by Harriet Boorhem EdD
Preface: People of all genders and sexualities experience sexual harassment and sexual violence. Because a large majority of instances of sexual harassment and sexual violence are directed against women and girls, this essay is addressed to men and boys, and the people and organizations that nurture, teach, and employ them.
The #MeToo movement invigorated by the Harvey Weinstein debacle has given women a vehicle to share their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual violence. The point is to raise awareness of the vast number of women affected.
What’s sad is that we have become so desensitized to aggression and violence against women that I didn’t even put myself in that category without some real thought. After all, I have never been raped, groped, or forced to kiss someone against my will.
What I have been, though, is whistled at, cat-called, followed by a car full of men while jogging (many times), ogled by men who couldn’t keep their eyes on my eyes, privy to guys talking trash about women, expected to tolerate men standing too closely, hugging, touching, being called “sweetheart” and “darling,” lectured at by men on how to be more feminine, asked who did I think I was that I could address a male superior “that way,” being told I needed to “lighten up,” trained on what I as a woman can do to keep from being attacked…and the list goes on and on.
I am not alone. Women every day are subjected to subtle and not subtle sexual harassment in a thousand ways by men. And we are expected to just “deal with it” because “boys will be boys.”
What the hell? That’s totally backwards. Instead of girls and women being taught how not to be raped, why are boys and men NOT being taught how NOT TO HARASS OR ASSAULT WOMEN?
Geez, guys—no matter what she wears, how she looks, how much power you have over her, how much of a “slut” you think she is—keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself, hands in your pockets, and penis in your pants! Women are not yours to make jokes about, tell dirty jokes to, humiliate, tease, gawk at, cat-call, whistle at, rub up against, stand too close to, touch, pinch, grab, grope, “take”, “own,” or use as your personal punching bag. And, if you are having difficulty in self-regulating your sexual behaviors, please get psychosocial help!
For centuries the blame for sexual violence has been placed on how women “ask for it” or should just “get over it.” We #MeToo women have had it!
Men, the onus is on YOU to change YOUR BEHAVIOR. Protect girls. Respect women. Teach your sons, nephews, friends, teammates, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same. Speak up when you hear someone else demeaning or “talking trash” about a woman. Stop telling dirty jokes and engaging in “locker room talk.” Obtain consent before making any physical contact. Stand up to sexism and misogyny. End sexual harassment and sexual violence NOW! —for the sake of your classmates, coworkers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, and daughters…and for the sake of all girls and women.
Harriet Boorhem is an independent individual, group, and family consultant who specializes in guiding her clients through transitions and crisis interventions. Dr. Boorhem holds over 30 years of experience in the mental health field including clinical positions with various behavioral health organizations. For thirteen years Dr. Boorhem served as president of Promise House, a youth-serving organization in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Boorhem holds a Doctor of Education from Texas A&M University-Commerce. Learn more about or contact Dr. Boorhem at http://www.harrietboorhem.com.