Women are frequently subjected to unwanted sexual behaviours in public, to such an extent that it has become normalised in our society. With 56% of respondents in a recent study saying they have encountered unwelcome sexual behaviour, including inappropriate touching, explicit messages, catcalling, being followed and being forced into sex or sexual acts.
Sex Education S2 E7 highlighted how almost every girl has experienced some form of sexual assault or sexual harassment in their lives. These experiences never leave you. Merely dismissing this behaviour as ‘Boys will be boys’ or ‘Men are Trash’ is only going to enable it to persist without consequences or correction. Unwelcome sexual behaviour has become normalised; there are no consequences meaning that many people remain unaware and perpetrators continue to offend. The objectifying and derogatory nature of acts such as catcalling leave women feeling uncomfortable, inferior and unsafe.
Bystanders can no longer afford to sit idly while these acts happen before them. By not discouraging this kind of behaviour, you are in fact encouraging it. To not speak up and question your friends’ behaviour is condoning and assisting the rape culture that exists. Alcohol is not an excuse for someone to become a pervert, neither is being in a club environment or the outfits of their victims. Keep your hands to yourself when they are not welcome, and if you are unsure then do not proceed. Be mindful of the fact that you could be making someone feel uncomfortable.
This kind of behaviour is a kind of power play; many perpetrators enjoy the fact they are making women feel uncomfortable. The reality is that women are not waiting for validation; and unwanted, disrespectful advances are never attractive.
This kind of behaviour is so normalised that it is not uncommon to hear in popular song lyrics, for example: “she caught me staring, what do you expect when your skirt so short” and “tell that girl that she can stay if she gon’ give it up.”
Due to the cutthroat nature of online humour where anything is up for mockery, those who try to stand up to such offensive attitudes are often dismissed as ‘snowflakes’ – a recently coined term describing someone that is too easily offended and cannot take a joke. We need to be mindful of when these ‘jokes’ begin to normalise or encourage derogatory behaviours.
So, what can be done? Do not be afraid to question the behaviour of others or to report misconduct. Intervention is key; if you see something inappropriate help the victim escape that situation and condemn the perpetrator. This is not asking you to be a hero; sometimes even a simple “I hope you’re okay, that was really inappropriate” can comfort a victim. Remember to be mindful, observant and treat everyone with respect and care. See it, say it, sort it!
Image Credit: Netflix