After reading so many articles about creeps like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Louis CK, John Conyers, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, and Donald Trump (among others, and probably several more to come) giving men a bad name I got frustrated with my gender. The apparently ceaseless trickle of new celebrity creeps being named every week is frustrating and disheartening even for guys. Since sexual harassment isn’t a topic to joke about I thought I’d try address it in as serious and thoughtful of a manner as I could.
As a guy, among the most frustrating aspects about all of the sexual harassment and rape stories I’m reading about, is learning how few women feel like they can confide in men when they experience sexual harassment. To that end, it’s equally as frustrating to read that many men, when they are confided in, TOTALLY screw it up. It doesn’t seem like it’s enough that we, as men, simply avoid sexually harassing women, but we also need to do a better job of preventing others from doing it once we learn about it.
Here is what us men can do:
1) Most obviously, don’t be the harassing creep.
Don’t attempt to use your power (or implied/perceived power/ status/ seniority/ rank/ title) to get sex, and don’t try to guilt or use perceived leverage to convince someone to engage sexually with you.
Luckily, this isn’t all that complicated of a concept to wrap your head around and it’s black and white. If you do any of the above, no matter how sly or coyly you imply it, you are now a sexual harassing creep.
2) Simply avoiding the caddish behavior mentioned above isn’t going to make a man a bastion of chivalrous valor. If you are going to strive to make a difference and be “one of the good ones”, you’ll have to do more than just not be a creep; you’ll have to actively help protect women from creeps.
A few easy things you can do to try help prevent sexual harassment or rape, include walking women to their cars/doorstep, staying with them whenever they ask (even if it doesn’t necessarily appear to be 100% necessary to you at the time), or keeping an eye on things, again, even when it doesn’t feel 100% necessary. If you see a known creep talking to a woman, you can walk over and join the conversation or stand within earshot. Doing so may deter ill-advised behavior, or enable you to witness/overhear it.
3) Do your best to treat women equally regardless of their looks. I realize it’s human nature to act differently to those you are attracted to, but make a concerted attempt not to do this at work. Don’t be more polite, or a more attentive co-worker to a good-looking woman, than you are to a less-good-looking woman just because of their looks. It’s fine to have your friends at work, and interact differently or more/less often with your friends, but don’t be generally cooler to better-looking females. If you have four new female co-workers, don’t just introduce yourself to the one that you’re physically attracted to and then assume you’ll meet the other three at some point soon.
If you are cool to only the best-looking women, that doesn’t make you a sexual harasser, but it does make you creepy, and certainly will take you out of consideration for a co-worker to think you are one of the good ones, or someone they could confide in if they ever needed to. Women are more than what they look like.
4) Realize that what may seem like sexy attire to you, A) may not intended to be overtly sexy, you just happen to be turned on by it/her, B) maybe she is trying to attract someone, but you might not be that person, C) is not a definitive sign of promiscuity, or D) is not ever an invitation to touch her. Maybe she just likes that outfit and it makes her feel good. It isn’t all about you.
5) Accept rejection if you make a pass/ask her out and get shot down. It sucks to have your ego bruised, and it’s worse to have your sexual ego bruised, but move on. Again, not everything is about you.
You’ll find someone that likes you. If someone you want to like you doesn’t like you, assess what you’re doing wrong and try again with her later or someone else. Again, don’t inject the use of leverage or force. If she doesn’t like you for you, she won’t like you because you said, “Oh, come on, you flirt with other guys and wear tight shirts on occasion!”. Not only is that creepy and pathetic, it has also worked exactly zero times in history; it’s never made the targeted female say, “Well, now that you’ve tried to shame and guilt me, I guess will take you up on your offer. You can be really persuasive and sexy when you’re desperate!”
6) Keep the door open for women to talk to you about things. You can try mentioning a guy seeming creepy or ask if he creeps her out. Or you can say you’d imagine he says or does creepy things. Don’t bash people (more than you usually would) or be non-genuine, but do something to bridge the gap. Maybe talk about prominent harassment cases in the news to let her know you’re on her side on that issue.
As a white guy, I also try to do the same thing with race with non-white acquaintances, and joke about “white” people, when reasonable. I might say that Jeff Sessions seems like an old white racist stereotype, or that a mutual acquaintance is pretty good at being a white stereotype. Or say something like, “White people love saying things like that to make them sound like they are totally down with the culture”. Or you can make it a more serious overture and ask for their thoughts about a racially-charged topic and just listen to their reply, without trying to correct them or talk over them.
Overtures like those let others know that, while you’re on the other side of their gender/race, you also consider yourself amenable to their plight and aren’t tribalistic in your thinking. A few casual comments along those lines, in conjunction with an unblemished record of sensitivity about the topic can go a long way to making someone different than you think of you as one of the good ones.
7) If a woman does tell you something, believe her! Ask about it and ask if they’d like your help and/or how you can help. You can confront a creep, or talk to other men about him to see if they have heard anything, or maybe they can help try to catch him in the act, or talk to him, or something. Tell her you’re on her side and want to help the problem go away.
8) Realize it’s hard for any female to tell anyone about sexual harassment, because it’s embarrassing or awkward for a lot of reasons. They could be fearful that you might allege the targeted female did something to lead the guy on, or just that you won’t believe her. Or even if you do believe her, it’s still awkward/embarrassing to get hit on by someone you don’t want to hit on you. It’s hard for a woman to tell even their best friend about sexual harassment, so don’t take their accusations lightly. Maybe the harasser isn’t just a mutual acquaintance or co-worker, maybe it’s your good friend and she’s really afraid you won’t believe her or you’ll take his side.
Keep in mind 1) it’s really hard for her to tell anyone, and 2) Realize how little incentive they have to lie about this, and how rarely men are falsely accused of harassment or rape. 3) Guys, even your friends or guys you consider “good guys” do things behind closed doors that would alarm you. Accept that. I’m sure you’ve done something behind closed doors, or when there were no witnesses that your friends wouldn’t assume you’ve done. Serial harassers tend to thrive on that. Even if you are a gentleman and don’t do/say creepy things to get a girl in bed, not every guy is like that. And just because a guy seems gentlemanly in dude-to-dude settings and hasn’t said anything more crass than most dudes do, that doesn’t mean he never has or is incapable of being creepy.
9) Shut down any harassing or degrading “locker room talk”.
It’s human nature for guys to talk about women, and even if it’s not a conversation you’d like others finding out about, it doesn’t have to be inherently disrespectful, crude, or mention doing something illegal or unethical. If a guy crosses the line, don’t laugh awkwardly, or say nothing- silence is consent. Just give him a, “Dude, come on! That’s not cool, you can’t be talking like that around me, or anyone.”. If someone thinks it’s ok to degrade women during, “locker room talk”, then it’s certainly ok to tell him to not be an a-hole whilst in the locker room.
10) If you are a woman’s boss, don’t hit on her. Ever.
Tags: Being a good male co-worker, Charlie Rose, Creepy, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, How guys can help prevent sexual harassment, How to NOT Sexually Harass, John Conyers, Kevin Spacey, Preventing Sexual Harassment, Sexual Harassing, Sexual Harassment, Sexy attire at work, Workplace creeps, Workplace Etiquette