People come with different senses of humor, and interpretation of what constitutes flirting, etc. We’re all grown here; if someone (whatever gender) says or does something you find offensive, degrading, embarrassing, or just distasteful and unwanted, we need to learn to use our voices RIGHT THEN, the first time it happens, because I think a lot of people cross other people’s boundaries because everyone has different boundaries and we tend to think in terms of our own and act accordingly.
I’ve been saying this — with no small amount of anger at the people, men and women, who can’t see the toxic atmosphere they create by not doing it — for essentially all of my adult life. To some, that’s going to sound like “victim-blaming”… whatever. To the degree that they stayed quiet in the name of “being nice”, or “not making waves” when conflict happens — and these are major, overriding values in what is considered “civil” in the US — they are complicit in the problem.
(I’m coming to realize, after four-plus decades of living here, that the viewpoint I grew up with in Russia in the 1960s — a core belief that men and women are both valuable members of the human race, and that thinking of one as being in any way less than the other is not just utterly alien but frankly disgusting — is not the default in the US. I… don’t even know what to say about that. For all of its faults, the Russian culture of that time got this right.)
Please, people. PLEASE. Look others in the eye and call them on their shit. It’s the truly responsible, ultimately polite and civil thing to do. Anything less poisons the well.
This hostile impasse we’ve reached — women too terrified to step out of the house and seeing every man as a rapist by default, men too terrified to smile at a passing stranger to avoid having their lives destroyed by an accusation, both chock-full of fear that is escalating to anger and hatred — that’s not a society; that’s a locked asylum with shrieking inmates and not a single doctor to be seen. It’s intolerable for both, and it serves neither one.
I have no clue about what the right answers to the Big Questions are here; how to get to anything resembling rational behavior and mutual accord. But some of what is called “being pleasant and polite” needs to die a fiery death. Servility is neither of those.