“Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist”?!!!

22 04 2009

While feminists and social scientists tend to explain sexual harassment in terms of “patriarchy” and other nefarious ideologies, Browne locates the ultimate cause of both types of sexual harassment in the sex differences in evolved psychological mechanisms and mating strategies, thereby “seeking roots in biology rather than ideology.”

It is inaccurate to attribute sexual harassment and other forms of sexism to  biology. Sexism and sexual harassment exist because we live in a patriarchal society.  Patriarchy is not rooted in biology.  It is a social construct.   Let’s revisit what patriarchy is since it looks like some people haven’t got their 101 basics down.  bell hooks, an American author, feminist, and social activist defines patriarchy as:

a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.

Essentially, patriarchy is a social and political system that entitles men to certain undeserved privileges.  It is reinforced and perpetuated through socialization that indoctrinates people into patriarchal ideology: believing that upper-class, white, heterosexual, cis-gender men are superior to women and all other men.  Sexism is a product of and an indication of patriarchy.  There is nothing natural or biological about patriarchy and all of its manifestations: sexism, sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, classism, etc.

Kanazawa goes on to write:

Studies unequivocally demonstrate that men are far more interested in short-term casual sex than women.  For example, in a classic study, 75% of undergraduate men approached by an attractive female stranger agree to have sex with her; most of the remaining 25% excuse themselves on the ground that they are already in long-term relationships and their girlfriends might find out about their affair.  In contrast, absolutely none of the women approached by an attractive male stranger agree to have sex with him.  Many men who would not go on a date with the stranger nonetheless agree to have sex with her.  In another study, men on average desire nearly twenty sex partners in their lifetimes; women desire less than five.  Men on average seriously consider having sex with someone after only one week of acquaintance; women’s average is six months.

I am interested to find out where he got these statistics from.  Which undergraduate institution were these men and women surveyed from?   Furthermore how did they define this “attractive female stranger”?  I’m assuming that they  are going by patriarchal standards of beauty: white, tall, thin, etc.  And how are they defining an “attractive male stranger”?  Attraction is highly subjective.

This study and the findings it reports are highly faulty.  It perpetuates patriarchal gender roles/norms, society’s dominant perception and understanding of sex which feeds into rape culture.  Sex is perceived as a heteronormative transaction where men are the active doers who “get some” and women are the passive receivers who merely “give some”.  This cultural paradigm of sex is called the “commodity model” in which sex is treated as a thing that can be given, purchased, sold, or stolen.  It’s almost like a ticket that women have and men try to get.  Besides being very heteronormative this cultural paradigm reifies the virgin/whore dichotomy.  It creates two trajectories: men can try to maximize their tickets and women who give them out too fast are sluts, or women safeguard their tickets as precious gifts that they should only give to the “right man”.

The commodity model privileges and caters to white heterosexual males and bolsters rape culture.  According to this model, consent is misconstrued as simply the absence of “no”.  However, the absence of no does not mean yes.  But because this is a widespread rape myth, people argue that women who are raped but don’t say “no” aren’t really raped.  (This is bullshit.  What if you are passed out and laying there unconsciously?  How the heck are you supposed to say no then?)  Consent is assumed since women are “open for business” and they therefore cannot withdraw consent or deny that the sexual act was consensual unless they say “no”.  Framing sex as a commodity enables the argument that women are never truly raped because they just made a “bad transaction” and can’t get a refund because what’s done is done.

Kanazawa then writes:

While feminists often claim that sexual harassment is “not about sex but about power,” Browne astutely points out that it is about both; it is about men using power to get sex.  “To say that it is only about power makes no more sense than saying that bank robbery is only about guns, not about money.”

Contrary to these allegations, it seems like feminists are indeed right.  Sexual harassment is about power and the abuse of power.  Not all sexual harassers are primarily after sex.  And even if sex is the harasser’s ultimate goal, sexual harassment is more about power than sex.  Sexual harassment is not just regular flirting because it relies on power imbalances that enable one person to leverage his/her power over another and intimidate him/her.  Power differentials may be more difficult to detect in student to student or co-worker to co-worker sexual harassment cases.

And oh dear, now Kanazawa reiterates the famous “no” is really “yes”, repeating the genius Freud’s allegation that when women say “no” they really mean “yes”… Siiiiiiigh…

The sex differences in the desire for short-term casual sex are exacerbated by another sex difference in evolved psychological mechanisms:  a woman’s desire to understate her sexual desire in a particular man and to engage in what is known as “token resistance.”  In one study, nearly 40% of undergraduate women admitted to saying no to sexual advances from a man even though they actually wanted to have sex with him.  More than a third of these cases where the women initially said no eventually resulted in consensual sex.  As the late great behavior geneticist Linda Mealy, whom we’ve also encountered before, eloquently puts it:  “That females are selected to be coy will mean that sometimes saying ‘no’ really does mean ‘try a little harder.’”  Of course, women sometimes do mean no when they say no, but this isn’t always the case.

“‘Token resistance'”?  And again, where did these statistics come from?  Proving whether or not consent is present is difficult to do, so how did the researchers confirm that the sex that happened was consensual and not forced (a.k.a. rape)?  Saying, “more than a third of these cases where the women initially said no eventually resulted in consensual sex” belittles the reality of rape.  Delegating it as the woman’s responsibility to say “no” takes the focus off the perpetrator and instead zooms in on the victim.   What about holding perpetrators accountable for their actions?   Or taking steps to prevent perpetrators from perpetrating?

All of this brings us back to the commodity paradigm of sex, which we need to move away from.  We need to move towards and adopt a performance model of sex:

The better model is the performance model, where sex is a performance, and partnered sex is a collaboration between the partners; like dance or music.

Under a performance model, consent is not the absence of “no.” Consent is affirmative participation. Who picks up a guitar and jams with a bassist who just stands there? Who dances with a partner who is just standing there and staring? In the absence of affirmative participation, there is no collaboration; forcing participation by coersion is not a property crime, but a crime of violence like kidnapping.

Under this model, looking for affirmative participation is built into the conception. If our boys learn this from their pre-adolescence, then the idea that consent is affirmative rather than the absence of objection will be ingrained.

So not only does “no mean no”, but “yes means yes!”  And we need to start focusing more on affirmative, enthusiastic consent instead of leaving it to the potential victim to say “no”.


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6 responses

22 04 2009
feministfeera

Yeah, don’t even get me started on this. Also, if you reread his use of statistics, you’ll see that there’s only a correlation between sex and action; there’s no indication that being male CAUSES you to behave in a certain way. This is just another example of people who don’t understand how biology/science works using it to incorrectly prove something.

Any good scientist would know that correlation does not equal causation.

24 04 2009
Jason

“In one study, nearly 40% of undergraduate women admitted to saying no to sexual advances from a man even though they actually wanted to have sex with him.”
Assuming that’s true- I was approached by a very nice lady last year, when I was with my current partner. She was very nice, very attractive, and we got along very well.
When she asked if I wanted to take things further, I said no. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to go behind my partner’s back.
Additionally, what about “no, I want to get to know you better”? “Not now, I don’t feel great, maybe another time”? “No, I’ve got too much to worry about right now without getting intimate with someone”?
There are many reasons for a person to say no, even if a part of them wants to say yes. And that’s what counts- a part of them says no, so they say no. And no is no is no.
(Are these figures actually accurate anyway? I’m inclined to doubt it.)

“More than a third of these cases where the women initially said no eventually resulted in consensual sex.” …Because a woman can’t change her mind. Good grief, no, she can’t do that. And she can’t wait until she knows the person better, or until she just plain feels like it. What were these women thinking, acting like they had the right to free will?

Those two sentances struck me as being even more rediculous than the rest. Plus, even if she’s saying no to “be coy”, to make the man “try harder”, so what? She’s still saying no. As much as anything else, saying “no” can be a test- to see if the man goes “okay, fine” and respects her wishes or throws a temper tantrum and tries to “persuade” her. Because I wouldn’t want to be intimate with someone who had no respect for my body.

…That was rambly, wasn’t it?

25 04 2009
feministfeera

There’s a difference between “Women and men are biologically hardwired to be a certain way, ” and “Women and men are socialized to behave in a certain way.” That’s why I say that correlation does not imply causation.

26 04 2009
TJ

Hey, good work.

29 04 2009
Lady vanessa

Sexual harassment is not sexist!
War is Peace!
Slavery is Freedom!
Ignorance is Strength!

13 05 2009
Anto

Well said!

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