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What is sexual harassment?

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I am a male human witnessing in this maelstrom of sexual harassment allegation cases in the workplace today. While I wholeheartedly support the movement to expose the gender inequalities in the deep roots of our societies I have to admit that I am quite ignorant on the subject matter.

So this blog post is more of a series of questions than answers. It is more of a quest for clarification than final conclusions. It is meant to generate meaningful discussion rather than to deal judgement on anyone.

Question Number One: What is considered sexual harassment? Unwanted attention of a sexual nature right? Not so simple I am afraid. Imagine you are a young man named Will. Will sees an attractive young woman at a bar. Will approaches her and pay her a compliment. Is this sexual harassment? Many would say this depends on whether the woman wanted the attention. If she does, this is a welcomed compliment. If she does not, this is sexual harassment. How does Will know this before hand? Unless he is a fortuneteller he does not know. So what is Will to do? Forego social interactions altogether and go home to play violent video games or watch porn?

Question Number Two: Why is this happening? This is happening because we are humans. Humans evolved from primitive beings who lived in primitive social networks. A caveman is not going to be concerned of sexual harassment charges. He will drag away the most desirable female he can manage and proceed to copulate with her. Like it or not, this is where we came from. We have to come to terms with our violent, male-dominated past. Rules, laws and social restraints have been put on individuals to curb one sided sexual dominance over other members of the society but our primal instincts will always need to be tamed.

Question Number Three: What does the future look like? What should healthy social interaction look like? Let’s get Will back into that bar. He sees the attractive woman and says: “Crikey! you sure look dashing tonight.”(Will happens to be Australian). The woman does not enjoy the attention, she says: “I do not appreciate that. Please do not bother me.” Will backs off and tries his luck somewhere else. As simple as it seems this interaction has some key elements of desirable interaction. A) Will approached with a non-degrading way. B) The woman replied with a firm refusal. C) Will received and understood the refusal.

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I think we need to teach the younger generation to respect each other. We need to teach our boys not to objectify women but treat them like equals instead. It is not wrong to flirt but one must do so without the intention to harm or degrade the other person. We need to teach our girls to be clear and firm in social engagements. Do not be wishie washie and ambiguous about your wants and needs. Many tragedies can be avoided if communication was clear and understood. This may not be possible in all situations but we must try to equipment them with the best tools.

I do not believe every person who harassed someone is fundamentally evil. More often than not he is ignorant, insensitive, unsympathetic, undisciplined and foolish. If he realizes this he should genuinely apologize to the victims. Better late than never. However, he may not know the errors of his ways unless he is told of this. So as decent human beings we all have a responsibility to call people out on sexual harassment. Anyone who has potty-trained a pet knows that Prevention is a multi-part responsibility. Only when man and woman work together can we achieve a safer, more pleasant, healthier working environment for everyone.

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When we walk down the street; get on the bus; go to work; stroll down the shops; dance at clubs; drink at the bar; let us never forget that we are all beacons of light and goodness. Our actions or lack of actions speak more loudly than words. When a person is in need of strength and protection you can either be a hero or a bystander in the story. Be The Hero!

These are my humble opinions. Please leave a comment to enlighten us all. Thank you in advance. Click “Follow” to get a notice whenever a new blog is posted. Thank you.

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