The idea of consent is not a ‘metropolitan’ or liberal concept yet it seems to confuse some men. They should check themselves and listen
Monday 6 November 2017
Don’t sexually harass women in the workplace. It’s clearly a big ask, isn’t it? For certain kinds of men, this appears to be an imposition that confuses them terribly. How are they to know how to make passes at women? Surely everyone understands that making a pass is not like raping someone? No, they are just being men – watching porn, sexting teenagers, saying lewd things to colleagues. Banter innit? They are the kind of men no woman wants to get in a lift with, the type for whom the acronym NSIT (Not Safe in Taxis) was invented. Do these creeps ever wonder why?
They shouldn’t worry too much. The Today programme, Have I Got News for You and Newsnight are still dominated by sniggering men who would hate to muddle a minor “indiscretion” with a major one. When Jo Brand calmly told a panel of public school boys and Paul Merton that repeated low-level sexual harassment wore women down, for a moment they were silenced – but only for a moment.
Up pops David Goodhart – Etonian, thinktanker, categoriser of people into Anywheres and Somewheres – to inform us on Twitter that the “inability to distinguish hand on knee/sleazebag behaviour from rape/serious intimidation is typical of ideological (metropolitan) thinking”. Okey-dokey. Who exactly is unable to distinguish this? Men? Women? The police? People who live in cities? We can of course distinguish, especially perhaps those of us who have experienced it – and we tend to see it on a continuum. Men who don’t require consent or who get off on making women feel uncomfortable make us both fearful and compromised in the workplace. This applies as much in an out-of-town superstore as it does in Westminster.
So for Goodhart to conjure up this bizarre metropolitan elite argument to shore up male privilege shows just how fragile these old forms of masculinity are currently feeling. The idea that outside metropolitan areas it is apparently OK to behave as a lech is deeply insulting and untrue.
If by “metropolitan” he means progressive – and this is part of his general attack on the liberal tribe who have lost touch with reality – Goodhart would be endorsing a reality that is inherently sexist and arguing that abhorrent attitudes are fundamentally unchangeable.
Away from Goodhart, there is battalion of vocal wronged men who think of women as fantasists; and in expressing that, they reveal more than we may wish to know about them. Such poor souls are wounded not by the metropolitan elite or liberal values, but by the visible refutation of their own ideology, which assumes that an entitlement to power means unquestioned sexual entitlement too.
Why is it so difficult for them? They are often, it has to be said, of a certain age. Years ago one man in Westminster told me that his attitude to sex was “throw enough mud against the wall and some of it sticks”. Pity us walls.