This post is in reply to the letter “Locutus83” Sent to Blank Noise [Click here to Read it] asking some very honest and fundamental questions. I loved his honesty, openness and willingness to be wrong. This is also, partially, in response to the general riff raff and chit chat I have come across on various sites related to eve-teasing and street sexual harassment. And as Locust asks, have included a “guide to being a gentleman” as I cant think of anyone better suited than I to write such a guide.
Defining Eveteasing: Eveteasing is not a set of pre-defined actions. It is whatever makes women feel unsafe, powerless, predated upon and unwelcome. How you look, where you look, how long you look, what you do etc can serve as guidelines, but are not what marks eveteaing. However, terms are useful and necessary for awareness and education etc because discreet actions can be measured and evaluated.So also sexual thoughts are not eveteasing, nor are they wrong. Sexual thoughts are not disrespectful, they are natural, normal and in my opinion respectful. However, any sexual gratification that happens at the expense of another persons dignity, space and well being is inherently wrong, be it a thought or action.
How do women know? Women know because from childhood they have been preyed upon, its not sixth sense, its conditioning. From very young, girls are instructed by their parents, relatives and teachers to behave modestly, dress sensibly and mind their own business, and in the process hammering into their minds that being eveteased is their fault and it’s their responsibility to evade eveteasing. Men, on the other hand, have a free run, on the rare chance some girl stares back, snaps, or threatens to hit you with a chappal, it is laughed off and considered a small thing. So also, from childhood they are used to stares, looks, comments, whistles and so conditioned to detect and evade such behaviour.
Do they enjoy it? No woman, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, enjoys being eveteased. This is not a matter of semantics, but a serious and fundamental issue. Eveteasing makes a woman feel helpless, powerless and dehumanized, NO ONE enjoys this. No sane person would expect women to enjoy rape (many insane people think they do), same way, no action, behavior or words that prey upon women can make them feel good.
Do women want us to stop looking? Blank noise and women in general do not want to stop men from looking, or staring, or making compliments, they want to stop harassment. This is not moral policing, not “neutering” of men, but of making them aware that preying on women is disgusting, illegal and will get their bottoms kicked.
Is it person dependant? Refer para. 3 What makes a statement/action eveteasing is essentially the attitude. So it doesn’t matter if a compliment comes from a poor man or rich, if respectful, appropriate, will be taken well. Guys who stand around the corner in groups and say “tamatar kya bhaav hai?” to passing women are not complimenting their breasts, they are being assholes.
Accidental Eveteasing. This seems to be the underlying question Locust and many others seem to have. In case the title of the article was not clear enough, and the first few points didn’t clear this misunderstanding, let me be very clear. You can no more eve tease someone by accident than you can mistakenly end up with your penis inside a cadaver. Comments do-not tumble out of your mouth and eyes dont automatically get glued to breasts.
But, occasionally, very rarely your look might be mistaken for lechery, this is not the norm but the exception. In such a situation, be honest, apologize, and look elsewhere. Women dont consider all men to be sexually deviant predators, they dont walk around looking for an excuse to use their pepper sprays. Mistakes happen, owe up and move on.
Guide for men.
There is no Guidebook
There is no “do this, dont do this” list that you can mug up and follow. Actions matter, but attitude is what causes action. The basic quality is respect for women, not the fake, filmy, “but you are my sister” kind, but respect as will be demonstrated by you not talking to womens breasts, or whistling at them.
Respect is not conditional. Expecting women to fit into the stereotypes that history has handed down before respecting them is fake, futile and will result in your acting like a dick.
Be socially appropriate.
As I said, there is nothing wrong in appreciating beauty, male, female, tree or car. However, it is important to be wise in the way one appreciates. I dont believe in lists, but there are some things that you can outright cross off you list. What works in the movies, like stalking, songs, and displays of macho-ness do not work. Also the street is not really the best way to find someone to start a relationship with. In most circumstances, a smile, nod, quick look-over will have you safe. But you have to learn what is appropriate.
Learn from the best
Just because you respect women does not mean you can do no wrong. You can still do something stupid, tacky and clumsy. This has more to do with social skills than attitude. The cure for that is to have female friends, no one knows what women want better than women. (Not only will women friends help you learn how to behave around women, they will also help you inyour pursuit of becoming a better boyfriend with ample advice and first hand experience in shopping and suchlike.)
Dont be scared, women are not looking for an excuse to call you a pervert.