Women/Men: Have we made fear a feminine issue?

My husband and I had a very long conversation yesterday about the differences in the sexes and how they communicate. At least, that’s how it started off. He said that he tends to take what people say at face value without attempting to analyze it further, and that he feels that many men are the same. He also felt though that women will listen to something someone has said and then internalize it and analyze it, correlate it with other information, and then make insights that are not available to him.

We discussed these communication differences for a while, touched on how in his opinion women tend to have longer memories of conversations and grudges, and how men handle the same stuff by saying, “Mate, don’t be an asshole. Ready for the next round?” and drop it.

I thought about this for a while and what I came up with, rightly or wrongly, is that women engage in these behaviors as a means of protection. We tend to feel more vulnerable in many situations, and as such we gather information, which we then sometimes share in the form of gossip (his word, not mine, but seems accurate), and as such we either gain confirmation about the character and motives of people around us, or disabuse ourselves of inappropriate notions. We use this information to build a database of people who can or cannot be trusted with our safety; the woman who undermines us, the man who presses boundaries, the guy you can’t be alone with safely.

As an example, we talked about men who set off a woman’s Creepometer ™. In my opinion, it is better to have a high rate of false positives than false negatives on the Creepometer as it produces a more cautious behavior. He felt that this high rate of false positives might inadvertantly affect men who were actually decent guys who were socially inept.  Absolutely – that’s a false positive for you there.  What was interesting though is the discussion that followed this, about the number of women who have experienced something that could be considered a sexual assault.

Most of the studies indicate that one in four women have experienced a rape scenario. Unfortunately, these same studies indicate that these issues go unreported and that men who have committed acts that could be legally classified as rape seem to feel about half the time that their actions were not rape. 

Now, what I’m interested in is how many women have experienced more minor sexual assaults.  I made a fairly strong statement that if I selected twenty random women off the street and asked them how many of them had been sexually assaulted, not that many would put their hands up.  If, however, I asked, “How many of you have had your breasts, bottoms, or genitals grabbed or rubbed upon against your will?” that at least nineteen out of the twenty would indicate this had happened to them.

My husband was aghast. Probably any of my male readers right now are aghast. Probably any of my female readers are saying, “Well, duh.”

I myself have experienced this many times. I have had a male aquaintance knock me off of a chair, throw me to the floor, spread my legs, and throw himself on top of me. I have had a colleague turn around in his chair with his cock in his fist and say that it’s time I give him the attention he deserved. I’ve had my tits grabbed more times than I can count. I’ve had my ass slapped and grabbed.  Once in a bar I was working my way through a crowd when a hand forced itself under my skirt, between my thighs and someone, presumably a man, attempted to insert his finger into my vagina. I’ve had men engage in frotterism in crowded areas. Once when sleeping in a radio station where I worked (behind the security doors, in the same building as security) I woke to find a fellow DJ trying to raise my top, “For a little look, it’s harmless.”

No, it’s not harmless.

Women, when you walk to your cars at night, do you remain alert at all times? Do you listen for footsteps? Do you plan your route to stick to well lit areas? Do you walk with your car keys jutting out between your knuckles? Do you try to look under your car as you approach it? Do you check the back seat before you get in?

These are all the things we’ve been told, over and over, that we must do if we want to remain safe, or at least mostly blameless if we’re assaulted.  Men, do you do these things? Men, do you know that your daughters, your wives, your mothers are told to do these things?

Women, have you been the recipient of unwanted physical contact? Did you feel guilty that you did not take enough precautions to prevent it? Did you feel guilty because maybe your Creepometer went off a little, but you wanted to like the guy or wanted to feel special? 

Men, does it worry you that women have an entire sub-culture of fear and signals and behaviors that you might be unaware of? Tonight, ask a woman you know if they do any of the things I mentioned above. If they take public transport, ask them if they carry a book or newspaper specifically so they can erect a physical barrier between themselves and men to signal they are unavailable for interaction.  Ask them if they walk differently at night.  If you’re feeling very brave, ask them if anyone has ever grabbed them sexually.  Ask them if they feel guilty that they were grabbed.

My husband, to his credit, was very disturbed by this conversation. He said he could not imagine finding a sleeping woman and lifting her shirt, or grabbing her in a bar. Needless to say I’m delighted by that. 

What I found interesting was that towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned that someone had set off my Creepometer about two years ago. As a result, I stopped talking to the person entirely. Then about two years later, two separate people, one male, one female, said that this person was actually a really good guy and that I should take the time to cultivate a friendship. As a result I have done so, and I’m delighted that he was a false positive.  However, as my husband guessed when I related this, when the male said that this fellow was a good guy, I immediately discounted his opinion as invalid. Perhaps not my finest moment. When the female corroborated the male’s opinion, I accepted it immediately. Unfair? Yeah, probably. He was correct after all – I could have listened to his opinion. But again on the supposed basis that women operate and communicate differently in an effort to remain as safe as possible, the choice to throw out his data seemed like the valid one.

Women, I would be very interested in your opinions on this. Am I just overly paranoid? Do you follow any of these thought processes? Have you experienced these sorts of assaults?

Men, I am also interested in your opinions, but I will ask that you think very carefully before you post, as I understand that these thought processes are not your experience and as such may seem invalid to you. I would be especially interested if any men ask women they know their thoughts on these subjects and what the results are.

There’s a chance I’m overly cautious, that other women don’t do all these things or think this way. However, I suspect I have far more company than one half of the population suspects.

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