On Uncomfortable Topics: Rules and Sexual Harassment

I realized I’ve never written these down, so… here are the rules I try to follow, and that I’ve given my kids in some form or another over the years. I haven’t always followed them, because I honestly didn’t know they were a problem, and needed to be rules. Some of them are a lot easier to follow because I’m married. Some of them still require work, because I’ll hopefully never be done getting better.

There are a lot of reasons we need to stamp out sexual harassment. The first being that women are human beings and deserve to be allowed to not be threatened, abused, molested or coerced… ever, anywhere. I’d hope that would go without saying, but, it apparently needs to be said… a lot.

If we make our communities, workplaces, families, churches, etc, places where people feel threatened, uncomfortable or violated, then they’re not going to be productive. We’re missing out on their ideas, their contributions, their genius, because some of us can’t control our urges. The benefits of creating inclusive, diverse and welcoming places is that we get to benefit from everyone’s contributions. If we’re doing something that decreases someone’s ability to participate, then we should stop. That sounds stupid when we’re talking about sexual harassment, but if you can’t be convinced to treat women as equal humans, then maybe a productivity argument is what you need?

So, I said there were rules. Here they are. This list isn’t complete, but it’s a start:

  1. Don’t touch people unless you ask them first, AND THEY SAY YES. If someone is asleep, they can’t say yes. If someone is passed out, they can’t say yes.
  2. You never have to hug or touch anyone you don’t want to. If you’re a man, don’t initiate a hug unless you’ve been hugged by that person before.
  3. Do not, or attempt to, date people you have power or influence over. If you’re in management, don’t ever attempt to date anyone at work.
  4. Don’t stare. You can conquer “the male gaze”. It makes people really uncomfortable, is objectifying, and is just a bad habit – so break it.
  5. Don’t talk about, or comment on, other peoples’ bodies.
  6. Be kind. Be gentle. Be someone people can feel comfortable and safe around.

I honestly have no idea if I’ve ever harassed anyone, but I’m sure I’ve made people uncomfortable, and I’m sorry. Hopefully, I’m better now than I was, and I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today.

I appreciate the women who do speak up, and especially the women over the years who were brave enough to tell me their harassment stories, and take the time to educate me, and point me in the right direction.

This isn’t fun to talk about, but we have to stop forcing women to run the gauntlet of abuse it takes to report harassment and abuse. Men, this is OUR problem to solve, because we’re the perpetrators. If you work with harassers, pull them aside, talk to them. Report them. We have to police ourselves, and be better.

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