All the recent debates about sexual harassment and misconduct made me try to define what I really think would be the “best practice” of men towards women which I could subscribe to and wish everyone else did the same.
And my preliminary conclusion is that the best thing I’ve heard so far is the notion of “enthusiastic consent” as the standard.
I am guided here by 3 principles — what would I today consider in my past behaviours to be OK and something I don’t need to apologize for. And because I have both male and female grown children, what would I consider behaviour that I would wish men exhibited towards my daughter and that my son exhibited towards women.
To make things as clear as possible, “enthusiastic consent” means verbal consent or the woman (apologies to my same sex dating friends — I just feel I am unqualified to opine on your dating mores) initiating physical contact. If an awkward kiss turns into a passionate one, that is fine.
But if an awkward hug turns into a kiss which after a while is not proceeding in the “passion” direction, then just stop. If a woman says “Please don’t” or “I really don’t want this” there is no “I will overcome her reluctance through my sheer awesomeness. I am a terrific kisser”.
And the “burden” here is on the women too — if you mean “I want to see how passionately he wants me” then don’t say “Please don’t” as some kind of a test. It is OK to stop things after they have started and it is OK to change your mind later and tell him or show him that you are happy to resume activities.
Of course, if alcohol or other altered state of mind is involved, things can become more tricky but it is not OK to assume that“after she experiences my awesomeness tonight, she is going to be happy tomorrow she gave in although she had doubts at the time”. If that ever was acceptable, it sure should not be today.
Consider this “affirmative action” in sexual behaviours — there has been so much bad shit going on for so long that it is not enough to just come to some ‘ “fair middle ground”. We have to go beyond that, deep into guaranteed safe territory to correct past mistakes. Some decades from now, when all sexual harassment disappears (!) we can consider dialing it back.
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