Sexual Harassment Pertaining to Schools

McKelvey Collins, Features Editor

Ever since the sexual assault claims against Harvey Weinstein broke in Oct. 2017, harassment and violence against women has been a controversial topic. Still, few people consider how men’s behavior and the flaws in their upbringing are correlated.

When young children are not taught about the basic concept of consent, it does them a major disservice in their futures. The “boys will be boys” mentality removes all accountability from their actions and allows them to do whatever they want, whether it is taunting another classmate or chasing a girl down on the playground. When boys grow up without being held accountable for their aggressive actions, they think they can get away with anything.

By contrast, girls are forced to take responsibility for what happens to them from a very young age. When they begin to hit puberty, girls are told that they need to dress modestly to avoid distracting their male classmates and attracting unwanted attention from men. However, girls should not need to do this just to stay safe and earn respect. From childhood on, males should be taught to control themselves. If a boy pays more attention to his female classmate’s body than to his education, the blame for that should be on him. He should be responsible for his own choices and bad decisions.

Men also need to be better at recognizing nonverbal cues from women and understanding their meanings. When they fail to do this, their acquaintances and romantic partners suffer. They should not push themselves on women who are not interested in crossing boundaries between friendship and romance, or in going further into a relationship than they are ready to do. Everyone must learn to negotiate this tricky social territory, beginning early. A notable example of this kind of trouble is a Jan. 13 article published by the website, which recounted the experience of an unnamed photographer who went on a date with comedian Aziz Ansari. It was an experience that turned out to be the “worst night of [her] life.” The young woman claims that after the date, they went to his apartment, where he was way too pushy, even when she repeatedly tried to pull away.

“I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested,” she said in the article. “I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”

Ansari released a statement in which he expressed his regret for what he did, saying that he was “surprised and concerned” when he heard about her experience. While Ansari is not an inherently bad person or someone who deserves to have his career ruined, his story highlights just how many men often do not notice, or perhaps, take seriously, the nonverbal cues to back off. It is clear that this gap in understanding is a huge problem.

Nonverbal cues can play an important part in flirting. They can alert someone as to whether or not the other party is interested. For example, if the person you are flirting with looks uncomfortable, has tense body language, or turns away,  he or she most likely is not willing to reciprocate romantic advances. It is the same with kissing or anything else more intimate. If someone does not seem interested, it is a sign that you should at least ask before trying. Nonverbal cues and body language can be a key factor in flirting by indirectly conveying someone’s feelings, but when in doubt, talk it out. When dating or in a more involved relationship, both parties need to be aware of each other’s feelings. If someone seems uncomfortable, or is sending mixed messages, stop and ask what the problem is. It is as simple as that.

An issue we see too often is the case of a man focusing on his own desires and emotions over a woman’s, especially when it comes to being intimate. The case of Ansari and the photographer is one example, and many much worse have lately been in the headlines. When men do not give attention to a woman’s feelings or perspective, it creates a power imbalance wherein the man is in control. All relationships, especially romantic ones, should rely on an equal balance of power between both parties. When one person has too much power, it is easier for one to coerce the other into doing something he or she is unwilling to go through with.

But how can we fix these broken parts of society? One solution is that parents and teachers should educate their children and students about the concept of consent at a young age, even if it is as simple as telling them not to hug someone who may not want to be touched. Boys and girls should also be taught to treat each other with unconditional respect. High schoolers should receive comprehensive and safe sex education, including open communication with their partners. This way, we can promote habits that are healthy in any social context.