Double standards are rife within our culture and everybody has some idea of how they affect us. When people hear those words, one of the first things that come to mind are the inequalities that face women. That’s not what is inspiring me to write this post though, at least not today. Right now I want to discuss an experience one of my male friends had in a bar a little more than a week ago.
In his own words:
“When I first got to the bar, the bouncer gave me a pat-down. Before I could even make it a step further, a hot chick wearing a black dress walked up to me and said, ‘now it’s my turn.’ She pushed me against the wall then started patting me down, her hands were all over my chest and then she moved down to my legs.
Then she actually grabbed my d*ck, like, hard—more than once. The whole time I was like, ‘what the hell?’ I kept looking at the bouncer and he just shook his head and laughed. She asked me if I wanted to go home with her, and I said that I couldn’t, that I was meeting people. I kind of shimmied to get away while she was still touching me. The entire night was insane…”
Women were all over him, asking him to go home with him, staring at him. He said it was like he was in a movie or was being pranked. Now, I should mention this happened at a bar that was filled with a disproportionate number of women and was across from Rexall Place where Madonna had just left everyone supercharged and sexually empowered. Besides agreeing with the craziness of his experience, the only thing I could think was, holy shit, what if roles were reversed?
I don’t think the bouncer would have just laughed about it; a guy groping a girl’s breasts and crotch in plain view would have been hauled out before he could say, “wanna f*ck.” Maybe even charged with sexual assault depending on the woman.
I asked him what if felt like to be treated like a piece of meat, he laughed and said, “I liked it! Well, as long as they were hot.” (Of course.) To be fair, he did say the whole experience made him feel uncomfortable. I’ll give him that. Though, I suspect most women in the same situation would have felt a little more than just uncomfortable and almost certainly wouldn’t have liked that behavior from any man in any situation, even if he was hot. It’s just totally unacceptable to be touched sexually without prior consent. Consent being the operative word here.
The very fact that my friend rather liked the night’s interactions, that the bouncer didn’t take the matter seriously, and that the woman didn’t think twice about acting the way she did (alcohol is a cheap excuse, a man wouldn’t get off that easy) reveals some of the many double standards facing men and women. But what do these specific inconsistencies mean?
I want to try answer this question by unpacking what happened bit by bit.
I’m going to start by tackling what I think is most significant in his story: that he liked it. Fair enough, each to their own. Just because he thought it was acceptable, though, doesn’t mean it was, and the fact that he felt some discomfort reveals more than what his ego is willing to let on. Moreover, I think a lot of guys in his situation would have also thought the situation was equally awesome (I’m speculating here, so pipe in any time, men). But why? I’m going to suggest it’s due to a combination of several issues at play:
- I think people like to feel they are desirable. Being seen as someone who is worthy of another’s affection is a win. But affection is one thing, molestation is quite another. This leads me to the second factor that might be affecting how men could perceive this incident much differently than women.
- Men don’t have the same history of being sexually harassed as women do. In all fairness, I’m not saying sexual harassment hasn’t occurred to men (or doesn’t), but more than likely it wasn’t as prevalent, and if it was, it was probably never addressed or reported. So, from what we know, men just aren’t “used” to it, therefore the experience may be novel or exciting to them.
- Whether or not true, society tends to project men as sex-hungry animals, expected to be always-ready recipients of sex and welcome to all advances that come their way—especially if they are single, sometimes even when they are not. (This is ironic considering that this “readiness” appears to be part of pornography’s alluring fantasy where women are often presented as waiting, willing, and wishful receivers of all things sex.)
But if men don’t live up to this expectation as held by society, then it invites unfair scrutiny of their sexual preferences, virility, and ability to be masculine. Could this be why a man would find this scenario acceptable? Because it would be disgraceful to a man and his identifying sexual prowess if he didn’t? I can almost hear his buddies howling about the fact that he walked away from the woman, telling him he didn’t deserve a c*ck, being dismayed that he passed up easy sex. Again, I’m ruminating and tossing a fairly large blanket of generality on men. I know many would not have been ok with what happened, but the mentality exists in society regardless.
The second part I want to address is why the bouncer did nothing and just laughed. What does this imply? Along with the previous factors I’ve mentioned, which likely influenced the bouncer’s thinking, I see a dark truth lurking in a concealing shadow. A shadow cast by the collective unconscious of our culture. Sadly, I feel the lack of action is a reflective societal belief that women are harmless pawns incapable of posing a threat to men’s, or perhaps anyone’s, sexual rights.
We consciously know this not to be true, yet, the passivity speaks volumes about the potential latent assumption. It’s possible any other bouncer may have reacted, but this anecdotal evidence is still revealing nonetheless. Women have the same capacity for committing sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. To dismissively presume otherwise is foolish and ignorant of the truth. I’m not saying we should be fearful and suspicious of everyone for being sexual perverts, but that we shouldn’t disregard who’s responsible for the perversions.
The last segment of the story I want to dissect is the behaviour of the woman that gave my friend the “pat-down.” So maybe she was amped up from the Madonna concert, full of sexual vigor and empowerment. Good for her. Really, I truly mean that. But, taking control of your sexuality should not occur at the expense of another’s personal rights. There are limitations to entitlement. I don’t care if you’re a woman or a man. Crossing the line of inappropriate behaviour should not be questionable or tagged with “yeah but’s.”
The danger in not treating this situation—and others like it—with the same expectations of decency, with the same consequences that would face similar issues of crudity, is that it waters down the veracity and seriousness of sexual misconduct altogether. How can it not?
Women’s rights have come a long way in terms of what is expected acceptable behavior from men, whether in the workplace, the general public, or as in this case, night clubs. It is far from ideal, but we’re making progress. This story, however, isn’t even close to appropriate. By disregarding circumstances like this as a joke we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.
In order for sexual harassment and assault to truly receive the gravity it deserves, we need to hold everybody to the same standard of respect (and compliance to the law, if you want to get technical). Consistency is key.
Women’s and men’s rights aside, let’s view this as an issue of humanity. One that is occurring to humans, period. I don’t mean to imply that victims, especially those who are marginalized, shouldn’t receive proper attention, nor am I trying to undermine what women have gone through and still do. But perhaps if we start focusing on treating all people and all issues with equality, we will take a step towards removing the destructive double standards that harm us.