It seems to me that one of the concerns gripping our country is that of male-instigated unwanted interactions with females — activities ranging from the boorish or disagreeable to the criminal. The news is full of spectacular tales about men accused of physically or sexually assaulting women – including instances occurring decades ago. Some cases have been successfully prosecuted in the courts but most are simply judged by the media and the court of public opinion with the accused being punished professionally, financially, and socially. Protests to the effect that that the alleged offenses didn’t take place, were consensual, or were greatly distorted are discarded out of hand.
This current tidal wave of allegations sure does highlight the overarching issue in today’s society of what is permissible in male-female relationships, what isn’t, and how ordinary guys can distinguish where the boundaries lie. This age-old question has been addressed in a number of ways with different societies having established or recognized procedures, including the long-ago custom of no kissing on the first date — but what about today?
This problem is compounded by the variety of venues in which men and women find themselves more or less thrown together — including entertainment, print and electronic media, education, politics, government, religion, food service, business, retail, manufacturing, law enforcement, medical, and the military. Interactions involve both hierarchal (superior/subordinate) and collegial (between associates or co- workers) — any of which may lead to sexual interactions.
OK, so what are some remedies folks have come up with? Well, several years ago the Navy introduced the “stop light” concept as a means of providing both institutional guidance and individual safeguards. At the organizational-level the green zone (go), basically included “everyday social interaction such as saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ ” The yellow zone (slow down to stop), included “whistling,” “unwanted poems,” and “violating ‘personal’ space.” The red zone (stop) included “sexual favors in return for employment rewards and threats if sexual favors are not provided.” Individually, a woman could employ yellow or red light warnings to a male but, could also “green light” sexual activities if she wished. Don’t know how well this has worked, but it was an honest try.
Another approach to curtailing unwanted sexual activities, nicknamed “mother, may I” after the long-ago children’s game, was introduced some years ago at a local university. The essence of the program was that a man must request and receive positive and definitive approval by the female for each and every sexual-oriented action, such as “May I hold your hand?” “May I put my arm around you?” and “May I kiss you?” “She didn’t say no” was not acceptable, and “prior consent” (such as on an earlier date) did not “carry over.”
Then, too, there’s a current “rule” in some venues that if a female has a single drink of alcohol she’s is considered incapable of giving consent for any sexual activity – including hugging or kissing. Thus, a male engaged in sexual activity with a female in such a state is considered committing sexual assault.
Currently a number of female panels, working groups, task forces, and such are exploring this issue. The primary results are claims by thousands of women of having been subjected to sexual misconduct ranging from uninvited pats, hugs, or kisses to physical violence including rape — along with the public “outing” of the accused men. Betcha lotsa men may well be wondering if they’re next.
The only proposed countermeasure to unwanted advances I’ve seen thus far coming out of these groups is a “One strike and you’re out” restriction on male behavior. If, for example, a guy asks a woman for a date and she refuses, that’s it — period. Any subsequent attempt would be considered sexual harassment. Sorry, guys, no “do-overs,” but it sure sets some boundaries.
What appears to be missing from all this tumult are proposed remedies.
Some businesses and organizations have responded by expanding an outright ban of male/female sexual associations under penalty of discipline including dismissal – but is attempting to eliminate “personal relationship” efforts by men in any venue doable? OK, ladies, you have everyone’s attention so what do you want and how may that end result be achieved? The ball appears to be in your court.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.