“Sexual Harassment: Men Behaving Badly” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, I experienced a situation of sexual harassment.  The man who harassed me is an older Caucasian, perhaps about 60 years old, and is a professional at an educational institution.  I came to know him through a presentation he made in a class, and he subsequently offered me a part-time writing education position.  Desiring to continue to professionally network with this man, sometime later, I stopped by to see him at his office.  We made small talk for a couple of minutes, and when I was about to leave, I extended my hand for him to shake it.  He took my hand and kissed it.  That’s not all, but I leave it at that for my purposes here.

This is not the first experience of sexual harassment that I have experienced or reported throughout my life.  In fact, it is one of many.  😦  The first experience of sexual harassment that I remember was as a five-year-old girl, being sexually harassed by a wealthy entrepreneur in my community while my family was at one of his businesses.  This man got away with it then, and continued it. 

Thinking back through each experience of sexual harassment that I have encountered, it has always been a married man, 90% of whom are Caucasian.  Men have deliberately and provocatively grabbed their privates in front of me, breathed heavily and suggestively while standing behind me, suggestively said that they “have something special” for me, and have just used alot of inappropriate sexual innuendo, lewd sexual jokes, or other sexually suggestive and/or sexually aggressive words or actions.  It is extremely offensive and creates a hostile environment, whether at work, school, church, or any other place.

So many experiences of sexual harassment prompt me to ask, “What is wrong with men that they believe they must sexually harass girls and women?”  All of the men who have sexually harassed me have been married men.  Don’t they get their “fill” from their wives at home?  Are they so insecure that it empowers them to sexually harass girls and women?  Or, are they too confident or cocky that they think it is acceptable and that they will get away with it?  Perhaps it is amusing or entertaining for them, and they get their thrills out of sexually harassing girls and women.  Whatever the reason, it is wrong, dehumanizing, objectifying, immoral, offensive, and disgusting.

Too many men have the wrong idea about girls and women.  Men ought to be more protective of girls and women.  The men who have sexually harassed me have wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and/or neices.  Do they behave in the same manner toward them?  Do they believe that their actions are any less serious if they sexually harass someone outside of their families?  😦  Many of these men who have sexually harassed me have daughters and even granddaughters who are my age!  That men sexually harass girls and women diminishes all men.  That so many resort to acting on their sexual desires when it is inappropriate creates situations that are intolerable and unacceptable.

My philosophy is that real men respect and appreciate girls and women.  Real men stand up for girls and women, and take a stand against those men who harass or otherwise harm them.  Real men do not believe, promote, encourage, or accept so many of society’s lies about girls and women.  Real men care about girls and women because they understand how challenging and difficult it is for them to achieve and be successful.

When men sexually harass women – particularly me – it completely changes my perspective of them.  There are always those men who believe they can sexually harass women, or worse.  There are always those men who escalate their actions because they have gotten away with it.  It seems to empower them and give them even more confidence for the next time that they sexually harass a female. 

Sadly, in situations in which the girl or woman stands up to the man who is sexually harassing her, I have found that, typically, the female is the one who is blamed.  Too often, both men and women believe the man who is the sexual harasser.  A man could sexually harass a girl or woman for years, but when the female attempts to stop it in whatever ways, it is she who is incorrectly blamed and revictimized.  😦  This has been my experience and the experience that I have observed in other girls and women, as well.  That so many refuse to see and understand this further diminishes people as a humanity.  So, even though girls and women are blamed and revictimized by these situations, we must not remain silent about them.  Silence does not imply acceptance, however that is what it means to many people.  We must make our voices be heard in order to effect positive change for the good of everyone.

Men and women must do more to stand up for girls and women who are sexually harassed and worse.  Men must change their attitudes toward girls and women so that they are viewed in human terms, not being dehumanized or objectified by men.  And, the women who believe and support men who sexually harm girls and women in any way must also change their perspectives and realize how far down they have fallen.  More positive change and support are definitely needed for girls and women who experience sexual harassment and other types of sexual misconduct.

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12 thoughts on ““Sexual Harassment: Men Behaving Badly” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

  1. So sorry. I’ve had Caucasian men try to watch as a entered my pin before making a purchase and one pass so close as to be rude. The hand kisses? Caucasian men, especially financially successful are usually protected. I’ve never had an African-American man be so rude. The African American men usually watch me and when I meet their eyes nod as they pass. Unfortunately there is still prejudice and they know it.

    • Rhonda, Thanks for your comments. You are so right. I think men, in general, are protected, whether or not they are wealthy. Society seems to often and so easily blame the female. Too many men live in a world of denial, and end up disrespecting themselves and those whom they harass.

  2. Michele,
    While kissing a ladies hand is certainly archaic, was there anything else to suggest it was sexual harassment? Or was it just being fresh or forward? Was your submission to his “act” a condition of employment? What was his background? There really are a lot of things said here but without the proper context. Once someone “rings that bell” it is near impossible to “un-ring” it.

    As a military professional I’ve given training on sexual harassment and investigated the same. Your blog post, while certainly entertaining, doesn’t tell me if you really know what sexual harassment is, from a definition standpoint, although you may believe that you do from an experience standpoint.

    Lastly, did you tell the gentleman that what he did made you uncomfortable? Or did you just endure it? I once had a female co-worker who “had” to touch people if she was talking with them and frankly it made me feel uncomfortable and I told her so. We maintained a professional relationship and worked well together but I was no longer placed in an uncomfortable situation in my work environment.

    Cheers!

    • Mark, Thanks for your comments and your probing questions. Indeed, there was more in this man’s actions that pointed to sexual harassment. I am not going to share everything here in this blog. What you should know is that I did not seek out such behavior. You already assume that I “submitted” to his act of hand kissing. You are not aware of the force by which he held my hand.
      You also speak of “ringing a bell,” which to me, blames the victim, as I find that many men do when it comes to women and girls who have experienced sexual harassment. Women don’t ask for these situations to occur, however it appears to be the duty of the females to protect ourselves from such situations. In my knowledge and experienced, sometimes that is not possible, particularly given men’s power, influence, and networks. God forbid that it is the man’s fault for being unable to practice self-control and moral and ethical respect toward females. A man can never fully understand what a woman thinks or feels when experiencing these situations.
      While I appreciate your experience, I would like to recommend a couple of books for your leisure reading related to this issue. I am quite aware of how women are not supported – and, in fact, are revictimized – in the military (and in society, in general) when it comes to issues related to sexual harassment or worse. The military’s “view” of these issues is not one that I can support. The books are: “Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers” by Martha Langelan and “Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military” by Dr. Mic Hunter.
      Take care.

      • Michele,
        My comment about “ringing the bell” refers to making an accusation. It matters not if the accusation is true or false, it is just that once the bell is sounded the deed is done.

        With regards to having “submitted” to the sexual harassment, if you did not at least vocally object to the offender and tell him that his actions made you uncomfortable and that you did not appreciate them then you have submitted to the behavior no matter how wrong it is. That was the example I gave you about my female coworker who “had” to touch people when she talked to them. It may have only been my arm but her closeness was well inside my comfort zone. Had I not said anything then I would have been submitting to the behavior.

        I also think that your comment about the military’s “view” is a little off base as the horror stories we hear are basically good old boys who refuse to enter the new way of life of a mixed gender military and life in general. I had to investigate more than a few allegations that sickened my soul with what my fellow Sailors had done to their shipmates so I don’t really feel the need to engage in a refresher course by reading your suggested books. I do know that I earned the trust of all my Sailors and many of my female Sailors told me that they wished there were more like me who would tell them the things I told them about being a woman on a male majority ship. Oddly enough, I had senior officers who thought I should not have been so candid and frank and when I asked them who would tell them what i told them none of them had an answer. The more senior females expressed appreciation for what I did and made sure they their young female Sailors listened.

        While there are many examples of how things were done wrong that make the press or the pages of a book or blog, when things are done right it doesn’t make the news because people love dirty laundry.

      • Mark, Thanks for your clarification about “ringing the bell.” I was not familiar with that phrase. But also, I don’t see what it has to do with the situation, particularly because I ring the bell only when the situation is true and factual. Whether founded or not, the situation still occurred. If others don’t desire for the bell to be rung upon them, then they should behave appropriately, respectfully, and morally.
        Your comment about submitting and vocally objecting, I believe, does not take into account the power differential that is present in this situation, including the power differential between men and women in general. Last year, I read an article about a young women who was raped in an airport somewhere in the US, and she did not object. Why? Because she was having an asthma attack. What if a person is mute and is unable to speak. What if the experience is so frightening that the target freezes up and panics, and is unable to speak. It’s a fight or flight reaction that occurs. That is why – unless a man has experienced a similar situation and was powerless to stop it – that I believe that men (at least most men) are unable to understand what a woman feels. When a man behaves in a sexually threatening manner toward a woman, the woman, in the very core of her being and soul feels her safety and sexuality threatened and at risk. It is a feeling of danger that is indescribable. I’m not sure how many men ever feel that just by the fact that they are men. Women always have to be aware and look over our shoulders, and even when we do, we still experience dangerous, threatening, and/or life-threatening situations.
        I am glad that you made a positive difference in your employment. Indeed, there is a huge need for men who are more sensitive and understanding about harassing, threatening, dangerous, and criminal sexual issues that affect both women and men. There are a great many military veterans who are suffering out there because of having experienced harassment and rape by their own comrades, and the military establishment, in general, turns a blind eye, may encourage and/or condone it, and not provide medical treatment when the vet experiences PTSD, GAD, or other disorders because of it. That you are not open to reading the books that I have recommended tells me that you are interested in only your own perception. Therefore, I challenge you to read those books. I certainly learned alot from them.
        Regarding your comment about dirty laundry, that has also typically been the stereotypical male viewpoint that I have encountered and experienced. No, it is not dirty laundry. It is the sharing of information that has been a burden lifted for me. It is therapeutic for me. It is something that helps me not maintain silence. It helps me to heal by being able to share about it, talk and write about it. To me, it is not dirty laundry. It is part of life, and there are a great many things in life that people don’t want to hear because they are unpleasant. I am one who tries to tackle the unpleasant in order to help make positive change, for myself and others. Also, you point to this issue as negative, and while it may well be viewed as a “negative” issue, speaking up about it is positive, productive, and constructive.

  3. Really I am agreed with You. Now a days it is going to common for each & every man & male gender. whether it is mostly happening in India & esp. in Delhi, the Capital Head of India, where lots of Securities are wandering but totally useless because of Sr Crime activists are Indian politicians who are spl doing this work with the help of Securities getting salary from from innocent Indian Pubic Indirect Money. if India is co-related with family-link like; brother-sister, uncle-aunt & many.

    • Hello Mr. Nayak, Thank you very much for your comments. I, too, am despairing and devastated about sex crime situations that have occurred in India. While women, girls, and children in the US enjoy many rights and protections, there remain issues such as sexual harassment that continue to occur, are not prevented, and are not always resolved. This can also lead to the escalation of such actions.
      There is a lack of respect and appreciation of females throughout the world. I wish people throughout society could be more compassionate and protective of each other.

  4. Dear Michele,
    Thank you for writing your experiences, I too have been sexually harassed in many different forms. Once, when I was younger, I reported a man to my director but as you mentioned, I was blamed. My contract was over – not even completed…as it turned out it was the best thing for me.

    Your article has brought back many memories that I have let just fall by the wayside. We, as women and men must become more aware of our own behaviour whether acknowledging what has happened to ourselves or by standing up and confronting the inappropriate behaviour by men regardless of their ages. It is this sense of privilege that males seem to have in our society and it is not O.K. to act in this disrespectful behaviour!

    I am in my mid-sixities and it still happens and sometimes it is so subtle and quick before I even realize it. I become annoyed with myself in not reacting quick enough so I could say something to the man. I must say, I am more aware/attuned than I have been in the past.

    Thank you again, Michele.

    Carolann

    • Carolann, I also very much appreciate reading your comments. I believe that I can relate with you about your experiences, as well. Because I have a positive outlook and expect men to behave well, I am often unprepared for bad, inappropriate, unacceptable, or even criminal behavior or conduct. Without evidence or an admission of guilt on the man’s part, complaints and/or charges against them often seem to be decided by others as unfounded. Then, the victim is blamed and revictimized. This has often been my experience.
      Sometimes, I have wondered if it is not better in some situations to remain silent because speaking up can cause even more anger and resentment on the man’s part, and then, the woman is treated even worse. I am one, however, who believes in doing the right thing. I have high expectations of myself and others, and I expect to be well-treated. Perhaps my definition of being well-treated is more than what some can fulfill. I have lowered my expectations and standards, however, too many times in the past, and am not willing to do that anymore. I have also talked myself out of taking actions to help myself and have blamed myself in particular situations.
      I do believe, however, that women, girls, and children experience much more harassment and abuse than what society wants to recognize and/or deal with. I do also believe, however, that there has been some improvement in this area, though it also seems to depend on who is handling the situation.
      Thank you, again, for your comments and being able to relate! 🙂

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