Monday, December 13, 2010

Sexual harassment and abuse of relationships

This extends a comment I made here.

The comment was made that:
I do think it’s different for guys as well. Think of those cases where a female teacher seduces a male student. Courts tend to want to treat this situation exactly like those situations where a male teacher seduces a female student. But…it’s somehow different, although it shouldn’t be. You often hear that the guy was discovered by boasting about his exploits, whereas for girls, it’s not something to boast about so much. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the good old sexual double standard.
The risks of sex are not symmetrical: women run inherently greater risks (pregnancy, disease, comparative physical vulnerability). Moreover, women tend to construe the emotional context of sex differently from men—in part, precisely because of the different levels of risk.

This difference in the emotional context of sex is obvious in the queer community. A joke expresses it nicely:
What does a lesbian bring to the second date? A removal van.
What does a queen bring to the second date? What second date?
Obviously, these are general tendencies (and there is evidence of convergence as a result of technological and social changes changing the risk profiles). Still, there are good reasons to think a male teacher having sex with a female student is not identical with a female teacher having sex with a male student however much both are abuses of the teacher-student relationship.

I am reminded of a story about use of guns in self-defence in Texas I heard in a talk by Tobi Beck, the author of The Armored Rose. Apparently, Texan courts allow women to get away with unloading a full clip into a home invader when men aren't, on the grounds of different responses to stress. Men tend to go for warning shot, followed by straight at shot (adrenalin kicks in quickly). Women tend to end up in a corner with the kids behind them and nowhere left to go and then unload the full clip (adrenalin has to get through the serotonin barrier: hormonally, the same reason why women generally take longer to get fully sexually aroused).

I see no reason why equality has to presume identity. In particular, a lot of the problem with sexual harassment is not getting that, really, it is different for women and that's OK.

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