This morning I read a post by skepchick which shall we say, pointed out the problems with a post by a sex therapist named Marty Klein. (Skepchick appears to have quoted the guts of his post, with added meme hilarity, so I haven’t bothered to go and find his post.)
First off, a problem with the Skepchick post (which also highlights a problem with Marty Klein, to which I might return): she refers to him as a psychologist, and as a psychiatrist – as well as a sex therapist. Psychiatrists and psychologists are sooooo not the same thing. It really gets wearing when people don’t get that. They’re different words even, which should be a clue.
That said, when I went to Marty Klein’s website to find out what he really is, I came back none the wiser – save perhaps for some insight into Marty Klein. He certainly describes himself in extremely glowing third person, but I didn’t see any mention of what his basic qualifications are.
Anyhoo… Enough casting of nasturtiums.
The point he appears to be making is that not every sexual advance is a sexual assault, and that everybody should just recognise that, be grown-up enough to just say no, and not get upset and hurt and feel victimised.
Skepchick points out pretty clearly the problems with what he says – as superficially reasonable as it might sound. For a start, she wasn’t being hurt or victimised: she was pissed off at a rude unwelcome cowardly socially-inept offensive bumbling pervy invitation to a threesome – made by a couple she didn’t know, and with whom she had no connection, and who clearly knew it was super-dodgy, because they didn’t even stick around to see her reaction.
That’s the specific case, but it has more general relevance to Klein’s “argument”. He seems to suggest that we should all be “grown—up” enough to tolerate “unwanted sexual attention”, without falling apart. There are a couple of things here: first, we have social rules, which are necessary to stop us tearing our society (even perhaps each other) apart. Some of those (many of those) govern interpersonal conduct. This clearly trampled all over those: it wasn’t “just” unwanted sexual attention; it was unwanted sexual attention that was given in such a way that it broke a bunch of important social conventions. It’s not like your platonic friend (who you really don’t fancy) telling you they really fancy you and would like to be un—platonic. Granted, it shouldn’t — mostly, and I’ll come back to this — cause distress and falling apart and everything Klein appears to be lamenting, but I reckon Skepchick was perfectly right to be pissed—off and offended. The approach was shitty and offensive.
Now, the second point, as I’ve indicated, is about the fact that there really are some people for whom such “unwanted sexual attention” would actually cause major distress — and it’s got nothing to do with not being “grown—up”. A distressingly large proportion of women in our world are sexually abused, assaulted, molested, victimised … in any number of ways. Many of them might well have a serious, even catastrophic, reaction to “unwanted sexual attention”. And it’s not because they’re not “grown—up”. And you know what? They don’t have it tattooed on their foreheads or something, so “Mary and Jane” wouldn’t know if the person they’re approaching might have had past experiences that would affect them pretty seriously in such a situation.
Am I suggesting that we big strong men need to protect poor weak abused women? Hell no. Society needs to be sensible though. Remember what I said about rules governing social interactions? And this sort of unwanted sexual attention totally stomping on those rules?
I’m not saying (and just quietly, I doubt Skepchick is either) that we should treat women as delicate little flowers and refrain from making any sexual advances because they might crumple. I’m simply saying that there are ways of approaching people that are ok, and ways that aren’t. Sure, it’s not all codified, and it’s not going to work out well all the time.
But I think that, when it goes wrong, calling the recipient of the “unwanted attention” out for being annoyed and offended is fairly moronic.
And putting down their insistence on the need for clear policies about bad behaviour at events is similarly wrong—headed.