It never ends well when you touch something that isn’t yours. I was taught as a child that it was always polite to ask before stroking someone’s dog in the street. Likewise with fondling someone’s bottom, it’s better to gauge its owner’s level of enthusiasm vs your own before jumping straight in. You’re not testing a mattress, or checking avocados.
The allegations against Lord Rennard, who has stepped down from duties and un-affiliated himself from the Lib Dems until the accusations of sexual harassment have been investigated, serve to highlight something of a modern-day crisis of etiquette. Just how are you supposed to react when someone more important than you touches your bottom without you asking them to? (Rules already exist for when you ask them to: get a new job immediately.)
Jeremy Irons recently admitted that he, too, had been targeted by over-friendly male seniors during his time as a young jobbing actor. “I just told them to get lost,” he told the Express. Any self-respecting woman would tell you to f**k off.”
How idealistic, and yet how blinkered. It’s much easier to tell someone more important than you to f**k off when you’re a man, because the culture of objectification, “accidental” brushing and accusations of hysteria rarely affects you. As a woman, complaining about sexual harassment is one of the riskiest things you can possibly do.
I’d wager that most women in the UK have at some point been inappropriately touched by someone they felt they can’t hang out to dry for it. Even when it’s someone far less important than you, you don’t want to make a fuss about it. If you do, you’re a troublemaker and (worst of all) can’t take a joke; you’re cold. And if you don’t, your bottom is fair game. As is everyone else’s.
I’d like to tell you to scream when it happens. I’d like to tell you to humiliate those wandering hands. But I won’t, because you won’t. Well-paid grasping perverts with better jobs than you will do this until the end of time. Or until someone invents electrified pants.