Sexual Harassment: a Scandalous Re-Telling of an Old Story (updated)

This is a longish essay. You may want to pour yourself a drink.

It’s 11:30 am. A young woman leaves the Post Office hurriedly. She manages to fix her lipstick as she crosses the street swiftly. What’s my point, you wonder? Wait, wait I will get to it soon.

Living in the heart of the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California for many years, I have learn to discount, discount, discount, the insane things I hear and read day-in and day-out. Why, many of the undergraduate girls I know affirm that they are “bi” (bisexual)! Yet, I often bump into them a couple of years latter looking happy, with their (male) husband, and with their first kid. The University of California at Santa Cruz offers a genuine major in “Feminist Studies.” No, I am not mistaken; it’s not “Women’s Studies,” or even “Feminine Studies,” both just as legitimate fields of inquiry as anything. It’s “Feminist…” Just try to imagine a corresponding major in “Conservative Studies” !

The university is contiguous to the City of Santa Cruz where the presence of radioactive material, including nuclear weapons, is unambiguously prohibited by long standing municipal ordinance. It’s the same city of Santa Cruz where elections are fought largely (not completely) between ex-Trotskists and ex-Maoists. It’s dealing with its large “homeless problem,” in part, by transforming several of its downtown parking meters into donation meters. They are easy to find because they are painted bright red. Want to help without promoting panhandling by the borderline insane and by the substance-induced? Put a quarter in the red meter. The populace, the tax-paying peasantry has not been told how much has been collected after several years. The number of vagrants has not changed. (It has not increased, I think). Their behavior has not been modified for the better (or for the worse, I think). What would be a lovely river walk is still impracticable for all but fast-moving bicycle riders and by well-armed males in their prime, because it’s home to the homeless, precisely.

I chose to live here so, I discount automatically much of what I hear. And, I used to be a university professor. There is not much that the young can proclaim that will scandalize me, or even astonish me. That’s especially true of what the spoiled young whose parent pay all their bills will announce. I am reasonably intelligent (as anyone who reads this blog is more or less forced to admit in the end) but I am not that fast, to tell the truth. So, I just realized that I also assume that other reasonable, rational, intelligent people (my group) also discount, that they discount more or less automatically as I do. I may be tragically wrong on this.

A couple of days ago, a younger man I know pretty well advised me that any comment on a woman’s physical appearance is sexual harassment. Read this again. That was soon after I had told a young woman who has known me casually for a couple of years, “You look elegant, XYZ.” I am quoting myself exactly here. I am quite sure I did not say, “Nice tits,” or anything like that. (A part of me regrets that I am too conservative to have ever said anything of the kind, ever. What a lovely experiment it would be.)

The problem is that my new adviser in the social niceties is not a moron. I have staged him before on this blog. He occupies a position of some responsibility in a flourishing business; he had significant intellectual achievements at the undergraduate level; his choice of major indicated a good deal of intellectual seriousness. I also know him to be quite honest on the whole. “On the whole” because, like most people, he may exaggerate a little, on the margin, or imagine things to be that are not, in order to shore up his argument. In this case, he assured me that the girl had “rolled her eyes” at my compliment. He was positioned in such a way that he could not have seen her expression if she had done it. She had her side to him, somewhat to the back. I, on the other end, was facing her and only four or five feet away. She had smiled brightly exactly as a common sense would tell you she would. In spite of this small wart on his face, my friendly acquaintance cannot be dismissed easily. So, what’s going on? The main thing is that he is about thirty. He represents the first adult generation to grow up in a world shaped by feminist rhetoric. He has never not known feminism. He is the live outcome of a big social experiment.

I have assumed for several years that no one really take extremist feminist pronouncements seriously because they so utterly lack in credibility, because they are so often innocent of a relationship to facts. I assumed that the only believers are those who stand to profit by a feminist worldview if it comes to be widely believed. Two main categories: High-achieving career woman clawing for every small advantage after the manner of careerists of all sexes. The presumption of a “glass ceiling,” although contrary to all market logic, may well constitute such a small advantage in a tight race. Of course, I deny that there is such a thing because of the thorough dishonesty of the arguments advanced in support. If your position is logically sound and factually well based, you don’t need to tell lies or stupid things to support it. (See: “Unequal Pay – For Women Only, Part 1” on equal pay).

The second category that stands to benefit is the large and growing cohort of single mothers. As feminist arguments grew louder, young men were given good reasons to act irresponsibly: “If women are equal, why do I have to support the bitch?” and, “She should have know she could get pregnant.” Many women left in a lurch in the past twenty years or so have been led to believe by liberal propaganda that the Federal Government is their missing husband. Large economic advantages accrue to being a persecuted and officially protected minority of which “single mothers” is now one. (Don’t ask me how I know; I need to protect the guilty. Just do your own welfare homework.) To gain these advantages requires a little action, a little initiative with respect to the bureaucracy. Believing that you are the victim of a gross societal injustice helps motivate single mothers to reach out for these advantages. Using your critical faculties and rejecting obviously flawed feminist stridency will leave you and your children poorer than you all need be. It’s an easy choice any way you look at it. I could be convinced that any single mother that does not take all the necessary steps, including in her own mind, is a bad mother.

In any event, the young woman whom I accused of being elegant is also my neighbor. I am old enough to be her grandfather and I look the part. (No, I don’t look like the buff old guys in the testosterone supplement ads on TV; sorry to disappoint.) I am pretty sure she knew I was not hitting on her. (And, a mischief-loving part of me asks: What if I had been hitting one her in this discreet, courteous manner? But it’s not a good time to go there, not yet.)

Rude Questions

So, if either of us had the time and the inclination to follow through on the younger man’s lesson in manners, I would ask him only three questions, (compound questions that is):

1 Is there any reason other than display for a woman to wear a tight t-shirt?

Now, now, don’t jump on me. Women have every right to wear whatever they want, even when it hurts me (more on this below; see “camel”). I am not referring to rights but to the inclination to wear a garment that is completely sure to attract attention to a woman’s breasts. I mean everyone’s attention, including other women’s attention. I wonder if anyone will have the effrontery to assert that tight t-shirts are convenient or comfortable. And, you can’t fool me anyway, I have worn tight t-shirts myself. The t-shirt question arises because in our mercifully free societies, every woman has the option to wear loose clothing, as loose as she wishes. Even the tent-like chador is legal.

Speaking of chadors, I am amazed at the number of times I have noticed Muslim women wearing the complete veil – for modesty, presumably – and whose top was adjusted to emphasize their bust. (If you spend ten minutes at the Vista Point next to the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, you will spot a half dozen.) I have to comment because not creating this bust line adjustment is easier and cheaper than creating it. It takes effort to have it. Incidentally, I know I am unusually observant in this connection. The fact that I am a dirty old man is only part of the reason. The other part is that my mother was a talented seamstress who had a big influence on my perceptiveness. (It’s all in my book that you should read: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography -. It’s available from Amazon and from me at isuedtobefrench@gmail.com.) I even know the technical term in French for such topsail adjustments.

The correct answer to the initial question above is that women show their breasts as much as they dare to. A t-shirt is a common way to do it without doing it. The garment also obscures imperfections in that area, including thinness of endowment.

2 Santa Cruz, where we both live, my teacher and I, has a mild climate. It’s a university town, and, as such, pretty informal. People here often wear shorts, both men and women. The men all wear shorts down to the knee or nearby. All the women and girls who wear shorts, without exception, wear short short shorts, pretty much at crotch level. Females who wear shorts display their thighs (even when reason would command no such display, another story, obviously.) If you agree that my description is accurate on the whole, why should this be? Why do young women exhibit their thighs?

If you don’t agree that my description of shorts is accurate, what have you been smoking?

The correct answer to the first question is that all women who think they can afford to want to display their thighs. Those who think they cannot or shouldn’t (not enough to my mind) just refrain from wearing shorts at all…. Not worth it!

For a while, I was puzzled by the uniformity of the actual application of this rule. Since I am a retired guy and a conscientious pop-sociologist, I took the trouble to perform some of the relevant research. I can confirm that Bermuda shorts – now called “walking shorts” – for women are available all year around from Land’s End, for example. They cover the leg down to the vicinity of the knee, just like men’s shorts. So, the exhibition of thigh space is much more likely to be a choice by women than a fashion somehow imposed from above by sadistic (and probably gay) designers. Or by lubricious hetero corporate decision-makers, for that matter.

3 Explain; “pushup bra.” What is it? What is it for?

Correct answer: It’s is an artful device explicitly designed to make women seem to have bigger breasts that they actually have. It serves no other purpose.
Any argument?

The Search for Sperm

“But, but,’patriarchal society,’ blah , blah, blah….” If there were any merit to this line of argument, you would find the following: As patriarchal power in all its manifestations recedes so, should the allure of curve enhancement among women. I am persuaded that precisely the reverse is true: The weaker the patriarchal power, the more the curves in evidence. (I am not complaining, I am describing!)

Here is what used to be obvious about curve enhancement based on everything we see where it’s allowed by law and custom:

All normal women of reproductive age who don’t have children, or who don’t have enough children ( a subjective judgment), place themselves nearly constantly on sexual display when they are in public. I mean anonymous, largely omnidirectional sexual display. The display always begins with those physical traits that best differentiate heterosexual adult women from heterosexual adult men. Those are mostly but not exclusively buttocks, thighs and breasts. Long hair that is also lustrous, fleshy lips and, especially, large eyes, may also serve the purpose but they are mostly useless at a distance. (The girl who was leaving the post office fixing up her lips was making them appear fleshier, just in case someone got close, no doubt, without thinking.)

You will have noticed the escape clause in the beginning sentence of the preceding paragraph: “All normal women…” This means all young women in the reproductive situation I describe except those who are sick in any way. Depressed women, in particular do not display. The relationship is so tight that I speculate that it could be used as a first-cut diagnosis tool: Show me a young, childless woman. who does not engage in any sexual display (and who has not taken Holy Orders) and I will show you a depressed woman!

Incidentally, please, note my moderation. I did not advance as yet another kind of sexual signaling the dozens of ugly camel feet that assault my eyes every time I set my own feet downtown. I credit the camels to simple negligence and bad taste. I also try to avert my eyes from what may be a sign of desperation by increasingly neglected young single women (another story, another hypothesis.)

Young women who have insufficiently reproduced (according to their own instincts) engage in sexual signaling for two related but conceptually distinct reasons. Both are biological imperatives, that is, the women can hardly or seldom escape the compulsion. Women are first seeking good sperm, quality sperm. Second, they are seeking a provider and protector for their offspring to come. Of the two, the first is easily the most straightforward mission. It does not require much discernment:

Is he tall enough? Does he have four limbs, five fingers on each hand? Is his face symmetrical (Is he “cute”) – a sign of genetic integrity? Any bulge? Does he appear mentally normal? Do I have a chance?

The second search, for a provider and protector, by contrast, involves several tricky calculations. Here is an example: Older men are generally better established than young men. They are likely to provide more immediate economic security, all good for my offspring. Yet, they are likely to die sooner than young men so that this superior security may be short lived. And, though young men are less likely to die, they are more likely than older men to desert me and my children because they receive more and better offers than do older men. You see what, I mean? It’s not simple at all.

Given these different degree of complexity, I am guessing that young women probably spend more energy and more time on the first pursuit than on the second. Studying the Victoria’s Secret catalog is more fun that studying insurance companies’ actuarial tables, for sure!

Culture Channels

The link between sexual display, as described above, and the search for good sperm is very tight and quite visible in some cultures, less so in others. Among humans, culture always constrains the expression of biology, of course. We are fully animals but we are exceptionally culturally inclined animals . In the US, the relationship between curve bolding and sperm seeking is blatant. I take my granddaughter to many lessons during the day. This makes me an honorary “Mom,” of course or, at least, it puts me in a good position to observe large numbers of women who have reproduced and who may not be looking for sperm anymore, or not actively. On the average, with extremely few exceptions, these late twenties and early thirties mothers with toddlers and kindergarteners look unkempt, often borderline unclean, almost always flabby. There is no pushup bra in sight, not even the suspicion of one and their thighs are completely absent from view.

If I did not know any better, I would guess that the young women with toddlers are from a different tribe or even from a different race than the young women who amble only a few blocks away, in tight, low-cut t-shirts worn over a pushup bra ( the “Triple Punch”!) In fact, of course, they are sisters and not even years apart, more like high school mates. Together, they project an exemplary “before” and “after”picture: Not enough sperm: Boost curves; enough and more than enough: Don’t bother.

I can already hear the outraged reaction from where I sit quietly: The old bastard lacks compassion with respect to the unavoidable ravages of pregnancy and childbirth. Maybe I do because I do not think they are unavoidable. French women experience pregnancy too; they give birth too. Yet you never see in France even close to this degree of absence of sexual attractiveness. Young French mothers are back on the beach three or four months after delivery. American mothers, often never. It’s avoidable. (Note in passing that this counterexample may subtly undermine my own thesis.)

And no, I am not likely to be unwittingly looking at different social classes, or not in a direction that would help criticize my view. Taking small children to lessons in this and lessons in that is a sure mark of middle-class status. While they wait for a ballet class to end, the moms are not gainfully employed, in most cases. (I know, I know: Many work from the laptop in their van. Bullshit! It only happens in some women’s magazines. Taking care of even one small child is stressful; it does not allow one to focus on work.)

I brought up culture. Recognizing the existence of overwhelming biological imperatives is not denying the force of culture: Biology gives the speed and the power; cultures channel the ensuing course of action. Reproduction must happen, so mating must happen; so, there is sperm seeking behavior. Children must also be brought up until they can more or less stand on their own and fend for themselves. That’s all. How either is done is left to culture. Many different, culturally determined strategies exist. They involve widely different degrees of sexual signaling and also, curiously of indirect signaling (another story; ask me). So, pay attention, I am going to unravel this bird nest of knots with a straightforward scientific hypothesis. Don’t miss it.

In some cultures, no direct sexual signaling is permitted at all, at least, in some social classes. Under those conditions, mating must be arranged, of course. In those societies, it would be difficult to figure out what Mother Nature really intended because Mother Nature is kept outside the wall and will be likely stoned to death if she enters. I note, however, that in the most restrictive cultures, young women may take extraordinary risks to signal anyway. Or, they may signal with extraordinary ingenuity within the harsh boundaries imposed on them. (See my old story in Liberty Unbound: “On the Beach in an Arab CityLiberty. 22-8: 27-28, 34 (September) 2008.)

Some cultures allow a fair amount of displaying but its extent and kind is strictly regulated and the displays are limited to specific occasions. I spent time in a Bolivian village a long time ago where unmarried peasant girls were allowed to show a fair amount of bosom at weddings and at dances occasioned by certain patron saint days. Curiously, they seemed to all display almost exactly the same amount of breast real estate as if precise measurement had been involved. (I was already an attentive social scientist then, you bet!) The connection to mating was almost indecently clear in its modest, moderate way:

“The boys are idled today, and they are a little loosened up by drink. Show them what they are missing. This is your last chance for five weeks. To-morrow, everyone will be back at work. Go for it, now; don’t dawdle!”

In earlier days, in America and in some of Europe, there was formal, decorous courting which occasioned few direct female displays. Fortunately for our race, courting was fully complemented by formal dancing, a veritable intense mimicry of the sex act. The Victorian dress code required that this act should be performed by women with necklines down to the areola and strongly protruding bottoms fortified by falsies. Unmarried women participated but their chest tops were pretend-covered by a transparent cloth and their false derrieres protruded a little less. The prospective donors must have gotten the idea anyway, I am sure.

I could go on telling you several more pleasant true stories on the same theme but, one, writing soft core is not my purpose here and, two, you get my point. Instead, here is a testable proposition:

The fewer and the less stringent the cultural strictures imposed on sexual display, the closer to the underlying biological imperative is the sexual signaling behavior.

In other words, sexual behavior in California should be nearer to what Mother Nature commands than sexual behavior is in most other places at most times. What I see on the streets of Santa Cruz is real close to the real, animal thing! This, by the way, would explain why this state of California boasts some of the most angry feminists “spokespersons.” If positive sexual signaling by young women, and almost entirely by young women, is an integral, normal, necessary, unavoidable part of normal life, those who insist that there is little or no difference between men and women are bound to be frequently frustrated.

Two more digressions. First, I am aware of the fact that the behavior the sperm search characteristically involves may interfere with the behavior required by the provider search: Too much breast swinging will probably sometimes act as a signal of excessive sexual availability. Such a disposition in its turn implies the danger for the provider of bearing the cost of rearing offspring unrelated to himself. (Yes, you read this right: not “unrelated to themselves:” bad grammar is a form of lying.) Second, dress choices that enhance sperm search may often be at odds with the search for “chic” because this ineffable quality often requires understatement including the understatement of womanly curves. I cannot go into this interesting issue here. It complicates but does not nullify anything I state. If I had time, I would speculate that the search for chic involves competition between women for men who have become inured to sperm donation invitations through a surfeit of this particular currency. I mean competition, among others such, for rich men from traditional elites.

Brutal Numbers and their Implications for Action

Young women have forever been caught on he horns (if I may use this word) of a dilemma: The fear that men will treat them a sex objects and the fear that men will not treat them as sex objects. It’s a tight, narrow path to walk. Perhaps, it used to be easier than it is under contemporary conditions.

The non directionality of much sexual signaling related to sperm search may make the search more frustrating to women today than it was until amazingly recently. In 1815, most Europeans and most Americans lived in small villages. (Before, that and as far back as we can go, they mostly lived in even smaller groups.) This fact is relevant to the idea of harassment.

In the average village, there may have been seven or eight males of age appropriate to mating. Of those, maybe two or three individuals were unsuitable mating material for one reason or another. The excess load of women’s undifferentiated sexual display was thus light. Today’s young woman is not really seeking a much greater number of appropriate sperm donors than her great-grandmas did because women can only be pregnant a small number of time in their lifetime, not many more than ten. In theory, each woman has access to hundred, or even thousands of sperm donors but 90% or more are superfluous; most are unsuitable for different reasons. To get to the useful ones, she may have to sift through hundreds of bad or very bad potential mating partners. This is a classical issue of poor yield: One has to go through tons and tons of garbage rock to find a handful of gems. This could easily become uncomfortable, “harassment.” The future solution of course is not for women to cease the biologically mandated sperm search but to take it largely out of the public arena with the help of pairing software and of the wonders of Internet photographic (and sound) transmission. Electronic sperm providing triage looks to have a bright future.

There is not much that’s new in anything I have stated above except the numbers. Those are very new on the scale of human evolution. Our biology and our physiology evolved over tens of thousands of years in a steady context of small numbers. In the blink of an eye (100-150 years), the processes formed under these conditions had to deal with huge numbers. The transition is bound to be rocky. One other thing is a little new on the mating front but its’ not exactly news. It’s the fact that recent research keeps spitting out new findings that confirm that inherited traits are very important and lasting, and first and foremost the sexual division of humanity. (That’s notwithstanding the natural existence of boy-girls, girl-boys and persons in transition. Mother Nature is not a very precise engineer. She cares about large numbers, “on the whole.”)

In this perspective, complimenting a woman for enacting well biological imperatives over which she has little control is as necessary as applauding a concert pianist. That’s except that the pianist has an easier task, having been trained and generally following a musical score.

Women invest large amounts of energy, treasures of inventiveness, often genuine artfulness in their signaling. To not comment is often simply rude. Same as failing to let your neighbor know that her well-tended flower garden livens up the neighborhood. Women not poisoned by feminism will readily confess that they are able to bring up their own morale by simply walking where men are likely to notice them. As I finish this essay, a Facebook “friend” of mine posts the following: “The solution to a bad hair day is a low cut blouse.” (My friend is no spring chicken; she may be too unsophisticated to be much troubled by feminist complaints. She may well read this essay. I hope she will tell us.) To deny this simple observation is to be a liar. To ignore it is to be abysmally ignorant. To argue that sexual signaling is all the fruit of cultural conditioning – conditioning that just happens to be the same across all cultures – is dishonest, ignorant, and it’s become really, really boring.

And a part of me fears that after I pass on, there will not be a single male voice to assert that the queen is half naked!

Not well covered here is the possibility that many women are strongly irritated by the poor quality of the expressions of curve recognition they garner. Perhaps, importing tens of thousands of Italian men to teach adjunct classes in American high schools (or even Frenchmen, if I say so myself)… Just an idea.

How about my honest manners adviser you may ask, the guy who believes that all comments about a woman’s physical appearance constitute sexual harassment? As I have told you, he is neither lacking in intelligence nor standing especially low on the information ladder. My wife of 38 years helped me a great deal with that one. (She is probably more intelligent than I am but she is not as well informed and she is not as wise as I am, in general. Sometimes, she is though. She also tends to be quicker.) She asked me this simple question:

“Isn’t it true that you are treating silly feminist dogma as if it were software? What if it’s really hardware?”

My wife question corresponds quite well with what contemporary brain science tells us. The brain rewires itself unceasingly; it rewires itself on the basis of the stimuli it receives. In this view, ideas that are repeated over and over may become permanently wired, or solidly wired, in the brain. That is, they become hardware and difficult to un-install. Thus lodged, they are almost impervious to arguments, to observation, and to reasoning, in other words. This may be what “dogma” really means from the standpoint of individual belief.

By the way, I have often wondered how intelligent, cultured, often creative Western Communists could retain their belief faced by mountains of communist atrocities, faced by the ordure of the Gulag piling up on their doorstep. The brain wiring hypothesis would go a long way toward dissipating the mystery. Like Communists in non-communist countries, my manners teacher may well has been exposed without stop to the same comparatively well articulated feminist doctrine with no, zero, exposure to any contrary viewpoint.

Oh, and yes, my manners teacher may be correct from a strictly legal standpoint because feminist insanity has penetrated far into our legal system. That does not make it true in any other sense.

And, by the way, did you hear the clamor of American feminists demanding that our country take action to stop the sex slave trade in little girls in Syria and in Iraq just as soon as we extinguish the criminal custom of wolf-whistling?

UPDATE on 4/10/15

My local radio just announced a big meeting at University of California at Santa Cruz do discuss rape and “date sex violence.”

I am confounded! Why a meeting on a university campus? Violent rape will get you about 15 years, in California. That’s not a rap on the knuckles but I would be interested in a full citizens’ discussion about raising the penalty. (If I were on a jury recidivists, in particular would not walk free for long.)

The problem of sexual violence within dating, this strange and ambiguous practice, is easy to solve. Young women: don’t “date” fellow students who are males. Listening to the news and  reading the mainstream press, I am getting the impression that most of them are potential rapists anyway. Why take a chance? If you really want to mate, there is always the old fashioned practice of meeting at church socials several times before  being alone with a man. And, then, there is also the old church practice  of not becoming drunk with a stranger.

My malevolent old man’s intuition whispers to me that the real topic if not violence against women by men they know.

End of digression.

About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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16 Responses to Sexual Harassment: a Scandalous Re-Telling of an Old Story (updated)

  1. johnczaja says:

    you did it again Jacques…another adventure in hilarity…thoroughly enjoyed this one…I have always been amused by the wimmens that dress provocatively and then act like they resent you looking at them…now I have a better understanding…thanks, mon amie.

  2. John: I really appreciate your appreciation and especially, all the flattery but I do wish you would not call me “girlfriend” in French. Please, leave out the final “e,” a mark of the feminine gender (N. S. !) It’s “mon AMI.”

    Please, share this blog. I think I did a goo deed, this time.

  3. BCL says:

    OK Jacques, I am most likely older than you but I always appreciate a man giving me the look. At my age I don’t flash breasts anymore, just legs and the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen. That’s all I have to flash anymore. I always thought: ” show some and let them WANT to see more.”

  4. Scott cochran says:

    Jacques,

    I don’t always comment much, but I always read, enjoy and usually share your essays.

  5. BCL: Keep flashing. It’s good for you and it’s good for me too!

  6. I says:

    Ah the ramblings of an older man desperate to hold on to away of thinking that is quickly becoming obsolete.
    This has nothing to do with the faults of feminist theory, sensitivities, bisexuality (?), or even the entitlements of a new generation of women. This has everything to do with young women finally standing up to unwanted and unsolicited attentions and comments. Both about their appearances and their choices. Especially in an environment where all these women are doing is trying to earn a living. They don’t owe you anything other than coffee and friendly service. Yes, young women will wear what they’ll wear and still demand to be treated decently. Go figurine.
    The character of the creepy and/or unsettling older man is not an original one, however. There will always be someone to fill that role. And young ladies will forever be unamused by his “sweet” and “harmless” comments. Instead of looking around you and trying to find every excuse in the book maybe stop and think “holy crap are my actions coming off as creepy?”

    PS: The picture you paint of the manager is not that of a new emasculated man, but of a better one.

  7. I:

    “…desperate to hold on to away of thinking that is quickly becoming obsolete.”

    Where is it becoming obsolete? Not even downtown in the People’s Republic of Santa Cruz, not even in the block closest to the Clock Tower. You seem badly misinformed. Perhaps, you don’t go out much.

    Now, thanks for the advice. I wonder if I should pay more attention to the many women who light up like Christmas trees or to the few who declare themselves harmed by innocent (but often exaggerated) compliments. Got to think on that one!

    “…that of a new emasculated man, …” I did not use that word, I did not think that word; it’s barely in my vocabulary. Why is it in yours? It’s difficult to take anything you say seriously if you include even a single misrepresentation in so few words. You also misuse “quote marks,” indicating either more “misrepresentation” or uncertainty.

    What a sad, humorless, vengeful, nasty society exists in your mind. I am so glad there is no reason to believe you. Cheer up!

  8. S says:

    Jacques,

    I have many thoughts about the majority of this essay but for now I am going to focus on the fact that the comment you made to the young woman you have casually known for years was at work. You were not in a casual environment being causal acquaintances you were in her place of work offering unsolicited and unwanted comments. She was not able to step away and excuse herself from you, nor has she ever been able to the countless other times you have made comments. The issue is not that you made inappropriate comments about her appearance (well it is, but I will get to that later), the issue is that you made a comment that made her feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter what the context was, that is irrelevant. I for example, don’t like when people comment on my eating habits, it’s something I would rather not discuss and it isn’t anyone’s business considering I am a healthy adult and I am not harming myself. It is completely acceptable for me to tell someone I am uncomfortable with them making comments about what I eat or don’t eat. The same applies in this situation, because you made this young woman feel uneasy. I will reiterate that this woman was at work, so when a customer makes comments on a regular basis that she is not okay with the reasonable thing to do is to tell her superior. That is exactly what happened. Again, it doesn’t matter what the comment was about, just the impression that it left with the person on the receiving end. The appropriate response to what the young man (who was this woman’s superior) told you is not go and rant about everything that is wrong with everyone and everything. The appropriate and intelligent thing to do would have been to self evaluate and maybe realize that you are saying things that make people feel uncomfortable. If you are so wise damn wise we shouldn’t have to spell this out for you.

  9. Stephanie says:

    Dear Jacques,

    To begin, I think you might be a little (or a lot) unclear about how bisexuality works. Unless marriage is a drastically different arrangement than I understand it to be, your former student did not sign away her bisexuality when she legally committed to a long-term relationship with a man.

    To continue, I wholeheartedly echo the sentiments expressed by I and S. Obsolesence is absolutely creeping up on the antiquated worldview you seem to advocate, in which women dress solely for the male gaze. I understand that it’s unpleasant to be told that you and the men around you might not be the center of all women’s universes at any given time, but it’s a good thing to realize.

    I comment from the particular position of being a barista at the cafe in question. You and I interact with some regularity, and I work with the barista you complimented on a weekly basis. It is not only possible but probable that she “smiled brightly” to your face and then commenced eye rolling after your interaction was over. To explain this from my own perspective, which is informed by close to a year of employment as a barista and several other customer service positions over the years: we are there to work. When a male customer who is not a close personal friend (I’m sorry, but I don’t think you qualify as such) makes a comment about my personal appearance, it is almost always unwanted and unasked for. It becomes inappropriate because when I am at work, I am in a position where I can’t respond to you freely. This means that my civil reply is usually taken as tacit appreciation, as you appear to have done here.

    If you feel that you have built up a casual, free rapport with this barista, I remind you that a large part of our job is to extend an attitude of casual friendliness. To be more clear: we are paid to be friendly to customers. Your having been a regular for multiple years does not guarantee that our friendliness is anything more than what we give to everyone.

    My female coworkers and I have daily discussions about unwanted stares and comments from ostensibly well-meaning men. Just because a comment is meant to be a compliment does not mean that it will be received as such. It’s an adult’s responsibility to consider whether a remark is appropriate given the situation and relationship.

    I realize that you aren’t likely to change your views, given how certain you seem to be about your being correct here, but I’d be happy to give you further food for thought from a first-hand perspective.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie

  10. Stephanie: The young woman in question did not receive “countless” comments from me. I told her twice in two months that she was very elegant. Only one time was it at work when she could not escape, I suppose.There was no “regular basis.” The second you start misrepresenting, or show that you are uninformed, there is not much reason to continue paying attention.

    This sounds downright bizarre.

    If we are talking about the you same young woman, it’s obvious that the elegance I noticed is a fruit of her care and imagination. Commenting on it is similar to commenting on a piano performance. I would do it even if the pianist were stuck at her piano. (Kill me!) If we are not talking about elegance, I don’t know what we are talking about.

    “go and rant…” ? You must be mad or have a wild imagination. Or, are you referring to this blog? Yes, I blog. It’s seldom that I blog to say “Everything is cool.” True. Don’t like it, don’t read it.

    The “young man” is someone with whom I have had numerous serious conversations. He has shared my meals several times. He never (NEVER) told me that she or any other young woman had complained. If he had, I would have just found another coffee shop.

    This sounds more and more like high school.

    I don’t know who you are and I will not find out.

    Thanks a lot for your behavioral advice. I just “self-evaluated.” The answer is “No.”

  11. Stephanie says:

    My wording was ambiguous, you’re right. I work every week with the barista you mentioned. I did not refer to how often you’ve complimented her, and I did not know it had been twice in a month. I’m unsurprised to hear that, though.

    Stephanie

  12. Stephanie: Jes! I told a woman twice that she was elegant, a form of verbal rape, not doubt! Again, I don’t doubt your good intentions but this is high school-level silliness.

  13. David says:

    Here is a radical idea….ask the young lady if she was creeped out/uncomfortable as opposed to extrapolate her presumptive thoughts based on general or subjective interpretations of average behavior. While I agree that a male ought to refrain from commenting on a females appearance (if only to avoid a probable lawsuit; which I don’t believe “elegant” would fall into the realm of harassment in any court in the last 150 years), trying to presuppose what kind of comment would be construed as harassment based on assumptions one makes upon meeting a person would make communication all but impossible and would prohibit speaking.

    For example, if I were to walk into the same coffee shop (I haven’t lived in Santa Cruz for about 6 years now, so I’m not familiar with the coffee shop scene there) and there was a young woman with a complexion indicative of her being a latina who is at the front counter ready to take my order. Would it be ok for me to greet her in spanish and have a little small talk in what I presume to be her primary language? Or am I to avoid speaking in spanish for fear of offending her co-workers because they may assume we’re talking about them, because we’re speaking spanish? Or perhaps that she might not even speak spanish because her family has been here for generations and has since assimliated? how am I to judge her ability to speak spanish or how long her family has been in the country just based on appearance alone? what if she is a first generation immigrant and has a difficult time understanding english and would feel more comfortable speaking in her native language? Ought I assume that her english is poor because she is working in food service and let’s face it, there are a lot of spanish speaking people who work in food service who don’t speak english well, so would that be a reasonable assumption to make based on the average spanish speaker in the food service industry? would anyone else in the vicinity be offended based on the assumptions I may have made? What would I do if she were really of Persian decent who’s family had been here for 150 years and doesn’t know a word of spanish? how would I feel being coerced into all the effort to minimize offense, just to offend anyways? This is a small volume of the “forethought” that a man would have to go though before saying any word to any female in his life. Most women I know complain that their boyfriend/husband/guy friends don’t say enough, trying to extrapolate behavior towards infinity would shut men up entirely. (Perhaps that’s the point, but that’s a lot of work to get men to shut up, we’re not that hard to keep quiet.)

    I’ve spent too many years working in food service, not as a barista, but in fast food joints, pizza places, etc. and while some are offended at appreciative comments, some people actually enjoy them. I’ve known people that have flirted with people just for the confidence boost they get from it; not like they have any attention of following through with it. To assume that someone wouldn’t like it, just because you wouldn’t like it, or because others in the same work environment typically don’t like it is inaccurate. If you know her, ask her. If she’s creeped out, then she’s creeped out. If she thought it was nice, she thought it was nice. Making the leap from I don’t like nice comments and others around me don’t like nice comments, therefore a third party must not like nice comments is a lapse in analysis. It’d be similar to saying that I don’t like anal sex, my last 3 girlfriends didn’t like anal sex, therefore Sally in Springfield must not like anal sex. Sally may like it, or she may not. The only way to have a more definitive answer would be to ask.

    How is one to approach a woman one wants to go out with? Would it be acceptable to say “Hey, I think you are really pretty! Would you like to go to dinner with me?” or would one need to drop the first part and just ask “Would you like to go to dinner with me?” Which one would be more effective? Which one would you prefer to be asked? Is there a better way that I am unaware of? I’ve never known of any guy getting a date by saying “That was an impressive feat of mathematical reasoning, wanna go out tonight?” (I wish that would’ve worked when I was in high school…)

    Additionally, the idea that women can dress however they want and expect men to treat them the same is utter bullshit. (In this context, I am excluding gay men, since they hardly have any interest in women, or if you want switch woman for man and include them.) A woman wearing a thong bikini is going to be treated differently than the same woman in over-sized sweatpants and sweatshirt. Men are genetically driven to mate and will behave differently towards and around women they wish to mate with. (Hence why young men do stupid shit to get the attention of a female (or females) they fancy.) Wearing a tight shirt will trigger an unconscious response in many males (not necessarily all, because preferences vary among individuals). Wearing tight pants will do the same. The main problem with the theory that men should just control themselves is that the decision is made before the thoughts get to the frontal cortex. Think about telling a woman who is on her period (or pregnant) to just chill out or to think about it before she overreacts. I or any other man would be vilified as an insensitive son of a bitch who doesn’t have any business commenting on women’s issues. To an extent, that vilification would be justified, because most of those reactions happen before there is conscious involvement. Same idea, different application with men. Should a man just wander around with a thong speedo on and expect to be treated the same by women (who may feel harassed by a man wearing a thong speedo)? If you don’t want to get the automatic response of the male gender, refrain from dressing in a fashion that excites the inner neanderthal of the vast majority of men. Men need to do their part in controlling themselves, however that doesn’t give women free reign to arouse men then punish them for talking about it. It’s a two way street and women need to take responsibility too. Equality is only equality if it is in fact equal.

  14. David: 1 My essay was not about men not being able to contain themselves sexually. I think they should, and women too, under all circumstances; no exception.

    2 I am so glad I am completely, completely out of the mating game! (I keep wondering how sensitive women who don’t want any comment on their physical appearance manage to mate. I guess that they have to ask for sexual favors. I don’t believe they are all lesbians but the problem would arise in that context too.) I am also guessing that if I were 25 now, I would devise a quick verbal political correctness test I would administer without her knowing it to any woman I found attractive. I would use it a a sorting method. The small minority who are actual participants in the delusional game that is the topic of my essay would simply drop off my radar screen forever.

    Or, I would go fishing in waters with fewer barracudas.

    3 You are giving me ideas with the thong Speedo. Where can I buy one?

    • David says:

      Please be so kind as to forgive my poorly directed start. my reply was to be directed at the women who were assuming you came across as creepy/harassing. (Since which generation was elegant a “creepy” description of a female? I’d think most “enlightened” women would view elegant as a pleasant change of pace, better than “nice tits” I think, but what can you expect when people are accustomed to finding offense when there ought to be none.) They seemed to assume you were trolling for some young T&A, therefore you must be a creep, therefore she must have been offended, ergo, you must be admitted to a “reeducation” camp to learn to be a better man.

      As to being completely out of the mating game, I agree. (I’m still mating, but it is not much of a game and there is a singular focus to it these days…) I wouldn’t know if I were in a relationship until I got a lawyer involved to “clarify” dating terminology. I’ve heard the phrases “I never said we were exclusive,” “yes I slept with her, but that was while we were on a ‘break,'” from so many friends still in the dating scene that my head spins from all the Clintonian parsing of the english language.

      In regards to the thong speedo, I imagine you could find one doing an amazon search or visiting Frenchy’s (I think that’s one of the local porn shops in Santa Cruz.). Or perhaps Camoflauge downtown might have one. I’d avoid a Google search to avoid the inevitable volume of gay porn that would show up. I haven’t actually gotten around to searching for one, since I have no business wearing one right now, but given the volume of “Fifty Shades” fantasies that so many women exude, someone is selling it somewhere. (Perhaps in France?)

  15. David: It’s more creepy than you think. The two young women who used this blog to criticize me have known me long enough to be absolutely certain that I was not trolling for anything except, perhaps, a smile. As I said, I look like grandpa, no ambiguity there. I speculate that they dearly wanted to make an example of me because I set a bad example for the young men who are in the game by speaking clearly. They are the new Bolcheviki, the 4% who try to impose their sad view of the world on the 96%.
    And then, there is also the unexplored issue of mixed motives. And then, there is the possibility that some young women don’t like to hear compliments addressed to another young woman, leaving them out in the cold. That’s why I keep referring to high school. Enough said about them. I have some unimportant matters to attend to! I am writing an essay on the nature of work.

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