White Coat Underground

Right now I’m feeling rather civilized. I had a yummy brick-oven pizza with my family, including my parents and one of my sisters, and I just finished getting my cranky, over-tired child to sleep. Now I’m sitting at my kitchen table drinking some seriously killer single-malt bought for me by my loving spouse, and listening to a Haydn string quartet.

i-07731e98c2490eea096c4685292183bf-aberlour.jpg

Just what the doctor ordered

All was well until my buddy Isis, who is several orders of magnitude hotter and smarter than I, noticed a disturbance in the force (as manifested by a google alert, the tool of internet narcissists everywhere). In this case, it is a group of college students at Ball State getting their jock straps all in a bunch about a text message. Apparently, a few women on campus were assaulted by a male on a bicycle. The campus authorities sent out a text message warning the campus community. But because it was just some harmless grab-assery, a number of students were annoyed and started a facebook group mocking the whole incident. Well, Dr. Isis called them out on it–by name. And some of the boys are upset about it. I mean, can’t a bitch take a joke?

No. If it is not immediately obvious to you what the problem here is, then it is time for some introspection. I’ll lay it out for those of you having trouble with some of the concepts here.

There is nothing “harmless” about someone riding by a woman and grabbing or slapping her behind. It may or may not cause immediate physical harm. But touching someone against their will is not only a shitty thing to do, it’s against the law. The reason it’s a shitty thing to do is because many women walking across a college campus are legitimately concerned about being assaulted, either by some asshat on a bike, or by some rapacious frat boy who thinks ass-grabbing is just fine. It is a power play, one that creates an environment where women feel less safe and secure. Given that many campus rapists tend to be repeat offenders, and that smaller acts often escalate into larger ones, the authorities were right to send out a warning.

But more interesting to me is the reaction of some on campus. This facebook group mocks the university for “over-reacting” (you know, like girls often do). There are a number of factors contributing to this sort of reaction. One of them is the incredulity of privilege. Most young men have no idea what it is like to be a not-man and many never acquire the empathy and knowledge to improve on this cultivated naivete. They genuinely cannot understand what all the big deal is about.

Many men absolutely understand what all the big deal is about, and are scared shitless of losing their position of power. I mean, if you can be judged harshly for a little ass-grabbing, you can be judged for every little thing you say and do. You know, like women are.

It’s time for the no-longer kids at Ball State to take a deep breath and think a little. Or they could form a misogynist facebook group, comment on it using real names, and then whine like babies when adults call them out on it.

Comments

  1. #1 Luna_the_cat
    April 11, 2010

    Pfft, Pal, this is entirely too reasoned. The idiots at Ball State will never pay any attention to a boring old stick-in-the-mud such as yourself; it’s far more fun to design T-shirts on the theme of grabbing women’s asses and assure each other that they wouldn’t mind if it were their girlfriend who got slapped (the reaction of the girlfriend in question being obviously irrelevant, after all, since her importance is only in how her owner reacts to her usage).

    That particular facebook group serves a purpose: it stands as a very stark counter-example to the people who proclaim, with Pollyanna-ish enthusiasm, that women don’t have to worry about sexism anymore, that problem is all solved. It hopefully also identifies the troglodytes to potential grad schools and employers.

  2. #2 ginger
    April 11, 2010

    I wonder how long until Jacques Bouvier appears and ‘splains that some women are flattered by an ass-slap?

  3. #3 Marilyn Mann
    April 11, 2010

    Totally agree.

  4. #4 drdrA
    April 11, 2010

    Beautiful attempt to educate. I fear that the IQs of the ass-slapping-is-not-assault, nuh-uh crowd- might not be large enough to absorb the lesson.

  5. #5 Shannon
    April 11, 2010

    Great post – thank you!

  6. #6 J-Dog
    April 11, 2010

    Well said.

  7. #7 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    April 11, 2010

    PalMD,

    I had my say on this over at Isis’s blog. Just stopped in here to say thanks for the single malt lead. I’ll have to give it a try. I’m a fan of The Macallan single malts and the McClelland Islay.

    Time for some research!

  8. #8 Beth
    April 11, 2010

    When I was a young teen, I was cornered, groped, and threatened with rape all in one day at school, in view of other people, with me protesting. When I went to administration demanding that something be done, he was briefly suspended and told to stay away from me. The rest of the year, I went to school afraid of being raped. All of the adults I talked to about how I felt told me that what happened was no big deal, that he didn’t do anything. Until I recently recounted the incident, it had never occurred to me that what the boy did was likely criminal, possibly even sexual assault.

    There’s enough trouble trying to get people to recognize rape as a problem, to recognize that, say, getting a woman drunk enough to say “yes” is still rape. Men sexually touching women, particularly young men, is still too often brushed off as “boys will be boys” as if it is normal and young women should expect it. Obviously this needs to change. Surely young men and women need to learn, even as schoolchildren, how to behave towards each other, need to learn that even “funny touches” from each other are wrong. Trouble is, how can the younger generation learn if the adults that teach them don’t believe it?

  9. #9 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    April 11, 2010

    Beth,

    Laws have changed over the years, so depending on where and when, what happened to you may not have been a crime, but it was, without a doubt, a sexual assault.

    There have been discussions about sexual assault on this blog and at Isis’s blog “On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess” just in the last few weeks. I learned quite a lot from them.

  10. I didn’t think I could love you more until you said:

    “One of them is the incredulity of privilege. Most young men have no idea what it is like to be a not-man and many never acquire the empathy and knowledge to improve on this cultivated naivete. They genuinely cannot understand what all the big deal is about.”

    Oh, the misogyny!

  11. #11 DLC
    April 11, 2010

    Uh, right. no, I can’t say I’d think it flattering.
    it’s just jackassery. As a general rule, people should consider whether they would approve of the behavior if it were done to them, or perhaps more importantly, if it were done to someone they respect and admire, such as their parents or role model. The proper response here is to grab the slapper and yank sharply backward, and then let go.
    He’ll get the hint after being knocked off his bike a few times.

  12. #12 Katharine
    April 12, 2010

    I’m beginning to think Ball State is one of those schools where all the in-state kids who got rejected from IU and comparable Indiana universities go.

  13. #13 Karl Withakay
    April 12, 2010

    Not that I want to link a reasonable perspective on subject to homophobia, but how many of the guys who are OK with the grabassery would be OK if other men were copping feels off of them?

    How would any of those 165 lb frat boys feel if a 350 lb member of the (male) wrestling team copped a feel off of them when no one else was around? Perhaps they might feel violated, vulnerable, and a little angry to boot?

    Violation is violation, and respect for other people’s bodies is not limited by what you feel is acceptable. Even if it’s “just” someone with autism/Asperger’s, and they don’t want to shake hands, that’s their call, not yours, end of story.

  14. #14 momkat
    April 12, 2010

    Facebook: douche bag repository. Perhaps every college needs to have a mandatory class for all new students on the possible consequences of this kind of stupidity, both the unwanted sexual handling and the unconscionable defense of it on social networks on the internet. Each participant should be involved in a mock situation as the victim so he/she can’t ignore the lesson. A little “what’s the harm?” here and there eventually ends up in people being inured to assault. It’s that slippery slope thing.

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    April 12, 2010

    DLC @ 11:

    Uh, right. no, I can’t say I’d think it flattering.
    it’s just jackassery. As a general rule, people should consider whether they would approve of the behavior if it were done to them,

    One response I’ve heard before is that women shouldn’t mind guys copping a feel, because guys wouldn’t mind it if women copped a feel. “How’d you like it if I did that to you?” “Huh huh, I’d love it, huh huh.” Which is a response that indicates it hasn’t ever happened to them, and they can’t conceive of it happening in any context other than a romantic one. In other words, they assumed the woman was interested in them and was in a romantic mood. Neither of which was true.

    Related to this is the assumption that the woman would take it as a compliment. This betrays a huge egocentrism, of course. Grabbing my ass would mean you want to have sex with me. I would only take that as a compliment if I actually wanted to have sex with you, and if you are riding past me on a bicycle and just randomly doing this, it is very unlikely that I actually do want to have sex with you. So no, it would not be complimentary. It would be rude and presumptuous.

    I like the idea of getting these young men to contemplate what it would be like for them to have their asses grabbed by large, powerful gay men, as it might actually be a situation where they can relate to women. I find that most men who are like this tend to be homophobes; this isn’t really because of any particular dislike of homosexual acts, I think, but a dislike of the thought of being involved in such an act. This is a situation where they very much do relate to women. They just don’t realize it. Or maybe part of them does realize it; they know that men are predatory assholes, because they themselves are (and are not capable of realizing that not all men are the same), so assume that homosexual men would be predatory assholes too. They assume everyone is like themselves, which is why they think the women they grab are presently interested in having sex, and why they assume gay men would be out to get them.

  16. #16 Vicki
    April 12, 2010

    Or, if we want to avoid the homophobia, show them pictures of large, strong women twice or three times their age, scowling, dressed for comfort or in business suits, not clothes that are generally considered sexy, and ask “how would you feel if she groped you? How would you feel if you knew that any time you walked into a store, an older woman might grab you and say ‘smile, sonny boy’?”

    Not that I like playing with the fact that those children can’t see that I’m strong and sexy, but it might avoid them thinking “she only dislikes it because she’s a dyke.” Because boys like that might find bi women hot (as long as they think they might get to watch/we’re doing it to amuse our boyfriends), but that doesn’t extend to lesbians.

  17. #17 James Sweet
    April 12, 2010

    The serial nature of it is what makes it really incredible that these dudes are trying to paint it as “harmless grab-assery”. While not downplaying the wrongness of the offending act, if it were an isolated incident I could see there being an argument that the general text message announcement was a poor way of dealing with the problem.

    But given that it was an ongoing and repeated problem, how could anybody think this was something to just tolerate?

  18. #18 D. C. Sessions
    April 12, 2010

    I’m afraid that all of the “imagine if it were you and …” scenarios are missing the point. Seriously — people who have grown up privileged don’t have referents for powerlessness. I suspect [1] that having actual experience of traumatic powerlessness in some fashion is an essential prerequisite for even understanding the question [2].

    It’s not a rational subject. It’s emotional, and the most that reasoning can do is teach you that you don’t understand.

    That said, my only reservation regarding the warning is whether it contained enough information to allow potential victims to make reasonable decisions for their own safety. Keeping the threat level at “RED ALERT” all the time isn’t any better than disconnecting it entirely (basic information theory.)

    [1] hmmm … wonder if $DAUGHTER has references or knows someone who would like a social psychology research topic?
    [2] Since I’m a certified creepy misogynist sleazebag, I’ll note that this is one positive thing about men telling women “I’ve been the victim of X” stories: it can be an attempt to come around obliquely to saying that although they don’t have directly comparable experience they at least have something that can be the basis for thinking about it.

  19. #19 SKM
    April 12, 2010

    form a misogynist facebook group, comment on it using real names.

    See, the using their real names thing is what tells me these folks are confident that there are no negative repercussions from misogyny.

    And as things stand now, they are pretty much correct.

    I can hope that one or more of these guys will lose a job interview or law school spot over this, but I actually doubt it.

  20. #20 payaso de la mar
    April 12, 2010

    this whole situ is pretty appalling. i haven’t figured out the details but think an appropriate denouement for the ass slapper would be something along the lines of the scene from The Hotel New Hampshire where the rapist meets what he thinks is a lust crazed bear……. ;-)

  21. #21 doctorgoo
    April 12, 2010

    I was just thinking that the person or persons who created this Facebook page… there is a pretty good chance that they are, or know, the perpetrator.

    After all, the person who would most likely be the type to make light of these incidents is someone who wanted to downplay it as a joke.

    And I can easily see a fratboy type and his friends ganging up with each other for support, and then try to play it off like they’re the victims of a University witch hunt.

    I hope the police are looking real closely at these facebook fools.

  22. #22 Daniel J. Andrews
    April 13, 2010

    Nothing to add. Completely agree, and thanks for writing this. A good friend of mine, while riding her bike, had her rear slapped by a passenger in a car as it drove by. It left a hand-shaped red welt on her rear end. She was too shocked to get a license plate number.

    Karl @11 said,

    Violation is violation, and respect for other people’s bodies is not limited by what you feel is acceptable. Even if it’s “just” someone with autism/Asperger’s, and they don’t want to shake hands, that’s their call, not yours, end of story.

    And thank you for pointing that out. Too many people do not understand that for some folks being touched by a stranger makes nerves ‘jangle and escalate’ till you feel like yelling in anger and frustration. No wonder some people just don’t want to leave their house.
    –dan

  23. #23 Cara
    April 14, 2010

    Nice post. I do wonder, though, why none of the frat boys are showing up here to throw tantrums or say you’re making too much of this…

    Oh, wait. No, I don’t. I know why.

    Again, nice post.