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A man’s guide to not sexually harassing women

Not sexually harassing women is easy. (Pic: iStock)
Not sexually harassing women is easy. (Pic: iStock)

NOT harassing and assaulting people is super important. It's also super easy.

In light of #metoo I thought it might be fitting to, as a man, write a piece for other men about how important not harassing and assaulting people is. The sheer number of #metoo posts would indicate that there's still heaps of people - mainly men - who don't realise it.

Before I go any further, a note to the people who posted with the #mentoo hashtag. If you're a male victim of harassment or assault, #metoo is not a further assault on you. It's not a minimisation or denial of what happened to you. Your pain is no lesser. It's equally horrific and equally should never have happened.

#Metoo is a result of a very far-reaching scandal relating to a particular person. It's about how that scandal relates to entrenched power structures. And it's opening up a lot of eyes to the sad extent of sexual assault in society. What happened to you is no less tragic, but timing matters in this conversation.

And a note to the people who will try to dismiss this as another man-bashing effort. It isn't. I hate people trying to pin the deeds of a few criminal knuckleheads on my entire gender. But while the individual cases are not our fault, the culture is very much our responsibility. There's still a long way to go and we can actually play a part in a safer, better world. Nice, hey?

Back to not harassing and assaulting people. As I said, it's really, really important. Not sure where some people forgot that along the way. Luckily, this super important thing is also super easy. I'm a bumbling fool at best of times, but even I've managed to go my whole life without doing it. So have the vast majority of guys I know. To use Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory, you could say I've mastered not harassing and assaulting people, and hopefully you have too.

It’s actually easy to not harass or assault women. But the sheer number of #metoo posts would suggest men may benefit from this advice. (Pic: iStock)
It’s actually easy to not harass or assault women. But the sheer number of #metoo posts would suggest men may benefit from this advice. (Pic: iStock)

But for those who are new, in my own meagre experience I've come up with a top ten ways to not harass and assault people:

Don't harass or assault anyone

Sounds obvious, but deciding not to do it is a great start. That means you'll need to work backwards and figure out some values to guide your behaviour. Some key areas will include how you see - and therefore treat - women, how you deal with disappointment and anger, and the example you want to set for those following behind you. You don't need a ribbon or a pledge to do it - just decide each day.

Stop watching porn

Porn is OK as long as it's not hurting anyone, right? Not really. There's plenty of evidence of how porn changes neurochemistry for the worse. It causes us to dehumanise the opposite sex. It sets unrealistic expectations in sexual relationships and makes its consumers feel entitled. It warps a sense of healthy sex, so that high school girls, whose bodies haven't even finished developing yet, think they have to have anal sex because that's what dude bro who spends hours watching porn expects and she doesn't want to be labelled frigid.

Porn is not awesome.

Watch less UFC

I can't help but wonder if there's a link between an increase in 'alcohol-fuelled violence' (a PC term for neanderthals who hurt people) and the popularity of mixed martial arts. MMA, and its well marketed incarnation - UFC, is just brutal. I know they're elite athletes and there's a lot of skill involved, and I've watched it occasionally, but the fact is it's a blood sport where you can keep punching an opponent in the head while they're on the ground. Watching it continually can have a desensitising effect and more than a few boofheads have demonstrated their inability to separate the octagon from real life.

Watch less of it. It's not good for your brain.

Take up a physical activity that isn't harassing or assaulting people

Join a sports team and don't harass or assault anyone there. Join a Men's Shed. Take up bushwalking or fishing. Get out in the outdoors, unplug from technology and expend some energy. Generate some of your own endorphins doing something other than lifting weights - your body has the ability to make itself feel good without even having to assault anyone.

Volunteer for a cause

I once heard an ex-league player, now commentator, say he the main reason he volunteered for charity because it made him feel good. Whatever works for you.

Mindhealthconnect.org.au - a resource for mental health - details some of the benefits of volunteering, including increased community connectedness and helping to combat depression. There's heaps of research to back up volunteering as being good for both you and your fellow man.

Stop hanging out with creepy people

If your conversations with mates centre around chicks you've banged, want to bang, are frustrated with because of not banging, and places to find other chicks to bang, it's time to change the conversation or change your mates. Good thing is, changing the conversation isn't hard. You don't have to become a hardcore third-wave feminist to do it. A good way to start would be to ask yourself 'would I say this in front of my mum or my daughter?'

Think about how you think about women

A little self-awareness never killed anyone. Check your first reactions when you see a woman you're attracted to. And your first reactions when you see a woman you're not attracted to. Do you assign them value based solely on their looks? Do you see them solely as someone who exists to potentially gratify you sexually, someone you're entitled to? Do you wonder about their humanity, about their story, or are they just eye candy?

By the way, you don't get brownie points for treating women like actual humans worthy of dignity and respect. That's just basic human decency.

Say no... to yourself

Poor impulse control and the inability to delay gratification are behind a whole lot of issues, including addiction, debt and obesity. The inability to regulate our response to what we want or think we deserve is destructive, and our own responsibility. Practice delayed gratification - don't have the whole tub of ice cream. Don't buy the new iPhone X. Don't take out a loan for the trip to Phuket. Say no to yourself and discover some self-control.

If you've been abused, raped or assaulted - get help

Start with Lifeline or Beyond Blue. See a counsellor. Talk to your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan which will give you access to a psychologist. It's never weak to say you need help. One sure-fire way to continue the all too frequent cycle of abuse victim becoming abuser is to repress your pain. Please, please - get help.

If you've abused, raped or assaulted someone - own it and get help

If you're a perpetrator, admit it. Stop lying to yourself and others. Admit it, apologise for it, seek to make amends. If you've committed a criminal act, offer to surrender yourself to the police, ideally through a third party. Accept the consequences. If your victim wants nothing to do with you, shut up and stay away. And above all, get help.

Here's what's awesome - most of this can happen with little to no external effort, because most of it goes on between your ears. That's where all of this starts, with what and how we think. And the tips in this list that do involve doing something all involve doing something good for you.

A friend pointed out the response to the #metoo phenomenon in the form of the #howIwillchange hashtag. I'm not a fan of hashtag activism and virtue signalling on social media. I don't do pledges and hashtag campaigns. But #howIwillchange is worth a look, if only to see how other people are processing this, and think about our impact on women around us.

That's not an endorsement of every tweet or comment, just an invitation to broaden your mind.

I'm hoping the exposure of this whole sorry issue can enable the world to move forward and remove the code of silence around rape and assault, not to mention the protection afforded to the powerful.

Hopefully the pain of victims can be redeemed to a small degree by progress and protection for those following us.

Topics:  metoo mra opinion sexual harassment weinstein



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