Women: dinnae read this article. It’ll just annoy the hell out of you. Men, especially men my age and a bitty younger, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is, in a world that seems to be ever spiralling downward, there’s an easy thing we can do thegither that’ll make our wee bit of the earth better, happier, safer and mair enjoyable to be in.
Let me explain.
The polis launched a campaign last week called That Guy.
It’s speaking to us: men aged between 18 & 35, and its trying to raise awareness of something they call ‘Male Sexual Entitlement’.
I didnae ken what that meant either.
I got it explained to me as “the belief that men have some kind of right to a woman’s attention, and that men have a right, sometimes even a duty to proposition women, any time, any setting, any place.”
And that’s the bad news.
We are all – in my social groups anyway – contributing to an environment where women are constantly hassled.
— Don't be That Guy (@ThatGuyScotland) October 13, 2021
And the polis are making clear that this low level harassment directly underpins the more serious groping, sexual assaults and rapes that are so, so common in Dundee, and in Scotland.
Communities that allow and expect men to be regularly invading women’s space, to flirt, to chat, to pass uninvited comments on their appearance, are the most dangerous.
When you realise you’ve been That Guy
I didnae like hearing that news.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed chatting to lassies in bars, at parties and stuff.
In my head at least, it was largely respectful, fun and consenting.
I certainly didnae see a link between me trying it on, and things like domestic abuse, sexual assault and all the other horrendous stuff like spiking we’ve been seeing in the news.
But the more I dwelt on it, the less convinced I was by my own correctness.
My skin crawled at three specific occasions over the last 15 years when I was told by a girl that she had a boyfriend, and I kept on cracking on to them anyway.
Nothing happened, nothing escalated, but I’m fairly sure I ruined their evening.
It was my male sexual entitlement that allowed me to act like that. I shouldn’t have felt the right.
Here’s an anecdote.
I’ve worked a lot as a labourer.
At one time I worked with a scaffolding firm, and would drive about in the lorry cab with older guys, nipping between sites.
The guys would fairly often honk the horn at a woman walking in the street.
Or wolf whistle. Or shout.
I never joined in actively, but I probably laughed along.
There was violence in the men.
They’d shout, or honk or whatever, and if the women didn’t reply, the men would become furious.
“Crabbit pussed BITCH”, I mind one married 40-something scaffolder spitting out the window at a young woman who had ignored his toot.
Groupchat patter is no joke
This stuff’s obviously wrong, and easy to condemn here.
But there’s another broader layer of behaviour beneath the wolf-whistling that is more subtle, less straightforward to assess and to reform.
In my groupchats, I’ll often get wee messages saying of a lassie online “she’d get the boab”, or “she’s gantin for it” or whatever.
This stuff is clearly meant as a joke.
It’s patter that helps build in-groups, makes you feel part of something by sharing a joke that’s not really PC.
You transgress together.
The upshot is, male pals grow closer together, and women are dehumanised and othered.
These groupchats might not harm me or you.
But the polis are clear: some men in the groupchats see our laughing along with the patter as a green light to ratchet up their thoughts and actions.
Groupchat patter can and does radicalise, can and does reinforce hate, can and does lead to violence.
And that’s why I said women shouldnae read this article.
None of this is news to you.
You’ve been saying this stuff for years and I – and just about every other man I know – havenae been listening.
I apologise. I’m listening now.
We can end male sexual entitlement
There is some hope.
Racist comments, once ubiquitous, have become socially unacceptable.
Racism still exists, but as we’ve seen at Tannadice with the recent alleged abuse of Jeando Fuchs by a Ross County supporter, normal people have turned against it.
Sexually demeaning chat can be the next thing we isolate and oppose.
It’s refreshing (and a huge relief) to see a campaign like this so unflinching in its framing of men’s violence against women. Well done to @PoliceScotland and everybody involved in putting it together. #DontBeThatGuy https://t.co/NcH9RO9Lzq
— Kirsty Strickland (@KirstyStricklan) October 13, 2021
Racists still exist, and BAME Scots are regularly targeted.
But it’s no longer the majority view.
We’ve improved our society, at least a wee bit.
And we can do the same here.
Men like me will need a hell of a lot of support and information to understand we’re part of the problem.
But once we do, I think we’ll be fairly easy to convert to part of the solution.