Prickteasing And Discourtesy

It is an article of faith among many sub-types of feminist that women are not responsible for either male desire or any consequences thereof. In some ways this is intuitively obvious, but it can be pushed too far. Consider: a woman wearing jeans and sweater is quietly at work at her computer, or sitting on the bus with her mind on making dinner, and a man looks upon her and is seized with sexual desire. What has she done to cause this? Nothing. What does she owe him in return for his admiration? Less than nothing. Should he suffer agonies of unrequited desire, therefore, this is entirely his problem. Is he entitled to jump her bones because she has caused this desire in him? Certainly not. Must we put her in niqab because he is distressed at his own lustful response? Certainly not. Must we put her in niqab because she is distressed at his lustful response? Well, that is a harder one, this is in fact one of the reasons some women wear the niqab, precisely to prevent ocular harassment, but let us not go there just now.

Instead let us change the set-up slightly. She is now walking, or rather undulating, down the street wearing a tank top and hot pants, and consequently almost every man on that street is at least noticing her existence, and many of them will be desiring her. What has she done to cause this? The answer to this question will separate dogmatists and ideologues from normal sensible people.

However, the answer to the second question remains the same: what does she owe the men in return for their admiration? Still nothing. On the contrary, it might be said that they owe her something in return for the free burlesque show. Should anyone be entitled to compel her to cover herself up? Places of worship might claim that right, and there is the whole question of to what extent common courtesy requires conformity with local mores, but I would certainly not wish to see religious police patrolling the street to measure exposed skin. Are the men entitled to jump her bones because she has triggered their desire? No more than before. Are they entitled to molest her because, by wearing that skimpy outfit, she has signalled availability? No, because availability is not, as some primitive men seem to think, an all-or-nothing affair. She may be signalling that she is available to the one man on that street who can meet her high standards, or perhaps she is going to take the metro to somewhere else entirely in order to signal her relative availability there. There is no reason why she should not be left in peace to do so.

Two things should nevertheless be noted: one, it is somewhat less true than in the first example that she is not responsible for male desire. She has set out to cause male desire, albeit not in the particular males who are now desiring her. Although the answer to the question what unwanted males are entitled to do about it is still “nothing much”, the fact remains that at least some of the signalling of availability has been broadcast rather than narrowcast. She is, therefore, responsible for the advertising reaching the “wrong” consumers, even if these must still obey the injunction, “look but don’t touch”.

And here we come to the second point. The notion that a pretty girl can walk down the street wearing very little and be lawfully looked at only by the one or two males she might wish to eyeball her, is not one that merely separates normal sensible people from the dogmatists and ideologues; it is one that separates normal people from the barking mad.

Let us now escalate to the third level. She is now in a singles bar, wearing very little, and flirting with everyone as hard as she can, with no honest intentions but merely getting off on having such an effect on them. Is she responsible for the male desire that now fills the premises like a fog? The cognitive model whereby desire is something that proceeds from men’s intrinsic nature, with no input from the woman, not only has nothing whatever to do with the reality of our species’ social life, it is in fact a continuation of patriarchal mental furniture by other means; for it makes the woman merely a passive object of male action. Besides, the whole object of the exercise for the girl is now to cause and bring about male desire, even if she is only doing it for research purposes; and volition implies responsibility. Not being held responsible for one’s own actions is otherwise reserved to minor children and mental patients.

What the ideologues have in fact done is to take the crude male equivalence between “she has made us horny” and “so we get to poke her” and reverse it, arguing backwards from the inadmissibility of rape to the non-existence of the deliberate stimulation. That is, they argue that since the men do not get to poke her, then she has not deliberately made them horny. The valid proposition that she is not responsible for her own rape cannot, however, be stretched into the proposition that she was not co-responsible for the male desire. No: she is responsible for stimulating this desire, and the men are responsible for what they do about it. After all, if they don’t want to be prick-teased, they are free simply to leave the bar.

Ideologues assert that a woman dresses in a sexy way for reasons entirely unrelated to her probable effect on men, and that any effect on men is unintended and therefore not her problem. It is rather like the way that tobacco executives deny that advertising makes people smoke, and then proceed to spend billions on it. Her right to expose her body with no consequences whatsoever – not only without being raped, they say, but even without being admired – is absolute. This is simply insane. A key Silencing Technique then builds upon this insanity by dishonestly equating any observation on the woman’s prickteasing with a defence of rape.

Now, rape is a serious criminal offence, but alas, prickteasing is not. It might be argued that our culture simply does not know, or cannot agree, on what to do about a woman who quite deliberately arouses male desire with no intention of accommodating it. This behaviour may be regarded as gross discourtesy, and under certain circumstances also as breach of contract. And it is not unreasonable that breach of contract and even gross discourtesy be socially sanctioned. Not by violence, obviously, but then how? Social ostracism might be the way to go; men of a reactionary disposition might found something like the Promise Keepers, but this time dedicated to cold-shouldering such females as get their kicks from, so to speak, shaking their booty in their faces then snatching it away. Or, just as the Campaign for Real Women is for men who don’t fancy anorexics, the terminally politically-incorrect could launch the Campaign for Honest Flirts.

In fact, ordinary women sanction one another for this sort of thing, always have and probably always will. The problem is that the female who has the physical accoutrements of an adult woman but the sense of unlimited entitlement and immunity of a small and spoiled child can always find some professor or other to tell her that being shunned by the upright citizens of our imaginary bar for flashing her body without intention to copulate would constitute oppression of her healthy sexuality. So we can’t actually win, unless we pretend to be gay.

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