September 27, 2013

Queer Issue: A Really Bad, No Good Idea For a Sociological Experiment on Street Harassment

Over on The Bilerico project, there is a newish post entitled "How To Cat Call Appropriately" on the issue of street harrasment that is frequently faced by women.

One of the commentators (and I might point out this is kind of a predictable response) asked (and I'm paraphrasing) "But what if I just tell her she's pretty and ask her for her number?"

Well, okay let's put the shoe on the other foot. Let's consider a sociological experiment. what if the situation were different? What if it was men who had people coming up to them, telling them they were handsome or good looking, and oh by the way, what's their number?

If women were to go around asking men for their numbers, I have honestly have no idea how it would go. It might be viewed as an impropriety but I am not sure that *most* men would react negatively. Some might be annoyed but others might like it, and at the end of the idea I really have no idea what would go on.

Now, to make this a really fun experiment, what if gay men were to go around in a public space and tell men how sexy/hot/handsome they were, and what their phone number was?

First, we would probably need to wear full body armor to have any hope of maintaining physical safety.

Second, there would be a very real chance of us being arrested for soliciting sex in public. I am not making this up. There's plenty of examples of this happening, even in recent years, of gay men being arrested for public solicitation.

Do I even need to point out that this is certainly a case of how society can enforce rules differently when it comes to minority status.

For extra fun, consider what would happen if the "hey sexy man, can I have your number" solicitor (male, female, or otherwise) fell into any of the following identity categories (or was a part of multiple categories):
-Was visibly disabled
-Was a non-passing transgender, transexual, or otherwise presented outside the gender binary
-Was a person of color
-Was fat
-Was 65 plus and asking males 20-30 years old

I bring up these identities, not because I think that these necessarily should be considered less attractive then what society conditions people into thinking what should be attractive, but because I am willing to gamble that most men, thanks to said social conditioning, would be less receptive in general to being solicited by those in the above categories. Which in turn means that they might get a better idea of why street harassment is such a horrible practice.

That said, there are plenty of men out there who would appreciate being approached by any of the above, but that still wouldn't make it right. Just because some of the mud that you fling at people sticks, does not make mud flinging at people okay.

For further reading:
PSA: Dear Street Harassers by Foz Meadows.

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