On street harassment! And manners in general

So I’m guessing by now that you’re all familiar with this ‘street harassment’ viral video, in which a woman walks through New York and gets catcalled and so on.  This video is old news now, but it has spawned a shitload of discussion, (along with a slew of hilarious parodies), to which i’m now going to contribute.

I’ve heard a great deal about the problem of ‘street harassment’, but not a great deal of actual evidence for what it is.  This is unsurprising; I am a man, and men don’t get to see this problem.  Apart from those who actually bring it about.

On one side there are the third-wave feminists, like the Everyday Sexism campaign, who would qualify all of this as harassment of some sort or another, even completely innocuous shit like ‘how are you’.

For the other side, the problem is the woman.  They wear jeans which accentuate the buttocks; catcalling will inevitably result.  If you don’t want to be catcalled, be less attractive.  For these people, it’s all fine.  And what the fuck is wrong, ask this group of people, with giving a woman a compliment?

Context matters.  You’re not just giving out a compliment.  For a man to compliment a woman’s arse, for example, is to imply that he fancies her.  To express this in physical terms sets a tone for a prospective liaison.  If you say you like a woman’s arse, it implies that you want to fuck her, or, at the very least, that she ticks a box.  If you find yourself disagreeing with that, then feel free to greet the next male stranger you meet and express the same opinion:  “Hey buddy!  Nice arse!”

This video shows a whole spectrum of behaviors which range from cheeky to weird to creepy to harassment.  Knowing where to pitch yourself is a skill that everyone should learn.   Those yet to do so, however, should probably err on the side of restraint.  If in doubt, open with ‘hi’.

So there are shades of grey, here.  There are also, however, lines which pretty much everyone could agree should not be crossed.  Unless you’re a social retard, these lines are obvious.  As forms of address, “hello”, “good morning,” and “how are you?” are polite.  “MmmmmmHHHHMMMM”, “nice arse” and “damn…DAYUUUM!!!” are impolite.

While trying to work this one out, I find myself reaching for a words that have been abused into meaninglessness.  One such word is ‘inappropriate’.  It is sometimes inappropriate to offer a compliment.  And most of the time, it’s obvious.  “Your child has supple buttocks,” is not compliment anyone would like to receive at a parents evening.

Other times, it’s not so obvious, and it needs to be pointed out.  But by who?  Does anyone take pleasure in saying: “Don’t do that shit; it’s inappropriate.”  I certainly don’t.  It would make me seem like a moralising douchebag – which, as we all know, I am not.

Other such words are ‘manners’ and ‘politeness’, which have become passé.  Or perhaps I’ve just gotten old.

Manners fucking matter.  “Pass the salt, please,” is superior to just “pass the salt”.  In the former, you reaffirm your subservience to the person with the salt.  They have the power to either give you the salt or not.  The latter statement asserts dominance.  You’re telling them to give you the salt.  Ask for your fucking salt nicely.  What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Not all complimentary statements are polite.  We’re not fucking robots.  There are some truths we’d rather not confront.  One such truth is that some parts of our monkey-brains are just tasked with relentlessly seeking food, water and poontang.  I’m not in denial over this, I just don’t want to be reminded of it constantly.  I don’t want to consciously think in these terms, otherwise nightclub small-talk would consist of “do you desire intercourse with me [y]/[n]”.  Manners allow us to avoid this horrible nightmare.

Also important is the delivery of the compliment, as was as the person delivering it.  Supremely dashing, achingly suave men can speak freely – though, as we have seen, this is not a power we always exercise.  Enfeebled old men, disfigured men, and the mentally handicapped can deliver as many lewd compliments as they please – I don’t know why; it’s probably something to do with pity.

Until next week!

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