[Content Note: Sexual harassment and sexual assault.]
I’ve been a constant reader of Shakesville for some time. I’ve come to learn a lot from Melissa and the other members of the community she has built up there. I’ve also been following her recent posts about the numerous revelations about male celebrities sexually harassing and even sexually assaulting the people — mostly women — that they work with (or who work for them) as well as Matt Damon’s troubling and inexcusable comments about the whole things. There’s something from a Damon quote she included in today’s post that I wanted to comment on. Here’s the quote:
We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.
First, I will note that Melissa is right. There’s absolutely no need to talk about the men who manage the most basic human dignity required to not sexually harass or sexually assault women or anyone else. This is basic human decency that is and should just be expected. Meeting it requires no comment, let alone praise.
Second, my face is completely squinched up over the idea that none of this affects men who don’t sexually harass or sexually harass women or anyone else. I don’t buy that at all. Sure, we are in no danger – contrary to alarmed rape apologists everywhere – of losing our jobs over some big misunderstanding. Nor are we impacted as directly or intensely as the victims of these predators. But for me to say I’m not affected at all would require me to not care that women and other people are actively being victimized.
So yeah, for Damon to say that men who aren’t sexual predators are not affected by this screams a monumental lack of empathy and compassion for those predators’ in my book. And I find that unthinkable.
We “good men” — as Damon might call us — need to do better than just not engage in sexual harassment or sexual harassment ourselves. We need to be concerned about the women and other people hurt by those who harass and assault them. We need to listen to those women, believe them, and support them.
We also need to be mindful of and fight back against the culture that lets other men harass and assault women. We need to fight back against the idea that men are ever entitled to women’s bodies, affections, attention, smiles, time, or anything else. Even when those ideas come from our own subconscious minds. We need to learn and respect women’s boundaries and call out guys when they’re violating a woman’s boundaries, no matter how small that boundary seems to us.
We should quit saying “I don’t do that,” and start asking, “How can we better respect women and their boundaries and fight against those who don’t.”