In this day and age, I find myself surprised that any man over the age of 18 still thinks it's perfectly acceptable to engage in lechery, but yet I witness it nearly every day. What's worse is I'm not sure many of the guys who do it think what they are doing actually is lechery, or that most women don't “secretly” like it.
Let me back up a minute and explain what I mean by “lechery,” just so we are all on the same page. The dictionary defines it as “inordinate indulgence in sexual activity.” Well, THAT was no help at all. I mean, who defines how much is normal versus inordinate? Furthermore, does anyone besides Priests or Nuns think indulging oneself in sexual activity is bad?
A new and improved definition might be this: Any behavior towards another person using phrases, suggestions, innuendoes, nuances, jokes, banter, gestures, motions, or other that is intended to sexualize the person in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Wait, doesn't that kind of sound like sexual harassment? Why, yes, it really, really does, and that's because “sexual harassment” is the ominous sounding legal term that includes lecherous behavior!!! Ding Ding Ding!
Maybe a few examples would help clarify even further. I had some specific issues in mind when I realized I wanted to do a blog post about it, but I wanted to get some other people's opinions on it too, so when I threw the topic out to the Twitterverse, some interesting stuff came up.
One of the issues at hand is that women have grown so used to this behavior from men, we simply pretend it's not happening. Guy at work makes a weird joke about your pantylines? Ignore. Facebook friend makes creepy comments about wanting your body, or wanting to see your body in leopard print jeans? Ignore. Why do we do this? A few reasons. One of which yes, I'll be frank, on SOME occasions SOME women might find it flattering. But for the 99.999999% of the time we do not want attention this way, women ignore lechery for a lot of reasons.
We hope the person will never ever again say something so embarrassing and behave themselves. We hope their wife/girlfriend catches them at it and whomps them upside the head so we don't have to. We don't want to draw further attention to the comment by acknowledging it in any way. We don't want to banter back because we don't want to encourage the person. We DO banter back because we want to make light of it, or not seem prudish or uptight. We don't know WHAT to say, or do, so maybe we say or do nothing. AND DOING NOTHING ISN'T WORKING.
A women who got involved in the discussion said for years she always got groped in bars and she always ignored it. Finally she got sick of it, and when a guy grabbed her, she grabbed him back, right in the face, forced him to look at her, and told him in no uncertain terms, to STOP IT. He backed off, bleary eyed and drunk as a skunk. That guy, by the way, was not just trying to touch her back, or even her breasts...
Another women said when she used to waitress, she would experience things like her male co-workers blocking the doorway while she was trying to get inside to clock in, and they'd make crude comments to her. She had an owner of one place tell her to wear less clothing if she wanted to make some decent money. The outfit in question was already a tank top and shorts and the restaurant was supposedly a family dining establishment, not a dive bar or a Hooters. She said lots of times she'd be jogging and a car would slow down and drive right alongside her, and the guy(s) inside would whistle, catcall, say things like “work it” or the like.
That has also happened to me, and it's scary, because you don't know how to react, and what the guy(s) might do. I've responded to these behaviors by ignoring them. Other times I've tried a more aggressive approach like giving them the finger, or saying something like “Yeah, keep dreaming, buddy.” The thing is...their response has almost always been the same regardless of whether I've ignored them or responded verbally. I've gotten the nasty laugh and then they gun the engine or squeal the tires as they drive off. I've been called a “Bitch” or a “C-nt” and then they gun the engine or squeal the tires as they drive off. So if I ignore their advances, I'm obviously an ungrateful Bitch and deserve to inhale their exhaust as they drive off, but if I try to defend myself from their neanderthalic advances in any way, I'm an ungrateful C-nt and deserve to be mistreated for that too. Interesting.
Let's look at some less physical examples. I have this attractive friend, and at least once a week, I hear someone making a comment to her that soundly qualifies as lechery. One example I overheard was “You give guys wood.” Um...really? Wow. Who SAYS that?! And the leopard print jeans comment I mentioned earlier? Yeah, someone I went to high school with a million years ago and barely know posted that on my facebook wall. “I'd like to see you post a picture wearing those leopard print jeans.” Leer leer, wink wink. Huh?
And therein lies the crux...some guys seem to think it's okay to make sexual comments to women BECAUSE they've never met, and aren't likely to, or because they live thousands of miles away. For some people, the greater the physical distance in miles, the more acceptable they seem to think it is to make offhand or pervy comments. I've seen lots of married guys or ones who are in a relationship, make sexual comments to other women and they think that lets them off the hook in some way, because “I am spoken for and they know I'm just joking.” Guess what, it's NOT OKAY even if they DO “know you are joking.” Adding a grinning winky face or a “JK” after a lecherous comment doesn't make it any more okay than if you say it to someone's face. If you wouldn't say it to their face while your grandma and their grandma is sitting right there, as well as your wife or S.O., then it's not okay to say it at all via social media when you think no one is looking. Telling someone on twitter that you'd like to blankety blank their blank is not okay. Telling someone on Facebook you'd like to “ride their merry go round” is NOT OKAY (unless they actually have a Carousel, in which case, hook me up 'cause I love those things).
I won't even get into the number of times where a woman has to deal with some guy stalking her with his eyes and doing the lascivious look-down/undressing-while-licking-his-lips thing - like you are walking around the grocery store just for his personal viewing pleasure and sexual satisfaction - Meat selection, ground beef or female flesh, yum. You just haven't LIVED until you've thrown up in your mouth a little because you know exactly what he's thinking about doing to you, right?
For the record, to be completely clear, I'm not talking about males and females who have the kind of relationship where they BOTH find it acceptable to make crude jokes and comments to each other. That's their business, and more power to 'em. I'm also not talking about flirting. If you find someone attractive, then ask them out on a proper date, don't make crude comments about their body parts or other such nonsense before you are absolutely certain they are fine with you doing so.
What I'm talking about is behavior that one person thinks is funny and entertaining, and their right to dole out, while the person on the receiving end is disgusted, humiliated, scared, confused, and hurt by the one doing it.
For everyone who is the recipient of lechery, I think we need to do things a little differently from now on. Let's not ignore it if someone says something to us that makes us uncomfortable. Let's call the person out on it. Let's tell them straight up, “Hey, I don't find that comment appropriate.” “That comment made me uncomfortable.” “Please don't make any more jokes like that, thanks.” To the drive-by cat-callers? “Your conduct is disrespectful,” and keep walking away. Etc. Etc. Be direct. If you know the person, say it's a friend or acquaintance, let's say what we need to in a private message, or pull the person aside...most people respond better and more respectfully when not admonished in public. If they continue making comments after you've asked them in private, by all means, shine the spotlight down and call that sh*t OUT, such as on social media or the breakroom. Block them, unfriend them, file a complaint, whatever you have to do. You don't need to put up with it. There is a HUGE difference between flirting and being lecherous, and it's up to us to draw our comfort line between the two.
Rape Culture teaches women to be afraid to stick up for themselves. We don't like to offend, we don't like to create waves or cause tension, we don't want to be called a Bitch or a C-nt, nor do we want to be thought of that way. But you know what? Enough is enough. Either we tell someone it's not okay for them to be a Lecher or we are basically saying it is. If it makes you uncomfortable, it's not okay for the other person to be doing it and you have the right to say so. Will this stop everyone? No. Bottom line, there are still neanderthals among us, no question. But no one should have to stay silent and just take it, and there is still power in saying, “No. This is not okay. Stop it.” And you know what? The more people who say it, the more powerful it gets. Pass it on.