There is no doubt that change is afoot. The revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s proclivities have set in motion an unprecedented, global discussion about the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse.
Being sexually assaulted can no longer – plausibly – be framed as an obscure experience that a few unlucky people encounter in dark alleys, late at night. The sheer number of #MeToo participants makes clear that sexual harassment is almost universal.
In too many cases power has been the agent that ensured these assaults occurred without consequences. Power has rendered many perpetrators beyond account.
Until now. Finally some of these perpetrators – like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey – are starting to fall after decades and decades of violating younger men and women at their will.
For anyone inclined to believe that being free from sexual harassment or assault is a basic human right, this is a long overdue adjustment. Hardly a victory given the miserable conduct but an important pivot.
But for others who cling to the belief that consensual physical contact is a tricky concept beyond the faculties of some men, it is terrifying. Men being held to account presents the beginning of a brand new world with standards too onerous to maintain.
Consider Charles Moore, a British columnist, who expressed his fears in The Telegraph last week under the headline: “This scandal shows that women are now on top. I pray they share power with men, not crush us.”
Charles Moore talks about sexual harassment being taken seriously like it's the start of Planet of the Apes pic.twitter.com/vDkIqwWNCM
— Conrad Duncan (@conradduncan1) November 4, 2017
His thesis is that in the post-Weinstein world:
“The victim must be believed, even when we don’t know that the victim is a victim because the facts haven’t been established.
“If you have a thing in which a man is considered guilty until proven innocent of a sexual accusation, then nobody can live a free life.”
It is utterly preposterous to suggest that because more victims are now speaking out, and that in a few select situations some men are facing consequences for their behaviour, that women have the power.
I am not sure that now some women who have been assaulted, violated and forced into silence for years, are actually being believed and heard constitutes “women being on top”.
I’m not sure that being forced to endure the unwanted and often criminal conduct of powerful men, which is the fate thousands of women (and some men) have lived for decades, is a “free life”.
If Moore was to cast his eyes around the British parliament, the ranks of business and academia in his own country and abroad he might notice that despite the allegations of recent weeks men are still, by and large, in charge. The percentage of men convicted for sexual crimes remains miniscule.
But if it was the case that women are the new power brokers, I’m unconvinced that men have set an example in terms of generously “sharing the power” that he prays us women will emulate. The hypocrisy in making the suggestion is blinding.
Another British columnist, Peter Hitchens, expressed his own fears about a world in which women squawk – ungratefully – about being on the receiving end of a man’s “wandering hands” over the weekend.
“Women! If we can’t dictate your place and treatment in society then the creeping sharias will!” pic.twitter.com/6rIyC59ERm
— rachel shabi (@rachshabi) November 5, 2017
Hitchens says a niquab would sort out those women who are too prude to accept that a hand on the knee from an MP, for example, is perfectly acceptable.
He also suggests the only thing that will protect “wise men” from the conniving accusations of women will be hiring chaperones to shadow them in the company of women.
some advice from Peter Hitchens pic.twitter.com/Ib1bMi5RDI
— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) November 5, 2017
That does seem extreme but if these wise men, who by the by are elected to run the country, are unable to decipher what is consensual physical conduct, perhaps they need more than a chaperone. (This device, strapping one’s hands to their own waist could help)
Can I suggest an alternative safety device to the niqab Peter Hitchens? pic.twitter.com/5tAK97SKE7
— UnaPooper (@TheUnapooper) November 5, 2017
Or, they could simply acquaint themselves with the notion of not physically touching anyone in their vicinity without first obtaining an explicit green light from the person in question.
“Can I please touch your knee?” “No.”
“Can I please lunge at you?” “No.”
“Can I please kiss you?” “No.”
Considering that preschool children are taught about respecting the personal space of their classmates I have little sympathy for any suggestion that these sorts of standards are difficult to grasp.
To some, the idea of a world in which men and women are held to account for their own behaviour is ideal. To some, however, evidently it is a horror which goes to show why this change is so necessary.