“Sexual harassment” in streets, transportation and places of work seems to be endemic to many societies, including London – 43% of female Londoners say they have been sexually harassed in London’s public spaces (YouGov). The legal recognition of sexual harassment in the work place in the 1970’s was considered to be a success of feminism, and ongoing feminist campaigns now seek to legislate against “street harassment” in the same way. However, the feminist drive to legislate against “unwanted” sexual attention from men hypocritically ignores two fundamental realities of sexual dynamics in Western societies.
Firstly, feminists ignore that women too engage in sexual advances upon men, so they do not rail against sexual attention in general but only against sexual attention from men they dislike. If she finds him attractive, he’s described as a handsome admirer that had the ‘guts’ to pursue her; if she does not find him attractive, he’s described as a disgusting pervert that had the ‘audacity’ to pursue her. For example, feminists say that women dress only to “feel good about themselves”, rather than to attract men, but the reality is that not only do women dress to attract men, but they dress to attract the right men – and advances from others who happen to be caught in the line of fire of a woman’s public display, end up being condemned as sexual harassment.
In other words, sexual harassment seems to be less about what the man does, and more about who the man is. As long as women remain the sole arbiters in deciding what is or is not “sexual harassment”, men are somehow required to be mind-readers in order to avoid crossing ‘the circle of salt’ drawn around women who they should have known were ‘out of their league’. Feminists seem to be suggesting that the solution to sexual tension in Western society is that men should abandon pursuing relationships completely and leave the job entirely to women.
Secondly, sexual harassment measures seem to be a chastity belt designed only for men and not for women. The reason women have been victims of “sexual harassment” so much more often than men is that women control the criteria for it in the first place. When the man is pursuing the woman it is called “harassment”; but when the woman pursues the man, it is called “seduction”. The assumption is that a woman’s sexual appetite is natural and innocent, but a man’s sexual appetite is predatory and unnatural. If a man were to expose a woman to a regular onslaught of unsolicited sexual stimuli, creating an “offensive” and “hostile” environment for women, this would most certainly be classified as sexual harassment – but this is exactly the environment that women regularly create by the sexualisation of their public appearance, even in the work place, without objection from society or feminists.
Feminist campaigns go as far as to cry “human rights violations” when it comes to men harassing women, arguing that it limits women’s access to public spaces – but they do not protest that men’s access to public spaces is limited too when women are barely clothed in public, especially during summer time, exposing men to unrelenting and unsolicited sexual stimuli, creating a hostile, frustrating and uncomfortable environment for men. The imposition of female sexuality upon men in the public space interferes with men’s public, professional and private lives.
The reality in the West is that liberalism has eroded the previous cultural formalities which regulated interactions of courtship between men and women. These formalities helped to manage expectations between men and women and keep public areas free from becoming sexual arenas. Now, men and women are left to engage each other haphazardly, without security or trust, and being vulnerable to exploitation. This has given rise to the anarchic dynamic known colloquially in the West as “the game”, where people come not for serious purposes – but to ‘play’.
In this milieu, feminists, under the guise of “sexual harassment”, campaign for the law to act as a selection process, giving women the power to punish and reward men based on the whims of female vanity. This will result in nothing but malformed legislation and a malfunctioning society. This unclear and anarchic laissez-faire “system” comes from and is essential to liberalism, where laws and values are no longer sourced from a higher, objective moral authority, such as God. Rather, values, laws and morals become no more than the product of one interest group against another. Sexual harassment laws, excited by feminist campaigning, protect one gender and villainise the other.
Islam provides a social system to regulate the interaction between men and women, and provides a system for courtship without the risks we find in liberal societies. Islam recognises that men and women need to work together in order for society to live and prosper; but also that men and women are naturally attracted to one another. Whilst enjoying this attraction is encouraged within the context of marriage in Islam, it also realises that this attraction can become a threat to the institution of marriage or family where it is outside of the loving and committed bond of marriage. Rather than expect us all to be perfect (which nobody is), Islam aims to minimise sexual tension in society in the first place, so that men and women can go about interacting with each other in fulfilling their interests in society – be it advancing technology, economy, education, or going about one’s daily errands with minimum temptation, distraction or worry.
So, Islam prescribes a number of safeguards, including that both men and women should “lower their gaze” from one another and both men and women should dress modestly (men must be covered at least from the navel to the knee, and women must be covered except for the hands and face). These measures compel men and women to value each other not based on looks but on virtue and personality; it also minimises insecurities arising from women comparing themselves to other women, and it also protects men’s desires from being exploited.
Whilst liberalism leaves men and women to blindly and chaotically risk accosting each other in the pursuit of relationships, Islam seeks to organise courtship between men and women so that they are both honoured in the right way and relationships are pursued for serious purposes. This leaves the public and professional life free from the vagaries and frustrations of sexual politics, so that people can go about their lives without fear of being distracted or harassed.
(Updated – Apr 9, 2013 @ 16:00)