There has been a lot of hoo-ha in the news this week about why women don’t tell others about inappropriate sexual advances. Most women understand this because it has happened to almost all of us. Unwanted physical advances are so common that unless they are certifiably criminal assaults, no one reports them. Certainly the men who initiate them aren’t going to tell and for the women who endure the degradation of being groped, they are often embarrassed and angry at themselves for not being able to avoid the situation.
My experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace were run-of-the mill. There was lots of leering and suggestive comments; one guy where I worked during the summer used to sneak up on me and grab me around the waist. This was supposed to be “a joke.” One manager used to close his office door and put his arms around me. It was really difficult because I liked the guy and I knew if I reminded him that this was inappropriate we would never be friends again. I didn’t want to embarrass him so I let myself be embarrassed. Once a boss slapped me on the butt with a file folder as he walked by. I brooded about it for a couple of days, then told him that I never wanted him to do anything like that again. He denied it; he said I was imagining things. Two days later I was terminated.
Donald Trump’s alleged assaults are particularly vulgar and egregious. There is one thing the guy is clearly good at: picking the weak out of the herd. The women who came forward this past week were very young and/or needed a job. Men like Trump use their power and their victims’ vulnerability to get what they want–though is it really gratification that these predators want? Is it sexually exciting to reach under the skirt of a stranger in a nightclub? Or is it even more thrilling to be a physically bigger man who can get away with it and therefore make himself feel powerful?