Sexual assault… or just ‘harmless fun?’
Tuesday August 30th 2005, 11:19 am

it's NOT just a little harmless fun. In the vast majority of the stories in Australian mainstream meeeeja about the fall of Grogden,  the aspect which is played most heavily is the dismissal of Helena Carr as a ‘mail-order bride.’ While the former NSW Lieberal Party leader’s gaffe regarding Helena is certainly heinous and by itself warranted his sacking, very few stories are covering the angle of the sexual assault and harassment of two female journalists. Bloggers are doing a better job in raising these issues, but I’m a little surprised at the paucity of coverage even among this group.

Groggo did what all sexual harassers do when confronted with their deeds; he dismissed and minimised his unwelcome sexual advances as ‘all harmless fun.’ Worse, the mainstreams are in large part letting him do this without question, accepting his diluted apology to the women. If you’re truly sorry about something, you express your remorse without qualification, you don’t try to evade, minimise or dismiss a complaint. You’re either sorry about your behaviour and intend to change it- or you’re not.

Some men just don’t understand that they have no natural right to sexually access women. These case studies in the HREOC website demonstrate the level of denial that many men exhibit in the course of sexual harassment or assaults. 

Sexual harassment is fairly narrowly defined but can be comprised of quite a number of actions, including:

  • * unwelcome touching;
  • * staring or leering;
  • * sexually explicit pictures or posters;
  • * unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
  • * requests for sex;
  • * intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • * unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
  • * insults or taunts based on sex;
  • * sexually explicit physical contact; and
  • * sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.

I have yet to see a publication of any acceptance of the apology proffered for Groggo’s unwelcome advances by either Angela Cuming of the Sun-Herald or Justine Ferrari of the Daily Tele, though Ms. Cuming tells her tale here.

The tone of Cuming’s story bewilders me- it’s as if she’s on trial, having to prove her case that she was actually sexually harassed. Cuming’s story is even titled I’ve been around long enough to know a proposition, as if she is answering a question as to whether or not she knew what sexual harassment and assault truly are. She closes the bit with a pointed notation that she was deeply concerned with how she was approached, as if to demonstrate injury…. as if she had to!

I can see why Cuming felt like she had to provide justification, though. Quite a large percentage of men refuse to accept that bawdy jokes or relatively innocuous physical contact can leave a woman in an imbalanced power situation feeling so disturbed that she will change her behaviours, in many cases dramatically, either to avoid future contact with the harasser or to steel herself for frequent repeats of the unwelcome behaviours if the harasser cannot be avoided. 

Sam from over at QueerPenguin peels off the layers of the onion left undisturbed by the mainstreams. He notes that this event took place a month ago… and does not appear to have been reported in any way by Cuming or Ferrari. We’re talking about working journalists here, folks, with something newsy at the ends of their noses. However, it isn’t too hard to work out that if these journos had filed formal complaints about Groggo’s advances, they would have found it nearly impossible to report the NSW political beat in the future.

Quite a number of men are fundamentally insecure and won’t be direct with women about their potential availability. Too many men test the waters of sexual availability of women in nefarious ways, with ribald jokes or relatively innocuous physical contact like an arm around the woman’s shoulders. These rituals are constructed to leave men the option of dismissing their actions as anything but what they are, should objections be raised.


 image: Bob Carlos Clarke

Particularly insecure men can be angered to the point of meting retribution if a woman rebuffs them, as though a natural right had been denied them. Women who are not compliant and controllable are a threat to men who harbour these misconceptions. Almost all men who go down this path will dismiss their behaviours and minimise the woman’s disquiet.

Guys, if there’s any part of ‘no’ that you don’t understand, it’s time to rethink your behaviour.


7 Comments so far
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You fabulous crypto-feminist you.
Anyone would think that you had a female partner, a stepdaughter, a sister, a niece and female friends and colleagues.

Comment by suki 08.30.05 @ 1:21 pm

Suki, by the nature of how boychildren are socialised, with gender segregations at many junctures, quite often they grow up to have a complete lack of empathy for how women wish to be treated… as though women are a separate species.

The men that women adore are the ones who can successfully empathise with how women function in social situations. Yes… I will admit to having had a bit of instruction on the issue from women over the years, but it’s mostly all commonsense to me.

Comment by weezil 08.30.05 @ 1:44 pm

Good take on it, Weezil. To be honest this sort of thing happens so often that sometimes it’s just like a constant irritating noise in one’s ears.

Comment by Kate 08.30.05 @ 7:08 pm

Thanks, Kate. It’s empathy with that constant buzz that most men lack.

Comment by weezil 08.30.05 @ 8:03 pm

Some men took dancing lessons when their counterparts were playing football.

Where were the girls – out dancing!

Comment by Marli 09.05.05 @ 9:32 pm

[…] Was it JerkChoices? Terror laws? Brogden’s last revenge? Or just that the NSW Lieberals are a bunch of hopeless fuckwits? […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 11.27.05 @ 9:24 am

[…] to hear that he makes a habit of this sort of nonsense; it’d be a shame if KRudd could be Brogdened by his own troops at some later […]

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