It probably took you one second to read that. Which may be why I think one-second isn’t usually considered a long time. It’s been ingrained so deeply in me that one-second isn’t a long time. I mean, my whole life I’ve used one-second to communicate that I would be available immediately. When I’m on my way out the door,
“Ben, it’s time to go!”
But, that’s how it has worked in my private life. Out in public, feminism has got me reconsidering how long one-second really is. I just need a minute to explain.
To all the single folks out here, I’m not sure if you can relate to this, but do you ever have one of those moments where you end up seeing somebody who is just so dang beautiful? So amazing it kinda hurts, right? Like, “wow, that person is way out of my league.”
Even though I really don’t believe in the whole “league” system and I’m more of a beauty is deeper than the skin kinda guy, I end up having those moments.
But, what about those moments that last a little longer than one second? Have you ever had or noticed somebody having one of those? Maybe a couple seconds, maybe a head turn, or maybe staring. These are the moments that feminism asks us to recognize as problematic. Feminism asks us to unravel the thread of events leading up to this and diagnose how this ends up happening. Not so surprisingly, a sex, gender, sexuality analysis ends up doing the trick.
I try to speak from my own perspective. So, I’m writing this article as a cisgender man with heterosexual privilege. I’ve been trained to feel preeeeetty comfortable taking up a lot of space. I’ve also been taught that “normal” sexuality for me is to be voyeuristic. Put these two together and I’m taught to stare. Which is a tidier way of being honest; it’s ogling. In a heterosexual context, I’m told women are mere objects for me to enjoy. So, I’ve been trained to look at women. I mean LOOK. So then these seconds that last a little longer are considered ok.* I’m taught that if I’m noticed, look away. Furthermore, if I suspect they’ve turned the other direction, even slightly, then the coast is clear.
But, the coast clearly isn’t. Over time, I’ve been blessed to have been exposed to blogs like this, organizations like hollaback!, Men Can Stop Rape, and countless others that say “waaaait a minute, what you’re asked to do has serious negative repercussions”. I sincerely thank them. These organizations have given me the analysis to realize that the one-second difference between one-second and two seconds can be huge. It can be the difference in somebody’s comfort, it can be the difference in somebody wanting to go with out sunglasses on a cloudy day or having to wear them to look uninviting. It can be the difference between the fastest route home, or, the longer route to avoid more attention. Or maybe it’s the difference between somebody keeping their head up or looking at their feet. No matter what the impact is, there still is an “is”. There’s still an impact. One-second may not be harassment. I’m not really sure. But, I am sure that cumulatively, it is.
It has taken me a long time to realize that harassment isn’t always verbal, and it took one-second to prove that to me.
* To be clear, this post isn’t try to create a formula for what constitutes harassment. It’s not about one-second, or two-seconds. It’s not about counting seconds. It’s more about realizing that every second counts.
– Ben Privot
Founder, The Consensual Project
This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.