The “Joke” of Sexual Harassment

Everybody’s talking about the Big Brother incident that led to Jon and Ash getting evicted for “breaking Big Brother’s Rules” – where she was held down by Jon while Ash rubbed his penis in her face. Initial claims of a clear case of sexual assault are probably overstated (though could be pressed if Camilla wished), however sexual harassment seems inarguable.

From what I’ve been reading, it is difficult to clearly discern from the footage just how much of the beginning of this degrading sex-play was consensual, and Camilla (who didn’t ask for any action to be taken against the men) later claimed that it was just a joke that had gone too far and that Jon stopped holding her down when she clearly said no, so that while what they did wasn’t OK it wasn’t too big a deal.

Right. Having a man who’s been contemptuous of you for weeks rub his penis in your face as a “joke” is no big deal. Not humiliating, not degrading, not a betrayal of trust between housemates, not anything to get upset about at all.

There’s a distressing amount of responses in this comments thread along the lines of (paraphrasing) “it was all good fun” and “she didn’t mind – she said so” and even “it wasn’t sexual – all the housemates knew that Jon and Ash didn’t fancy Camilla” (love that one), as well as the old standby of “she asked for it” by talking about sex openly.

And all of it’s predicated on the presumption that the sexual harassment of women for the amusement of men is not a problem that we ought to worry our objectified little heads about. Hey, it’s just a joke. Don’t be a wowser. Loosen up. Ya gotta have a sense of humour, “girls”. Oh, and while you’re at it, show us your tits, we haven’t had a good laugh for a while.

That’s the problem attitude that this incident should be highlighting, not the political grandstanding over whether BB as a whole is too “tacky” to be on TV because young people in it are encouraged by the situation to be hypersexualised with each other.

Some of the best commentaries I’ve read have been from dogpossum, Mel, Kate, Mark and, most succinctly, Pavlov’s Cat.

This comment from dogpossum to her own post (linked above) sums it up:

What is with our culture, that we have done such a thorough job of convincing women and girls that they are responsible for men’s sexual (mis)behaviour, particularly when it is the woman who is harassed?
It infuriates me that _I_, as a politically motivated viewer – a pretty hardcore feminist – can still fall into this nasty habit of blaming myself/herself/her for the things that men do! Or at the very least, for colluding with her harassment – with my own harassment. Because, in accepting what happened to Camilla as ‘just a joke’ I am accepting that sort of crap as harmless. When – as every woman of us knows – it’s _not_ inconsquential to feel afraid or threatened or bullied or guilty or dirty or distressed when men sexually harass us! _Particularly_ when it’s intended as a joke!!

Especially when the whole point of the “joke” is to humiliate the woman so the guys can feel a stronger bond of friendship. Homosocial much?

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4 replies

  1. I was disappointed that even Tubagooba said that (ie. women should take responsibility) He was referring to the perception that some women prefer these “laddish” boys – well, some women with personal issues / low intelligence – but it’s got to the point where we have to demand men and boys address the problem, not just us any more.

  2. I remember the Anita Hill hearings here. Men got really anxious about sexual harassment and made jokes about it. Women could either laugh along or ‘had no sense of humor’.

  3. Exactly, Carolyn.I wouldn’t mind exploring the ramifications of a coment I made over at LP:Because that and other contemptuous sex-play strike me as acting out porn-sex in the way kids act out cartoon violence. Porn-sex has about the same level of realism regarding relationship sex as cartoon violence has to actual arguments.Is encouraging acting out porn-sex as “just a bit of fun” any more sensible or healthy than encouraging kids to drop anvils on each other?

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