March 22nd, 2010


Guys: Why other guys being jackasses diminishes your dating prospects, and how you can help

A page I got linked to the other day: Cat-Calling, "Bystander Sexism," and How Sexual Harassment Hurts Men. The article addresses male-on-female harassment; this is hardly the only form of sexual harassment, but it is by far the most common. (If someone wants to write up a thing, or has resources about female-on-male, female-on-female, male-on-male, and assorted forms of transphobic harassment, feel free to link to the resource or whatever you posted in comments.)

The article is the sort that immediately makes me say "Oh yes, exactly this", but it's also the sort that makes me look at it and realize that there are some audiences who will read it and Just Not Get It, because they've never experienced it for themselves, and never had it explained.

Reiterating from the article: when a man makes a public sexist comment to a woman, even if he means it in good fun, but the woman takes it as a sexist comment, not only does it have an effect on the woman it was directed at, but all the women who witnessed it are affected.

Specifically, women who witness sexual harassment done unto other women are likelier to mentally place themselves in that woman's shoes, identify with them, think how likely it is that they could have been the recipient of this, and add another tallymark to whatever score they may be keeping on the topic of "Men Suck". Not just "gods, that guy's an asshole", but "that guy's an asshole and he's not the only one, and it is increasingly hard to tell the assholes from the decent men." It may even be "It's so amazingly hard to tell the assholes from the decent men that it's safest to assume that all men are assholes until proven otherwise."

This directly affects the ability of decently-behaving men to strike up a perfectly innocent conversation with a woman, let alone get a date. Have you heard the term "Schrodinger's rapist"? It's the sort of thing that can make a decent guy fume: you've never had evil intent in your life, you've never acted on a sketchy impulse, and yet you're part of a larger class that's greeted with distrust and fear, and it may be no direct fault of your own.

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In short: Don't be that guy. Don't let your friends be that guy. Don't encourage that guy. Don't let your friends encourage that guy. Avoid associating with that guy if you can. And maybe, once guys in general stop letting that guy get away with it, the general reputation of men will improve.

This is also informed by the following excellent resources and narratives:
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