In Response To ‘Street harassment: There are some things only a man can explain’.

Yesterday Katy Guest wrote an article in The Independent, trying to explain why men feel the need to ‘cat-call’ women in the street, and why 37% of female students have received “unwelcome sexual advances” and why “two-thirds of students were aware of “unwanted sexual comments”.

She seemed to think firstly that this was just a male problem and that the issue boiled down to something as simple as wanting to impress our mates, and that making unwarranted sexual advances towards women was simply about trying to look the big man. This is ultimately not the case I’m afraid, and it seems that actually, Katy will never be able to understand why some men feel the need to behave like this, why? Because she has a vagina!

I know that a lot of people will not like to hear that, but I also know that men aren’t the only section of society which make un-warranted advances. I have been grabbed, pinched, stroked, whistled at, called too, hugged and kissed by women who didn’t understand that those actions were making me uncomfortable. I however will not be presumptuous enough to explain the behaviour of the women who made me feel uncomfortable, because I don’t know what drives some women to act like that, what I can do though, is try to explain why some men behave that way.

(By the way, for anyone thinking that a man cannot be sexually harassed or for anyone who thinks its funny to harass a man. I urge you to watch the video in the following link. Why Rape Is Sincerely Hilarious * Please watch in full before commenting, it is not what you think!*)

It is nowhere near as simple as saying that we just want to show off in front of friends, although I admit that sometimes that may be a part of it, but there are many other important factors to consider. Things like social norms play their part, genetics and evolution play a major role, and a lack of education is an important factor. I’m not trying to defend the actions of the minority of men who make these advances, I want to make that very clear, but I do want to explain why some men behave this way.

Part of the problem is with our genetics, we are hardwired to look for sexual partners, when you see a guy ‘eyeing up’ someone in the street, it’s basically down to the oldest, simplest, and darkest part of our brain. It is the last vestige of the animal brain that still resides within us. It is the part of the brain that thinks only of eating, sleeping, defence, attack, and reproduction. Now most men are able to control the animal brain, we have evolved higher social functions in order to reign in our base impulses, this is what gives us our capacity to reason, learn, feel empathy, and not try to have sex with everything that moves. But, when we see a woman (or man) which we find sexually attractive, we are going to look; there is no two ways about it! We may not like it, we may not be proud of it, but it happens. It’s just the way we are.

It is also the animal part of the brain which is active when some men make advances towards women, and which makes them shout, and call. The animal is telling us to be an ‘Alpha’ in order to attract the person we find sexually attractive, for some men, being an Alpha means being the biggest physically (which is why a lot of men hit the gym to gain muscle, they aren’t doing it to wrestle tigers are they?), but for others it means being the loudest, and sometimes this manifests as ‘ORITE LUV SHOW US YER T*TS’.

So what can we do to overcome the animal brain? Well education is a good start. We need to start teaching boys how to be men, or more importantly, how to be Gentlemen! Most men have only found out how to be men from the men we surround ourselves with, our father figures as children, and our peer group as teenagers, etc. Unfortunately the way women have been treated by our fore fathers (until very recently) has been pretty bad, women have been viewed as an underclass, or the pretty accompaniment, or a play thing for men. So it is going to take a bit of time for the real world to catch up with the progress that women have made by fighting for their equality. Most of the men my father’s age which I have met in pubs and through work have abhorrent views towards women, which go well beyond simple ‘Get back to the kitchen’ jokes. I remember being taught by an aging divorcee when I was 19 the four F’s. Find em’ Feel em’ F**k em’ Forget em’. This sort of societal sexism is not going to go away anytime soon unless we teach the next generation of boys what sexual equality really means.

I wish I knew a solution to stop this minority of men from making comments, making advances, and generally treating women as walking semen receptacles, but I don’t. All I can do is apologise for the men that do think that way, and assure any women reading this that we aren’t all controlled by the animal brain. Yes we may look at you and think ‘Oh my I’d like to have sex with her!’ But that is as far as we will allow our primal brain to carry us, the vast majority of men are far more interested in your minds, and not just your bodies!

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7 thoughts on “In Response To ‘Street harassment: There are some things only a man can explain’.

  1. Well written, Charlie. It gets me so mad when I read or hear only one half of the argument. Male rape is just as much of a problem as female rape, yet we very rarely hear or read anything about it. Some argue that is because it hardly happens, but that is no excuse to only allow one side to have their say. I’d certainly consider you sending in your article to the Independant if you have not already done so.

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  2. I heard that it has happened to around 2% of men, but, mostly goes un-reported. I would assume the real number is much higher because a men tend not to speak about things that make us appear or feel weak, even if an anonymous survey was taken I would bet that most guys would say they have never experienced any harassment (or worse) simply because of ego…

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  3. It is men such as you who are the reason we need feminism – trying to mansplain things such as catcalling and sexual harassment, which you almost certainly know very little about because you probably receive almost none. Those few instances you’ve listed are incomparable to what most women face because A) I seriously doubt they happen as often. Do you get catcalled and groped on a weekly or even daily basis? Probably not. Being a man myself and knowing lots of other men, I know that this is so rare as to be negligible. B) Misogyny and sexism is fuelled by thousands of years of misogyny and sexism. There is a power dynamic here. Men have always ruled over women and up until very recently (and unfortunately still the case in some parts of the world), women have literally been the property of men. Therefore, if a woman catcalls or gropes a man, although it might be somewhat awkward and embarrassing, most men will probably not be too bothered by the incident, laugh it off and even welcome it.

    Your sheer dismissal of this and the fact you think you are some sort of an expert on the issue of street harassment only further marginalises and oppresses women by undermining what they have to say and derailing the topic by adding your two cents.

    And by the way, just because some men might not consciously be thinking: “I want to show off to my mates”, for the women who are on the receiving end of the harassment, who receive it all the time, they observe what the effects are of it, and therefore will in fact be a better judge than yourself.

    As for being “hardwired” to be pricks, that is just you perpetuating patriarchy. You honestly think that women don’t want to fuck as much as men do? Man, you really do know fuck-all about women! No, women are just more respectful and subtle and men think they have the right to harass women. Why? Because of patriarchy, that’s why.

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    • Thanks for your opinion, I think you should re-read what I was saying though… I wasn’t trying to excuse this behaiviour, just saying some reasons why I thought it happened… As for “most men will probably not be too bothered by the incident, laugh it off and even welcome it.” while that may be true, did you watch the video I linked to? Sexual equality will never happen untill both sides of the debate realise that sexual harassment of either sex is unacceptable, even if the recipient of said harassment is ‘okay’ with it, or at least says they are ‘okay’ with it… Anyway, thanks for the comment, just next time please be a bit more respectful, I know this is the internet and what not but it’s also my page… Take it easy. Charlie.

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  4. Anyone who argues on the premise of biological “hardwiring” on behalf of men / women / ethnic minorities / whatever better make a damn good effort too support such a bold claim, or the rest of their argument is basically void. You failed to do so and this post therefore amounts to: “In my experience, it’s like this”, which is far less interesting.

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    • Fair point, it is something that I just read when I was internetting one day, I can’t find the source now as it was so long ago. I’ll take this under advisment the next time I make a bold claim. Thanks for your input… Just had a quick google and it looks like I had the Triune Brain in mind when I wrote this, which, as it turns out, is a dodgy old bit of neuroscience from the 60’s that is no longer accepted by the wider community… My bad.

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