I’d like to apologise to gay men for today’s post as I realise the scenario I am about to unfold is highly unlikely, but it’s the best I can do. So here’s the thing: a while ago after Donald T***p had come out as a predatory crocodile with his talk about grabbing women by the p***y and after women the world over had called him out on normalising sexual assault, a man I happened to be talking to (a friend of a friend) began to opine that being grabbed by the genitals was a fairly minor affair. Before the argument could get out of hand, he’d been shushed by our mutual friend and we got on with having dinner. But later, I began to think about how one can explain how it feels to such a bloke. How do you get this across? Because saying, ‘imagine if a woman were to grab you by the d**k’ just doesn’t cut it. That situation is not the same because the power relationships are not the same – and that’s exactly the point. To grab a man by the genitals might be construed as a come-on; to grab a woman by the genitals, quite apart from being painful, is not only an assault but an assertion of power; even of possession.
So, the best I can do to convey what the Donald Trump ‘genital grab’ might be like for men, is as follows:
Imagine you work in an office where the Big Boss is gay. He’s aggressively, flamboyantly gay and if he fancies you, you’d better watch out. Don’t get in the lift with him, don’t bend over anywhere near him and don’t do anything that might be misconstrued as encouragement. At all costs, avoid being in the same room with him.
Now, imagine that despite your precautions – wearing high-necked shirts and loose-fitting suits and never, ever making eye contact – the Big Guy takes a fancy to you. He is so arrogant that he thinks because he fancies you he has a right to do something about it; so he calls you into his office so he and his colleagues can have a good look; he gets you to run errands and whenever you pass in the corridor he makes personal comments like ‘my, you’re a big boy aren’t you?’ Every day he swings by your workstation and hangs over your chair to look at your computer screen, all the while making suggestive comments.
Of course your instinct is to get the guy in a dark alleyway somewhere and deck him. But that would be unwise; because first of all this guy is powerful. He works out and could probably deck you first; and then you’d be out of a job. But even if he doesn’t, he never goes anywhere without a couple of henchmen, so you’d be mad to try. You could always change jobs of course, but chances are in every workplace your boss is going to be a horny aggressive gay guy.
So that gives you some idea of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of workplace harassment. And once again I apologise for the analogy – but it’s the best I can do.
PS in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the #metoo campaign someone has come up with a much better idea. Men: don’t do anything to a woman which you wouldn’t be comfortable with another man doing to you – in prison.
That does it for me.