Defensive Womaning and Navigating Missing Stairs

 

My husband and I met a potential new landlord yesterday, and without either of us realizing it, each of us walked away with very different impressions of what had happened during the meeting. The meeting was an ambiguous image, like the rabbit-duck or old-woman-young-woman illusion. Many human meetings are like that, particularly between the sexes.

Those of us who occasionally follow what feminists are saying, if only as reconnaissance, may have heard of the “missing stair problem” (warning: link not entirely SFW). Imagine a house with a poorly-lit stairway containing a missing stair. Everyone who lives there knows to step over the missing stair. Everyone who visits regularly knows about the stair, too. But a new visitor would not know, and if not told in time, might stumble and fall. Some people, the analogy goes, are like that missing stair – others must carefully work around them to avoid getting hurt, and the hazard they pose is simply taken for granted by those in the know. Sexual predators, in particular, are likened to the missing stair, especially sexual predators who aren’t “lone wolves” but who have ingratiated themselves into a community, where they become a fixture, and others take on the duty of attempting to protect innocent members from the predator (while also protecting the predator from social ostracism or having to change his ways) rather than “fixing the stair” by refusing to tolerate his predatory behavior.

Eventually you take it for granted that working around this guy is just a fact of life, and if he hurts someone, that’s the fault of whoever didn’t apply the workarounds correctly.

I have seen this happen. Most memorably at a church.

Myriad caddish, wolfish, or creepy behaviors fall short of being criminal, while some go beyond merely overstepping moral bounds and actually violate the law. Some guys are merely awkward and sometimes accidentally overstep bounds without meaning to. Others use ambiguity and the pretext of accident as cover for deliberately overstepping boundaries. The truly predatory are masters of the art of exploiting social ambiguity to take advantage, but many young men in love or at least in lust are a mix of trying to take advantage while also being rather overwhelmed themselves. How young women ought to act when surprised by – let’s just call it caddishness – is obviously an endlessly absorbing topic of conversation.

Evidently, young women should be schooled in defensive womaning, just as we school youths in defensive driving. It seems that girls used to get defensive womaning lessons, but we’ve dropped the ball with the past few generations:

I was a teenager in the late 1970s, long past the great awakening (sexual intercourse began in 1963, which was plenty of time for me), but as far away from Girl Power as World War I was from the Tet Offensive. The great girl-shaping institutions, significantly the magazines and advice books and novels that I devoured, were decades away from being handed over to actual girls and young women to write and edit, and they were still filled with the cautionary advice and moralistic codes of the ’50s…

…They told us over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. If he kept going, you got away from him. You were always to have “mad money” with you: cab fare in case he got “fresh” and then refused to drive you home. They told you to slap him if you had to; they told you to get out of the car and start wailing if you had to. They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight. In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into sex we didn’t want, we were strong.

Neither liberals nor conservatives have given girls great lessons in defensive womaning lately. Anyone on the Right can recite the litany of what makes the Left’s lessons to young women bad – generally some variation on “this lesson encourages young women to avoid taking responsibility for themselves”. The Right’s lessons to young women don’t share a unifying flaw. Some lessons are too moralistic (“don’t do bad things and you won’t have to worry”). Some suffer from not being moral enough (“boys will be boys” or “experience is the best teacher!”). Advice on when and how young women should resort to violence in defense of their innocence tends to be conflicting: As conservatives, we don’t want to say violence is never the answer, but preparing young women to use violence to effectively deter unwanted sexual advances is, in fact, tricky, and it’s not really surprising when the underprepared freeze, especially when a strong desire to do violence to the one wronging them (a desire conservatives encourage) clashes with inexperience in handling sexually-charged scenarios (inexperience conservatives also encourage, since we value sexual innocence).

While plenty of people seem worried about stranger rape, the caddish behavior women find themselves (successfully or unsuccessfully) fending off typically comes from acquaintances. Even sources highly skeptical about what counts as rape or assault acknowledge that most sexual assaults occur between acquaintances. Furthermore, a great many invasions of personal space that shouldn’t be prosecuted as assault (after all, the law cannot demand that men be able to read minds, or decipher every subtle cue) are nonetheless morally violating, and understandably leave young women feeling wronged when they occur.

We’re conservatives: we more than any other group ought to recognize that the law does not exist to right all wrongs. And this means we ought to be able to understand that young women can be sexually traduced even when no crime has occurred; that their sense of having been wronged isn’t necessarily in error, even when the vocabulary they use to describe the wrong (such as “assault” when it’s not assault) is grievously in error.

Conservatives generally suspect more damage is done by labeling a sexual encounter as assault when it isn’t than is done by failing to label it assault when it is. We can believe this while still acknowledging that not every mislabeling of an incident as assault is terribly inaccurate, nor are the men involved in such incidents innocent of wrong just because they’re innocent of a crime.

Which brings me back to missing stairs. A dude doesn’t have to be a criminal to be sexually predatory. Because we’ll never create a world free of sexual predation, of course we want to equip youth – and young women in particular – with skills to fend it off: hence defensive womaning. But neither should we tolerate a world where it’s everyone else’s job but the sexual predator’s to prevent sexual predation from happening. So, while we can teach young women truisms like guys are on average more socially clueless than girls, and can’t be trusted to respect every soft refusal, we rightfully won’t be believed if we push such lessons too far.

If we treat the disparity between men and women’s social skills as so great that we sound as if we’re claiming women are the ones responsible each time “clueless” men wishfully misinterpret women’s cues as sexual when they aren’t (rather than men being primarily responsible for themselves), we rightfully won’t be believed. The truth is, plenty of men are capable of understanding subtler social cues, at least when it’s convenient for them to do so, and while there are plenty of awkward young men out there, it’s also common for predators – or to use more neutral terminology, the sexually over-eager – to use “I didn’t geddit” as cover as long as they think they can get away with it.

If we treat young women’s freezing or hesitation in the face of shocking scenarios as something that only happens to babies with “no moral agency” – as if it’s impossible to be an adult who froze – we rightfully won’t be believed. If we keep on yammering on about women’s duty to carefully step over each missing stair, but we’re mysteriously silent on ever fixing a missing stair, we rightfully won’t be believed.

Even today, there are times when the plea, “Could we stop treating it as women’s duty to learn the art of carefully stepping around every missing stair and sometimes just fix the goddamn staircase instead?!” is a sensible one. This may come as a shock, but just because it’s a plea feminists make doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

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  1. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    The reason we do not attempt to “fix” men who assault women, or take advantage of women, is because most of us (I think) consider them to be impossible to fix. There will always be bad people in the world; society is not necessarily to blame for what a tiny minority of men do. And if it is possible to fix those who prey sexually on others, then shouldn’t we be trying to fix child molesters?

    Some people are beyond fixing.

    • #1
  2. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    The reason we do not attempt to “fix” men who assault women, or take advantage of women, is because most of us (I think) consider them to be impossible to fix.

    Although in this analogy, “fix” often means “stop giving them shelter in our social group”.

    • #2
  3. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Here’s my nasty judgmental take:

    If you’re going to leave your house under your own volition, you need to have the gumption to say “No, I don’t want that,”  “Please stop that,” “Leave me alone,” and if all else fails, “Help! This person is harassing me!” If you can’t, then don’t leave home without a chaperone who can, because yes, it’s true that some predators use social ambiguity to get away with crap. The first step in dealing with a possible predator is to remove the ambiguity. If it’s an honest mistake, they’ll apologize and hopefully learn a lesson in what not to do when talking to others. If it’s a predator, you’ll have ruined their ambush and they’ll move on to another potential victim.

    • #3
  4. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    The reason we do not attempt to “fix” men who assault women, or take advantage of women, is because most of us (I think) consider them to be impossible to fix.

    Although in this analogy, “fix” often means “stop giving them shelter in our social group”.

    Is this really a common place problem in modern America? Do large numbers of otherwise normal Americans really give shelter to sexual deviants whom they know personally and socialize with?

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    The reason we do not attempt to “fix” men who assault women, or take advantage of women, is because most of us (I think) consider them to be impossible to fix.

    Although in this analogy, “fix” often means “stop giving them shelter in our social group”.

    Is this really a common place problem in modern America? Do large numbers of otherwise normal Americans really give shelter to sexual deviants whom they know personally and socialize with?

    Do church-folk count as otherwise normal Americans?

    Their motives in doing it were really pure and laudable. It nonetheless turned out to be pretty stupid.

    • #5
  6. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Judithann Campbell (View Comment):
    The reason we do not attempt to “fix” men who assault women, or take advantage of women, is because most of us (I think) consider them to be impossible to fix.

    Although in this analogy, “fix” often means “stop giving them shelter in our social group”.

    Is this really a common place problem in modern America? Do large numbers of otherwise normal Americans really give shelter to sexual deviants whom they know personally and socialize with?

    Do church-folk count as otherwise normal Americans?

    Their motives in doing it were really pure and laudable. It nonetheless turned out to be pretty stupid.

    First, just because something incredibly bizarre happened in one church doesn’t mean that it’s common; I know Catholics who were and in some cases still are in total denial about the child sex abuse scandals, but they don’t personally know or socialize with any priests who were accused, and they would never protect such behavior. The reason they are in denial about it is because they just can’t believe that anyone else would: It’s too horrible to contemplate, so they just go into denial. But I get the feeling that isn’t what you are talking about.

    • #6
  7. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Very good post. Thank you.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Even today, there are times when the plea, “Could we stop treating it as women’s duty to learn the art of carefully stepping around every missing stair and sometimes just fix the goddamn staircase instead?!” is a sensible one. This may come as a shock, but just because it’s a plea feminists make doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

    We can’t completely and permanently fix the staircase: the man’s version of human nature includes an interest in, and casualness about, sex that will forever be at odds with the best interests of women. I know that’s a sweeping statement; I think it’s one of the few truly species-wide sweeping statements that is deeply and ineluctably true.

    I’ve been skeptical of the #metoo movement, out of simultaneous (and perhaps contradictory) concerns that (a) it will devolve into a witch hunt and (b) that it was, ultimately, a mechanism for dealing with a relative handful of people navigating an elite world the essence of which is self-promotion and the selling of appearances. But the prospect of it rippling outward into the broader culture, and drawing attention to the worst abuses of authority — the emerging gymnastics scandal being a particularly horrifying example — has prompted me to revise my opinion a little. Now I’ll wait and see where #metoo goes: maybe we can repair a significant number of steps.

    But not all of them, nor even most of them. Young men will remain young men of the eternal sort, driven by the realities of male sexual activity in an age of permissiveness, ready birth control, and abortion. Young women must become young women of an earlier sort, motivated by an awareness of the tangible and intangible things they have to lose.

    Not all young women have to do this. The benefits will accrue to those who do — though not without costs as well, costs in limited social opportunities and courtship frustration. But that, as limited and sobering as it seems, is to me the most hopeful aspect of our current sexual culture.

    • #7
  8. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    If you’re going to leave your house under your own volition, you need to have the gumption to say “No, I don’t want that,” “Please stop that,” “Leave me alone,” and if all else fails, “Help! This person is harassing me!” If you can’t, then don’t leave home without a chaperone who can, because yes, it’s true that some predators use social ambiguity to get away with crap.

    People generally capable of rebuffing unwanted attention might nonetheless freeze if startled badly enough. Freezing isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the norm and of course it’s best for everyone if people learn techniques to prevent freezing, but seeing as freezing apparently sometimes happens even to the street-smart, I don’t consider having frozen at some inopportune moment proof that one cannot be left unchaperoned.

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think this is a good discussion to have.

    It’s a difficult problem simply because it is unfair to behave around someone as if he or she has already done something he or she hasn’t actually done. It’s the profiling issue.

    There is something to be said for the accusation that used to be made–and still is, to my knowledge–about creating an environment hostile to women. That is a real thing that people do to each other. I hate to see women do this to men. It is unfair. And women will be the losers–we will be keeping at a distance guys who would be good friends.

    We really need to find a middle ground.

    I had a couple of unpleasant incidents when I was an older teenager, and I learned from them. A true predator gets a look in his eyes that is unforgettable. I had time to escape.

    The fact that it manifests that way makes me feel sorry for these guys, that they are probably victims of some physiological issue–hormones or neurological chemicals that are not within normal ranges–that is not their fault. Their behaviors are so similar that it seems to me in a hundred years or so, we’ll be able to help them somehow. As someone who has been immersed in mental health issues for a long time, I’ve always felt that if we start seeing abnormal behaviors that are playing out in the same exact ways in people, the same wording being used, for example, we should be looking for a physiological cause. I’m not advocating for mass drugging of people like some horror story out of a science fiction story–there are some great biofeedback programs out there. I’m just saying that I think there’s something wrong when a behavior pattern is so predictable and commonly observed.

    For now, all women have is their intuition, which is pretty good, frankly.

    When I was in my twenties, I worked in a big company surrounded by men, and they could not have been more polite and respectful. The incidents in my teenage years became a distant memory.

    I think the best advice I have ever heard given to young women is to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, trust yourself and get out right away. That’s what I told my daughters and their friends. Just get out.

    • #9
  10. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Just get out.

    And, as prosaic as it sounds, be careful with alcohol.

    • #10
  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Very good post. Thank you.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Even today, there are times when the plea, “Could we stop treating it as women’s duty to learn the art of carefully stepping around every missing stair and sometimes just fix the goddamn staircase instead?!” is a sensible one. This may come as a shock, but just because it’s a plea feminists make doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

    We can’t completely and permanently fix the staircase: the man’s version of human nature includes an interest in, and casualness about, sex that will forever be at odds with the best interests of women.

    The cosmic staircase, no. A particular staircase with a particular stair or stairs, on the other hand… The missing-stair analogy originally and most truly applies to a particular social circle, a particular “house” of people, rather than to society at large.

    So the plea is not to fix “society”, but rather that associations of people not treat those wronged by the local perv as the wrongdoers, as the expendable ones. And I admit, even that is impossible to do in all cases – inevitably, there will be instances when it makes the most social sense to tolerate the perv, and to treat those who, however innocently, cross the perv, as being “in the wrong”. Nonetheless, in many cases, it’s perhaps not impossible to treat those wronged by the local perv as the wrongees rather than the wrongers. And hey, ho, maybe sometimes the perv can be the expendable one, for a change!

     

    • #11
  12. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    So the plea is not to fix “society”, but rather that associations of people not treat those wronged by the local perv as the wrongdoers, as the expendable ones.

    That was actually clear from your post; I simply neglected to remember it by the time I got to the end, and ran with my sense of the general case. Your point is a good one. I don’t know how many such enclaves of tacit debauchery exist in American culture, how many little communities of wildly power-imbalanced citizens exist. Too many, I’m sure.

    Every conversation of #metoo and sexual abuse brings me back to what, for me, dwarfs the high profile cases: the plight of young women in a culture that advocates the male model of sexual activity for both sexes. Obviously, I sometimes let my obsession with that carry me away.

    • #12
  13. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    from the OP:

    ” …sexual predators who aren’t “lone wolves” but who have ingratiated themselves into a community, where they become a fixture, and others take on the duty of attempting to protect innocent members from the predator (while also protecting the predator from social ostracism or having to change his ways) rather than “fixing the stair” by refusing to tolerate his predatory behavior.

    I’m trying to think of an example – for the life of me, all I can come up with is the fictional mother in “The Dead Zone”. Although that doesn’t even fit, as she didn’t expend any energy protecting victims, only in protecting her son.

    Are you making a veiled reference to Harvey Weinstein and his ilk; rich, powerful men? Again, I’m not aware (and granted I’m not following the situation closely) of efforts to “protect” innocent members. I am aware of lots and lots of people who didn’t speak of his predatory behavior, but the reasons for that are many.

    So not sure what you’re talking about here.

    • #13
  14. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson had a terrific discussion that touched on the issue of who is sending cues and who is not getting it.

    Camille blames the fact that much communication is now being done via text and young people are not good at picking up inflections and understanding body language. She also laments that people under 21 are not allowed in bars; instead of going to a local bar, learning to have a drink and communicate, people are now going to keggers at a fraternity.

    Also mentioned in the discussion is that women with brothers are less likely to get assaulted and more likely to hold senior positions in corporations. I believe Camille said something like “women who were raised with lots of males know how ridiculous they are and not to take them serious” (that’s a paraphrase, but it’s close).

    My daughter has 3 brothers and “gets” men; she can turn down their advances without humiliating them and understands she can’t expect them to pick up “strong non verbal cues” (because she understands they’re not female)

    My sons only have one sister, but I think they could have had a dozen and they still wouldn’t understand women. Or be able to read their minds.

     

    • #14
  15. Whistle Pig Member
    Whistle Pig
    @

    Annefy (View Comment):
    My sons only have one sister, but I think they could have had a dozen and they still wouldn’t understand women. Or be able to read their minds.

    I had (and have) three.  It didn’t help.  The thought of a dozen is terrifying.

    • #15
  16. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    If you’re going to leave your house under your own volition, you need to have the gumption to say “No, I don’t want that,” “Please stop that,” “Leave me alone,” and if all else fails, “Help! This person is harassing me!” If you can’t, then don’t leave home without a chaperone who can, because yes, it’s true that some predators use social ambiguity to get away with crap.

    People generally capable of rebuffing unwanted attention might nonetheless freeze if startled badly enough. Freezing isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the norm and of course it’s best for everyone if people learn techniques to prevent freezing, but seeing as freezing apparently sometimes happens even to the street-smart, I don’t consider having frozen at some inopportune moment proof that one cannot be left unchaperoned.

    Honestly, I’m criticizing myself as much as anyone. My first two years of high school I had a guy harass me every day. I was sure the only thing keeping from raping me was that I never saw him off school grounds during non school hours. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he rattled me, so I never said anything. He did finally sorta get a hint when harassing me during a band event, I spit in his face. (Of course, any life lesson I might have taken from this was undermined by my mom’s reaction of “how could you be so disgusting?!” Way to have my back, mom.)

    I needed someone to tell me that he wasn’t going to get my subtle hints, that it was my responsibility to tell him to stop or if I was too scared to, find someone who would. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who didn’t grasp that at birth.

    • #16
  17. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Here on Ricochet, almost all of the discussion of the “sexual revolution” focuses on the supposed effects it had on women, and the ways in which it has supposedly degraded the ability of women to say no to a sexually aggressive man.  I just want to mention that there is a flip side to that.  I came of age (high school and college) during the 70’s.  By that time, I expected women to be open about their desires.  At that time, I understood that “yes” meant “yes,” and “no” meant “no.”  And I respected that.

    Twenty years earlier I would have expected any woman to put on a demonstration of reluctance, whether she desired a sexual encounter or not.  At that time, “no” did not necessarily mean “no.”  It might mean “no,” or it might mean “yes, but you are going to have to work at it because I don’t want you to think that I’m ‘easy.'”  I’m sure it is very politically incorrect for me to say that, but that is the way things were in the 50’s, and both young men and young women understood it.  So while the “sexual revolution” made it easier for women to say “yes,” it also made it easier for them to say “no,” and there was much less of an excuse for men to persist after their advances had been rejected.  The excuse of “mixed messages” had much less validity once women were under less social pressure to give the appearance of chastity.

    • #17
  18. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    yes, it’s true that some predators use social ambiguity to get away with crap. The first step in dealing with a possible predator is to remove the ambiguity.

    Very nicely put!

    • #18
  19. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Here on Ricochet, almost all of the discussion of the “sexual revolution” focuses on the supposed effects it had on women, and the ways in which it has supposedly degraded the ability of women to say no to a sexually aggressive man. I just want to mention that there is a flip side to that. I came of age (high school and college) during the 70’s. By that time, I expected women to be open about their desires. At that time, I understood that “yes” meant “yes,” and “no” meant “no.” And I respected that.

    Twenty years earlier I would have expected any woman to put on a demonstration of reluctance, whether she desired a sexual encounter or not. At that time, “no” did not necessarily mean “no.” It might mean “no,” or it might mean “yes, but you are going to have to work at it because I don’t want you to think that I’m ‘easy.’” I’m sure it is very politically incorrect for me to say that, but that is the way things were in the 50’s, and both young men and young women understood it. So while the “sexual revolution” made it easier for women to say “yes,” it also made it easier for them to say “no,” and there was much less of an excuse for men to persist after their advances had been rejected. The excuse of “mixed messages” had much less validity once women were under less social pressure to give the appearance of chastity.

    That’s an interesting take. And though I’m always inclined to take the pinched-mouth moralizing argument, I would concede that this might be a good thing. The other thing that is good is that women (and children and, more slowly, men) have the vocabulary and at least some support for calling out the predators.

    I would have said that, on balance, the problem is that the sexual revolution made it more difficult for women to say “no” (or even to feel “no”) because the situation was weighted in the direction of “why not?” In order to say no, the woman would have to feel (not just express) little or no ambiguity. I had plenty of friends back in college who would admit to having had sex with a guy for the stupidest reasons—because  they were lonely, because they’d already acted as if they wanted to, because it would confirm that they were attractive,  because they were too drunk to drive home, or he was their ride, or he was their sister’s boyfriend and it would piss her off, or oh, what the hell, maybe it’ll be fun, like the stories from Cosmo (“I Had Hot Sex With The Plumber!”)…and they would bravely insist that “fun” was all they were after.

    The sequelae were not generally positive, and sometimes included abortions which, whatever PP says about the negligible psychological effects, cannot be claimed as a good thing.

    Sexuality has always vexed us. By design, I suspect, it is inherently destabilizing both to the person and to the culture.

    • #19
  20. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Here on Ricochet, almost all of the discussion of the “sexual revolution” focuses on the supposed effects it had on women, and the ways in which it has supposedly degraded the ability of women to say no to a sexually aggressive man. I just want to mention that there is a flip side to that. I came of age (high school and college) during the 70’s. By that time, I expected women to be open about their desires. At that time, I understood that “yes” meant “yes,” and “no” meant “no.” And I respected that.

    Twenty years earlier I would have expected any woman to put on a demonstration of reluctance, whether she desired a sexual encounter or not. At that time, “no” did not necessarily mean “no.” It might mean “no,” or it might mean “yes, but you are going to have to work at it because I don’t want you to think that I’m ‘easy.’” I’m sure it is very politically incorrect for me to say that, but that is the way things were in the 50’s, and both young men and young women understood it. So while the “sexual revolution” made it easier for women to say “yes,” it also made it easier for them to say “no,” and there was much less of an excuse for men to persist after their advances had been rejected. The excuse of “mixed messages” had much less validity once women were under less social pressure to give the appearance of chastity.

    That’s an interesting take. And though I’m always inclined to take the pinched-mouth moralizing argument, I would concede that this might be a good thing. The other thing that is good is that women (and children and, more slowly, men) have the vocabulary and at least some support for calling out the predators.

    I would have said that, on balance, the problem is that the sexual revolution made it more difficult for women to say “no” (or even to feel “no”) because the situation was weighted in the direction of “why not?”

    As someone who was there, trust me when I tell you that I found plenty of women who said “no.”  And some who said “yes.”  But the ones who said “no” didn’t seem to have much of a problem saying it.

    • #20
  21. ST Inactive
    ST
    @SimonTemplar

    It seems that girls used to get defensive womaning lessons, but we’ve dropped the ball with the past few generations:

    I’m thinking that these lessons should be taught by the girls’ parents.  Probably the mother should be the primary teacher but the father’s (male) perspective should also be included.

    P.S.  Who is this we that you speak of?

    • #21
  22. The Whether Man Inactive
    The Whether Man
    @TheWhetherMan

    Annefy (View Comment):
    from the OP:

    ” …sexual predators who aren’t “lone wolves” but who have ingratiated themselves into a community, where they become a fixture, and others take on the duty of attempting to protect innocent members from the predator (while also protecting the predator from social ostracism or having to change his ways) rather than “fixing the stair” by refusing to tolerate his predatory behavior.

    I’m trying to think of an example – for the life of me, all I can come up with is the fictional mother in “The Dead Zone”. Although that doesn’t even fit, as she didn’t expend any energy protecting victims, only in protecting her son.

    Are you making a veiled reference to Harvey Weinstein and his ilk; rich, powerful men? Again, I’m not aware (and granted I’m not following the situation closely) of efforts to “protect” innocent members. I am aware of lots and lots of people who didn’t speak of his predatory behavior, but the reasons for that are many.

    So not sure what you’re talking about here.

    I think there’s an example in universities, and among a certain breed of long-established (overwhelmingly male) professors who are used to having certain access to their students.  In my direct observations, these have rarely crossed into prosecutable sexual assault, but can put women grad students in horrible positions where they are flirted with, their looks commented on, propositioned, touched inappropriately, and they may feel like they have little recourse because the person doing all these things has an outsized amount of control over their futures.

    One of my complaints about how the me too moment is playing out is that it becomes an issue of people on the right saying women need to learn to be assertive about saying no and leaving the situation, and people on the left say the focus really needs to be on teaching men to obtain enthusiastic consent (and the whole “teach men not to rape/be a sexual predator”).  These are often presented in dichotomy, as two very different solutions to the problem.  But really, we need to do both.

    • #22
  23. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    If you are a parent of siblings, a lot of this can be taught without sexual scenarios. My son is being taught non-verbal “nos” – screaming, pushing away, moving away, grouchiness. Your sister doesn’t like that, please stop.

    His sister is learning to use her words and say “please stop, I don’t like that.” Tickling, teasing, whatever it is, I don’t give it a pass. The receiver sets the limits and the instigator has to respect it. It may sound mean to some who think harmless teasing should get a pass, but here is where you can start in empowering your kids to set good boundaries on what they take from others in a safe environment.

    The boy (who is bigger and stronger) is responsible for stopping when asked and paying attention to non-verbal cues. The girl is responsible for using her words and is allowed to fight back when he doesn’t stop or to run and find an adult.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    The other thing that is good is that women (and children and, more slowly, men) have the vocabulary and at least some support for calling out the predators.

    This has been a good and positive and much-needed change. :) I agree.

    • #24
  25. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    No matter. Human nature does not change in a single generation. the cause of rampant abortion and this sexual assault mischaracterization is: feminism and the sixties so-called sexual revolution. 

    Men have had little influence on either.

    • #25
  26. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Also, some missing stairs can be fixed if you let them know they are missing a stair. Communication is key.

    Kissing coworkers on the cheek is a missing stair and fixable, but is not predatory, criminal, or anything else except inappropriate.

    But not all can be. Sometimes, they are so beyond repair, they can condemn the whole building.

    • #26
  27. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Annefy (View Comment):
    Also mentioned in the discussion is that women with brothers are less likely to get assaulted and more likely to hold senior positions in corporations. I believe Camille said something like “women who were raised with lots of males know how ridiculous they are and not to take them serious” (that’s a paraphrase, but it’s close).

    Kinda tough with my girls – no brothers from whom to learn, and no nearby male cousins either.  Thankfully the older ones do have male friends at school, so there’s that.

    • #27
  28. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    The Whether Man (View Comment):
    I think there’s an example in universities, and among a certain breed of long-established (overwhelmingly male) professors who are used to having certain access to their students. In my direct observations, these have rarely crossed into prosecutable sexual assault, but can put women grad students in horrible positions where they are flirted with, their looks commented on, propositioned, touched inappropriately, and they may feel like they have little recourse because the person doing all these things has an outsized amount of control over their futures.

    I wish there was a system of reporting that didn’t result in automatic firing… It just served as a documentation process.

    “Today, my professor asked me on a date and I said no.”

    “We’ll put it in his file.”

    If retaliation results, there is documented evidence he is using his authority inappropriately. If no retaliation, the note expires when the student is no longer under his tutelage.

    • #28
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    Honestly, I’m criticizing myself as much as anyone. My first two years of high school I had a guy harass me every day. I was sure the only thing keeping from raping me was that I never saw him off school grounds during non school hours. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he rattled me, so I never said anything. He did finally sorta get a hint when harassing me during a band event, I spit in his face. (Of course, any life lesson I might have taken from this was undermined by my mom’s reaction of “how could you be so disgusting?!” Way to have my back, mom.)

    I needed someone to tell me that he wasn’t going to get my subtle hints, that it was my responsibility to tell him to stop or if I was too scared to, find someone who would. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who didn’t grasp that at birth.

    Of course you’re not!

    Hence, defensive womaning. It’s perfectly natural to react to bullying with, “Don’t give the bully the satisfaction.” We’re often explicitly taught that the right way to respond to bullies is to ignore them. So, then a bully begins violating sexual boundaries… Unless you already know all about sex (something conservatives don’t want teen girls to know all about), why wouldn’t you go with what you know, which is, “Don’t give the bully the satisfaction”? Until maybe it’s too late, and you learn that sex is different – after the fact.

    If you don’t get some training in advance, the only way to learn how to, say, de-escalate sexual situations, or when to bug out of a possibly-sexual encounter and when it’s still safe, etc, is through experience. Which means, those first times you screw up and don’t do it right, sexual experience, including sexual experience you don’t even want.

    It seems likely we’ll always prize sexual inexperience in young women more than we prize it in young men, so, if we want young women to develop the skills to fend off young men without accruing the sexual experience, it will involve a certain amount of explicit instruction.

    • #29
  30. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    It seems likely we’ll always prize sexual inexperience in young women more than we prize it in young men, so, if we want young women to develop the skills to fend off young men without accruing the sexual experience, it will involve a certain amount of explicit instruction.

    Fathers and brothers, among others, can be helpful but sometimes it gets rough.

    • #30
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