#TheOtherMeToo

First, the backstory, if you’ve missed it. Social media is full of women posting “#metoo”. Most of them add “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” (Read more on Wikipedia)

The Other #metoo

So what is #TheOtherMeToo? If I have my way, it’s something men will use to confess they have been guilty of sexual harassment on some level. I’m not talking about rape here. Virtually all of us have done something sexually inappropriate at some point in our lives. But much of what was, in fact, harassment, we don’t call that. We don’t want to be bad guys, so we don’t want to admit we did that to some woman. Or more likely women. Or many women.

Our refusal to see our own wrong action along these lines is a huge part of the problem. By excusing our actions we skew reality for other men. When we call things that were harassment “a bit of fun”, or “just playing”, or say the girl/woman overreacted, we help to excuse others who do the same – or worse. We raise the bar for what is harassment so high every woman is harassed repeatedly and most of the guys who do it think they’re doing nothing wrong.

So I’m going to say #TheOtherMeToo: I’ve been guilty of sexual harassment. At the time I wouldn’t have called it that, and if I’d known, I’d have been horrified and stopped immediately. But that doesn’t change what I did or that the girls on the receiving end almost certainly felt harassed. My list is probably shorter than many men’s, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the recipients of my wrong actions. You may be no more comfortable reading this than I am sharing it, but if it can help us all deal with sexual harassment it’s worth it.

  • When I was in high school, I talked about sex a good deal with several female friends. I was only interested in one of these gals, and she had a boyfriend she was intent on marrying, so I wasn’t trying to start anything. But I was getting off on discussing sex with girls, and I have no doubt I made most if not all of them uncomfortable at times. None of them ever protested, but looking back I can see times when they would rather not have been talking about what we discussed.
  • In 8th or 9th grade on the way to a youth group retreat hours away, I ended up in the far back van seat with a young lady. She and I had talked a good deal about sex, and she had expressed various curiosities. I guess I took that as a request, or permission, or maybe just “I can get away with this.” When the sun set I moved my hand between her legs and tried to feel her off through her jeans. She never said anything. She never seemed to orgasm either, which I realised years later was because I was rubbing her pubic bone.
  • Then there was the incident with a high school girlfriend with whom I was sexual (nudity, orgasms, no intercourse). One night we started messing around, fully clothed. We moved till our crotches were together, and I started to “dry hump” her. At some point, I realised she was no longer engaged; she was just lying there stiffly. I stopped, and she got up and started to cry. When I asked her about it, she said she thought I was going to rape her. Back then I was pretty angry she’d not told me to stop when she felt uncomfortable. She should have known I would’ve stopped immediately. I felt like it was her fault for not saying anything when I crossed a line I didn’t know existed. In my mind what happened was way less than some of what we had done with her full interest. I had very little compassion for her fears and feelings; I was just mad she had suggested I could be a rapist.

Today I see how wrong all of these things were. but when I was a teen I honestly didn’t see it. Part of this was the culture – we all told each other girls wanted to be pushed sexually because they wanted sex but couldn’t admit they wanted it. There was also the total lack of anyone telling me about boundaries. Another factor is how the purity culture feeds all this. We are taught any hint of sex outside of marriage is sin. I agree with that message, but if we cross the line we tend to throw out the message entirely. We go from nothing is allowed to it’s all allowed. We have no understanding of how our urges can hurt women. Of course, we don’t want to know, so we don’t go looking for it either.

How Can You Help?

Start with your children, both boys and the girls. Be honest with them about what you did that you shouldn’t have done, and ask your wife to be honest about what was done to her. I know personal examples are painful, but they are also powerful. If you can’t talk about yourself, talk about your friends – even if some of what you share is really about you.

Tell your sons no means no, but go beyond that. Tell them saying nothing should also be taken as a no. Tell them girls get scared and don’t say no when they would like to. Yes means yes, everything else means no.

Tell your daughters boys assume no news is good news. Teach them to say “I don’t want to do that”. If that doesn’t work “Are you going to rape me?” will stop most guys cold. It will make them angry and defensive, but it will usually end the activity. 

I realise a lot of this seems at odds with teaching them to wait and have sex when they marry. In fact, it is at odds with that. But statistically we know most kids don’t wait, and our failure to teach them about this causes a lot of pain and suffering. Besides, good teaching on this should reduce premarital sex as a good deal of that is not desired by the woman.

Finally, a challenge: Post #TheOtherMeToo on social media. Point to this post, or better yet say you’ve done things you now realise qualify as sexual harassment. No details necessary, just admit you’ve been part of the problem, and in so doing become part of the solution.

BTW: I did a search and saw a woman tried to start #theothermetoo as a hashtag over a week ago. So far not a single man has used it. Wouldn’t it be nice if it became a thing and everyone knew it was Christian men who did that?

A note to women reading along: This is written by a man to men, and it may be difficult for you to read. I wanted men to understand that harassment is far more than not stopping when someone says no. I tried to make the examples as non-graphic as I thought I could without losing the necessary context.

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34 Comments on “#TheOtherMeToo

  1. I could add the #metoo for myself, but I don’t. I don’t because what happened to me was more along the lines of what you described as opposed to predatory attacks. I think just about every woman can claim some sort of sexual misconduct against them. Sure it sucked when the little boy on the playground lifted your skirt, or your boyfriend went too fast, or a truck full,of guys shouted obscenities at you, but even I contend that that is not the same as being a victim of a predatory attack.

    BUT, as women, many of us feel very delicate about our sexuality and our personhood. Maybe it is because our sexual design is that of vulnerability; being generally weaker than men, having to receive them inside of us, having a harder time reaching orgasm, and being at risk for getting pregnant. Any negativity can feel like an assault.

    If I was a single guy today I would be afraid to even look at a girl!

    Hubby told me recently his coworkers were flashed by a woman. She exposed herself to them. Nothing was done. They just shrugged and chalked it up to seeing yet another naked woman. However, a man approached a woman on a street corner in a nearby city and exposed himself to her. He has been arrested. She felt assaulted. Hubby’s co-workers did not feel assaulted. Almost the same act, just different genders. One is posting #metoo, the others are bragging about seeing a naked woman.

    • Maybe that’s part of the problem. Seems like most girls under 30 has received unsolicited dick picks. That would certainly qualify as sexual harassment. I asked DH why any man would feel that was ok? He said maybe the guy figures he would like nothing better that to receive a random naked picture, so naturally she’d be thrilled he would think to take the initiative?

      I’ve had my but grabbed, my crotch grabbed just dancing in a local college bar (nearly ripped that guys arm out its socket) and of course the cat calling and what not.

      I recently received some rather persistent sexual advances from a married Indian postdoc after told him I was married and not interested in dating him. He stopped after I told him he was making me very uncomfortable, but I was actually scared to go to work for a few days. That one went to the Title IX office. I told a professor (who seemed genuinely horrified that that had happened). I think the guy was just lonely and horny and had a seriously distorted idea of American culture (arranged marriage, wife in India) but I didn’t want him trying anything with the undergrads.

      • @alchemist – The gender difference issue is certainly part of it. When I was a teen feminism was shouting from the rooftops that men and women were the same. Since I would have been all about the things I did, I had some cover for assuming the girls were all about it too.
        I think I had some clue this was not true, but I didn’t begin to grasp how much difference there was between men and women.
        It’s not an excuse, but it is part of the cause.

    • @Libl – “but even I contend that that is not the same as being a victim of a predatory attack.”

      Not the same, but on the same continuum, I think. And as alchemist says, how we dismiss it is part of the problem.

      What I did was sexual harassment. I didn’t know it was, and I didn’t intend it to be, but it was. I have no idea how much it may have affected the various girls on the receiving end. I suspect for most of them it was one more in a long list of such things, and that list as a whole is far heavier than any of the individual acts.

  2. Really respect you for writing this Paul. Hearing your perspective gives tremendous balance to two gut reactions I had with #metoo; one of horror that so many women I knew had been harassed or worse, and also a concern that some of the accusations were not fair to the men involved.

    When you share your perspective and take responsibility, it shows that you really didn’t comprehend what you were doing and yet see how unwanted it was. It shows that so many men in these stories are not malicious or evil as some women want to portray, but the women are right to feel hurt and afraid.

    However I don’t think this hashtag can take off on social media because men wouldn’t want to share a story and let friends deduce the identity of the woman involved. She may not want to have the story shared.

    • @Lizzy – Men don’t have to tell the story. I only did it, carefully, to help me see things more clearly. Just as many women who post #metoo don’t tell their stories, a man doing nothing but #TheOtherMeToo is still making a powerful statement.

      It’s the guys who didn’t mean it, didn’t know who need to stand up. Those who knew and still did it are far less likely to ever face the truth even to themselves. But if enough men who did less than they did come forward, it might force them to admit it, at least in their own mind.

      • Well you can’t expect a man to own up to sexual harassment on social media. Story or no story, remorse, repentance and mobile intentions non-withstanding: Posting stuff like that is how people get fired and careers get ruined.

        • @alchemist – I have a habit of expecting things that we all know won’t happen. I try to put consequences ahead of doing what is right.
          Granted this is easy for me in that nothing I did was illegal. All the girls were close enough to my age that it was okay under Texas law, and no one ever said stop. That, and I’m not going to get fired. I suppose some folks might stop reading me, which is more or less the same thing on a smaller scale, but oh well.

  3. Looking at your third incident, it seems that you both bore some responsibility? Or am I miss-reading this?

    I guess I’m concerned about the trend where society holds men solely and completely responsible for every sexual encounter; I don’t believe we can deal with these issues honestly and truthfully if we approach them with that kind of assumption.

    • @Anthony – Her reaction tells me I really scared her big time. I feel really bad about that. The truth is I was horny and I let that control my actions without giving even a thought to her. It was selfish and unkind.

      In that we had mutually moved into a wrong sexual relationship, yes, we were both to blame. But today I understand why she didn’t say anything, why she froze in terror. Had I understood that could happen back in the day I’d have asked her if it was okay. That would have prevented the whole thing.

      The other thing is pretty much everything we did sexually we discussed before we did it. This was a departure from that. In my mind, if she didn’t want to do it all she had to say was “stop”. But that thinking is the problem.

      • Thanks for giving some context, and for being willing to share and discuss this topic.

        In some ways it’s hard to get behind a hashtag as a way to make a difference. Society is engaged in sexual damage control in a moral vacuum; yet we are still called to care for those that are hurting.

    • Anthony, I agree, but it is more complicated than that. For some reason, when facing sexual harassment or assault or even just crossing a line, many women freeze up. They are so scared and confused that they are like a deer in the headlights and their brain is like the squirrel on the highway, darting back and forth, but going nowhere and ultimately getting hit by the car.

      • Libl-
        Perfect description of the gut reaction!
        In reality, girls should be trained on how to respond to these situations. If they were armed with a positive automatic response system, they would probably feel slightly less traumatized and have more confidence to control the situation better.

        Paul- Love the, “Are you going to rape me?’

        • @Jolie – As a guy who never wants to hurt a woman, I know the rape question would end whatever I was doing. I think we should teach it to every girl.
          And even if a guy is willing to hurt a woman, that question pretty much ruins and defence he has if he goes through with it and is charged.

  4. Thanks for writing this, Paul. I’ve sometimes wondered how many men carry similar memories around with them, keeping it hidden because of their own shame or fear of repercussions for something they may not have realized was wrong.

    #MeToo stories have been healing for many women to write and to read. I hope that writing this provided some peace and healing for you as well as for men who read it.

    • @Chris Taylor – I talked through all this with Lori years ago, so that was already done. Sharing it with the world is a bit unnerving, but like you, I hope it helps both men and women.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Paul. What do you think is the difference between harassment and assault? I had a very similar van situation happen except he actually penetrated me digitally despite quite forceful no’s on my part, but I eventually just gave up fighting. Harassment feels too weak for this scenario but assault is too strong? Although maybe not, as he was 18 and I was 16.

    I still don’t understand his motivation. Maybe because all of the other girls on our team were fawning over him and I was the only one not interested, so maybe he felt I was just playing hard to get? (Except I wasn’t playing.) I still don’t know what I could have done differently to stop him. I was surrounded by teammates and was afraid of getting caught and kicked off the team. My objections were more likely to draw attention than passively giving up the fight. I found out later he did this exact same thing to another teammate and at least one more girl from choir, and that’s only the ones we know about.

    • @Kay – I don’t know that there is a hard line between the two words. I tend to think of assault as forcefull, and harassment as less so. In my mind assault is intentional and the guy knows he’s doing something wrong or something the woman doesn’t want. With harassment, he may or may not know it’s wrong or that she is unwilling.

      I’d call what happened to you assault. You made it clear you didn’t want it, and he kept going. I understand the giving up now, but I don’t know that I would of back then. I’d have stopped at one no, but a lot of guys didn’t and some of them went on to have long-term relationships with those girls/women. I don’t know if the “no” was what they felt they had to say but didn’t want to say, or if they really meant it but once it happened they felt damaged and just stayed with the guy. I suspect some of both for different victims.

      A guy, especially a young guy, can feel challenged by a girl not seeming to want him. That can lead to him doing things he shouldn’t. The fear of being blamed along with him is also a real factor. Today I doubt it’s a big an issue, but it was in years gone by.

      I’m sorry this happened to you.

  6. Thanks for sharing Paul. I have my own stories of my failures in this area growing up, which I’ve shared in several posts randomly over the years. Some of them I had forgotten about until an old friend read my post The Playground and shared with me what happened one day. It broke my heart because I didn’t remember the incident, but what ripped me apart was hearing her words about the incident and how it had affected her for her whole life until she married.

  7. Paul-
    I applaud you for writing this.

    If only men would realize that a woman’s beliefs and opinions about men are learned from men themselves.

    Unfortunately, this begins before men turn into men. It starts when pubescent males filled with raging hormones and very little tact attempt to relate to the female gender. A time when they have no idea how their behavior is affecting the female.
    Unfortunately, I learned at a very early age not to trust or respect male sexuality. When experiences are repeated often, they tend to become engrained in one’s fabric.
    When an experience is accompanied by a cocky, flippant attitude the lesson sticks like glue.
    It’s difficult to unlearn repeated lessons especially one’s that wound.

    Then magically when you’re married, everything you learned you’re expected to forget overnight. Sorry, doesn’t work that way.
    Sometimes it takes years of living with a good, decent, caring man to learn to trust again.

    I’m not talking about sexual assault or abuse. That’s a completely different set of circumstances and much more damaging. I’m just talking about basic unpleasant episodes with males.
    Each one counts.

    #TheOtherMeToo…great idea!
    We haven’t taught our boys that their behaviors have consequences. One’s that will come back to bite them later. No better time than now. It starts with awareness.

    With deep appreciation.

    • Jolie, one of my metoos is a boy in school repeatedly stroking my backside with his hand whenever he walked by me. It was done often enough that I associated that touch negatively. I am married to a man who does that exact same touch to me. I mean, if that boy and my husband walked behind me, I wouldn’t be able to tell who did the touch because they are literally the same!

      I realized one day that I stiffened and felt a lot in my stomach every time hubby touched me that way. I wanted to tell at him to stop and tell him about that boy. Then, I got mad. I was mad that that 13 year old boy, decades later, was still having an influence on me and still hurting me. I decided to take his power away and I decided to completely give that touch to its rightful owner, my husband. From then on, I stopped stiffening and stopped getting a pit in my stomach. That touch is now hubby’s and his alone.

      • Libl,
        Isn’t it amazing how things affect us, we try to bury them, only for them to subconsciously rear their ugly heads years later?

        I’ve had a couple of occasions where I was literally frightened for my life. Those are hard to bury.

        “I decided to take his power away and I decided to completely give that touch to it’s rightful owner, my husband.”

        Libl, I thank God every day for my husband. He is kind, loving, and more than understanding of my issues. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to let go of that power many of those moments had over me. I’m still working on releasing, thankfully the bitterness has softened.

        Ironic how it’s a man that inflicts the pain and fear yet, it’s a man thats needed to help alleviate that pain and fear. It all boils down to trust, love, and Time.

        You will notice I don’t have much empathy for men who don’t have patience while waiting for their wive’s to “get over their issues” so they can have the sex life they expected.

        Don’t men get it? Not always, but often their wive’s issues were caused by men.
        Get over it, be a man, and help your wife get over her issues.
        And then help other men and boys to quit being jerks.
        Everyone will all benefit in the end.

        All guys have influenced one or more girl’s attitudes and feelings toward men and male sexuality. Let’s just hope it’s been for the better.

  8. Back when I was 20 years old, a young woman who was an acquaintance of mine at the school we were attending (and about the same age), out of the blue, walked up to me and kissed me without my permission or consent. I was stunned to say the least because we barely knew each other and had no absolutely no emotional or romantic connection. After she kissed me, she told me matter-of-factly that the reason that she did it was because I “looked like” a prior boyfriend that she used to have. That was it — that was the only reason given.

    I could cite more examples from my life like this. However, I’d really like to know whether I was sexually assaulted or not? I was not traumatized by it but I was taken by surprise and definitely felt like she rode over my boundaries. Does someone have to be emotionally affected or scarred in order to establish whether bonafide sexual harrassment occurred?

    I’ll bet that you could find some readers out there (women included) who would conclude that I wasn’t sexually harrassed because I was a man and because I was bigger, stronger and presumed more emotionally resilient than the woman who acosted me.

    • @Ed – To some degree harassment is in the eye of the recipient. Certain things cross the line, but some won’t have a problem with it while others will.
      What we all need to learn is where that line is, and make an effort to never cross it without knowing how the other person will see it.

      • I understand your point Paul about perceptions.

        By the way, this would make an excellent topic to discuss some time:

        How should sexual or physical consent be given — not just men towards women but also women towards men? Feminist thinkers are way away ahead of evangelicals on this subject, I think:

        http://www.consentissexy.net/consent

        In any case, let me persist with my one question:

        Judging from the details of the situation that I recounted, would you conclude that was I sexually harrassed or even sexually assaulted?

        • @Ed – Ideally a couple gets married and then discusses what they each feel it okay and not okay and they never cross those lines without discussing it again. I would say the same should work outside of marriage. What messes that up is all the doubts, fears, and other junk when a couple isn’t married. They don’t know each other well enough to have the sex talk, but they think they know each other well enough to have sex.

          Yes, I would say what was done to you was harassment. Or at least would be if you felt it was.

          • It was uninvited harrassment whether I felt it was harrassment or not:

            Imagine if things were reversed and I walked up and kissed her suddenly without warning, introduction or benefit of an exclusive relationship with her? There’s a strong possibility that things would not have gone well for me.

  9. Aside from the reminder of the importance of showing respect to one another (and the damage a lack of respect can cause, both immediate and long term), it also strikes me that we are reaping the rewards of a culture that says there are no dangers or consequences in expanding the bounds of our sexual ethics.

    This hits home to me as a parent. I don’t want to make up artificial/arbitrary rules simply for the sake of keeping my kids “safe” and away from the line, but at the same time I want them to understand that there is a steeper and steeper slope as one gets closer to the line.

  10. This is partly why I don’t like bunching everyone in a single category. To me, there’s something quite different about the inappropriate comment stupidly made by someone versus the predatory practices of sexual assaulters or persistent harassers.

    Speaking from my own experience, let me recall two incidents, which I categorize quite differently in my mind. They both happened while I was in high school.
    1. While I was at the tennis court one day, two guys I vaguely knew from school said something about my genitalia in a suggestive but graphic way. It was a vile and shocking comment, and I was rightly offended.
    2. While standing in the doorway of my band director’s office, he told me what kind of drum major outfit he’d like to see me in, with a full-body eye scan to go with his comment. Again, I was shocked and rightly offended.

    Both constitute sexual harassment, but the former was from idiot peers likely clueless about their own sexuality and how to behave toward women and they might well have turned out to be good husbands and fathers in the end. The latter came from someone in a position of authority over me, both in our roles and our ages, and that is a far more egregious offense in my opinion; he used his position of authority to harass me.

    I wanted to share these stories to show that we definitely need a better sense in our culture of what sexual harassment is and what it feels like to the harassed. That might well make some people change their behavior right there, just to understand what they’re doing and why it’s wrong. And that’s important.

    Yet there will continue to be sexual predators of various kinds, and you probably can’t reason with them. Their victims tried…and failed. With those assaulters and harassers, the answer is simply to stand up and stop them; that is, deliver consequences for their predatory behavior.

    • @J. Parker – I agree there are men who are predatory. But I think exposing the less grievous and intentional end of things helps some even there. All the guys who refuse to admit what they did was harassment give cover for the real creeps.
      And by talking about it we encourage women to say no. We show them it’s not right, and we teach them most men will agree it’s not right.

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