There have been, recently, some news items about sexual attacks and predatory men. One features a bungled diplomatic communication where the alleged offender was allowed to leave the country claiming diplomatic immunity. The bungle is, we understand, that the country concerned (Malaysia) offered to forgo diplomatic immunity and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected their offer, thus letting him go. Looks like they’ll send him back though. I was impressed this week when the woman attacked went public. She said, on radio, that she hated being an unnamed, and thus perhaps secondary or at best unheard, person involved in the story. Good on her, I say.
The other stories are about Rolf Harris. I’m leaving Jimmy Saville out of all this as he seems a deranged pervert who waded into bizarre territories. Utterly despicable.
The Rolf Harris saga brings back memories of my version of the 50s and 60s when a certain kind of salacious comment and semi-predatory behaviour was tolerated. I observed uncles and friends of my parents with my mother and her embarrassed attempts to laugh off their jokes, remarks and gropings and older men who got too close to me and made innuendos that I didn’t know how to deal with. It takes a while to learn that good-natured banter, like that I share with some tango buddies as we manage the space for our bodies to dance together, is different from predatory and embarrassing remarks aimed to make you compliant, subservient or at least acquiescent.
The recent events also make me think of the kind of power that the men in my world had because there was a tolerance for this behaviour. It was ‘impolite’ to make a stand and gender roles favoured men. I suspect the girls attacked by Harris did not know what to do and may not have been believed in previous decades.
The men who achieved celebratory status believed themselves to be invincible – a kind of 20th century droit de seigneur. This behaviour in which the feelings or rights of the person they are attacking are inconsequential is a kind of sociopathy.
Tales coming out now about Rolf Harris in New Zealand indicate that he was a Jekyll and Hyde character who turned on the charm instantly.
I know that for some women /girls learning about predatory men was a much more difficult, dangerous and terrifying experience than it was for me.
Which is why we need to make stands against predatory behaviour.