Sexual insults, bullying & habitual harassment

Children should understand the importance of standing up for themselves. They should be given guidelines for dealing with negative behaviours, such as online and face-to-face name calling. They should understand how actions such as making sexual comments and sharing sexual pictures, either in person or online, may affect people’s feelings and reputation.

Behaviours that can offend or upset others include sexual insults. These can be verbal, written or communicated by gestures. Name calling is particularly hurtful when a person knows that they belong to a social group that is victimised in society e.g. women, gays, racial or social underclasses. The person making the insult often has a sense of superiority and confidence from knowing that they have the general support of society.

Children should be taught when to stand up to bullies and when to ask for support from adults. A bully is not a strong person. A bully feels strong if they succeed in victimising someone who is more vulnerable than they are. Teenagers should be informed about the emotional impact and legal implications of different types of harassment and abuse in relationships.

Teenage girls especially can be highly sensitive to remarks made about their appearance. The problem arises because many women of any age associate eroticism with the taboo of being ‘dirty’. Women in particular need to understand the issues surrounding saying ‘no’ to sex or other unwanted intimacy. We all need to think about how we deal with rejection, feeling shame and feeling used. Girls can be just as hurtful as boys.

Women can travel alone today if they travel with others. But as soon as a woman is alone with a man (in a taxi or boat for example) she is likely to feel vulnerable. A man could easily threaten her (even passively by leaving her in the middle of nowhere) to force her to hand over her valuables. Some people feel that women should never take the kind of risks that are routine for men. But in civilised societies it is not right to limit an adult’s freedom because there are a few men who pose a danger to civilised society.

Most women have no idea of the nature of male sex drive. They expect ‘civilised men’ to restrain themselves. This in itself is evidence that men are aroused by women in a way that is not reciprocated. Young women rely on the protection of society to tease men by behaving in a provocative manner but never having to face the consequences. This is the equivalent of a gazelle prancing in front of a ravenous lion with the full knowledge that the lion cannot get at it. It is hardly moral or right. Any man who suggests sex is accused of sexual harassment. Women want the right to tease but not to deliver. Women need to be educated about male sex drive.

Sexual harassment including stalking is most usually (but not always) perpetrated by men with women as the victims. If men are victims of sexual abuse they may be reluctant to get help because of the shame of being a victim. Many women put up with sexual harassment because they are too embarrassed to complain or they don’t know how to deal with the conflict.

The male attitude that ‘everyone should love sex’ is an implicit bullying tactic. There is no ‘should’ about it. You either enjoy sexual activity naturally (probably because you are easily aroused) or you don’t. Pornography and erotic fiction give young women the impression that they are supposed to engage in activities like oral sex with a partner and that they should enjoy such activities. But these are activities that men enjoy and that men hope (in their fantasies) that women will perform for them.

There is a view that predominantly younger, less experienced women should be encouraged to talk about the orgasms they think they experience. But stories are only stories. Women need to accept the reality of their sexuality just as men do. But not everyone is capable of relinquishing their emotional beliefs that make them feel more sexual than they truly are.

Men dominate almost every aspect of heterosexual society. But men’s interest in sex means that their views are especially dominant in any discussion of sexuality. The only way that a woman will succeed in such an environment is by reflecting male beliefs. The only female perspective that is promoted is one that involves women saying what men want to hear.

One form of bullying is to ignore what someone says. You insist on the validity of your own point of view (thereby indicating the invalidity of theirs) until they give up. Then when they are silent you claim victory. Eventually you conclude that you must be right because no one objects. When someone is trying to keep you happy or they need your help or support, they may agree with you just to please you. If someone is making money out of you they will agree with anything and everything you say.

Your partner’s not there to service you, it’s not their job to keep you sexually satisfied. You’re together because you love each other and want to make each other happy. Constantly hassling the for sex does the opposite. (Tracey Cox 1999)