So the names just keep coming...It seems that just about every man in Hollywood has been accused of inappropriate behavior towards women: demanding sexual favors and forcing women to perform them, making lewd comments about women, giving unwanted compliments, etc... I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. To be completely transparent, I am a heterosexual female. I have been on the receiving end of the unwanted compliments and lewd comments. I have been in uncomfortable situations as well. And although I have never experienced sexual assault, I have encountered women who have and the men responsible, so I know this is a real issue. However, my concern is that we are lumping everything together. We talk as if giving an unwanted compliment, raping a woman, and asking her to perform a sexual favor in exchange for a job opportunity are all the same thing. I am afraid that lumping everything together may create further confusion about how women and men, boys and girls can relate to one another in healthy ways.
I think it is important for young men to learn how to express their appreciation for and admiration of the female form in respectful ways. I also think that it is important for young women to learn how to receive such compliments and how to clearly express when they feel disrespected or simply do not want to receive such appreciation and admiration from a particular man or boy. We have to teach our young men how to say, "Wow, you look amazing in that dress!" and our young women how to say, "Thank you" or "It makes me uncomfortable when you say that. Please stop." Perhaps young men should not have to guess and pick up clues and young women should not have to laugh it off or pretend all is well.
(Note that I have framed this discussion in heterosexual terms to mirror the current discussion in the media. I understand of course, that sexual harassment and sexual assault are not unique to people who identify as heterosexual. I also understand that this conversation is rooted in some very real societal assumptions about how men and women are expected to behave.)