Sunday 13 July 2008

Sexually harassed? I should be so lucky

Let me first state that sexual harassment is no laughing matter.

I still remember the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings and I do not find the line, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” humorous in any way whatsoever.

So when the women’s activist group Aware (Association of Women for Action and Research) released a study on workplace sexual harassment last week, it made me nostalgic for the politically correct ’90s when people were still using terms like “politically correct”.

If it’s really the first study of its kind published in Singapore, it has been long overdue – by at least a decade.

Of course, sexual harassment has been going on ever since men and women shared the same work space. In a more innocent time, it was called “wooing”. And it will continue to occur no matter what measures are put in place.

But one statistic in the study that I find the most interesting is hardly discussed at all. One-fifth of the people who say they have been sexually harassed are men.

Men? Who are these lucky son-of-a-guns?

Aware, being specifically a “women’s” activist group, is naturally gender-biased and not all that concerned about the poor male victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Which I find just a teensy weensy bit sexist.

Sure, we all know the stories about women fending off unwanted advances from male colleagues and/or bosses.

But where are the ribald tales of these one-in-five men being forcibly groped by colleagues and/or bosses, female and/or possibly male?

Will they sound too much like letters to Penthouse forum that I’m not supposed to admit I’ve read? Or bad gay porn?

So a guy would think twice before complaining about being sexually harassed because no one is going to take him seriously. All he’ll get is either ridicule or envy.

A woman can call Aware if she’s sexually harassed. Who is a man going to call? Amare?

This reminds me of a line I wrote for hua Chu Kang years ago: “When a man touch a woman, it’s called molest. But when a woman touch a man, it’s called... shiok, man!”

And when a man touches another man ... well, that's another story isn't it?

- Published in The New Paper, 13 July 2008