On the other hand…

Bonus post today, because I was thinking about what I had written and felt I hadn’t been entirely truthful.

I was really proud of the presentation that I had made, and I was really proud of the way that the majority of my audience was curious and willing to learn. But to write about my presentation as entirely positive would be less than honest.

There was one participant who asked, “What about Teases?”

I went into the presentation preparing to meet the pledges where they were, and listen to their points of view. I knew that I had to be sensitive in order to prevent people from being defensive. So, what did I say? I asked, “What do you mean?”

“What about girls who dress like they’re saying yes, but all they’re saying is no?”

I knew that my knee jerk reaction was to tell this guy that he was a problem.  But I wanted to put forth a teachable moment. “Everyone has a right to dress as they please without anyone infering any intention or motivation about their mode of dress,” I said.

Christina, my good friend, jumped in and said, “Listen do what they’re saying,” she said. “If she says no, she means no, no matter what she’s wearing!”

“She’s right,” I confirmed. “That’s the easy way to say it. ”

The good news is that the young man with this question was not a pledge, and neither was he a member — he was someone who desperately wanted to be a member of the fraternity but had so far been denied. From the point of view of someone who hopes that future generations of the fraternity learn to respect women again, I hope he’s never initiated.

I spoke recently with the President and Security Officer privately, telling them this entire tale.  They were by turns offended, and wished I had told them sooner — they wanted to yell and scream. I told them that yelling and screaming wasn’t going to change a thing.

I told them that I was willing to keep doing a presentation on Sexual Etiquette for as long as the members of the fraternity knew who I was. But in making that promise I want to continue to improve. I want to be able to answer questions about false accusation of rape. I want to be able to paint a picture about how members may aid and abeit rape, even if they’re never rapists themselves. (Truly horrifying story from Howard University in DC about men who helped another man rape, and the police who denied that it was a crime.) I want to continue improving, continue to learn facts and figures and statistics and to be able to answer real, challenging questions.

So, this story isn’t done. But it’s pausing here.

(Readers, have you ever faced harassment? How did you handle it? If you were going to put together an anti-sexual assault training, what would you include?)

This post is fifth in a series.

Combating Sexual Harassment in a Fraternity (as a female non-member):

In Which I Encounter the Rape Culture (Not for the First Time)
Failures of Formal Activism
Informal Activism and Friendships
Sexual Etiquette: A Lesson
On the Other Hand…

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2 thoughts on “On the other hand…

  1. How I’d have answered that guy:

    First off, no means no, game over, there’s never an excuse. Teasing isn’t an excuse. But second, think about this, you might be making a mistake. Girls who dress hot might not have been dressing for sex at all. They might just be dressing to look good. You’re assuming she is sending signals deliberately. You could be seeing signals she never sent, and when you come on to her, and she says she’s not interested, she’s just stating facts. You can’t make assumptions just from clothes.

  2. Seconding the comment above–definitely worth unpacking the assumptions that one makes just by using the word “tease.”

    I think you’re right to try to speak to the guys where they are, even if it’s uncomfortable. Only you can judge whether the guy that asked “what about teases?” was actually sincerely asking or if he was deliberately being a pain in the ass, but if it was the former, you’ll get much further with an even-handed explanation of the problems with that question than a kneejerk shut down, as good as that might feel. After all, sexual assault training is possibly the most appropriate place to ask such a question.

    As we’ve talked about, that’s actually something that I struggle with in a lot of arenas–how much patience do I have for educating people who may not realize how offensive they’re being? It’s actually an awesome thing if people can ask those questions in a space where it’s appropriate, get an answer, and hopefully take it to heart and change their thinking. Keep up the good work.

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