So. Harvey Weinstein. We know what happened and how he is now trying to run away and claim that he is a “sex addict” (he is not), and people on the internet are parading out the “Billy Graham Rule” for interacting with women and saying “if he had never been alone with a woman none of this would have happened”. Which is 100% absolute bullshit. Here’s the thing: he often wasn’t alone with the women he sexually harassed. Also, here’s a suggestion, just a thought I had, instead of never meeting alone with women, maybe he should’ve just not masturbated in front of them, not told them to sleep with him or he wouldn’t hire them, not been a serial sexual predator. I’ve been in charge of people and here’s the thing: it was extremely easy not to masturbate in front of them. So easy! I just: didn’t do it.
For those who don’t know what the Billy Graham Rule is, here it is: a man who abides by this rule won’t ever meet alone with a woman other than his wife. Here’s why I hate this bullshit rule: it posits that men are insatiable sexual predators who don’t understand boundaries or morality, and frames women as causing sexual assault. Know who causes sexual assault? People who commit sexual assault. Know who is capable of controlling themselves? Men. Know who isn’t responsible for someone else assaulting them? Women.
And guess what else! The times in my life that I have been the most afraid of someone who was sexually harassing me were all times when there were at least four people present. That didn’t stop men from leering at me, propositioning me, invading my personal space, and making me afraid that this time would be the time that he would follow me off the train platform and would end with me having a rape kit that would, of course, never get tested because the world hates women. Fun fact: there have been police forces that have thrown out untested rape kits because they were taking up space.
Here’s the thing. Men who harass or assault women shouldn’t have any friends. Their social circles should fall apart. Women are human beings, these men make a habit of attacking them, and they should not have the social license to do so. Here’s how I know this ideal friendlessness doesn’t happen: my own life experience. Let me tell a story from when I was working at the Jubilee. I was going to start this next sentence by describing what I was wearing when this incident occurred, but guess what, it absolutely does not matter what I was wearing, because what I wear does not control the actions of others. It also does not matter that I was polite when this happened, because politeness is a protective measure, and is not an invite, nor is it consent.
I was working at the Jubilee, and a group of men came up to my bar. There were about four of them, but two stood out. One of them was somewhat tipsy and proceeded to make suggestive comments, to try to get closer to me across the bar, to imply that I should have sex with him later, and to leer at my chest. I was polite as well as clearly uncomfortable. When their drinks were made and they were leaving, his friend gave me a twenty dollar tip and an apology for the behaviour of his friend. Here is a man who saw his friend sexually harassing a woman who could not escape and did the sum total of jack shit to stop him, and then gave her money to soothe away his own guilt. I know he knew the actions of his friend were wrong because he apologized: so why didn’t he say something in the moment?
Who were the guilty parties in this scenario? Was it a) me, because I’m a lady, b) the man who did the sexual harassing, or c) the man who stood quietly by and watched as something he knew was wrong happened and did nothing to stop it? If you answered “b and c”, you are correct. If you answered “a”, you might still be mad that women in Canada are now considered Persons and not Chattel.
What on earth possesses people to excuse or ignore sexual harassment while it is happening? What is the excuse for that? The man who sexually harassed me faced zero consequences, social or otherwise. In fact, I was the one who suffered because of his actions! Me! I was just doing my job and some asshole thinks it’s okay to sexually harass me, to make me afraid to go clean up later because what if he’s out there? But whyever would he think that?!? Maybe because his friends stand right there and do NOTHING TO STOP HIM AND THEN CONDONE HIS ACTIONS BY THINKING THAT A TWENTY DOLLAR BILL WILL MAKE THINGS RIGHT. Here’s what should have happened: nothing. It should have been a smooth transaction in which goods and services are exchanged for money and no one is made afraid because a man who sexually harasses women shouldn’t have any friends to go to the theatre with in the first place. Barring that, the man’s three friends should have immediately stepped in, rebuked and stopped him, and then promptly left the theatre with him and in so doing removed the threat.
One of the reasons that women don’t come forward about sexual assault is because they have had experiences where men dismiss what has happened and defend their friends. Oh, he didn’t mean it. He was just drunk. He thinks it’s funny. He’s really quite harmless. Women’s experiences are brushed off, and then women blamed for what happened: “well, she shouldn’t have been alone with him.” But what if she wasn’t alone with him? What if his pals were there? What then? Since apparently having other people there is barely a deterrent for sexual predators, it is clear to me that we need to examine the social structures that sexual predators exploit in order to carry on harassing and assaulting women.
You have two choices.
- Commit to immediately calling out and rebuking sexual harassment and misogyny when you see it or hear it. I am fully aware that this is awkward and uncomfortable and might kill the vibe at the party. I’ve sat and repeated to a man “I just don’t think jokes about beating women are funny” while shaking and turning red and wishing none of this had happened. After you call someone out, warn your female friends about him, and exhort your male friends to rebuke harassment when they see it.
- Stop being friends with men who harass or assault women. Stop silently standing by while men attack women. It may not be as easy as avoiding masturbating in front of people (again, SO EASY), but you can do this. You can cut him out of your life. If he asks you why, here’s a script: “I cannot hang out with you or be your friend because you sexually harass and assault women, and I cannot condone that in any way. Get help. Goodbye.” And then warn your female friends about him, and exhort your male friends to shun his company.