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[personal profile] zoethe
While the FerrettDad was here, we went to see Horrible Bosses, which was pretty funny. Afterward at dinner, we were discussing the movie, and FerrettDad said, "But you know, I just couldn't sympathize with the guy who was being sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston. Seriously, just fuck her!"

I was kind of gobsmacked, because I'd sympathized with the guy completely. And when I tried to explain that to FerrettDad, he looked at me with a sincere but uncomprehending gaze, like I was speaking a foreign language.

After a short time, I realized that, in fact, I was. He didn't have the experience of unwanted physical attention and simply couldn't grok how stressful it is. If the person providing said attention is hot, the guy mind was saying, why wouldn't you want to hit that?

It's an attitude that stems from a level of entitlement so invisible that they actually see it as a disadvantage. And neither of them are doing it out of any kind of disrespect for women; it's as incomprehensible to them as calculus is to a chimpanzee.

But when you've lived with harassment, you understand that unwanted attention is unwanted attention, no matter how attractive the harasser. A harasser doesn't have to be someone physically repulsive. You can even be attracted to the harasser; it can be someone you've had a crush on--maybe even someone whose attentions were initially flattering. Maybe someone you flirted with. Maybe even someone you've slept with.

Because when the attention flips over to harassment, it doesn't matter if the starting point was dislike, neutrality, or attraction. Sexual harassment is humiliating depersonalization and objectification, and it's intended to override the individual's wishes and impose the harasser's desires on the victim. It's different from the kind of joshing around and flirtation that can be acceptable in some environments. At the very least it says, "I don't respect you as a person, and your comfort is of no concern to me." Often, the message goes all the way to, "I take pleasure in causing you discomfort and even frightening you."

Men seldom get that kind of treatment, particularly in a sexual context, so it can be hard to comprehend the continual and exhausting stress of battling for boundaries when it's combined with the nagging fear of actual sexual assault. And the pervasive nature of harassment that leaves continually tense, watching out for the next touch/gesture/remark? Completely draining. It's like playing defense all the time: it wears you out.

My heart went out to that poor nebbish being grabbed, squirted, rubbed against, and verbally harassed by Jennifer Aniston. Because it doesn't matter if your harasser looks like Brad Pitt; if you don't want the attention, it's humiliating and dehumanizing to be its victim.

EDIT: Ferrett has corrected my misremembering of this. He didn't agree with his dad, he just didn't engage in the argument.
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September 2012

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