A number of Hollywood actresses recently used the occasion of the Golden Globe Awards to express their opposition to sexual harassment. Many people, while agreeing with the sentiment, have perceived the naïve irony: perpetually half-naked starlets decrying the reduction of women to sex objects. How funny and strange! It as though a person should spend his days in a bar, and yet counsel others against the evils of alcoholism. Where is the self-awareness among these histrionic feminists?
The reaction signifies people’s good sense. For, although few of us believe sexual harassment is acceptable, we are nevertheless aware that sexuality is inherently irrational in its effects. A man’s natural response to the sight of an attractive, scantily-dressed woman is instinctual lust. It is not a choice, but an intense desire that simply comes over him, nor will all men control it or act on it in a reasonable manner.
So, we can see that women are enormously powerful in their sexuality. It is for this reason that even a partially exposed leg or breast is sure to get a lot of male attention, whether it is wanted or not. Women are, of course, well-aware of their sexual power, at once a burden and a delight. Indeed, it is because they want male attention, and because they want to best other women, that so many women dress in a revealing fashion.
But, since “letting it all hang out” may be met with male interest that is not reciprocated or, at any rate, not appropriate for the circumstances, it is prudent for women to be more modest than many are today. Here, let me relate an instructive anecdote. A Russian woman of my acquaintance recently told me that she makes her teenage daughter keep her hair up in a bun at school. The reason is that, if taken down, her long, flowing, gorgeous hair — the sort of thing about which men used to write poems — might lead to interactions that, even if only pleasant and flattering, are not suitable for the classroom. Upon hearing this story, I told my acquaintance that, for many feminists, such a practice would be considered “blaming the victim.” She shook her head and laughed heartily. And she was right to do so. For of course, such prudence would not justify sexual harassment. That is not the point. Good sense is. Consider: If I walk through some terrible, crime-ridden neighborhood at 2 a.m. carrying a wad of $100 bills, a person who robs me is not justified in doing so, but neither have I done my duty as a responsible adult to protect myself.
And this is the problem with victim-obsessed contemporary feminism. For by equating adult responsibility with “blaming the victim” or some such cant, feminists dangerously simplify the reality of sexuality: that it is not just a good time, but also potentially quite dangerous. We may not want sexual harassment to exist, but like robbery and so many other bad things, it does. Therefore, it is in the best interest of women to recognize that and not present themselves in a manner to which at least some men, they may be sure, will respond inappropriately. In other words, they should be like my acquaintance’s young daughter, rather than the women of Hollywood.
It wasn’t long ago that women saved risqué clothing for the privacy of their bedrooms. Our culture is very different now. Yet by asserting great sexual power, women also take on a greater responsibility to protect themselves. And it is simply naïve for women to be so immodest while not expecting a good deal of unwanted male attention, whether it rises to the level of harassment or not.
Christopher DeGroot is a writer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can follow his work at @CEGrotius.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller