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Zoethe

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Invisible entitlement [Jul. 31st, 2011|11:59 am]
Zoethe
While the FerrettDad was here, we went to see Horrible Bosses, which was pretty funny. Afterward at dinner, we were discussing the movie, and FerrettDad said, "But you know, I just couldn't sympathize with the guy who was being sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston. Seriously, just fuck her!"

I was kind of gobsmacked, because I'd sympathized with the guy completely. And when I tried to explain that to FerrettDad, he looked at me with a sincere but uncomprehending gaze, like I was speaking a foreign language.

After a short time, I realized that, in fact, I was. He didn't have the experience of unwanted physical attention and simply couldn't grok how stressful it is. If the person providing said attention is hot, the guy mind was saying, why wouldn't you want to hit that?

It's an attitude that stems from a level of entitlement so invisible that they actually see it as a disadvantage. And neither of them are doing it out of any kind of disrespect for women; it's as incomprehensible to them as calculus is to a chimpanzee.

But when you've lived with harassment, you understand that unwanted attention is unwanted attention, no matter how attractive the harasser. A harasser doesn't have to be someone physically repulsive. You can even be attracted to the harasser; it can be someone you've had a crush on--maybe even someone whose attentions were initially flattering. Maybe someone you flirted with. Maybe even someone you've slept with.

Because when the attention flips over to harassment, it doesn't matter if the starting point was dislike, neutrality, or attraction. Sexual harassment is humiliating depersonalization and objectification, and it's intended to override the individual's wishes and impose the harasser's desires on the victim. It's different from the kind of joshing around and flirtation that can be acceptable in some environments. At the very least it says, "I don't respect you as a person, and your comfort is of no concern to me." Often, the message goes all the way to, "I take pleasure in causing you discomfort and even frightening you."

Men seldom get that kind of treatment, particularly in a sexual context, so it can be hard to comprehend the continual and exhausting stress of battling for boundaries when it's combined with the nagging fear of actual sexual assault. And the pervasive nature of harassment that leaves continually tense, watching out for the next touch/gesture/remark? Completely draining. It's like playing defense all the time: it wears you out.

My heart went out to that poor nebbish being grabbed, squirted, rubbed against, and verbally harassed by Jennifer Aniston. Because it doesn't matter if your harasser looks like Brad Pitt; if you don't want the attention, it's humiliating and dehumanizing to be its victim.

EDIT: Ferrett has corrected my misremembering of this. He didn't agree with his dad, he just didn't engage in the argument.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/780191.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
From: anonymousalex
2011-07-31 05:24 pm (UTC)
Forgive me for chiming in before I've seen the movie, but I wonder if this (also) has something to do with the nature of movies themselves. You can't really show a whole relationship in a movie; by its nature you are seeing vignettes. Which means that the viewer must fill in the missing parts--and if you aren't familiar with that flip between attention and harassment, you're not likely to fill it in.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-31 05:26 pm (UTC)
True, and it was interesting to me how differently the guys and I viewed those scenes, probably for much the same reason. I think the script tried to make it work by putting in the conversation in the bar, but it still was incomprehensible to the guys.
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[User Picture]From: cinema_babe
2011-07-31 05:32 pm (UTC)
When that movie came out almost every woman that I know had a variation of that same conversation with one of the men in her life. And you are right, men just *don't* get it. I just assume it's a power thing. Generally men, even minority men, are in a position of power which offers them the choice of pursuit. Very few of them really understand what it means to feel powerless (or at least less powerful) and vulnerable to whatever someone imposes on you against your will.

One of my favorite comment I heard of several men making was that if it were [fill in name of a famous woman who is not considered attractive: Rosanne Barr, Susan Boyle, etc] then men could understand why he would be upset but not if it was someone who was considered "hot".

FFS.

While the percentage of men who are sexually harassed is obviously mush lower than the female percentage, this is one of the reasons so many of them don't say anything. The same attitude that fuels how men view the situation in the movie helps to perpetuate the silence of men who are sexually harassed and assaulted.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-31 05:38 pm (UTC)
And men who are victims of domestic violence. Which is really sad, because it does happen.
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[User Picture]From: labelleizzy
2011-07-31 05:32 pm (UTC)
thanks for being so clear here. Yes.

And another movie I SO don't need to watch.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-31 05:41 pm (UTC)
It was actually kind of funny, if you like movies like The Hangover.
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[User Picture]From: roaming
2011-08-01 06:55 pm (UTC)
I somehow keep being unable to find anything funny that is based on The Stupid.
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[User Picture]From: funwithrage
2011-07-31 07:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah. And also, objective attractiveness is no guarantee of subjective attraction.

I have a number of male friends who fit the societal beauty standard for guys pretty well. Nonetheless, I'm not feeling it with many of them--and when one of them was puppy-dogging around after me, it was awkward and annoying. He didn't get to the harassment stage, thank God, but if he had, it wouldn't have been any better just because another girl could look at him and go "whoa, hot."

In fact, one of the more irritating things about the whole time was my well-meaning friends talking about how X is so cute, and so nice, and of course you're not gonna go out with him if he's not your thing, but isn't it sad that he's not? And it's like well, why don't YOU fuck him then? Jesus.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-07-31 07:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's just irritating as shit. What is wrong with people, seriously?
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-07-31 07:22 pm (UTC)
well done
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[User Picture]From: dietcokeofevil5
2011-07-31 07:40 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of the recent kerfuffle in the skeptic/atheist community over what has been described as "Elevatorgate." (Google for details). The amount of male privilege out there is kind of astonishing sometimes.
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[User Picture]From: spideyj
2011-07-31 09:13 pm (UTC)
Astonishing is one word for it. Depressing is another. :(
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[User Picture]From: noshot
2011-07-31 11:07 pm (UTC)
what about female privilege? When a couple divorces, it's the woman who gets the kids, and the money. Women don't have to wait in line to get into bars, they don't have to pay cover charge, and they get free drinks. Women can do anything they want, say anything they want to men, and if he does anything about it, she cries abuse.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2011-07-31 11:54 pm (UTC)
And somehow oddly reassuring to me. For all of the atheists' crowing of, "We don't need a God to be moral!" seeing that in fact, there are just as many sexist assholes among the atheists as the religious is proof that really, belief in God isn't the core problem. It's being an asshole and finding an excuse for it.
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From: simulated_knave
2011-08-01 08:07 am (UTC)
I'm not sure the disconnect is in not getting how unwanted physical attention could be unpleasant. I think it might lie in being unable to understand how physical attention from Jennifer Aniston could be unwanted.

The idea that men seldom get bullied, however, is more than a little inaccurate. It may become rarer as people get older, but it's still all too common for any number of reasons.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-01 11:36 am (UTC)
There definitely is a "hot chick" aspect to it that makes them have difficulty understanding. But the bullying of it is definitely a continuing problem.
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From: simulated_knave
2011-08-01 06:52 pm (UTC)
One other thing, I think, is that most men don't get told they're attractive very often (positively or negatively). At least, I don't. The idea of beautiful women propositioning them is pretty close to a fantasy for most. Trying to spin that fantasy as a bad thing is, in some ways, a little like a billionaire trying to explain that worrying about all the money is SO STRESSFUL and the long hours are SO HARD and retiring at 40 is SO BORING. Especially when you add in the native societal assumption that men always want sex and women don't.

It's somewhat like when pretty young women complain about getting drinks bought for them. ;)

Personally (and I admit to not having seen the movie yet), I'd sympathize with Paul Rudd's character because she's his boss and she's clearly crazy, which means there's no way for him to come out ahead in this situation. I would also sympathize with him if he were married/engaged. I can sympathize with him for all the ways she makes his life unpleasant. But the core "Jennifer Aniston wants you to screw her but you don't want to" is really hard to feel sympathy for.
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[User Picture]From: acceptedreject
2011-08-01 04:12 pm (UTC)
Hi Zoethe! Long time reader & I don't comment (or post) often, but I recently read a good blog post on privilege. Maybe you've already read it, but it explained privilege really well. I forget where I saw it linked, and I've never read the blog before, but I'm glad it did. Anyways, I think it ties in well with this entry. Enjoy!

https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-01 05:29 pm (UTC)
That is a really good article. Thank you for the link!
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[User Picture]From: anivair
2011-08-01 05:11 pm (UTC)
To be fair, most guys have a hard time getting their minds around unwanted physical contact and sexual advances. This is because of a lot of things. Some of them include the fact that we live in a culture where men are the sexually dominant ones for the most part, and are expected to do the pursuing. So they don't pursue women they don't want. Another is that women, having felt this pressure many times, do not pursue men in the same aggressive way that men sometimes pursue women, so we don't have to deal with it even when being pursued. And then there's the cold hard fact that Jennifer Aniston is hot and her character came off as sexually aggressive and most men would find that pretty appealing (or at least your average man would).

I have to admit, while I can understand and imagine the situation I don't have a point of reference myself.

OTOH, if they had cast someone way less attractive than Aniston, I think it would have helped a lot. Though I should disclaim that i haven't seen the movie, so I might have no idea what sort of situation they were trying to present based on the commercial and reviews. But if you want to get a visceral reaction out of a man, then present him with a conventionally ugly woman in the absence of other good traits and you'll get it. It's the way we're socially trained and I know of very few men who are immune (though some are less affected).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-01 05:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, but I think they were trying to make the point that attractiveness in and of itself does not immediately make attention desirable. I understand where you are coming from, but the female experience still says, "You're fucking kidding, right?"
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[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2011-08-01 07:21 pm (UTC)
if they had cast someone way less attractive than Aniston, I think it would have helped a lot.

Like the land-lady on Kingpin?
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[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2011-08-01 07:06 pm (UTC)
I find it baffling as well. The other person being attractive may make you more likely to want the attention - but if you don't, then you don't.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-01 09:50 pm (UTC)
And when the attention is as rude as hers was, even if you started out receptive you'd quickly be repulsed.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2011-08-01 11:12 pm (UTC)
Men seldom get that kind of treatment, particularly in a sexual context, so it can be hard to comprehend the continual and exhausting stress of battling for boundaries when it's combined with the nagging fear of actual sexual assault. And the pervasive nature of harassment that leaves continually tense, watching out for the next touch/gesture/remark? Completely draining. It's like playing defense all the time: it wears you out.

Although this has never happened to me I could totally understand how horrible being harassed can be.
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