define "woman."  Now, I am not a man, but it seems to me that for a lot of men "woman" is read as "desirable sex partner" (or else, "that thing that grows the babies"), which leaves out the real lived experience of millions of women who stop being "women" in a lot of male eyes when they A) gain weight, B) deal with an accident or illness, or C) get old.

Asking Guy A how he'd feel about being catcalled makes him think, "Hm, how would I feel about a woman catcalling me," and then picturing a woman, (translation, someone reasonably attractive in her 20s or 30s) offering him sexual attention.  Score! he thinks.

Whereas, as a woman, when it happens to me, I have all the baggage from being a 12-year-old girl having 40-year-old men calling sexual comments at me, and the scope of "man" runs a wider gamut, from old men outside shops to scary groups of 8-10 large, muscular guys while I'm alone on the street, to okay, that guy's pretty cute, but I deal with this crap way too much, jerkoff.

Anecdote: I've been hit on and asked out (because I didn't get what was going on until then) exactly once, and it was by a man I had no interest in. Disappointing him sucked, but seeing that someone found me attractive really was super, super great*. Maybe it wouldn't be if there was something similar happening all the time, but there isn't. Maybe if he intimidated me (I don't mean to bluster but frankly, intimidating me generally requires a weapon) I would have been less comfortable, but he didn't. So I just have to make these academic speculations about what that might feel like. You see?

*At the time I thought of myself as "straight", but even then, I didn't take it as an insult that he thought I might be gay. Homophobia probably does color this issue for some, too, though.

Mmmm. The "imagine if a gay man did it" is a terrible way to try and frame the issue for a lot of reasons. I guess the thing is, there's a difference between being asked out by someone and being harassed by them, like a huge one. Even if the harassment looks like hitting-on at a glance. There's this completely different atmosphere and power to it.

I tend to compare it more to... basically sexualised bullying. Anyone who was bullied in school can remember back to some of the stuff they went through. From actual violence, to name-calling, to threats, to having stuff thrown at you, having your path blocked as you're trying to get somewhere... to the almost-benign comments from people who, because of their history with you, you know are leading up to a threat or a joke at your expense or something else. Although you could never prove it. Add sex to all of that, and you've got harassment. It's why the "compliments" aren't compliments. It'd be like the kid who usually pushes you over in the hallway and calls you a pig coming up and saying they liked your outfit that day. You just know something is coming.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:20 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:
I tend to compare it more to... basically sexualised bullying.  Anyone who was bullied in school can remember back to some of the stuff they went through.  From actual violence, to name-calling, to threats, to having stuff thrown at you, having your path blocked as you're trying to get somewhere... to the almost-benign comments from people who, because of their history with you, you know are leading up to a threat or a joke at your expense or something else.  Although you could never prove it.  Add sex to all of that, and you've got harassment.  It's why the "compliments" aren't compliments.  It'd be like the kid who usually pushes you over in the hallway and calls you a pig coming up and saying they liked your outfit that day.  You just know something is coming.

My feelings about street harassment are very much the same. I'm lucky not to experience it anymore at my new apartment, but before recently, I experienced street harassment almost every day for three years. Those men weren't hitting on me or complimenting me. Most of them weren't single, those who were wouldn't have been interested (and, I would note, had plenty of ways to meet me if they had been), and I highly doubt they were attempting to flatter me or make me feel good. I experienced the yelling as a way of reminding me that I was on their turf as I walked down the sidewalk and that they were free to define me as they wished. It was actually a lot like the kids in high school who'd hang out in front of their lockers yell "NERD!" or various derogatory terms based on sexual orientation at kids from other cliques who were unfortunate enough wander down "their" portion of the hallway.

That doesn't mean there's no place to compare men's lack of positive feedback on their appearance to things that women experience, but I'd rather something else that seems to be motivated mostly by lust or admiration (like sexual advances made in a non-threatening way by an unappealing person) rather than by bullying be the comparison point.
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Post by reboot on Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:28 pm


I tend to compare it more to... basically sexualised bullying.  ... Bunny

That doesn't mean there's no place to compare men's lack of positive feedback on their appearance to things that women experience, but I'd rather something else that seems to be motivated mostly by lust or admiration rather than by bullying be the comparison point....Eselle

I think this is the part that is missed in discussion of street harassment. It is bullying and the bullies are picking on a perceived vulnerability.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:57 pm

I think that's a worthwhile topic, and I have lots to say about it, but would you mind if I made a new thread? I feel like street harassment is one of those trigger topics that tends to go south when it's mixed with other content, and I suspect both of these topics would be more likely to thrive if we split them.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:14 pm

[MOD] And I've split the thread! nonA, and anyone else interested in the subject, please see this thread for a space to discuss cold-approach techniques that avoid or at least reduce the risk of adding to harassment. [/MOD]

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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 7:20 pm

I just want to chime in with my own experience. I'm a woman who has rarely been harassed on the street, to the point where the one (relatively mild) time it's happened lately I was so freaked out that I needed to post on the previous forums. Nonetheless it's always been quite clear to me what the behavior dynamic is, and what's wrong with it. I don't need to experience it myself in order to understand it. That's part of what confuses me with guys who are like, "That would be so awesome." If I don't have to experience it to understand it, why can't they do the same? What's the missing piece that allows me to get it, and how can I share it?
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Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Oct 02, 2014 7:46 pm

I haven't even seen it happen outside of movies and advertisements that are specifically about it. Certainly haven't committed it.

Since it seems most women describe it as a thing that happens, I assume it does, but that's all. Yet even hearing those descriptions coming from the people who actively hate it, somewhere I end up implicitly twisting that into "but wouldn't it be kind of nice?" I dunno, there's this idea that at least it was worth someone's time to say something to you, or at you. Or notice that you were there, and point it out.

Which brings this pretty close to the realm of behavioral psychology and developmental psychology, right? Kids are known to do "bad" things on purpose, show off, act out, just because they believe negative attention is preferable to the feeling of being ignored. Is something like that going on here?
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Post by reboot on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:00 pm

I have not been harassed with anything resembling a compliment since I was 15, so when I think of street harassment it is negative (e.g. getting called an ugly c**t, being told someone would only fuck me if he could put a bag on my head) so I tend to see it through that filter. There is nothing positive in the attention.

When I was under 15 and especially between 10-12 was when I got the more "complimentary" harassment, usually by what appeared to me to be people almost my dad's age (probably early 20s and above in truth but kid's age perception of adults is wacky). That was bad and uncomfortable making, but there was some excitement because I was called "pretty" and no one (including my family) called me that before, so I kind of get where people could think, "Oh it is nice to get attention!" It was nice to be complimentan but it was also very scary because I could senses....something.... underneath it that was not right, not safe. Of course, now I know it was because these men were predators picking up on the vulnerability of an ugly kid who was out on her own a lot.

I am guessing that in street harassment situations where compliments are used it is that fundamental "not right, not safe" that makes them bullying rather than compliments.


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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:03 pm

Oh, that's a really interesting perspective - that in the absence of positive attention, there's no good way to distinguish between positive and negative attention. I have to go chew on that.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:14 pm

I received a fair amount of the "complimentary"* harassment between the ages of 9-15, too. What I can say is that the similarly complimentary harassment I've received as an adult felt exactly as predatory. It's just as you say - it feels not right, not safe. Sometimes it's just something in the body language or tone of voice, but it's always there. The feeling of there being a threat.

*I feel like we need another term to distinguish the "I'd fuck you bitch" stuff from the "Eurgh fat bitch no fucking for you" stuff but I'm not sure what to go for.

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Post by kleenestar on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:31 pm

Oh, also interesting! I wonder whether men who have interacted with predators are more likely to understand the experience of street harassment.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:39 pm

I sometimes still get "complimentary harassment" (ah, the joy of living near oil fields and construction sites), though there was certainly more of it when I was a tween and a teen, and it's always felt threatening.

There's something else there too, though. I think some of it's the drive for negative attention, which does line up with the extremely hostile responses of catcallers to women who ignore them. But there's also a certain amount of territory-marking and power-exercising to it as well, I think. Or at least that's the feeling I get when I'm catcalled. I don't feel pleased to know someone's paying attention to me. I feel like I've been informed that streets and parking lots belong to men, and that if I insist on doing anything other than staying home or being in locations like bars where I'm sexually available to them, I'll have to pay the tax of being reminded they can talk to me however they want on their streets.
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:40 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:I haven't even seen it happen outside of movies and advertisements that are specifically about it. Certainly haven't committed it.

Since it seems most women describe it as a thing that happens, I assume it does, but that's all. Yet even hearing those descriptions coming from the people who actively hate it, somewhere I end up implicitly twisting that into "but wouldn't it be kind of nice?" I dunno, there's this idea that at least it was worth someone's time to say something to you, or at you. Or notice that you were there, and point it out.

Which brings this pretty close to the realm of behavioral psychology and developmental psychology, right? Kids are known to do "bad" things on purpose, show off, act out, just because they believe negative attention is preferable to the feeling of being ignored. Is something like that going on here?

Anecdote - long time readers will remember this one.
I was definitely one of those "It doesn't happen around me, so what can I do?" types. So I went to this big event with a bunch of my cast (ie all women). There were plenty of greasers, punks and other lowlifes in both the charming and the potentially dangerous sense. We hung out at the bar, look at rat rods, stuff like that. Everyone we met was friendly and thought our uniforms were cool. I got a little deydrated, over-socialized and tired so I headed home. ONE HOUR later, one of my friends was getting hit on at the same bar where we had been doing group photos. When she turned the guy down he not only started shouting, making a scene and calling her several inappropriate thing but threatened to come back and stab her. Security's response was "if you don't feel safe, we can walk you to your car".

That's what women are talking about when they say "unwelcome".

To your psychology question, I think it goes to a major underlying male issue. If masculinity is tied to what sort of girl you can get, then getting turned down says that you are not enough of a man. This woman has just taken control of the interaction away and done it by undercutting your status as a man. To reclaim this suddenly "stolen" masculinity, the guy has to about face and convinces himself and all other witnesses that he is the one in command of the situation and this woman is not worthy of his attention. Its basically the same thing with cat calls. Those are more "look at me woman and all witnesses! I am a manly man and I control this area! All within it exists for my personal enjoyment!"
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Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:15 pm

kleenestar wrote:I just want to chime in with my own experience. I'm a woman who has rarely been harassed on the street, to the point where the one (relatively mild) time it's happened lately I was so freaked out that I needed to post on the previous forums. Nonetheless it's always been quite clear to me what the behavior dynamic is, and what's wrong with it. I don't need to experience it myself in order to understand it. That's part of what confuses me with guys who are like, "That would be so awesome." If I don't have to experience it to understand it, why can't they do the same? What's the missing piece that allows me to get it, and how can I share it?

(Bear with this anecdote, it's relevant) I did have one experience of moderate harassment. When I was 15 my family went to this outdoor concert by a local band some friends of my parents were in. Anyway, a few hours in a very drunk middle-aged woman came up to me, grabbed me around the waist and asked me to dance. My mother and a friend of hers were right there and extracted me from the situation. Very uncomfortable.

Yet, when we talk about "complimentary" harassment, I simply don't make a connection between my anecdote and that. When I try to imagine myself being  harassed in that way, it's always by relatively normal women who are roughly my own age. It's never a much older woman, nor a woman with an unsettling vibe around her, nor a gay guy. Even though I know that "positive" harassment would entail those kinds of women and gay men giving me this attention, it just doesn't register at a gut level. I get why it wouldn't register as a compliment, or why it would be annoying, but I still struggle to empathize with the sheer frustration and anxiety it seems to cause women. I take women at their word when they say it isn't pleasant, so I've stopped saying "oh, it would be so awesome", though occasionally deep down I still think that if I'm being honest.

I guess I don't really have a concrete answer for you.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:33 pm

Now that's interesting, Wisp, that you do have experience with exactly the sort of situation in which "complimentary" harassment happens, and yet you still find yourself defaulting to an almost fantasy version of harassment in your head when you imagine it. I wonder what it is that's causing the disconnect.

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Post by Mel on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:41 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:I haven't even seen it happen outside of movies and advertisements that are specifically about it. Certainly haven't committed it.

Since it seems most women describe it as a thing that happens, I assume it does, but that's all. Yet even hearing those descriptions coming from the people who actively hate it, somewhere I end up implicitly twisting that into "but wouldn't it be kind of nice?" I dunno, there's this idea that at least it was worth someone's time to say something to you, or at you. Or notice that you were there, and point it out.

Okay, so you've never been sexually harassed or seen it happen, but as others are pointing out, it's basically bullying. Surely you have seen people insult or threaten another person before? Surely someone at some point has said something unkind to you? It feels a lot like that (with an extra discomfort of knowing it's aimed specifically at your gender). If some stranger yells an insult at you on the street, you wouldn't be thinking about how at least they took the time to do so, right?

What you have to remember is it isn't about sex, any more than, say, a person who insults your clothing is trying to give you fashion advice. It's about trying to assert power over someone else, to prove you can make them uncomfortable or hurt them, and picking the words you think are most likely to do that. And a lot of men who want to make women uncomfortable know that using sexual language tends to accomplish that.

The Wisp wrote:(Bear with this anecdote, it's relevant) I did have one experience of moderate harassment. When I was 15 my family went to this outdoor concert by a local band some friends of my parents were in. Anyway, a few hours in a very drunk middle-aged woman came up to me, grabbed me around the waist and asked me to dance. My mother and a friend of hers were right there and extracted me from the situation. Very uncomfortable.

Yet, when we talk about "complimentary" harassment, I simply don't make a connection between my anecdote and that. When I try to imagine myself being  harassed in that way, it's always by relatively normal women who are roughly my own age. It's never a much older woman, nor a woman with an unsettling vibe around her, nor a gay guy. Even though I know that "positive" harassment would entail those kinds of women and gay men giving me this attention, it just doesn't register at a gut level. I get why it wouldn't register as a compliment, or why it would be annoying, but I still struggle to empathize with the sheer frustration and anxiety it seems to cause women. I take women at their word when they say it isn't pleasant, so I've stopped saying "oh, it would be so awesome", though occasionally deep down I still think that if I'm being honest.

I'm confused. You say you can't connect your anecdote with "complimentary" harassment, that you struggle to understand how "positive" harassment would be unpleasant... But how exactly was your experience not what we could technically define as "positive" harassment? From your description, the woman didn't hurt you or say anything unkind to you. She simply got more physically close to you than was appropriate and asked you to dance. And you express that this made you very uncomfortable. If having someone put their arm around you and ask you to dance was unpleasant, what exactly is this more "positive" type of harassment you imagine women get that you wouldn't see as unpleasant or, as you found it, very uncomfortable? I mean, seriously, even when harassment involves supposed "compliments", it's done in an aggressive/unnerving tone (yelling/muttering/etc.), and/or involves the person getting too much in personal space or being physically intimidating in other ways (e.g., in vehicle), and/or comes with aggressive/unnerving body language (crude gestures, leering, etc.), and so on.

I have never in my life heard a woman complain about a guy harassing her and go on to tell a story of some dude politely telling her she looks nice and then continuing with his business. That is not a thing. If you're imagining that is "complimentary/positive" harassment, then the problem is you're imagining something that a) rarely happens and b) when it does happen, is not what women are talking about when they talk about harassment.
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Post by reboot on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:52 pm

The Wisp wrote:Yet, when we talk about "complimentary" harassment, I simply don't make a connection between my anecdote and that. When I try to imagine myself being  harassed in that way, it's always by relatively normal women who are roughly my own age. It's never a much older woman, nor a woman with an unsettling vibe around her, nor a gay guy. Even though I know that "positive" harassment would entail those kinds of women and gay men giving me this attention, it just doesn't register at a gut level. I get why it wouldn't register as a compliment, or why it would be annoying, but I still struggle to empathize with the sheer frustration and anxiety it seems to cause women. I take women at their word when they say it isn't pleasant, so I've stopped saying "oh, it would be so awesome", though occasionally deep down I still think that if I'm being honest.

I guess I don't really have a concrete answer for you.

This is interesting because your real experience of " complimentary " harassment (after all, wanting to dance with you is a "compliment" right?) made you uncomfortable because it was an older woman, but when you imagine it happening when trying to picture what women experience, you do not recall your real life experience but imagine "normal"* women roughly your own age doing it. It is almost like you can not connect your reality with women's because it is blocked.

* Um, just because we are older we are not abnormal :-)
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Post by Enail on Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:03 pm

reboot wrote:
* Um, just because we are older we are not abnormal :-)

I think TheWisp may have meant the "normal" bit as opposed to the "with an unsettling vibe" bit, not the "older" bit.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:08 pm

Wisp... honest question, because I find this an interesting situation to try and puzzle out.

Were you ever bullied as a kid? In school, was there ever anyone who made a habit of doing unkind things to you? Anyone who did anything like the following:

* calling you names
* kicking your chair
* pulling your hair
* pushing you in the corridors
* getting in your space/blocking your path/physically intimidating you
* following you to hurl insults
* getting violent and hitting or slapping you
* coming up behind you in the canteen and shoving your face into your lunch
* making up lies about you to tell others
* pretending to like you so they could play a trick on you
* throwing things at you
* stealing your property and damaging it/throwing it away/refusing to give it back

Was there ever a time in your school life when you experienced any of these things? Anyone who ever got to the point where, all the had to do was call out "hey" at you from across the hall and it made your shoulders go up around your ears because you knew, you knew they were going to start something but you had no idea of knowing what, of how far they would take it this time. If it would just be an insult, or if they'd actually hurt you this time.

Think about the sort of body language your bullies used. The tone of voice. The way they laughed. The way they'd look at you in passing and how it made you feel. The uncertainty of it all.

Now imagine you're walking down the street now. You're an adult. And as you're on your way somewhere, you see that just up ahead, there's the kids who used to bully you. They're adults now, too. And they're still bigger than you. And they see you walking, and get the exact same looks on their faces they used to get right before they had a go at you. You hear the same laugh. They've got the same body language going on. And you have to walk past them to get where you're going.

As you get near them, one of the bullies calls out to you, in the exact same tone of voice they used to use before.

"Hey. Nice arse."


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