Respect for girls necessary in any environment

Respect for girls necessary in any environment

Jack C. Davis, asst. news editor

To me, parties have always seemed like a natural product of high school. Kids are stressed with school work and the challenges of growing up, and it’s nice to forget such woes and let it loose for a while. Still, I have been surprised at the behavior at some of these parties.

It was at a New Year’s celebration in 2016 when one of my friends pointed out how often girls are touched at these parties. I’d never noticed it until he said this, but now it’s practically impossible to miss: a guy going directly up to a girl and, without even saying a word, reaching his hand for her hip, wrapping his arm around her shoulder suddenly and the like.

The observation has stuck with me since, and the obscurity of it continues to confuse me. Primarily, I’ve always found it strange how it only seems to occur at parties. Walking down the halls of South, I have yet to see a boy go up to a female student and immediately put his hands on her hips. Sure, the environment is different at a party, but the context is practically the same; a lot of girls that I’ve talked to about it sound uncomfortable with the described situation, despite the setting.

I understand, perhaps, that the temptation is greater in a party scenario. Girls are dressed up and likely much more relaxed when they’re out with their friends than they would be in school. However, temptation doesn’t change the situation from what it is: sexual harassment.

In a survey conducted by the American Association of University Women in 2011, 48% of middle and high school girls said that they had been sexually harassed at least once, a vast majority by their peers. Now, one might say that this survey is dated, but I think the issue has never been more relevant.

In the past month, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been fired from his studio for sexual abuse, and the #MeToo movement has gone global, reaching 1.7 million tweets. I’m doubtful that 48% has gone down.

Imagine half of all the female students at South being sexually harassed at some point. Absurd right? No, it would be average.

Again, I understand how temptation is difficult to overcome. Being an adolescent boy comes with some urges, but a part of being mature is knowing how to handle these urges. If the fact that sexual harassment is illegal doesn’t stop you, why not the simple immaturity of your actions? I know that in high school things like “being a man” are seemingly more important than the law, but abiding by either of those do not involve touching a girl inappropriately when she isn’t comfortable.

Another argument that our partying male might present is that he does it because he’s interested in the girl, or he thinks she’s interested in him. It’s fine to think that a girl likes you, but the notion of such a thing is no justification for physical assumptions. I hope she does like you, but a conversation wouldn’t hurt before you start wrapping your arms around her.

A conversation that I had with another friend of mine on the same topic turned into some fantastic advice. She told me, “If you wouldn’t do it in broad daylight, then why would you do it in the darkness of someone’s basement?” It makes sense. If you wouldn’t even be comfortable doing it out in the open, imagine how uncomfortable she would be if you decided to do it at all.

I know that the phrase has been used so much that it’s become a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway: girls are not objects. Most of the guys I’ve talked to would probably agree with that statement, but it’s remarkable how that mindset seems to go out the door once a party starts. Girls should be respected and comfortable no matter the setting they’re in. Showing that respect, that understanding for what she wants, means everything and more.

Hopefully one day that basic respect won’t need to be appreciated so much. Hopefully one day it will become a normality that isn’t wished for but expected. Still, that hopeful future doesn’t just happen. It begins with us. Until that 48 becomes a zero, until the #MeToo movement becomes unnecessary, and until every high school girl can be comfortable at a party knowing she won’t be harassed, we’ve failed.

So, I challenge all my male peers reading this to really look around at the next party they go to. See how prevalent the problem is and do your part to change it. If you truly see women as equals, then let your actions speak for you. I’m sure the ladies would dig it.