Wednesday, May 24, 2006


This post is, I suppose, influenced by Big Brother (although not by the hideous debacle of bullying and prejudice currently surrounding Shebhaz). BB follows a pattern and this year, as with every year, one of the young men has expressed his discomfort at being touched by a fellow male housemate who is gay. This year it was Glyn but it is an issue that invariably arises in every series.

Overtones and undertones of homophobia are a deliberate part of this show, which chooses participants with extreme personalities and beliefs in order to generate conflict. This isn’t great and it’s another reason why I know I shouldn’t watch this terrible programme.

However I have to say that I am generally opposed to excessive touching. I don’t think proclaiming yourself to be a tactile person should allow you to invade other people’s space and make them feel uncomfortable. Everybody should have a right not to be touched. The issue is interesting on BB because it arises when men who are unused to unwanted sexual touching experience it for the first time. In comparison the women in the show have a much worse deal. They are pawed and petted, poked and prodded from the minute they enter by the predatory heterosexual males. However, as women, they are used to this. More than that, they have been encouraged by society to accept it.

I do empathise with the men who are made to feel uncomfortable by those around them but I also feel like shouting ‘see that’s what it feels like’. When I have discussed my own experiences with unwanted sexual touching, the men who I am friends with have been almost disbelieving. But it is true. As a woman I am regularly touched by men in an invasive and intimidating manner. I have felt someone’s hand inside my pants at a gig (it’s true!), random men do put their arms round my waist in the pub, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been pinched and ‘playfully’ slapped.

This is something that most men simply do not experience. There is no reason why women should have to experience it either but we do. Again this is one of those issues where any objection is treated as a lack of sense of humour, where the person with a legitimate complaint is treated like they have done something wrong. It is an example of objectification, of exerting power, of sexual offences being normalised. So I really can empathise with those men on the programme who suddenly experience this horrible invasion but I think that perhaps they should look around them and see what the women in the house are experiencing because this is more extreme, more invasive, and passes without comment.


At 10:11 pm, Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said...

I once spoke to a man who had gone to a masquerade with some male friends: all dressed as a women. He had felt really invaded and humiliated by all the pretend advances made on him. He was really surprised at how awful it felt to have people grab his stuffed bra, even if that's all it was, and related this to how awful it must feel for women to go through life being treated like that.

Taste of their own medicine, I say!

At 9:13 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

Yeh definitely!

I've been thinking about this over the last few days and I just don't understand why, when schools have specified slots for PSHE, the issue of consent isn't covered.

My school was relatively progressive in that we were all given polystyrene penises and taught how to put a condom on - rather embarrassing when you are 14 but helpful nevertheless.

However there was no discussion about non-penetrative sex, homosexuality, masturbation, let alone consent. Consent relates not only to sexual activities but also to touching, sexual or non, and education is obviously needed.

But I am sure spending a pointless twenty minutes a day being told about exam techniques and careers was much more helpful *sigh*

At 2:00 pm, Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said...

I'm soon to qualify as a secondary school teacher and have become aware of how inadequate schools are in this area, not to mention the complete lack of guidance, in this area, from the Department for Education and Skills. I've been reading a book on young people's views on sex education and girls do in fact complain about the absence of discussions around the fact that they are harassed and touched by boys. They also resent the lack of information on non-penetrative sex.

At 2:35 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

I think there are lot of things wrong with the education system as it stands. I considered training as a primary school teacher and did a lot of voluntary work at a homework club at a library in London. It amazed me how stifled the kids were - 6 years old and with a load of homework sheets. It definitely put me off.

Schools are a place where creativity can be encouraged and social awareness developed. It's interesting to hear that my experiences tallied with those in your book - and interesting but not unexpected that the DofE issues little guidance on it.

Will you be giving PSE lessons? And if so I'd be interested to hear how you are preparing for them! I appreciated that teachers can be very rigidly controlled in terms of what they share with pupils. I remember my English teacher in sixth form - who was a vehement feminist - was incredibly frustrated with the restrictive atmosphere she taught in. She fought against it and as a result gave me a great introduction to feminist literary theory - despite this being outside the scope of the course and viewed as a distraction from the main aim of passing those exams.

Sorry I've wittered on a bit and seem to have got totally off topic!


Post a Comment

<< Home