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Tuesday, November 27th 2012

6:08 PM

The Day Street Harassment Stood Still

The recent discussions concerning the issue of "street harassment" has gone in a direction that, to be frank, I hadn't anticipated, but which I am nevertheless most pleased beyond any expectations I might have had. A number of very salient points - and even more importantly, powerful questions - were raised, especially in the comments section of the last post (highly recommended reading!). I've spent the better part of the afternoon attempting to find some hard and fast data or information on the matter - even hit up YouTube for some kind of more definitive documentary on the matter - and to be frank, I came up a bit short in locating anything definitive. In the end, the matter remains something of a moving target (I mean, in a legal sense, how does one define, say, "leering"? Is there a specified time limit a Man should look at a Woman? What about a particular facial expression?) - much as in the case of "street" harassment's cousin, sexual harassment - it's "harassment" if the Women in question decides it is. Mind you, I'm not arguing whether this is right or wrong, good or bad - just saying that the very nature of such things - in this case, "street" and sexual harassment - are difficult to quantify and define, especially those that don't involve say, physical assault. 

So, since this entire topic is one that isn't particularly well-suited to the empirical realm, I thought to offer a kind of thought experiment...

I'm a huge fan of Science Fiction - always have been since I was a kid. I remember one of my favorite comic books was "What If?", which featured as its central character The Watcher - a kind omnipotent alien who could rework the universe into pretty much any scenario he could think of - who, issue after issue, posed interesting questions for the book's readers. In many ways, SciFi allows to ponder "what if?" questions - Frankenstein, Minority Report, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Judge Dredd, Idiocracy, Avatar and many more, all raise questions of what our world would look like should thus-and-so happened - what would the implications and ramifications be? And what if they were things that we weren't quite prepared for?

Since it is clear that the activists railing against street harassment wish to bring the legal (and social, since they want Men to dissuade other Men not to harassment Women on the street - or anywhere else) apparatus to bear on the matter - and it seems clear to me that, as Women gain more and more political, social and economic power and influence, this WILL happen - I thought to take on the role of The Watcher and ask:

What If Street Harassment Were Outlawed - & The Plan Worked?

The year is 2024 - 12 years from now. The National Organization for Women, along with other allied and ad hoc groups and friends, has been able to lobby to make the issue of street harassment a cause of grave public concern; as a result, lawmakers at all levels have proven amenable to crafting legislation outlawing the practice which would carry severe penalties (Women now hold more than 60% of all House and Senate seats). President Barack Obama, in his second term, is able to broach the issue successfully, and lays the groundwork for such legislation at the federal level to be passed. 

But it is the election of the 45th President of the United States - Illinois Congresswoman and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, becoming the country's first Woman and Asian, and second disabled American POTUS (after FDR) - who brings the case home. During her two terms in office, she sees the Street Harassment Act passed, which makes any of the following subject to criminal penalty, up to and including stiff fines (minimum of $500 or more for minor offences) and lengthy imprisonment (minimum of 5 years or more, depending on the severity of the offence):

Leering
Honking & Whistling
Sexist Commentary
Making Vulgar Hand Gestures
Saying Sexually Explicit Comments
Kissing Noises
Blocking a Woman's Path
Sexual Touching or Grabbing of Any Kind
Following a Woman Around
Masturbating
Assualt of Any Kind

In addition, the Street Harassment Act is expanded to include schools, college campuses and other officially designated "public spaces", and provisions based on it are added to the Violence Against Women Act. President Duckworth also authorizes federal funds to be released to advocacy groups such as NOW, NARAL and others, with the aim of raising awareness and educating Men in particular NOT to harass Women in any sphere at all, private or public. Tom Matlack offers his personal services as well as that of his media effort, the Good Men Project, to the cause. 

The SHA proves to be an enormous success - massive arrests are made for infractions of the SHA, and Harassment Offender Registries are set up throughout the country, where such a Man, upon leaving prison for his offence and re-entering the community, must then notify said community he is re-entering, so the local authorities can keep track of all his public movements. While it is against the law to discriminate against ex-offenders, companies and organizations are wary of hiring street harassment offenders, and find loopholes and "off the books" ways not to do so. Schools are mandated to educate boys to keep their hands to themselves and their eyes straight ahead. Experimental drug treatments for the genetic factors that lead Men to harass Women on the street and elsewhere is developed by one of the country's biggest pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer), and proposes to test it out on repeat street harassment offenders still currently serving time in the joint. The early returns prove quite promising, and President Duckworth sees to it that the drugs are fast-tracked through the FDA process. Simply titled "Control" the drug hits the market before Duckworth's second term ends.

Reported incidents of street harassment go down over the course of the next decade - by 2032, a drop of more than 60% is recorded. Women love it and report never feeling safer...but...

...they now also find that they have another problem: 

There are now few if any Men who want to approach them, anywhere. 

For the habitual street offender, he is now being medicated for his condition, and as a result has zero desire to approach a Woman under any circumstances; even if she blatantly approaches him, he will walk away. For the Men who were thoroughly instructed in such matters when they were boys, they find it very difficult to breakaway from their training. For the one-time offender, or for the Man who sees the clear and present consequences of breaking the SHA law, they are perhaps the most leery of wanting to take a chance tryin' to holla at a Woman - after all, what if he happens not to be to her liking? An unwanted approach on the street, or anywhere else, could wind up with him spending a goodly bit of time (and/or money) in the pokie for that. 

More and more Women are now writing blogs and books, plays and even tv shows and films, bemoaning their dis-satisfaction; teeshirts emblazoned with the phrase "ASK ME OUT ON A DATE!" begin to appear, becoming a popular piece of apparel for the ladies. Talk show hosts entertain scores of Women who are clearly upset about the fact that Men have seemed to lose all the will to step to them. Online dating sites, like Match.com, eHarmony, OKCupid and PlentyOfFish, go out of business, for lack of male participants. Niteclubs, bars and lounges also experience a huge drop in revenues, as does the diamond/engagement and wedding ring business. 

By the year 2050, the USA is facing a widespread demographic implosion. Birthrates have now fallen to less than one baby per Woman, regardless of color or social rank. To offset the lack of willing suitors, IVF treatments become more commonplace - at first - but even there, the dropoff of sperm donors is profound; Men fearing the repurcussions of running afoul of the SHA seems to be behind this. Weddings are exceedingly rare. The Booty Call, is now a distant memory. And a Woman hasn't been cat-called, in decades.

By 2060, Women report being more miserable than ever.

If the above scenario sounds just a weebit too far fetched for you to ever believe, you might want to think again. Although we are far from the endgame in the grand shuffling of the gender deck chairs, we nevertheless have a goodly bit of early evidence that all is not well - and most important - that there IS a such thing, as tradeoffs and unintended consequences, whenever the prospect of attempting to tinker with the social order rears its head - law enforcement officials understand this keenly. Dating is all but dead in our time; marital rates are at their lowest point in American history, with some social/racial/ethnic/economic groups experiencing a marital freefall. For other such groups, birthrates are falling. 

And that's just the tip of the icerberg. 

In no way am I attempting to make light of the issue of street or any other kind of harassment; what I'm attempting to do, is to get you, the reader, to consider the possibility of, again, tradeoffs and unintended consequences. For every action is an opposite and equal reaction - and even more to the point - I want you, the reader, to consider the possibility, that the notion that Feminist-inspired notions of re-ordering the world, is an unmitigated good, is in fact a grand conceit - one that proven to be quite profound in itself. 

My selection of Congresswoman Duckworth as the next POTUS isn't as far-fetched as one might think; after all, the day when a Woman will become President is a heck of a lot closer than we think, along with the fact that the number of Women lawmakers and executive politicians can only grow from here. It seems clear to me that the question of street harassment will be resolved, at least partially legally, very soon - within say, a decade or so at the least - so again, my above "What If...?" scenario is something to give serious consideration to. 

As always - be careful what you wish for, ladies - you just might get it.

Now adjourn your asses...

The Obsidian
20 comment(s).

Posted by HanSolo:

Some of us were raised by family, religion, school and pop culture this way already, to some extent. We were shamed for our sexuality and that women didn't enjoy sex or kissing and that approaching women too much was uncomfortable to them and that you shouldn't do anything that would make them feel threatened in the slightest. I remember feeling like every woman was thinking that most men were potential rapists, pervs and scoundrels and so I needed to make sure they didn't think that about me. Talk about a mindfuck. Unfortunately, I lost my youth to that mindset. Fortunately, I've made up for it somewhat in the last 5 years.

I hear that upcoming betas aren't as brainwashed as my generation was and that blacks and latinos are more machista and never bought into that stuff as much anyway. But it was a real mindfuck for me, and another mindfuck (in a good way--and I was still a vol-cel virgin at the time) when my virgin girlfriend just kept kissing me and kissing me and I realized that women love to kiss and it's not just something they do to please their man.
Tuesday, November 27th 2012 @ 8:42 PM

Posted by Lara:

Solving one problem often brings other problems.
Wednesday, November 28th 2012 @ 8:51 AM

Posted by Christina:

Eh. Most of the things listed in the fictional Street Harassment Act are already prohibited in the workplace and can result in lawsuits and firing. Men and many conservative pundits complained when workplace sexual harassment protections were introduced that it would be more trouble than it was worth, that it would deter potential healthy relationships that can occur between men and women that work together and hurt business productivity overall.

This is not the case.

I'd be open to seeing this Act passed, with some pruning. I wouldn't want to see men or women penalized for simply looking (leering?) at someone they find attractive. The honking and whistling is rude and can be a driving hazard- car horns are not to be used to scare the hell out of women walking down the street. Unwanted touching, blocking paths, public masturbation: those things are already illegal. The mention about dating sites is fairly laughable because there's a distinct difference between seeking attention and unwanted attention. If you're on a dating site, you're obviously looking for something.

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