#MeToo: What kind of man am I?

by Ray_North on January 26, 2018

At work I happen to share a room with three women. They are all younger than me and superb at their jobs.
The other day, I was working alone in my room when two of them came through the door and remarked upon the fact that I hadn’t turned the light on.
‘That’s because I want ambient lighting when I try to shag you both,’ I said (which sounds a lot creepier when you write it down).
Of course, I was joking. I was actually drafting a defence statement in a robbery and sex couldn’t have been further from my mind.
As it happens one of my colleagues replied: ‘not after last time, you were too shite.’ Which was, of course also a joke whilst the other asked if i could wait until she had finished her tea and biscuit, which was also not a serious invitation to sexual intercourse. We smiled briefly at each other then all got on with our work in a silence punctuated only when we had a brief and serious conversation about a judgement in a recent case involving ‘revenge porn’ (we are all barristers if you’re new to this blog), and a less serious conversation about the merits of Apple Cider Vinegar as part of a calorie controlled diet.

I thought little of this conversation until I was on my way home and listening to an interview on the radio where a group of young feminists were discussing the recent #MeToo revelations involving an American comedian who had previously been believed to very political correct and had been criticised after having sex with a young woman who said she felt she had been somehow coerced, though she didn’t actually suggest that any sexual crime had been committed – the comedian had dismissed it as a bad date.

The young feminists (their description of themselves not mine), were unsatisfied by the comedian’s defence – ‘the worst men,’ suggested one of them, ‘are those who pretend to be feminists but are in fact predatory and use their power and influence over younger women.’

This got me thinking.
Is that me?
I am the type of man who masquerades as a feminist as a subtle and misogynistic way of asserting my masculine power over women?

I would have no defence to this allegation, but I’m not sure that makes me an enemy of half the world’s population. It just makes me as confused and confusing as the next bloke.

So what does feminism even mean to me, or, let’s pose the question in another way, what do I think of some of the most important elements of sexual and gender politics – I’m going to try to answer each question absolutely honestly, and i’m going to try to assess whether I believe that I am unusual or usual in my view.

First – do I believe that women should be afforded equal opportunity to men in the workplace?
The answer to that is an overwhelming yes, I would be absolutely dumbstruck if I heard that a woman was overlooked for a role on account of her gender, to me, with my liberal upbringing, it would be as alien to me as the idea of someone being prejudiced on account of their race or sexuality.
And, I believe that most men of my generation believe that to be true.

Second – should woman have the same pay as men?
Again – yes, without hesitation, I would be appalled if I discovered that a female colleague was getting less pay then me for the same job.
Again, I believe that very few men would defer from that point of view.

Third – should any man be allowed to grope a woman?
No, of course not. However, I do fear that there is a certain amount of hysteria about this at the moment (and this is where I can feel myself losing some of my readers), which has led to allegations of groping being turned into allegations of sexual crime, and this (from my vantage point in the Crown Court) has a tendency to devalue some horrific sexual crime – there is a difference between a bloke making an ill-advised and clumsy pass and sexual assault – we can’t lose the distinction.
I do think though that men should be taught how to behave around woman from an early age – I was taught to respect women, indeed I still open doors for women and give up a seat for them, I may appear like a dinosaur but it’s how i was brought up. My son’s will be taught to respect every woman especially when it comes to sex – no means no and no woman is there for any random man to paw them.

However, by making that distinction, I will be telling my boys to behave differently towards women than they do towards men – never ever ever hit a woman, I tell them, but if you have to and there’s no other option, feel free to give another bloke a smack on the nose.

And this is when it all starts to get confusing, because although I believe without hesitation in a woman’s right to achieve anything a man can achieve and do whatever she wants with her life self and body – I do still revel in and enjoy the differences between men and women. I don’t fancy men. I don’t feel a need to protect men. I know that I speak differently (sometimes) to women than I do to men and yes, I do analyse woman in a physical way that is different from the way in which I physically analyse a man – I know, and I’m not proud of this, that I have, in the past, been keener to assist or talk to an attractive woman, I know that occasionally my eyes wander.

Does this make me some kind of Weinsteinesque sexual predator?

I don’t know, others will judge.

I do know, in my defence, that ultimately, my admiration for a woman will be based upon who they are and what they are, rather than what they look like – but that is a journey in which my initial, perhaps biological urges and impulses are overcome. And that is something I can’t do anything about.

I’m not saying that I beat myself up about this and I’m not saying that I’m proud of this – but it is the way I am – I want to be a good man, but I can’t stop also being a man.

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