In a follow up to my previous post about inappropriate business-carding, I wanted to discuss something I see a lot of; the “excuse” that sexually harassing behavior can be excused merely as social awkwardness.
My partner is an engineer, working in an engineering department at a technical university. This is a very privileged environment. The places he has worked, the conferences he has attended are overwhelmingly male and middle/upper class. Those who are from North America and Europe tend to be white. Those who come from other parts of the world tend to come from the privileged racial/ethnic groups of their homeland.
In other words, you have an environment rife with social awkwardness coupled with privilege.
And yet the vast majority of men I have encountered somehow manage to not sexually harass women. I know from befriending some of the women in these departments that discrimination certainly exists but few of their colleagues are sexually inappropriate.
Beyond this environment, I know from being a woman that most men aren’t sexually inappropriate. I am a social person who goes to bars and pubs and clubs and most men manage to somehow not sexually harass me. Even the men who hit on me generally do so in a non-harassing way.
There is a very simple reason for this. Most men see women as human beings and not fuckholes.
If you see women as a human beings who are equal to you and don’t exist solely for your sexual gratification, then you aren’t going to catcall, ogle, touch inappropriately, harass, or otherwise molest women.
Staring at a woman’s chest isn’t social awkwardness, it’s objectification. Catcalling isn’t social awkwardness, it’s harassment. Hitting on someone in an elevator at 4AM after they just finished a talk about the problems of sexual harassment within your community isn’t social awkwardness, it’s a refusal to respect boundaries. Handing someone a business card with sexual explicit content isn’t social awakwardness, it’s totally outside the norms of basic human interaction.