Headlines abound with new information about Harvey Weinstein’s aggressive and exploitative violation of a woman’s right to self-determination, free will and probable criminal activities. The Weinstein story has rightly highlighted the abuse of power to exploit and rape women. We need look no further than Weinstein, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby to see glaring examples of sexism, groping, using and otherwise exploitation. Although there are too many men who use and abuse women, there are far more nice guys who insist on clear mutual consent prior to any sex.
Women are coming out of the woodwork with an appropriate “#metoo” on social media sites, but we do not need a witch hunt as a result. We do not want irrational fear, and we do not need a war between the sexes. Sexual manners and pre-sex discussions help us avoid abuse, aggression and rape. It is not good manners to impose or aggressively and selfishly seek sex. We can all benefit from being members of the same pleasure team.
We should be gentle lovers with a clear sense of sexual etiquette. Sexual etiquette facilitates mutual sexual enthusiasm while avoiding hurt feelings and any kind of trouble—STI’s, unwanted pregnancies and so on. Sex is never without risk, but we can minimize risks by being well mannered and clear. We need to be good listeners and treat each other with respect, kindness, dignity and a sense of class!
My Pleasure Dome radio show on a large rock station in Atlanta (a racy title in the late 1990’s!) emphasized—God forbid—pleasure! I discussed the importance of openness, honesty and sensitivity with potential and actual lovers. I stressed a balance between humor, common sense and uninhibited sexual fun. I emphasized that it is not sexist to be sexy, and responsible lust is healthy and normal.
When I was interviewed on Tom Brokaw’s NBC Nightly News during the Clarence Thomas hearings, I observed that the EEOC made no clear distinction between flirtation and sexual harassment. We need clear communication. What constitutes “unwelcome sexual advances?” What is wanted?
If every woman is to be the judge of “welcome” or “unwelcome,” every man could be accused of harassment at the drop of his very eyes. The problem is one of clear definition and proof. Women sometimes falsely accuse a man of harassment after the man refuses to start—or breaks off—an intimate relationship. A man can lose or fail to get a job or hurt his chances for promotion if he is accused of harassment. Accusations can be so damning that many who hear them rush to judgment.
Flirtation is innate in every culture. For many, flirting is second only to breathing. Flirtation is delightfully mutual—notifying another of our lighthearted playful feelings. Unrequited flirtation becomes harassment when a woman at work makes it clear that she doesn’t want further sexual attention. When someone says “no” to sexual overtures, and the interaction persists, this is harassment. There are lots of gray areas. The fear of harassment accusations makes some men censor their natural desire to be flirtatious and friendly at the water cooler. These men succumb to an extremist interpretation that says any sexual discussion or flirtation is sexual harassment.
Both sexes are responsible for the current distrust, tension and conflict that separate us. We can conspire together to eradicate these negative feelings in favor of open honesty, which is arousing! The sexes are more alike than different in our need to enjoy each other. Yet the “battle of the sexes” gets more press than friendship and love between the sexes. We are not so different that we should be called “opposite” or from different planets (as with John Gray’s misguided book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus). Some put the other sex on trial for not being carbon copies of their sex. Men are supposed to risk rejection by initiating a date, while women are warned to wait for a man to initiate, and then to at least hesitate before saying “yes” to any overtures. With such rigid roles, is it a surprise that men sometimes come on too strong?
We might as well polish enticing flirting skills so we can attract those we are attracted to. It would be a huge mistake to avoid flirting because we fear being labeled a harasser or worse. It is a little known fact that the EEOC guidelines were largely written by two anti-porn extremist feminist crusaders—Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. They were hell-bent on witch hunts. They had me on every blacklist because I did not agree with their extremism. They attempted to censor porn and actual sexual behavior if it did not suit their exact specifications. Dworkin was famous for seeing all heterosexual intercourse as rape, which of course is patently ridiculous. Obviously, most feminists are not this extreme or unhealthy.
Those who call for witch hunts are essentially answering “no” to James Thurber and E.B. White’s 1929 humor book, Is Sex Necessary? Capturing some of the robustly playful sexual energy with the flappers and the bohemians during the first sexual revolution in the 1920’s, Thurber and White contended that sex is not only necessary, it is never going away.
Instead of cowering to or promoting a dangerous witch hunt, let’s enjoy—rather than fear—sensitive playful banter and laughter at the water cooler!