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Monday, October 08, 2018

'Cause when we kiss, oooh Fire

Some people seem to live in a black and white world made up of mutually exclusive concepts.  One of those people posted the following graphic on facebook today:


I'm sure it was a reference to jokes like this (which I actually shared):


It took my hours to put my finger on why this bothered me so much.  Because I know I'm not a misogynist... but I saw the tiny kernel of truth that made that joke funny.

Why can’t we become aware of, and sympathetic to, the problem of women being sexually assaulted... and *also* notice that there are a small percentage of women that have weaponized society’s newfound sympathy and sensitivity, creating a situation that *also* demands safeguards and caution for men?

After all, we’ve seen it in the medical field for decades, already.

Think about it... when was the last time you women found yourselves alone and undressed in an exam room with a male medical practitioner?  The reason isn't that all doctors are rapists or all women are looking to falsely accuse doctors of attacking them. 

The reason is that there are two very real, but very different fears at work, and there is no reason or necessity to qualify or quantify those fears:  The women are afraid of being sexually assaulted, and the doctors are afraid of being falsely accused / sued for sexual assault.  Both are legitimate fears even though neither is the norm.  And it doesn't matter if women are attacked more often than men are accused.  Fear is fear... and it isn't rational and it doesn't understand percentages!

I think we can agree that most doctors don’t molest their patients, and that most patients don’t falsely accuse or sue their practitioners. Yet here we are for more than 20 years with a nurse playing referee in your exam room... so you and your doctor will have nothing to fear from each other.

So why should it be so different outside the exam room?

Young women used to be catechized that good girls said ‘no’, and young boys were catechized that a girl’s ‘no’ was the start of a process that began by satisfying the girls honor… and ended with satisfying far more.  As horrifying as it may be to read those words in 2018, just look at the words of a song written by Bruce Springsteen and made popular by The Pointer Sister in 1978:


I'm ridin' in your car
You turn on the radio
You're pullin' me close
I just say no
I say I don't like it
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Late at night
You're takin' me home
You say you want to stay 
I say I want to be alone
I say I don't love you
But you know I'm a liar
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

You had a hold on me right from the start
A grip so tight I couldn't tear it apart
My nerves all jumpin', actin' like a fool
Well, your kisses they burn, but my heart stays cool

Well, Romeo and Juliet
Samson and Delilah
Baby you can bet 
A love they couldn't deny
My words say split
But my words they lie
'Cause when we kiss, ooh

Ooh fire
Hot kisses like fire
Burn me up with fire
I like what you're doin' now, 
Touchin' me with fire
Touchin' me, burnin me with fire
Take me home
Kisses like fire

This wasn’t 100 or 500 years ago.  This was 40 years ago when I was a Junior in high school… and this song was a hit, and nobody batted an eye.  This was normal then!

Obviously the world has evolved a lot since 1978, and thankfully, many of the terrible things that women endured in the guise of ‘honor’ and ‘romance’ are now seen for what they are: assault. 

And thankfully we are well on our way in a process of societal reeducation and sensitivity to concepts like informed consent, professional boundaries, appropriate language and inappropriate touching, etc. 

But as soon as an entirely class of actions are recognized as crimes, and a woman’s testimony is supposed to be accepted at face value without supporting witnesses, an entire segment of the population suddenly becomes vulnerable to false allegations of having committed those crimes.  #metoo created an imbalance where it was supposed to have leveled the field.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  The pendulum sways back and forth before finding its natural resting place in the center.  If the pendulum has to swing off-center, it is fair and just that it should spend some time favoring the women, after all they've had to endure.  But jokes like the one above are not misogynistic.  They are an attempt to assure that it doesn't take another 20 years for things to even out.

Just as it was perhaps 20 years between the peak popularity of the song 'Fire' and the standard inclusion of a third person in a doctor’s exam room… it has taken another 20 years for college freshmen of both genders to internalize a script that requests permission for intimacy and gives (or refuses) consent, yet still allows a date to feel like a date rather than a deposition.

So, back to  the graphic I posted at the start.  When people are afraid or angry, many reach for humor.  A picture of a mother sending her son out to a party wearing a body-cam, is darkly funny; Not because it is actually necessary, but because there is a new paradigm for boys and girls out there... and until equality and balance have not yet been fully established, caution is advised.

So please try to stop with all this absolutism.  Considering the important issues that were raised by the recent confirmation hearing, and following so closely on the heels of the #metoo movement, it was pretty much guaranteed there would be a turf war over who is the most vulnerable... who is the victim. 

But it didn’t have to be.  We are all vulnerable to some extent.  As long as balance and equality have not been fully established, we are all potential victims.  Yet with a tiny bit of common sense and forethought, that vulnerability is completely manageable.

I am not overly worried about my daughter or my sons growing up today.  I’m actually relieved that they don’t have to grow up in the times that I did, with all the confusion, uncertainty, misunderstandings and needless imbalance of social power. 

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried at all.  After all, worrying is my full-time job.  I’m a parent.

Posted by David Bogner on October 8, 2018 | Permalink


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This is exactly what I wanted to say but couldn't find the words. I've been talking to my friends about the swing of the pendulum. I think that metaphor is a powerful one, and understanding it (by looking at history, and old lyrics, and present fears) would temper the absolutism that arises from people's personal context.

Posted by: Bee | Dec 10, 2018 7:56:06 PM

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