Feminism, Top Stories

#NotMe: On Harassment, Empowerment, and Feminine Virtue

In the summer of 1991, I was a very innocent 15 year-old with the remnants of childish plumpness on my face and the suggestion of womanly plumpness on my figure. I had just completed grade 10 at a private Christian school and was starting my first job as a hostess and cashier at a local 24-hour restaurant. Over the next few weeks I was subjected to relentless sexual harassment: comments on my figure, sexist jokes and innuendo, and outright sexual propositions. The kitchen was staffed by coarse young men, all around their mid-twenties, who were clearly gratified by teasing a sweet young girl with their vulgar running commentary.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women’s stories such as this one have become a familiar narrative. With one important difference: after recovering from my initial sense of awkwardness and embarrassment, I found the sexual banter empowering, exciting, and even—gasp!—funny. I started to realize that if the line cooks threw a sexual joke or comment to me, I was invited to throw one back to them. I soon realized that, although one of them would proposition me a number of times during an eight hour shift, I had the power to reject him—not just reject him but to do so with a playful insult that then made him the butt of jokes along the short order line for the rest of the shift.

What I learned that summer was that the adult world was often about sex. I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid of it. I learned that I had a lot more power over men than I originally thought—not simply because, as a cute young thing, I was awakening to my own feminine sexuality and realized how keenly the guys wanted me to like them, but because I had more power than I realized to reject their advances, to assert my sense of sexual agency not because it was a private and protected part of me, but precisely because it was so openly commented upon.

What I realized, too, is that these exchanges weren’t offensive, they were playful; that they weren’t demeaning, but led to mutual respect. It was the very indecency of the back of house culture that made working at that 24-hour restaurant a tolerable job, and it was all the vulgar insults of the workplace that gave a kind of gritty dignity to our work there. Working there one became part of family. Flouting the rules that govern social niceties, which had to be observed carefully in the restaurant dining room, was the initiation into the clan. What I’ve learned since that summer is that the culture of that greasy spoon kitchen has a rich anthropology; it’s the type of community that populates the taverns of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, and it functions in direct opposition to officialdom. Its currency is an abundance of filthy light-heartedness, and its economy subverts the normative claims of merit and respectability, those two pillars of social authority and middle-class morality. In the kitchen, the more horrible you are, the better! The profane and free culture of the kitchen was the antidote to the polite restraint of the dining room, as it is to ethic of rigid inoffensiveness that governs our politically correct culture.

What I experienced that summer are two related but distinct aspects of feminine sexual empowerment. The first was an awareness that it is the dirty jokes and sexual jibes of anti-official cultures that allow its members to feel a closeness to each other; it is a kind of solidarity achieved through a laughing disregard for formal decency. The sexual language of the back of house erased the social divisions that would normally demand our politeness. (Some of the line cooks were high-school dropouts; a few had criminal records. I was the daughter of civil engineer, attending private school, and on a fairly streamlined track to academic studies. And yet here I was, being teased by these guys, and in turn jabbing back at them, tit for tat.) What would now be considered clear-cut sexual harassment was the very thing that forged a true respect amongst us: the guys in the kitchen believed I was tough enough to take their insults. It was in their very coarseness that they treated me with honesty and equality. Treating me as a fragile young woman too delicate to handle their dirty comments, now that would be have been insulting!

The other component of female strength that I discovered that summer was the power inherent in my sexual self-restraint, or what historically has been known as “feminine virtue.” I’m certainly not advocating for any notion of sexual purity or for some cult of female chastity. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that there is a uniquely feminine power to say either yes or, as was the case with me, no. I felt connected to women’s history in a way we don’t hear about often today: I am empowered as a woman because I am a woman. I began to understand that feminine virtue instructs men in masculine virtue. At times, I returned a sexual comment not with another insult, but with an eyeroll, and sometimes I’d assert myself not by outdoing a dirty remark, but by activating codes of gallantry and manliness. A blush and a quiet “Alright. That’s enough,” would change the tone of the kitchen banter entirely. In contrast to the dining room where a polite separation existed between staff and customers, in the kitchen intimacy was displayed not just through insults but also through gentleness, and through gentlemanliness—and all it took was a blush! Resting on my feminine “weaker” nature was the way to control the social dynamic of the “toxic masculinity” of the back of house culture.

Before I go any further, I should make one thing clear: at 15 I was virginal and innocent, but I was in no way naïve—the constant crackling of the sexual tension in the kitchen of that 24-hour restaurant was instructive to me in other important ways: though I was beginning to develop a clear sense of my feminine power, I realized I was not invulnerable to predatory masculine sexuality. A large part of my tutelage that summer was in street smarts. Occasionally a table of men would come in who were real pigs. Not part of the working tribe, they had no claim to insult me with impunity. Their comments were often disgusting, and it was a humiliating experience—for them! I had by then learned the power of female scorn, and it worked pretty effectively to shut down lewd comments. Most of the time. Rarely, but occasionally, at the end of a shift, one of these men would still be lounging in a booth, drinking coffee and smoking without much else going on. I don’t know if any one of these guys ever posed an actual threat to me or to my female co-workers. We never took the chance to find out. If a shift ended late and it was dark out and one of the girls’ car was parked at the far end of the lot, she would ask one of the cooks or male servers to walk her out. And they always behaved like gentlemen when they did so—though they very likely were “harassing” us during the shift. This wasn’t seen by any of us as unfair or a double standard or in any way remarkable. It was just good common sense. As far as I know, even though that restaurant was open 24 hours and every night there would always be a rowdy post-midnight rush after the local bars shut their doors, not once was a female staff assaulted at work or while leaving it.

Yes, I have other female friends who weren’t so fortunate, and it ought to go without saying that the men who assaulted them should be subjected to the fullest rigour of the law. There is a tremendous difference, however, between coarse co-workers and dangerous misogynists; a difference between colleagues who tell a dirty joke and those who use coercion to elicit sex. Losing the ability to appreciate nuance is not a triumph of moral progress. It is stupidity masquerading as enlightenment. If we elide the two, then it is true that women will no longer feel the confusion and embarrassment I felt during my first couple of shifts. But we will also eliminate the opportunity for women to embody a position of strength and maturity that is only possible when confronted with sexual advances. There was nothing special about me as a 15 year-old girl. My sense of myself as a strong, free woman developed as a direct result of being subjected to the propositions of my coworkers. I said no. A lot. Saying no did not cause the jokes and the indecency to stop. Far from it. That part of restaurant culture remained very much alive. It was in fact an essential part of the health of the restaurant—funny though that sounds today—because it was accompanied by joy and toughness, and because it helped me to understand the power of my feminine sexual virtue. It felt like a superpower.

Contemporary feminism insists that the ideals of feminine virtue were a trick played on women by the patriarchy in order to keep female sexuality under control. Yet what I learned that summer was the opposite: my feminine virtue, traditionally understood, allowed me to control men. Women throughout the centuries have not primarily understood themselves as victims of patriarchal oppression—all one has to do is look to Jane Austen’s plucky heroines, or Shakespeare’s witty bar-wenches, or Chaucer’s sexual dynamo the Wife of Bath. But since the 1980s, young women, and men, have increasingly been taught that this has been the case, and we retroactively reinterpret the narratives of the past in order to reconfirm our own sense of moral progress. This has resulted, however, not in women becoming stronger, but rather in a pervasive culture of victimhood. One can’t be virtuous by the old standards, since those were devised by men to keep women oppressed, and one can’t claim to embody feminine virtue in itself, because that would essentialize gender, and we now know that gender is socially constructed. The only avenue left is to claim righteous indignation at the mistreatment of women by men. This is the narrative of perpetual victimization. It is a story of despair—plus it isn’t much fun!

Of course, a reasonable objection to the kind of sexually saturated culture I’m describing here is that an individual should be treated as a professional in their job, not as any kind of representative of gender and certainly not as a sexual object. Professional androgyny is the ideal. Yet I can’t think of a more Orwellian nightmare than everyone becoming reduced to their job, to their function in the service of… what? Corporate gain? Bureaucratic convenience? To their utility? As though the highest aim of humanity is to be treated as the mere conduit of some professional task?

Since my time at that restaurant, I have experienced professional sexual discrimination, and assault. I understand what it feels like. And I understand what a dirty joke feels like. If we have lost the ability to distinguish between the two, then there we are either a society of frankly stupid people who are calling a social triumph what is actually our inability to differentiate between coercive sexual threats and a kind of proletarian sexual rambunctiousness, or we are moving toward administrated and alienating human relations with a kind of gleeful despair. We are defining as justice what is really our transfer of sovereignty to impersonal and inhumane bureaucratic systems of authority.

If we maintain that a world without sexual commentary of any kind is better than a world in which one has to negotiate sexual advances—oh, the horror!—for oneself, then we are denying our young girls the opportunity to become strong, tough, and independent women who are capable of handling adult sexuality. If a joke is too much for us, then feminism has lost and it is time to bring out the Victorian fainting couch. When we enforce codes of behaviour that punish any kind of sexual suggestion or innuendo, we encourage the encroachment of officialdom, the rules that govern the polite formalities of the dining room, into the spaces that have traditionally operated in opposition to rigid authority. Human closeness and real respect is lost. And in its place reigns the totalitarian regime of institutionalized inoffensiveness.

It may be that contemporary consciousness raising feminism does not respect women, for it sees them as incapable of nuance and of being able to handle sexual situations. The coarse short order cooks who harassed the young 15 year-old hostess weren’t feminists. But they acted on the very premise that feminists once claimed as their own: they treated my younger self as someone tough enough to handle my own sexuality.

 

Marilyn Simon is a Shakespeare scholar and university instructor. She is currently working on a book on Shakespeare, Eros, and Female Agency.

119 Comments

  1. John says

    What a breath of fresh air. Reality!
    What a miserable future lies in store for snowflakes. They’re missing out on growth, and FUN!

    • David of Kirkland says

      It’s hard to demand respect when you can’t even be the adult and carry on a lewd conversation without becoming a victim.
      All physical attacks are bad. Men not only harass women, but they both other men more often.
      In the end, you make the decision on how to react. If you choose to feel a victim, you’ll be the victim, even when the “perp” was must messing with you.

    • David Murphy says

      Poor thing will be twitter lynched soon.

    • Trilby says

      Totally! I cannot stand the culture of victim-hood being perpetuated by the loudest voices today! As an early feminist, I don’t understand why young woman are retreating into this infantile state of needing protection from the big bad wolf, always. We wanted equality. What happened to that?

  2. ” Flaunting the rules that govern social niceties, …”. Flouting!

  3. Andrew Mcguiness says

    A few good points in this: the difference between sexual jokes and sexual harassment; the inhumaness of reducing everyone at work to their work position; and, of course, the desirability of women claiming their sexuality – both the joy and the responsibility.

  4. E. Olson says

    Good story – thanks for sharing. Sadly your tale of true feminine virtue has become subverted by the victimhood culture of Leftist politics. Just like all the recent racism hoaxes, which seem to be predicated on the lack of real racism to protest against, the “me too” movement has also been built on exaggeration and fiction as a means to join the sisterhood of victims. After all, how can a girl/woman who has never been raped, sexually assaulted or abused join the exclusive “me too” club?

    Instead of being thankful for never having been treated poorly, woman with no real victim story will need to be creative and search their memory for the time a co-worker told a dirty joke, or some guy brushed against them a little too eagerly in a crowded hallway, or some construction worker whistled at them, or some other innocuous/innocent incident that can be exaggerated and multiplied to generate a victimhood qualifying grievance.

    Or if a woman has been unfortunate enough to have had a consensual drunken sexual encounter with a guy who never called them back, or with a guy who sobriety revealed was not a “good catch”, you can gain a high status membership in the “me too” sisterhood and perhaps a bit of revenge by claiming rape even if the event took place years ago.

    Of course ultimate “me too” status can be attained by making up a compelling story. Is some conservative judge you sort of knew in high school 35 years ago is nominated for the Supreme Court, well do the sisterhood proud and earn yourself a cool million by saying he sexually assaulted you at a time and place you can’t recall. Have you ever had a boss who didn’t give you the promotion you deserved, well make that sexist pig pay by telling a story of constant sexual badgering, unwanted touching, and discrimination because you “didn’t put out” and join the “me too” sisterhood of victims. Just make sure the falsely accused misogynist is believable and unsympathetic to the sisterhood, the media, and the political Left – i.e. he must be some combination of wealthy/powerful, white, Christian, MAGA Republican, and heterosexual.

    • Anj says

      Like the hard left created the rise of the far right so does making light of sexual abuse create the ‘believe’ all women crazyness.
      You reap what you sow…..

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Anj

        But then we have the inflation of the currency of concern to the point of worthlessness. When a glance that lasts longer than five seconds is actionable, and when ‘assault’ becomes just about whatever some lady wants it to be, then ‘assault’ becomes a triviality and real assault gets lost in the shuffle. Are women today really safer than they were in my mom’s day?

        • Anj says

          You’re preaching to the converted. I more than agree it’s out of control & counter productive . My point is ignoring the real stuff has created this monster.

          For too long it’s been ‘tough titties’ for women because we ‘can’t prove it’ despite alleged strong social unacceptability. Now the unreasonable can name & shame it’s ‘tough titties’ back at ya. ‘Now you know how it feels’ to be vulnerable with out protections etc. Injustice ignored breeds vigilantism.

          There are consequences to inaction. ‘We shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of others’ you might say. How is a joke or a lingering look comparable?

          But are we all really without responsibility here? #Metoo initially proved how endemic real sexual harassment still was & our response is to cry over not being able to tell a joke. ‘Look at moi’?

          Go on then , keep knocking yourself out with man flu see where it ends….

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Anj

            “My point is ignoring the real stuff has created this monster.”

            Sure. I think of Bill Cosby — holy God, he was at it for half a century. Dozens of victims. I happen to know one of them. As much as I still believe in ‘innocent until proven guilty’, I also believe that any system that could permit the Cosby situation is grossly broken.

            But the monster is a monster regardless of how it got created. The current hysteria is no help to real women experiencing real interference, but it does manage to destroy the lives of innocent men and create a climate of terror. I think it will backfire badly.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      “After all, how can a girl/woman who has never been raped, sexually assaulted or abused join the exclusive “me too” club?”

      True, all women are Victims by definition, but the rich white girl sitting in her office in the Department of Wiminz Studies at Harvard might just run out of tears sometimes. How much better when her Victimhood is actualized. Did he look at me? The Male Gaze! And of course the closer one’s Oppression gets to something that might approach a real incident, the more status one has at #metoo. We live in a Victimocracy, and thus everyone who can be a Victim wants their story to be the most heart rending of all.

      Is this what happens when people never grow up? The spoiled little girl who doesn’t get what she wants puts on a distress display, does she not? Her tears say ‘poor me!’ And the more the tears, the more likely she is to get what she wants from mom or dad, since they are naturally attentive to the distress of their kid. (Kids of course quickly learn how to manipulate this, and wise parents used to know when they were being had on.) So, is the modern feminist merely the grown up version of the spoiled brat, feeling sorry for herself and hoping that her tears will gain her attention? The difference being that tears are replaced with Victimographies and what is wanted is not icecream, but a Nobel Prize?

      • E. Olson says

        Ray – the collective West are all spoiled brats given that we have never had it so good economically or politically or socially. Real racism and sexism is for all intents and purposes gone, which means “do-gooders” and the “resistance” increasingly have to resort to hoaxes against white heterosexual males to get attention for themselves and their “cause”. The pockets of true sexism, racism, and violent crime that remain are almost the exclusive provenance of blacks, Hispanics, illegals, and Muslims, and it wouldn’t be politically correct to criticize or protest them. And for the same reason (and fear of reprisal) it also seems to be against the “good gooder” religion to go after all the social injustices of the Muslim world.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @E. Olson

          “are all spoiled brats given that we have never had it so good economically or politically or socially”

          True, but surely there is a dichotomy to be made between Oppressors and Victims? I thank whatever gods may be for having been born where and when I was. I know how good I’ve got it. Contrast the Victims, especially the professional Victims. One might say I’m spoiled, but not in the same way.

      • …I sincerely believe most men are just ignorant or else this comment would be hard to understand. Almost every woman I know has been sexually assaulted. As in fell asleep and was penetrated, as in publicly had a man press their erection against them on buses (my sister as early as 11), as in passed out and someone touched them explicitly, as in said no but the man didn’t stop. Out of all of these women, myself included, only one ever reported anything. One. And she was turned into a complete laughing stock because no could imagine the “nice guy” doing that and didn’t have enough evidence. Well, guess what, a lot of the guys who act this way seem like “nice” guys to people they aren’t assaulting. Or they think it’s a joke and funny, so it’s okay to use another human as a passed our prop to their stunts. But it’s hard to have “proof”, so the vast majority of these incidents don’t get reported.

        Even the lady who wrote this article has been sexually discriminated against and assaulted. It’s epidemic. I don’t know any women “searching” their brains to be a part of it and coming up with tiny moments. I do see women coming to the conclusion this type of casual assumed access to woman’s bodies is present in even many seemingly small interactions in society.

        It’s like the black woman who flies into a rage when someone assumes she grew up in a rough neighborhood. It’s MINOR, but it’s a small piece of sand on an huge beach…and you’re getting the outrage of the beach, not the piece of sand. Because it seems as if the beach full of sand wouldn’t have been possible, those huge breaches in acceptable behavior would never have occurred, if the small breaches had been called out.

  5. Anj says

    The problem is the ‘only joking’ defence is often a beard & a licence to purposely degrade.
    “But tit for tat stooping to their level will show ’em plus it’s ‘fun’…”
    Yes, women can only benefit from more resilience but let’s not green light abuse for it just because some are well intentioned.

    • David of Kirkland says

      The thing is nearly all such banter is light hearted. It’s rare such talk is an actual threat.
      We’re told (regarding Biden’s recent “outing”) that it’s not what you do, but how others take it that matters. But that’s nonsense. How can I know what all others will think about my actions/words? My intent is all I have; I have zero control over you reaction.
      If I say, “Wow, you’re beautiful” and one woman takes it as a compliment, another who will instead snap back some wisecrack (“And you’ll just have your distant eyes to enjoy it with.” — ok, not so funny perhaps), another may yell back angrily (“F*** you ***hole), and another may apparently live in fear and depression because of the “verbal assault” causing real “injury.” Again, how can I know everyone else’s mind? Cannot.

      • Anj says

        @David of Kirkland

        “Nearly all banter is light hearted” but “how can i know everyone else’s mind”?
        Well which is it? Can’t have it both ways.
        Is it it so hard to play it safe?
        Is it so hard to accept diversity of thought?
        & here’s men demanding women have more fortitude…..

        • Stephanie says

          Arj, banter can be light-hearted and people can unreasonably take it badly. No conflict.

          It’s a sterile world where “playing it safe” means never complimenting anyone.

          • Anj says

            @Stephanie
            There’s this thing called ‘after hours’ where one idoesn’t have to fret ‘confusion’ over ‘mixed messages’ so much.
            But a ‘captive’audience with all the risks beats rejection….

    • V 2.0 says

      I’d hesitate to call it abuse unless someone loses a limb…

    • If this is what you’ve gotten from the article, then you’ve completely and utterly missed the point.

  6. dirk says

    For some reason, any extremism (whether islam, christian, racist, sexist, #meToo, fascist, communist) does not tolerate even slight hints of humor or irony. Has it to do with totalitarianism= lack of relativism??

    • Ray Andrews says

      @dirk

      That’s because laughter breaks the spell. All fundamentalisms rely on Purity and totality. Humor works by puncturing purity. It let’s the mind ‘relax’ for a brief moment, which feels good.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSmJhbd04yA

      I honestly believe that if some act like that had been seen by the whole of Germany in 1933, WWII would never have happened.

      Rule: Any person or movement that tries to silence the comedians, is EVIL.

      • dirk says

        Yes, indeed, where started that comedy? What was first, tragedy or comedy ??(I remember something, was it Aristolochus, the Birds?). Have to check that one right now!

    • David of Kirkland says

      And authority. They claim authority over your life because they claim my life impacts their well being. If #metoo was just about outing people’s bad behavior, it would just add shame. Instead, it’s used to hammer the “perpetrator” who said something off or made a joke or pretended to mess with you (Al Franken?). They don’t want to nudge you in what they think is a better way, but round you up and toss you out.

      • Jim Gorman says

        Yes, “They claim authority over your life because they claim my life impacts their well being” and consequently they assert their control over your liberty. What they refuse to acknowledge is that their passive aggressive control of your liberty impacts your well being in return.

        Instead of addressing it head on, as does the author, go to the boss, police, EEOC, or lawyer. Be a snowflake, be a victim. Let someone else pound you into submission.

        It reminds me of a circle. Women are learning to be victims along with being vindictive. You can’t be a victim and be powerful too, i.e. right back where they started.

  7. Hamish Alcorn says

    I’m a, you know, white hetero male… whatever. So I couldn’t have ever written about the glorious nuance of humanity. But this is fantastic. Thank you so much for writing it.

    It brings me back to when I was 15 working in a bakery, about 30 employees, about 25% women. At the time I was a rather repressed Christian so I by no means participated in any “harassment”, but I witnessed a lot of the above, and in retrospect see myself not as enlightened but repressed. What I witnessed was deeply healthy, and there was a lot of respect. There was humanity.

    Later on I got involved in theater, and backstage was frankly sexual, innuendo everywhere (a good portion of it gay) which was a fluid base for the creativity which occurred on stage. I fear that with the rigorous properness that is now being imposed backstage, the creativity is also dying a quick death. Theater is dying, and has itself to blame.

    Anyway, these are a couple of personal reflections. But, in short, thank you for writing this Marilyn. I hope you continue to rise in your power.

  8. FlashinthePan says

    Great essay. Resonates with me. It wasn’t just the men in the back of the house that I had to deal with, but some pretty obnoxious female cooks from the hood. I was a quivering mass for the first few weeks, but soon acquired the banter and self-confidence that comes with giving it back to them — which is how you earn respect and that people are always testing each other. Not only that, but this particular pizza place back in the early 80’s was one of the most diverse workplaces I’ve ever experienced; and certainly provided a better education than the university I would later attend.

    • E. Olson says

      Everyone born to privilege should spend a summer (or more) in a job with working class people, getting hands dirty, and muscles sore, doing the same crappy/difficult/unappreciated work that these people will be doing every day for the rest of their lives. It truly is a great education to get out of the privilege bubble of “educational” travel, unpaid internships, summer school, and country club swimming pools to interact with “real” people and see how they live and work. If nothing else, it definitely makes a person appreciate the privilege of having the smarts, means, and connections to attend a nice college or work in a cushy office.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        Nice to hear that from you! Yup, as a political rag-picker, I don’t have much good to say about Mao, except that I thought his idea of sending the rich, or folks who had become a bit too intellectual, into the fields for a crash course in manual labor studies was a very good idea and should even be compulsory.

        That was a badly run-on sentence.

        Put it in a more apt way, I’d say that everyone should have to live on a minimum wage, zero hours contract for a year and then we’ll hear their opinions on how good the working poor have it.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – I expect I’ve worked more crappy jobs than most, loading hay in 100 degree barns, cleaning public rest rooms, cleaning pools, mowing lawns, light plumbing, and unloading semi-trucks to name a few, and I enjoyed them all except the rest rooms, but was always glad to go back to school in the fall. About the only job I haven’t had is fast food, but one of the secrets to McDonald’s rise was that top management had to work the counter or kitchens regularly at a company store or franchise to see things first hand from the employee and customer point-of-view.

          You do gain empathy for the working class by doing such jobs, but you also see how being poor is often self-inflicted and how the welfare state screws up incentives. It was common to see people work only as long as necessary to qualify for unemployment or other benefits and then quit, or limit their hours to avoid earning too much and losing some benefits. I also saw how many spent lots of money on smokes, alcohol, gambling, and junk food even as they commented about being late on rent or loan payments. It was also easy to differentiate the reliable and hard workers from the slackers, as the good workers invariably got promoted or moved on to better jobs, while the slackers constantly moved between unemployment and “dead-end” jobs. Of course you can see many of the same things at the upper-end, as there are slackers and people with spending problems and vices at every level, but the frequency is unfortunately much higher on the low end, although I never saw the worst because my slacker vice-loving colleagues were at least employed much of the time.

          I think a big problem for many Leftists is that they have been too privileged in life to have any first hand experience with the poor, because the reality is that working poor who actually work and watch their spending a bit will not stay poor very long, which has been proven time and again by various immigrant groups who arrive penniless and end up owning businesses and sending their kids to medical school.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            It’s a respectable resume, and a valid perspective. Your sarcasm aside, it’s why I think K should cut you a bit of slack.

            “I think a big problem for many Leftists is that they have been too privileged in life to have any first hand experience with the poor”

            We share our contempt of the professional Victimographers. I once read a study that claimed that successful blacks are far less charitable toward failing blacks than are rich white liberals. As you say, that may very well be because the rich liberals really know nothing about it, whereas the successful blacks do. He’s a strange fellow, but I sure respect Dr. Ben C. I find it delightful that he doesn’t mind working for Trump, he has higher objectives that PC. He has no time for Identity. He just happens to be a Negro but that’s not important to him.

            “which has been proven time and again by various immigrant groups who arrive penniless and end up owning businesses and sending their kids to medical school.”

            Some of them, anyway. I do believe that sometimes there just aren’t opportunities for everyone. What I prefer to any social program is genuine opportunity — there are no unintended consequences.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – K certainly doesn’t need to cut me any slack, his responses are at least honest attempts to have discussion or debate rather than simple insults. I could be wrong, but I suspect I have a much broader level of experience and study of both the Left and the Right than he does. Hence I know the positions of the both sides and I reject the Left because while it often sounds good and might be well meaning, it almost never actually works.

            An out-of-touch Leftist will tend to believe that giving poor people money will be just what they need to move up in the world by giving them the means to afford a better education or invest in a business, because that is what they (and I) would do if we were to receive such a “gift” (aka welfare). Fortunately, I never received such a “gift”, but instead worked summer jobs starting when I was 13, and in high school and college worked 60 hours per week at two summer jobs (and 20 hours per week during the school year), invested most of the money in the stock market and finished school debt free. But as a high school or college kid working blue collar jobs, it became very apparent to me that giving most of these people “free” money would not lead them to start a business, invest in the stock market, or fund further education, and would instead simply be spent on vices and junk and be gone. And for the minority of working class people who might productively utilize such welfare, there was usually no need for them to have it because they had good work habits and skills and were working their way up the income ladder through their own initiative. Ben Carson is clearly one of those inspirational types, and look at the shameful way he has been treated by the media, black leadership, and political Left.

            I disagree with your statement that “sometimes there aren’t opportunities for everyone”. I didn’t work cleaning toilets because that was my preferred type of work, I did it because that was the best job available during a recession when millions of teenage baby boomers were also looking for summer jobs. If you want to work, and are willing to do low status/stinky jobs with a low starting wage, there is almost always going to be someone that will hire you, and if you show up on-time and do a good job, you will earn more and you will find more opportunities including working for yourself mowing lawns or painting houses (yup done that also). Opportunity is out there, but if you pay people to not work because they are “victims”, they will almost always remain dependent victims, which is why I believe most of the welfare state is detrimental to the health and wealth of society.

    • David of Kirkland says

      How does a 15 year even arrive at the age of 15 with so many years in school to not have learned how such bad jokes go back and forth? That kind of verbal harassment was part of daily life; perhaps they’ve reduced bullying so much that kids don’t develop a thick skin, a sense of humor, and how to return with another quip. If you don’t exercise it, you’ll be soft.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        ” while it often sounds good and might be well meaning, it almost never actually works.”

        We are not far from agreement. But I’d say that it can and often does fail, not that it almost never works. Public libraries, scholarships for the bright but poor student, public works employment, and many other efforts have proven successful.

        ” would instead simply be spent on vices and junk and be gone.”

        You certainly have a more dismal view of the poor than I do. However true what you say can be, my own experience with the poor, especially the working poor, is that few of them want to be losers. I’ve known even close relatives who got stuck in a rut for a while, but when they busted free, they were sure happy.

        “there is almost always going to be someone that will hire you,”

        Unless there is a Honduran illegal willing to do it for less. But I think we agree about that.

        “but if you pay people to not work because they are “victims”, they will almost always remain dependent victims,”

        I entirely agree. The cult of the Victim needs to be abolished. One of the things I like so much about UBI is that it demolishes Victimhood.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – I have no trouble with public libraries or scholarships for bright poor students, but my experience suggests that the lower classes don’t visit libraries very often for the books (homeless use them to get out of the rain and use the restrooms). Similarly, money is not a problem for a bright poor student of color or other victim status, as schools are falling all over themselves to boost their diversity demographics by waiving tuition and fees for everyone but poor white kids. Instead the problem is there just aren’t that many bright poor kids (unless they are Asian).

          I would agree with you that most working poor don’t want to be losers, but bad decisions and loser enabling welfare keeps too many from taking advantage of opportunities that are available. And I’m also all for keeping illegals out of Western countries, and any politician who claims to be concerned about the poor and working poor citizens should be laying bricks at the border rather than calling for the abolition of ICE.

          UBI won’t work for the same reasons other welfare doesn’t work. Give me an extra grand per month and I’ll invest it and have an extra few hundred thousand for retirement, but give most lower class citizens an extra grand per month and the liquor stores and casinos will get the bulk of it. This is why we have food stamps and housing vouchers, because in theory they can only be used for food and housing instead of vices.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Flashinthepan: Same. I was a barman for several years. Learned so much more about life from serving people drinks than from any college education. Some of the most rampant alcoholics I met certainly more humor and wisdom than the educated PhD people I work with today. I believe that that experience made me a better teacher than my Education degree.

  9. Barney Doran says

    Wonderful article that should be read by young people across the country. so that both sexes (sorry, I know that is against the law) can take a closer look at themselves. But is it too late? The American male is being emasculated wherever institutionalized social justice is taking dominance, and the American female is putting on jackboots, yet retreating into safe places. What seems to be the goal of all this is a desexification/degenderization of the entire population that will result in an Orwellian world of blank trolls obedient to their all knowing, all controlling masters. Look out, kids. It is not going to be fun, and you can take that as a trigger warning.

      • Wallace Simpson says

        I say the same thing regularly- I am glad I am 60 and not 30.

        I fear that my own offspring will find themselves in a joyless, colourless world 20 or 30 years from now.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Barney Doran: I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. It’s like news and social media are transforming us into a hive mind and hives consist mostly of sexless worker drones. George Lucas’ film THX-1138 was oddly prescient: a dystopian society where everyone is drugged up, can’t relate to each other and can only get off to porn. And every move is policed by camp robots.

      If you haven’t seen this film, I strongly recommend it. It’s probably a bit slow and dated by today’s standards, but it does a good job conveying the social claustrophobia we are experiencing today.

  10. Wentworth Horton says

    What we are learning through our little experiment with Marxist Feminism is that Govt edicts make terrible replacement for social norms. And that neither the Marxist Feminists or the Govt particularly care about that. Any adult male that can’t check his lizard brain in the presence of a 15yr old girl needs his ears boxed.

  11. andrewilliamson says

    “Losing the ability to appreciate nuance is not a triumph of moral progress. It is stupidity masquerading as enlightenment.”

    Stealing this.

  12. Daniel V says

    This really reminds me of something I read about the priesthood in the middle ages. It was about their shock at the sexual behaviour of the peasents. Despite them bej G otherwise devout and coming faithfully to sit in the pews to listen to the church’s moral directives on how people ought to behave in their everyday life they disregarded it all. They were having lots of sex and didn’t seem to care about warnings of being damned to hell.

    The problem with the priests is they lacked the perspective of what life was really like for the common people. Much in the same way intellectuals tend to forget not everyone has the privilege of living in a white collar world where the majority is educated and stable.

    I spent 15 years working quick service restaurants and only left the food industry 4 years ago for white collar work. The difference is massive. Much of which is because it’s a jump from the lower class world to the middle class world. When you’re comfortable financially your needs change. There isn’t as much of a need to fall back on traditional roles. There isn’t as much shared struggle to bond with coworkers over and there isn’t the same tribal identity. Nor are there as many uneducated crass people with a myriad of untreated mental health issues, like adhd or autism, who can’t navigate social situations.

    In the low class world gender roles still provide comfort and order to peoples lives. They provide predictability and lay out social norms to follow. It feels good protecting the front of house girls as they walk to their cars at night or intervening when a customer crosses the line and speaks to them in way they shouldn’t. It’s also very clear the women themselves are not fragile meek things being oppressed by the men as they set the limits and the men follow them. Men that don’t are sure to be set straight by other men.

    • Heike says

      It doesn’t matter. They consider us deplorable. The distance between progressive intellectuals and the American working class is now huge. I do not see this changing in the future. They will bring in immigrants instead of deal with working class problems.

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Heike: yes, but I worry about this a lot. We’re losing social cohesion because of it. The middle class hate the working class, particularly in the US. I have no idea why that is. As a recent immigrant to the US, I much prefer Trump supporters. They’re more fun loving and honest. I find liberal benevolence is actually contempt in disguise.

  13. Lightning Rose says

    AWESOME article–a voice from the Real World that is so often absent on Quillette! Personally, I think if the new-breed “feminists” get their way, men will be forever reduced to PornHub and women to ordering sperm from Amazon, free shipping for orders over 25 bucks.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Lightning Rose

      The sperm harvested surgically of course. Orgasm licenses having been suspended for men until such times as Equitron computes that the ‘orgasm gap’ has been closed, and retroactively equalized taking the entire history of H. Sapiens into the equation.

  14. derek says

    My work takes me into workplaces and i experience the lewd banter all the time, mostly from women. I’ll be focused on some technical task and the back and forth among the women would curl your hair. I suspect it is to embarrass me or get some reaction, and when i react with a bit of a smile and keep working out gets even more descriptive. Like play by play description of sex with their husband, more information than i ever wanted to know about some female malady. These are women i frequently encounter in and out of the workplace.

    It is all great fun. Sometimes I’ll say an overwrought ‘too much information’ and everyone laughs, and we go on with our day.

    And yes the women i deal with have power. I see capable women controlling men in amazing ways. I find that the healthy workplace where people are happy and enjoying their work are characterized by informal banter.

    I suspect we will see a rebellion against the bureaucratic imposition of ‘professionalism’. I hope we do, unless all character has been beaten of of the next generation.

  15. Chad Chen says

    This article is more evidence of the profoundly unhealthy nature of heterosexual interactions in North America.

    Most men are too needy, and make too much fuss about women. Too many are masochists; some can’t seem to recognize that they shouldn’t have to put up with unreasonable demands. Most sex is trivial. Most sexual needs can be fulfilled with porn if suitable women aren’t willing. Don’t embarass yourself just for a brief encounter with malodorous flesh. Most women will be only too happy to take full advantage of you.

    Men of the John Wayne era had many faults, but most of them kept their dignity. They have plenty of lessons for this generation.

    • Kencathedrsu says

      @Chad Chen: I find this too. American men don’t seem able to stand up to women verbally. They treat women like they’re time-bombs about to go off and, rather than face confrontation, go out of their way to mollify or placate them, which usually only serves to exacerbate the behavior they are trying to prevent. I also am under the impression that American women really really hate men. It’s just a vibe I pick up here that I’ve never sensed in any other country. I’m talking generally here. I know many loving American couples to which this doesn’t apply.

  16. Maxim Kryzhny says

    Losing the ability to appreciate nuance is not a triumph of moral progress. It is stupidity masquerading as enlightenment.

    well said

  17. Kristina says

    Thanks for this. I am 32 years old, feel the same way, and yet have hesitated to express these feelings in the face of such metoo opposition. Interesting that the author studies Shakespeare–theater is one of those things that will make you so much more of an open person. The greatest vehicles of personal empowerment for me came from the theater, both from playing sexually charged characters on stage and from the bawdy exchanges of backstage. I wish some of these metoo puritans would try out some theater or standup comedy and feel the wonderful sense of freedom that comes from getting out of yourself.

    • dirk says

      You’re very young Kristina, nice, and, of course, theater and #meToo bite one another as anything. Catherine Deneuve in her latest letter (with 100 other actrices): men should have ” liberte d’ importuner”, the freedom to misbehave (=galanterie), but don’t come with this in libertarian USA, where that poor Biden is even attacked by some woman kissed by him, 5 yrs ago, (not on the mouth, but) somewhere behind on her head. Jesus Christ, can anybody believe this??

      • E. Olson says

        dirk – Biden is deemed insufficiently woke, dark, female, and homosexual. He therefore has to go, because he is too popular and might win the nomination instead of someone further left and less pale and toxic male. If Joe is truly serious about running and winning the nomination, he needs to immediately come out as a woman of color who advocates free college, free medical, open borders, unisex bathrooms and locker rooms, and shutting down the oil industry.

  18. Eliza says

    So nobody here has the slightest problem with men in their mid-twenties sexually proposition ing a 15-year-old? Are statutory rape laws a symptom of political correctness too?

    • Anj says

      Twas ‘only a joke’ remember & she thought it was ‘fun’…..

    • Tim says

      Good point Eliza. Best one since the other fundamentalist scolds came up with purity rings. If you outlaw jokes only outlaws will crack jokes. And rape will still happen, it’s not caused by jokes, btw

    • Farris says

      @Eliza

      Respectfully, I think you missed the point. There are cads in the world, generally more prevalent among high school drop outs and convicted felons. I suspect if her daddy had known he would have been down there with a 34oz Louisville Slugger. But daddy and law enforcement can’t always be there when the cads emerge. The point is the author learned how to deal with these jokers, became empowered and earned their respect.

  19. MoreTemperate says

    A breath of fresh air indeed! Thank you! It reminded me of my own experience of growing up with older brothers thanks to whose relentless teasing I learned to hold my own and give as good as I got. After A levels I worked as a tea lady in an engine factory. Identifying me as a “nice girl”, the other tea ladies took care to keep me off the factory floor. They were perfectly capable of handling the “frisky” men but were not sure whether I would be. I often wonder what they make of #metoo…

  20. Tim says

    Marilyn, If I told you that you have a great body, would you hold it against me?

    Getting outside the sexual realm, working class men joke this way about race & ethnicity with each other. I’m sure it would sound corse and racist to more refined ears, but it’s just bonding and fun and making the day go by with a laugh.

    • This is a wonderfully written piece. Entertaining and insightful.

      Classically, violence was considered the domain of males and sexual power the province of females. In most conservative, male oriented, cultures the control of sex was considered vital, at least among THE BETTER ELEMENTS of society.

      We in the west criticize the black full bodied burkkas worn by traditional Saudi Arabian women – viewing the garment as a sign of male oppression. Yet, in the Middle East these are considered the sorts of female attire that show respect and recognition of the power of a woman’s charms.

      Without such covering (so the Middle-Eastern romantics claim) all men would soon fall under the irresistible power of women!

      Conservative Middle-Easterners look at the bikini wearing females of Europe and America and feel sorry for them. They imagine that western women are made to parade like strumpets for the western male’s lascivious and voyeuristic entertainment.

      (Its funny how both cultures “blame men” for what they see as the difficulties of their women)

      In reality, as the social world becomes more hospitable to women everywhere her traditional power (sexual expression) is being enhanced while his (violence) is being ever more restricted.

      It is he who brings the and, flowers, and diamond rings to her. She only has to bring herself.

      As the world has become a richer and more peaceful place women have come out of the home to make a larger impression and to alter social attitudes.

      With her has come her preferences.

      Violence has no place anywhere … everyone’s voice matters …. and the beautiful begins to outshine the strong.

      Conservatives wince at the transition … and the realization that if the trend continues they must anticipate that in the next century all will be made to confess that IT IS NOW A WOMAN’S WORLD.

      The traditionalists may weep:

      This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
      But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

      • Stephanie says

        SMF, more than feeling bad for Western women, Muslim men simply see them as sluts. They reveal this in their talk about the hijab, which makes sense because it was a dying custom until newly oil-rich fundamentalists got spooked by Western feminism.

        It is obligatory in countries like Saudi Arabia to at least cover the hair, wrists, and ankles, so it cannot reasonably be deemed the judgement of individual Muslim women to cover themselves so. Try wearing shorts even in a country as moderate as Morocco, and you’ll be raped faster than you can say “religion of peace.” This may be a recognition of the woman’s power, but only insofar as it keeps it entirely controlled. Female sexual power cannot exist when it is coerced by the state or omnipresent threat of assault.

        I think that’s a far cry from the relatively trivial, non-systemic instances of sexism we see in the West. We should be profoundly grateful to have evolved past such barbarism, and be deeply concerned about how we’re importing it wholesale. It would be nice if we talked less about Biden’s creepy hair sniffing and more about grooming gangs and skyrocketing occurances of rape.

        • Stephanie,

          Many Muslim men certainly do see western women as sluts.

          I spent a year in Turkey (a long time ago) and the women who accompanied us there were briefed not to be taken aback if a cab driver turned around (or local man walked right up to them) and asked if they wanted to have sex.

          Our women were told that these local men were not threatening them … but their only understanding of American women was what they saw on American TV shows and movies … where many featured pretty girls meeting, bedding, and dumping any number of men in a given 30 minute episode.

          So, some of the local Turks simply imagined that in America, the women need only be approached and they could be counted upon to be accommodating.

          Far from being lascivious, I spent some time in Riyadh Saudi Arabia where the Americans had “piped-in” American TV … and when a scantily clad women came on screen, fully grown Saudi men would turn their heads or divert their eyes feeling like they were “sinning” just to look upon the exposed arm or leg of a female.

          Assailing women, or openly calling them ho’s or sluts is something one might see or hear every day on American radio or TV – or witness in the street in the United States. But it is hard to imagine such a thing occurring frequently in the Middle East. (outside of a war zone)

          (Though they may think it!)

          Have you been to Morocco or other Middle Eastern countries?

          In nations like Saudi Arabia men won’t even touch women (not even their religious police) so the idea that a female wearing shorts (unimaginable there of course) would be raped on sight seems a bit far-fetched.

          You mentioned Morocco, I have never been there, though my son-in-law is Moroccan.

          Maybe you have personal experiences there or in other Middle Eastern nations?

          Also, you mentioned “skyrocketing occurrences of rape” I assume you mean in the United States. What do you think should be done about this?

        • dirk says

          Sorry Stepahnie, but here you don’t see the new meaning of indictment of hair sniffing. Biden has political ambitions, and, thus, anxious ones to see Humpty Dumpty fall from the wall (greatly). Before, you had to do quite some sniffing and poking before you could find something, but, now, with #meToo, 4th feminism , puritanism and this victimism, efforts go much more smoothly. I’m not an important person, but I’m quite sure that if, there would certainly also have been a hair sniffing episode in my life, 30 or 40 yrs ago.

    • Anj says

      When I was 16 I used to walk from the station to my job in Auburn Sydney, a heavily new immigrant populated area where I was daily cat called with ‘how much’, ‘do you swallow’ & ‘where is the local brothel’ etc by groups of unemployed men who used gather in the town square. I didn’t get the joke/nuance so as soon as i could i’d drive in.

      I used to brush it off with the old ‘cultural’ excuse too & indeed it was. Off the streets ‘under the veil’ & out of the cats reach for ‘my own good’ or face the consequences. I learn’t my lesson well. We ‘bonded’ when I was forced to play their game….

  21. y81 says

    Although it would be a grim vision to have us all reduced to professional androgynes laboring in the service of JP Morgan and Google, my observation of the young people in our office suggests that their response to the pressure against sexual comment is to split into single sex groups. Megan McArdle once wrote that there is much less sexual humor in workplaces than there used to be, to which I can only respond, “It returns once you leave the room.” (I can’t speak to conversations in rooms of all women, because I’ve never been in one.) So there remains considerable camaraderie, fed in part by sexual banter, in all male groups, of which there are many in the worlds of capital and big tech, but much less camaraderie in mixed groups.

  22. This article, read by someone 50 years from now, will be as incomprehensible to them as Ovid’s Arms Amatoria is to a young, present-day reader. Although, who am I kidding? What young person would read Ovid these days?

    American feminism is steadily destroying essential components of what makes life worth living, gnawing away at our ability to experience ‘joie de vivre’. It has been making both men and women more miserable, bending them out of tune with their delightful innermost impulses and making us all breath heavily under a cloak of revived puritanism, constantly facing the threat of ostracism and mob shaming over some of the very things that always made us tick.

    And let me digress a little bit.

    It is a lucky time indeed for our new moral dictators. The overlords at Facebook, Google and Twitter, with their armies of smart but spineless, baby-minded and merely-money-driven ubernerds are more than happy to help usher in this new era and enforce the new rules. The bulk of the world’s brain power is now going into developing silly apps that robotize human experience, under the pretext of “enriching it”, when in fact the net result is the opposite.

    What happened to the old dreams of mankind, when even the fierce competition between the two world superpowers of yore were partly inspired in the shared goals of building bigger rockets, cracking nuclear fusion, colonizing planets and ultimately embarking on interstellar travel? A foggy memory now. Improving Tinder and perfecting speech control in this infantile social media dominated new reality takes precedence.

    • jakesbrain says

      American feminism is steadily destroying essential components of what makes life worth living, gnawing away at our ability to experience ‘joie de vivre’. It has been making both men and women more miserable, bending them out of tune with their delightful innermost impulses and making us all breath heavily under a cloak of revived puritanism, constantly facing the threat of ostracism and mob shaming over some of the very things that always made us tick.

      Orwell foresaw it. How do you ensure total dedication to the Party? Remove all sources of joy or happiness other than the pleasure of crushing political dissidence.

  23. TJR says

    Love that “proletarian sexual rambunctiousness”.

    This nicely illustrates that “political correctness” (or whatever you want to call it) is a fundamentally upper/middle class thing. It is, in effect, just the attempt to impose upper/middle class taboos and mores onto everybody else.

    Personally I hated the sort of working-class bantering environment I grew up in, and much prefer the middle-class politeness I live in now, but this doen’t mean I think I have the right to impose it on anyone else. Unfortunately a lot of people born upper/middle class seem to think they do have that right.

  24. I miss the 90’s, when women could hold their own:

    [W] = Woman’s retort

    Ayo sweetie, you’re lookin kinda pretty
    What’s a girl like you, doin in this rough city
    [W] I’m just here tryin to hold my own ground
    Yeah, I think I like how that sound
    What you say we gets to know each other better?
    [W] That sounds good but I don’t think that I can let ya
    I don’t know, tell me is it so
    Do you get a kick, out of tellin brothers no?
    [W] No it’s not that see you don’t understand
    [W] How should I put it? I got a man
    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I told ya
    I’m not tryin to hear that see
    [W] I’m not one of those girls that go rippin around
    I’m not a duck baby, so don’t play me like a clown
    [W] I’ll admit, I like how you kick it
    Now you’re talkin baby, dats da ticket
    [W] Now don’t get excited and chuck your own hand
    [W] I already told ya, I got a man

    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that see
    [W] I got a man
    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that

    [W] Now you can persist to play Don Juan all night
    [W] But ain’t nothin gonna change
    Yeah baby, sure, yeah right
    I’mma break it down and do whatever I gots to do
    I tell you know, I got eyes for you
    [W] You got eyes, but they not for me
    [W] You better use them for what they for and that’s to see
    You know what’s the problem, you’re young and still learnin’
    I’m Big Daddy Longstroke, and your man’s Pee Wee Herman
    [W] I got a question to ask you, troop
    [W] Are you a chef, ’cause you keep feedin me soup
    You know what they say about those who sweat theyself
    You might find yourself, by yourself
    I’m not waiting because I’m no waiter
    So when I blow up, don’t try to kick it to me later
    [W] All them girls must got you gassed
    Well, when they see a good thing they don’t let it pass
    [W] Well that’s OK, ’cause see if that’s their plan
    [W] ‘Cause for me, I already got a man

    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that see
    [W] I got a man
    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that

    What am I, some crab inmate
    That just came home from jail sweatin you for a date?
    I don’t want no beef, I just wants to get together
    [W] But how you talkin? Pssssh, whatevah!
    We can’t have nothin
    [W] It all depends
    Well, if we can’t be lovers then we can’t be friends
    [W] Well, then I guess it’s nothing
    Well, hey I think you’re bluffing
    [W] Well, I’mma call my man
    Well, I can get raggamuffin
    Ya better catch a flashback remember I’m not crabbin it
    You know my style, from “I’m Not Havin It”
    [W] All I remember’s an ‘excuse me, miss’
    [W] You can’t get a girl like me with a line like this
    Well, look I’ll treat you good
    [W] My man treats me better
    I talk sweet on the phone
    [W] My man writes love letters
    I’ll tell you that I want you, and tell you that I care
    [W] My man says the same except he’s sincere
    Well, I’m clean cut and dapper, that’s what I’m about
    [W] My man buys me things and he takes me out
    Well, you can keep your man ’cause I don’t know that route
    [W] Don’t you know you haffa respeck me
    There’s a lot of girls out there who won’t say no
    [W] You’re out for mami with your DJ Money
    Boom batter my pockets is gettin fatter
    I wanna turn you on and excite you
    Let me know the spot on your body and I bite you
    So when your man don’t treat you like he used to
    I kick in like a turbo booster
    You want lovin, you don’t have to ask when
    Your man’s a headache, I’ll be your aspirin
    All confusion, you know I’ll solve em
    [W] I got a man
    You got a what?
    How long you had that problem?

    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that see
    [W] I got a man
    What’s your man got to do with me?
    [W] I got a man
    I’m not tryin to hear that
    [W] I got a man
    Aiyyo baby put the dial numbers or your address
    [W] I got a man
    I told ya I treat you right
    [W] I got a man
    Aww c’mon now ain’t no future in frontin
    [W] I’m not havin it
    C’mon Miss, oh we back on that again?
    Uhh, I’m not tryin to hear that see
    [W] I got a man
    But your man ain’t me
    [W] Uhh, uhh, I got a man
    You got a WHAT?
    [W] Uhh, uhh, uhh, I got a man
    You got a WHAT?

  25. John L says

    Loved this essay, thank you.

    In my working class days there’s no way I would have made sexual jokes to a 15 year old girl, but I would teased and given her a hard time.

  26. the gardner says

    Great article, brought back memories of my own experiences in the 70s and 80s with frisky young professors and coworkers. Every little innuendo, longing stare, standing a bit too close at the lab bench was an opportunity to learn how to respond “No” and “No means no” in nice but firm ways. My replies got more confident each time, and yeah, I learned who had the power. Oh, these guys could give me a low grade or make my job difficult, but I figured out I had ways to embarrass them too.
    Ladies, I’ll share an effective technique: Say some jerk is coming on to you and it’s annoying. So, catch his gaze and hold it. Let him think you’re interested. Then slowly lower your gaze to his zipper, hold your gaze, hold it, hold it…..then cover your mouth and snicker. Works like a charm! Who has the power?

    • Grant says

      Well, those men who would punish you for declining their advances deserved it. I hope a genuine heart was standing a little too close at the lab table one day.

    • Grant says

      Hey hey can I swing by your lab table and get the zipper eye?

    • Coffee Klatch says

      I don’t know. I think it’s more powerful to look him straight in the fucking eye and say “I’m going to report you for that, and have your job.”

  27. Rational Number says

    But shown how to use in a positive way.

  28. Charles G says

    Absolutely fantastic. Enjoyed this immensely.

  29. Sydney says

    (Someone may already have brought Louis CK into the comments section.)

    The Louis CK issue appears now to have been a situation where fully adult women – in this case, comics in their workplace – participated in workplace sexual banter, off-colour playfulness, and flirting with a colleague in a club where they all worked. Things went too far. They were all out of line (and likely a little drunk or high – these are comedy clubs, after all, and not law courts), and a guy with a kinky proclivity (that should have remained private) took it too far.

    As an outsider (and a woman) I don’t believe that Louis CK’s masturbation was a genuine #metoo moment.

    Did those women have a moment of collective hysteria where they convinced themselves and each other that they had somehow been assaulted? #metoo’ers will shriek that the women were oppressed by Louis’ power; but that begs an obvious question: How did these tough, badass, grown comics lack agency to walk out of a room where a man ASKED if he could masturbate?

    Louis CK is already back (because he’s funny and talented, not because of patriarchy), and those women have already disappeared into the ether. Some #metoo story.

  30. Canadian Moxie says

    Firstly, it’s a naive misunderstanding of Jane Austen’s heroines to state that they were not victims of patriarchy. Think of the Bennett girls whose worth was entirely dependent on their ability to marry well. Secondly, it’s one thing to recount sexual banter in a restaurant as no big deal(of course not, it wasn’t your career, it was a part-time job); it’s quite another to suffer it when you’re an engineer trying to be taken seriously and advance your career. It’s unprofessional and inexcusable.

    • Peter Kriens says

      @Canadian Moxie Why? Isn’t that the problem that you want to be taken serious without doing the work? You normally gain that respect because you do great work, not because you’re just there. Clearly people will test you to see if you hold up under stress, like all men, and you can be relied upon when the shit hits the fan. I’d be afraid to work with you because you sound you’ll explode at the first misunderstanding.

      And isn’t it better to just have it out in the open how people feel about you? Why force other people to continuously police their thoughts. Just don’t give a rats ass what they say or think and do your work, sticking it to them with humour when you got the chance.

      • Anj says

        Wassamatter Kriens? Can’t focus without telling the world how you feel? Gotta show em whose top rooster first? Only nudy rudy jokes are funny?
        When the shit hits the fan self control helps….

      • Canadian Moxie says

        Wow, you know nothing about me. I was a director at an engineering firm with a 6 figure salary. I most definitely got my position because I did great work and I was highly respected. However, it didn’t stop some men from commenting on my butt and making inappropriate sexual jokes. I saw this as a statement of their own discomfort with my success and I don’t think any professional woman should have to put up with that.

    • ga gamba says

      …. it’s quite another to suffer it when you’re an engineer trying to be taken seriously and advance your career. It’s unprofessional and inexcusable.

      If only things hadn’t been named dongle, female receptacle, and the like. What is envisioned when ‘jacking in” is uttered? Can backfill be a double entendre? And if the boss invites you to reach out to him, what else is being implied?

      And don’t get me started on the sexism of schematic symbols such as ——> and >—— .

      Still, some women are freaked out by the word moist.

  31. Nick Podmore says

    What a an eloquent and beautifully written piece. I am a young 50 and remember my early days at work filled with much of the same banter…but the other way around! I was decent looking lad in my youth and working at the bottom in an office environment filled mostly with woman I became the perfect target for their bawdy humour and teasing, especially from the older married women who had no shame! It was a happy vibrant and free environment in which to work and everyone knew the rules and everyone knew it was fun. It did, however, pave the way for many romances and this open flirting “hidden” in the group banter led to many relationships which exist to this day. I never, ever once heard of anyone complaining and if it had been suggested we shut up it would have destroyed our little office community and ruined the atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship! Not to mention regular raucous nights at the pub which ended inevitably in some casual hooks ups which would lead to even more raucous and ribald teasing the morning after. I genuinely miss those days and when I speak to my female peers, so do they….

  32. S Snell says

    This essay should be required reading for every nattering, social-justice-warring, purity-displaying Leftist.

    Never mind, they wouldn’t get it anyway.

    • dirk says

      Of course not, Snell, you read only what stiffens you in your own bubble, and the title of the piece (often you can guess the intentions already) is often enough to go on with reading or not, at least, that’s how I read my newspaper also, simple comme un jour. I don’t read articles where the bioindustry is defended, or can guess another case of victimisation in the cadre of #meToo, somebody complaining that, 30 yrs ago, some old male (in the meantime, not then) kissed her somewhere behind on the head.

      • JohnD says

        My observation regarding the age demographics of feminist rallys is that it is bimodal, a lot of high school girls and a lot of 60+ seniors, few in the 18 to 45 age range. I think that is instructive and the result of the, very real but rarely mentioned, asymmetrical power dynamic described in the post.

    • Robert Franklin says

      They already have their ready-made reply: “rape apologist, victim of patriarchy, internalized misogyny.”

  33. Robert Franklin says

    Ms. Simon – And don’t forget that the guys in the back respected you far more for your ability to give back the jibes than if you’d receded behind a veil of delicacy. They particularly respected you because you were young and could do so. Those jibes were an invitation to become part of their male world, to become, as it were, one of the boys. Congratulations for understanding that.

  34. Constantin says

    I kept reading and thinking how envious I was becoming of such clear and engaging writing. And then I see that the author is a Shakespeare scholar. It shows! It is a rare treat to enjoy in one serving cutting whit, valuable insight, courage, and refined expression. Thank you! This article blew it out of the park and shall remain a star among the absolute best contributions.

  35. Grant says

    Women often do not ever quite understand the intensity of sexuality of young men. When hormones start coursing through our veins, we are in a constant battle.
    There was a sort of veil over the whole business when I was young. We all knew about it but that thin veneer of social acceptability was the norm.
    Good. Young women had the power as gate keepers of sex and they knew it. Jokes were made, young men pleaded and cajoled, but women ultimately chose.
    There were some young men who couldn’t control themselves and they would say or do anything to entice a girl into sex. Those girls, desiring acceptance and love, often fell for it. But there was an order to it, a wink and a nod to the fact that boys will be boys, but the realization that men also desired companionship, loyalty, stability, sexual intimacy and children.
    No amount of intellectual contrivances, or grievances can greatly alter our base instincts. And I’m glad.

    • Coffee Klatch says

      You’ll want to learn how to shut the fuck up in the workplace, or you can find a new job.

  36. Aaron Sarin says

    One of the best pieces I’ve read on Quillette.

  37. xyz and such says

    Hmmmm…

    I’m one of those women who feels like the MeToo movement has massively over-reached, and is upset by the pathologizing of masculinity.

    HOWEVER…
    this article actually causes me pause and concern, and even makes me question my stance. This kind of behavior is not ok, and while great for the author that she ‘handled’ it in what she felt was a positive and empowered way; I think there is a serious problem if anyone feels like this kind of environment in a ‘professional’ or public context is acceptable.

    To my fellow IDW fans of the middle ground: it’s a problem when any ‘position’ is embraced without a willingness to continue to challenge aspects of your own arguments. Just because there is over-reach, doesn’t mean that there aren’t real issues that need to be considered. You can be against the over-reach of the MeToo movement and the progressive narrative about masculinity and ALSO push back against disgusting behaviors by people who don’t want to act respectfully toward one-another. Sorry, I just think the author’s description of her (unhealthy) work environment, as well as her reaction to it are signs of a corrupted culture.

    • xyz and such says

      after reading the large majority of posts here, and seeing they are championing this article, I am really questioning my stance in criticizing the MeToo movement. When people are willing to defend offensive behaviors to this degree, I think there is a problem. I can’t support the pathologizing of masculinity; however, it seems that our thinking as a culture has become so corrupted that we are willing to excuse ugliness in how we treat one-another- although I don’t believe it’s the fault of ‘masculinity’. Real masculinity isn’t about disrespecting others. Not sure the solution. Maybe there isn’t one.

      • Anj of Green Gables says

        Great post.
        And isn’t IDW supposed champion objectivity & balanced argument?
        Seems exploitation is not only an affliction of leftists/rightists as clearly some ‘mascunists’ have been dipping their fingers in the IDW cookie jar.
        Oh dear, how arrogant of us to believe WE were beyond using a cause?

      • dirk says

        What I think, xyz, certain behaviour and talk depends very much on the ambience and class where one is moving around. When I first entered bars frequented by rumbunctious worker class, I was stupefied by certain remarks there, they would be highly disrespectful and offensive (even completely unheard of) in other circles, but I noted no uncomfortable feelings at all there, at the contrary, some of the girls were laughing, bot most weren’t even listening to the naughty boys.

  38. “The only avenue left is to claim righteous indignation at the mistreatment of women by men. ” In fact it seeks to make even the idea that men are attracted to women forbidden, that somehow men and women will get together and have sex without ever there being a lustful look,without flirtation. It seeks to deny that women dress to be looked at and that men like to look. Idiots.

  39. Thatcher Cardon says

    Enjoyed your article. But it seems almost that you have raised boorish behaviour to a virtue. The situation is not a dichotomy. There is at least one more option where we tease and joke with each other in less crass ways and save sex for marriage.

  40. Sara says

    Some excellent points here, particularly about responsibility in owning your position in crass humor (participate/reject) and empowerment (you can say no AND you can say yes). I think the author is inviting conversations about sexuality in a Western culture drenched in political correctness. Forcing a you vs me, us vs them, yes vs. no, right vs. left lens in every single interaction we have, constantly diminishes our ability to appreciate nuance or see the value of the consequences our choices as individuals have. I like the saying, “There are usually three sides to every story: your’s, mine, and the truth”. When we operate with the idea that perception is the reality and neglect to see it from the point of view of another, we do ourselves a great disservice. I think we let people off the hook far too often for taking responsibility for their own agency, in order to blame someone or something else because it feels easier in the moment than confronting our own shortcomings.

  41. Jim says

    As we say in the South, bless your heart (in the good meaning of the phrase). If you were here, I’d kiss you right on the mouth – very respectfully and with permission, of course.

  42. TargetPractice says

    Yikes. I guess I’m the only one…

    Just because a female can understand that sexual conversation does not always equate to sexual harassment and that a whistle (cat-call) is not an attack on your person but a less articulate form of compliment, does not mean that women are weak for refusing to be party to sexual conversation or that they are strong for becoming vulgar.

    Unfortunately, in my youth, I believed some of the same things the author wrote, I believed that I was a fully equal person in the relationship with vulgar men and perhaps even a little more…because vulgar people were the first “adults” to speak to me in a way no other adults had before. However, this was not truly how most decent, educated adults spoke to young people 13-21. This was something else, but I wouldn’t see it until I was grown.

    I DO NOT believe women are usually victims of harassment in these situations or that most men are psycho rapists, however, “leave me alone and stop speaking to ME or ABOUT me that way” is not an unreasonable, weak, girly, or childish request to make to someone at your place of work/school.

    I pretty much couldn’t stomach all the -people are vulgar as a social norm that gives us closeness and fulfilling relationships- bunkum and balderdash ^^^ up above.

    Being a girl growing up/living in similar circumstances I can attest that having a daughter opened my eyes to that which I had been involved. I know that I do not want men to speak in such a way to my daughter. It is not respectful and it certainly is not the kind of friends or closeness I want for her. This behavior is just plain crude. I’ve lived long enough and been in enough places in this world to know the difference between how men treat a female when they are being respectful and treating her in a dignified way and when they are being vulgar and treating her like entertainment. I have been in both circumstances.

    I want my daughter to be, and the be seen as, a lady worth being respected as a dear and loved sister. I intend to raise a woman who is kind, respectful, and considerate of others. I never want her to be treated like someone’s wet dream or the crowds entertainment under the battle cry of she should be able to “handle” sexual comments, innuendo, and jokes. (Or the battle cry that she should be offended if men treat her respectfully because that means they are really treating her like she is a weakling little baby whiney girly boo-hoo prude cow. *add eye roll)

    Whether she can handle them is something else, and yes, should she receive these comments I hope she can handle them with poise and dignity, letting them roll off with charity and kindness, and then moving on to choosing a better group of friends.

    I don’t expect she will ever be a “snowflake” running for Security but I swear I hope she will never sink to allow such comments from people she would call “friends”. I hope she is far too secure with herself and how much she is loved by people who really do respect and cherish her to fall for this ignorance.

    Look, this attitude that sexual familiarity is the tie that binds is a sham, it’s insecurity and a need to feel included; it’s not cool or brave to accept vulgarity or to be vulgar. As someone pointed out, it isn’t even modern or revolutionary.

    Men might “like you” when they talk like this but you are actually no more important to them than their almost friends. You’re cool but they can take or leave you without batting an eye. You are not even considered a real friend to most of these guys. I always got along better with these types (I say “these” but I was one of them…sort of anyway.) and I watched many “good” guy friends get married to lovely girls they did not trash talk with and then the “girl pals” would be demoted to getting a nod from across the room should we bump into one another. Assuming you are not in the sack with them (and if you were…that’s another…well, moving on.), all you ever were is sexual banter and if that’s what you want good for you, but not for my daughter, my sister, my friends. No. Women who will treat others (men) well deserve friends (men) who treat them well and sexual familiarity is not treating someone respectfully.

    Goodness, even vulgar men treat women they are interested in differently. If they are interested in dating seriously they do not speak to her in a sexually familiar way in pubic and usually not at all before they are actually getting intimate privately. So if these guys know that they should not treat a women in such a way if he wishes to date her, why do you think he is not insulting you? If they are really your friends, a friend doesn’t silently allow his friends to be disrespected even if the friend doesn’t realize they ARE being disrespected. And that also includes if the person doing the disrespecting does not realize their behavior is disrespectful.

    But anyway…

    I hope my long comment hasn’t said “man hater”, I am not (I have sons to go with that daugher), nor do I blame the men in my youthful life for their behavior toward me. I completely allowed it. I do blame myself for being too “big” and “friendly” and “one of the guys” to walk away from guys that treated females this way. I wasn’t going to be the downer or the killjoy, no, I was the cool girl, the pal.

    What I turned out to be was an idiot and I truly hope my sons and daughter never become participants in the above mentioned behaviors.

    • Sydney says

      @Target Practice

      I don’t see how/in what way you are ‘the only one.’ The ‘only one’ to comprehend what?

      I’m a woman ‘like’ the author in that I lived through all sorts of stupid junk. I hear her acknowledging the humanity and complexity of a young woman’s life, and how she needs her agency and to be conscious of it.

      In my mind, agency means a lot. It takes into account the complexity, mess, and reality of life, which is something missing from third-wave feminism with its #metoo, slutwalks, and sex-consent apps.

      We try and teach our children, but they’ll come up against the messiness and complexity of life unless they go everywhere with their lawyer. And I mean EVERYWHERE.

      Excuse my tangent, but: Young women need to read Camille Paglia. To learn that barely-there clothes and slutwalks don’t change the evolutionary biology of our species. Women whine, ‘But men can do it! Why can’t we?!’ Meaning drink, drug, and party all night without a care in the world. So they do that, and then they’re surprised when the unthinkable happens. (Yes, I’m fully aware that the unthinkable happens to all women at any time; and, no, I’m not victim-blaming.)

      In a perfect world women would be able to do as they pleased. Except that humans aren’t far in evolutionary time away from their primate selves with reptilian brains; and men are bigger, stronger, and more sexual and violent in nature.

      Third-wave feminism, which spawned the excesses of #metoo, ignores simple biology.

  43. I get that not everyone intends to cause offense, we don’t need to look for offense, and even when it’s intended we can shrug it off.

    That being said, the point of the article seems to be that as a teen girl you didn’t mind men making sexual comments to you, and from that we should extrapolate a different view of sexually suggestive behavior directed at young women (or anyone else?)

    Was it all harmless and playful? Maybe. You don’t know what they were thinking. For many men tolerating a minor degree of sexual advance without raising any defenses is an indication that you’re receptive to more.

    I’m not saying that you should have acted differently or that the men you describe were pedophiles. I am saying that your anecdotes are at best useless. What rational person would conclude, based on your experiences, that young women or society in general should take a more permissive view of adult men behaving in a sexually suggestive manner toward teenage girls or adult women?

    The subject of many articles on this site is that people take offense too easily or even put on a pretense of having been offended. I agree that that people are often too sensitive whether it’s real of just for show. But whether you’re a young girl, an adult woman, a boy, or a man, you have a right to expect people in the workplace to desist from sexually provocative talk directed at you. Telling them to stop is not unreasonably sensitive, and neither is reporting their behavior if they don’t. You also have the right to ignore it if that’s your preference.

    Don’t equate setting reasonable boundaries with SJW nonsense.

  44. Coffee Klatch says

    Is there any way to beg you to crawl back under the rock from which you came? By reducing sexual harassment to “playful banter,” you completely ignore the true issues at hand. You jump the shark further by regressing to Victorian tropes about a woman’s virtue. It’s literally not a joke when Quillette is accused of publishing the hottest opinions from 1879.

    I feel empowered, too. To tell a man to shut the fuck up about sex when I’m working and make sure his ass is fucking fired if he bothers me with that horseshit. There’s no victimization in making sure the entire culture swings around to making a man understand that a woman doesn’t have to be subjected to this. It’s called total fucking dominance. Keep your eyes in your head and your words in your mouth, or your career is over. Seems pretty tough to me.

    I don’t feel like a victim watching a man kow-tow to not step out of line in the workplace. I give him an icy stare and a look down my nose knowing that he’s confused about holding the door, and his unchained id is at the mercy of my high heel ice pick. One wrong word and he’s no longer able to pay his mortgage. I love it.

    • Sam says

      Thanks Coffee Klatch for at least admitting this isn’t about equality, but about sadism and vindictiveness. But why stop at beating a man with your heels? As Feminist Andrea Dworkin said, after you best him to a bloody pulp, you should put an apple in his mouth too, like a pig.

      • Coffee Klatch says

        It’s not about vindictiveness. It’s about shutting the fuck up.

  45. Rosemarie Scott says

    “Losing the ability to appreciate nuance is not a triumph of moral progress. It is stupidity masquerading as enlightenment.”
    LOVE it!

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