How Not to Harass

Don’t touch another person. It is that simple. Especially if you are in a place of work, from a restaurant or a bar, to a corporate office. Keep your hands to yourself.

Don’t comment on another person’s body. Don’t comment on their weight or the way their clothing fits.
You can compliment a person without commenting on their body. “Those are cool shoes!” “Your hair looks great.” “Where did you get those leggings?” “I like that shirt.”

Don’t make sexual innuendos. You never know who will laugh and be amused, and who will be made uncomfortable – and even if someone laughs and is seemingly amused, he or she may simply be covering up their discomfort. They don’t want to be seen as a poor sport or viewed as without a sense of humor.

And don’t make sexual overtures at work. Don’t ask for dates, massages, or “private meetings.” Keep your clothes on.

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I listen to these stories in the news – who’s been fired, who’s been harassed, who’s been raped or assaulted. Nearly every woman I know posted to the #MeToo campaign. (I did too.)

I am raising a son, and every day I teach him something else about consent. I tell my children to keep their bodies to themselves. I know he has a good example in his father, and in other men around him.

We let our children decide to hug someone (or not). My children are very naturally affectionate, so it’s more often me reminding them to ask if it’s okay to hug someone.

I am not teaching my children caution because I want them to be scared to touch or to be touched. I am teaching them consent, and how to ask for it or offer it, so that they recognize their own and others inherent bodily autonomy.

My body is mine. Your body is yours. Her body is hers, and his body is his.

Communication is key in consent. Asking and answering. It starts at home, listening to our children when they aren’t in the mood to hug or cuddle, or wrestle for that matter.

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Stop treating women and girls like they are disposable. Stop protecting men acting badly – even if they don’t do anything to you.

Girls and women exist in their own right. We aren’t decoration or entertainment. We have just as much right to decide how to live our lives and how to move through the world in our bodies without having to fight every day. For the right to speak. For the right to be heard. For the right to not be commented upon or touched.

If we just acted like every person was a person – with complete autonomy, and worthy of respect and dignity, how much better the world would be.

It Didn’t Happen to Me

[Dad, you may not want to read this post. It’s got some language and some information in it regarding me, your oldest daughter, that you’d rather maybe not know.]

[Okay, you’ve been warned. This is a post I don’t want my dad to read.]

Unless you live under a rock, you know about the sex scandal rocking Penn State right now. You know about the allegations of sexual assault/harassment being leveled against the GOP primary frontrunner.

As I drove home yesterday, I thought about my post of yesterday. In my comment section, another woman I consider a friend had come forth to tell about the sexual assault she suffered as a teenager. As I said in one of my replies to her, “the inaction on the part of the adults [at the school] is reprehensible.”

Maybe in one way, in some way, the anti-bullying campaigns that are rampant in schools now will nip some of these horrible offenses in the bud. Maybe the boy picking on the girl he likes will learn another way to communicate, or will simply learn another way of talking to a girl he likes, or will learn to deal with rejection. Not everyone has to like everyone else. We don’t all have to be BFFs.

But the other thing I thought about was this: It never happened to me. And I wonder why.

I was never raped.
I was never sexually assaulted. I was never sexually harassed.
I haven’t even been significantly bullied.

[KNOCK ON WOOD.]

On Twitter, @QueenofSpain threw out there (in light of the Cain allegations, I think): “Can any woman in my timeline say they’ve NEVER been sexually harassed in some way, shape, form?”

I thought about it. I really did.

The only thing I could recall was of a part-time job I had in my early 20s. I was trying to make ends meet, and so I took an evening job with a company that delivered food from area restaurants. I took the calls when they came in.

The guy who owned the company and was my boss was a real jackass. I’m no prude, but this guy was a foul-mouthed jerk. He used the “c” word with impunity, and he had one phrase – I believe it was “lick my balls” or maybe “suck my cock” — that offended the hell out of me. He’d get off the phone with a restaurant, and say, “That jerk can lick my balls” if he was upset.

Yeah, he was a *peach*.

One night, I finally said to him, “Look, stop saying that when I’m here. It offends me. It’s hostile. I don’t want to fucking hear it any more.”

And you know what? He stopped saying it when I was working.

I guess I wonder too (and this goes to yesterday’s post a bit as well): What do we mean by harassment?

I have been hit on while I’ve been out in public by people – men – that I’d rather had not hit on me. I’ve been inappropriately groped once or twice in my life (not by the same person). But unwanted attention at a bar isn’t harassment – unless, of course, the guy can’t take a hint. This is when guy friends with tattoos come in handy.

I have never been propositioned by a person in authority above me. Not once.

I have never felt pressured to have sex. I have been in bed with a man, going hot and heavy, and when a condom proved unavailable, I have called it off. I have enjoyed consensual sex with guys who didn’t call me back the next day. Or ever. I have lived to tell these tales.

Now, obviously, the fact that I have not been raped or assaulted or harassed does not mean that rape, assault, and harassment don’t exist. It just means it hasn’t happened to me. And just because I can with a fair amount of certainty say it hasn’t happen to me does not make it okay that it has happened to ANYONE.

But how come it hasn’t happened to me, but has happened to two or five or 10 or 100 or however many people I know? What the hell makes me so special?

I am trying to suss this out a bit because I’m raising children here, children I don’t want to be raped, assaulted, or harassed; children I don’t want be bullies, rapists, assaulters, harassers.

Maybe I didn’t find myself in bed or alone with assholes, although the absence of a phone call after a night of sex would disprove this theory. I guess they weren’t violent assholes.

Maybe the fact that I did attend an all-girl Catholic high school protected me from sexual assault as a teen. This would seem to make sense. Maybe the guys I dated back then, and through college were good guys. Again, not all of them could be called gentlemen, per se, but I didn’t ever get a black eye from leaving someone with blue balls. No one shoved a hand under my skirt unexpectedly, or grabbed my head to make him go down on him.

The people I know who have suffered these things aren’t weak. They don’t have a victim mentality. When I’ve heard these stories, I’ve more or less said, “YOU? That happened to YOU?” They are beautiful, successful people; many of them are in loving relationships; many of them are parents.

If it can happen to these kind, sweet, lovely, successful people, it can fucking happen to anyone.

So why doesn’t it? And what armor, what lessons, can I pass along to my kids so they can say, “It’s not going to happen to me.”