Put it away, put it away, put it away now.

Yet again, a self-defence conversation sparked by a video of a woman doing a self-defence thing went off the rails. Yet again, part of what pushed it off the rails was a person of the male persuasion making sexual comments about said woman’s physical attributes. Yet again, instead of that person being reprimanded for their behavior, the whole thread was pulled down. Yet again, a post went up after the fact to lament not the inappropriateness of said person’s behavior, but the rise of intolerance and the decline of civil discourse at large. And yet a-fucking-gain, some bright spark used that clean-up post to sweep the entire thing under the carpet because Women Do It Too.

That was the moment when I realised that some people REALLY don’t get it. They actually, for real and no shit, do not comprehend why their actions continue to bring forth a certain reaction, because they don’t get what the problem is. I’m hereby going to try and simplify a complex issue as much as I can (so I’ll miss lots of bits out, sorry ’bout that) in the hope that I can get it across.

 

Dear Johnny,

I understand that you don’t get it. You liked the pretty lady, you said you liked the pretty lady, and everyone yelled at you. That wasn’t nice. You weren’t trying to be mean to the pretty lady: you really like her! You wouldn’t do that! You were just trying to express how you feel, and everybody turned on you, and if that happened to me I’d feel bad.

I know that your friends also like pretty ladies. I am sure that you have lots of talks about how and why some ladies are pretty, and what you’d like to do about it. I understand that you believe that “all men do it”, and I can’t comment on that, because I don’t know all men. I’m not entirely sure that you do, either, but that’s beside the point. The prettiness of ladies is a common topic for conversation; we can agree on that.

I like looking at pretty people too, regardless of their gender, and so do many of my friends. Sometimes we have conversations about the people we like and why, though because we’re incurable nerds we tend to come up with things like “look at her posture in that longsword class” or “he looks so joyous when he’s playing the accordion” or “I just want to crawl inside their brains and never come out again”, rather than “look at the rack on that”. But that could be just a matter of taste and style. The bottom line is that we do precisely what you did and got yelled for. The thing is, that’s not the point.

You didn’t get yelled at for finding a pretty lady attractive. You got yelled at because you barged in on a conversation that wasn’t about the attractiveness of pretty ladies – a conversation about that lady’s ability to do a thing, and the value of the thing she was doing – and shoved in some comments about your sexual attraction. That wasn’t the right place for that kind of comment. Other men may have been thinking the same thing, but they didn’t make those comments. Other men may have made those comments, but they did so in private. Other women may have been thinking the same thing and been making those comments about that one lady, or about other men and women and sundry others, but they also didn’t do it there and then.

You didn’t get yelled at because you are a man. You didn’t get yelled at because you find pretty ladies attractive. You got yelled at because you behaved inappropriately in a public place.

Let me try and draw a parallel. My favourite person in the whole world has a pee-pee. I don’t. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes he whips his pee-pee out in front of people and fun times happen. He only does at special times and in special places, though, when he knows for sure that said people want to see his pee-pee and maybe even play with it. If he whipped his pee-pee out on a bus, he’d get into terrible trouble. It wouldn’t matter that he whips his pee-pee out in private all the time and it’s ok. It wouldn’t matter that other men whip their pee-pees out too. It wouldn’t matter that women whip their coochies out. Most people take out their genitals at some point, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that if my friend took his pee-pee and whipped it out in a public place at some random strangers who’d not asked to see it, he’d be doing something inappropriate. That’s what he’d get into trouble for.

If I whipped my coochie out on the bus, I’d get in trouble too. I would probably  get into a different kind of trouble, because other things matter beside the fact that he has an outie and I have an innie. He is tall and big and strong and I am tiny and not very scary, so people treat us different. Maybe he’d get people in blue uniforms putting him in cuffs and taking him away and I’d get people in white uniforms putting me in a padded jacket and taking me to a different away, but – this is the important thing – we’d both get into trouble because we did a naughty thing in public.

In that conversation, you metaphorically took your pee-pee out and waved it about. Problem is, that wasn’t the right kind of place for pee-pee-waving. Nobody had asked to see yours. Hell, if anyone did, that would have been inappropriate too, because pee-pees really weren’t part of that deal. Because people found your behavior icky, they yelled at you.

Of course, talking about how your pee-pee feels about something and waving it around are not equivalent. Both things tend to piss people off, though, and those people may yell at you. You might think it’s all unfair: that you should have a right to let your pee-pee do the talking everywhere and anywhere, regardless of the topic of the conversation. If you want to campaign for that, you have the right to give it a go. If you want to ignore societal conventions because you think they’re crappy, you can give that a go too. Chances are, however, that for the time being you’ll keep getting yelled at.

I have to say, I will be one of the people doing the yelling. I don’t want to see your pee-pee, real or metaphorical. But – and it’s very important to me that you understand this, even if nothing else I’ve said made a lick of sense – I’d yell at you just as much if you were shoving your coochie in my face. It’s not about your plumbing. I want to be able to have conversations about men and women doing non-sexual things and leave sex totally out of the equation, not because sex is dirty but because there are other things beside it and I’m interested in those things, too. I want to be able to do a thing and have a conversation about the thing I’m doing that doesn’t revolve around my body’s ability to make people think about sex.

You are not being punished for having a sexuality, or for what your sexuality is. You’re being punished because you’re shoving that sexuality in people’s faces when they’re busy doing their thing and without asking them first. There’s a time and place for everything. That wasn’t it.

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