We like to throw arount statements like sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, but does anyone actually know what these things mean?
No means no… but don’t take no for an answer.
In the wild, the alpha male eats first. Once he’s had his fill, then and only then does he permit the alpha female to eat, followed by the rest of the pack. The law of natural selection dictates that this is a positive survival trait and a highly effective social construct. If that were not the case, it would have been naturally selected for extinction. The reasons why it’s effective aren’t difficult to see, either: the alpha male is in charge of protecting and providing for the pack. If he’s successful, the pack is successful. If he fails, the pack fails. Therefore, his needs take precedence. If he’s happy, healthy, and strong, he’s better able to protect and provide. Traits that augment his dominance over the pack such as size, strength, and aggression are celebrated.
Humans do it, too.
A quick browse through women’s erotic literature will show that the alpha male is dominant (pun intended). They’re not shy about it, either; you see Alpha Male in a plethora of erotic fiction titles accompanied by a cover art depicting some topless guy with big, bulging muscles. A lot of women want that. It’s sexy.
Only that in this #metoo era, he’s punished.
When I was growing up, I was taught that faint heart never won fair lady and that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That’s because persistence pays off. Women want a take-charge kind of guy, I was told.
Harvey Weinstein was exactly this guy. So are a handful of successful men who’ve now fallen from grace because they were not faint heart, did try, try again, and were persistent about being a take-charge kind of guy. Of course she also wants him to be caring and sensitive and put her first… which is by definition not an alpha male — an alpha male puts himself first, hence the term alpha.
And herein lies the conundrum. I once approached a girl I liked and tried to talk with her. She brushed me off. Out of respect, and because I understood that no means no, I let her alone to go about my business only to later on find out that she was attracted to me initially, was acting coy, and was disappointed because I’d let her go so easily. I was soft, apparently. A wuss. Another time, I tried to speak to a (different) girl and got the same initial result. Having learned my lesson on not giving up too easily, I kept at it only to find out I was a stalker guilty of sexual harassment and I’d given her a #metoo moment of her own.
Of course it’s easy for men to forget that women aren’t cookie-cutter molds of one another, that they each want different things, and go back to that old stay from the 1950s shouting things like “women don’t know what they want!” What gets me is that when I read some of those comments, I get the impression that women forget that, too. Moreover, just the term sexual harassment has grown vague to the point where a lot of people can’t tell when it’s happening. It’s easy to get the impression that the question of whether an action constitutes sexual harassment depends on, among other things, how attracted she is to the guy, which is especially sad because it obfuscates the very real sexual harassment when it does happen.
The sad, difficult truth is that a lot of what we like to call sexual misconduct is not black & white. There are some fifty shades of gray in there, as I’m told.