In the past few years the emphasis on addressing and eradicating harassment towards women has never been greater and men have been made well aware of the extent of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and have seen swathes of women step forward to share their own experiences. The result of which has seen a new code of conduct written for men to adhere to so to avoid offending the opposite gender. Naturally as a result the aim of many men today is to make clear their dissociation from those who have been shamed in the media, however, there has been little consideration for the effects that this has had on men themselves, in particular young men who don’t share the same notorious qualities of Mr. Weinstein but are trying to enter the dating game.
The popular belief is that the only effect on men has been one of much needed moral correction, such is illustrated in the recent Gillette advert, but for many young men who are growing up thinking that their gender is the symbol for sexual harassment the process of trying to form relationships with girls has become daunting. Such has seen many of the “Good Guys” internalising their emotions rather than expressing them as the risk of being seen as acting inappropriately has become greater. It is in the attempt to avoid being dubbed as such where anxiety has arisen amongst young men who wish to express their liking towards a girl but refrain from doing so out of fear of being seen as just another sexually charged male.
Advice to men in order to avoid this has been words to the extent of “simply be yourself and show you have a genuine interest in the other person”. However, after speaking with numerous students around the Stoke Bishop residential area I found that all of the guys I interviewed could recall multiple times they have seen or conversed with a girl they found attractive and wanted to ask them out but didn’t do so. Upon asking why I was met with a number of stories, ranging from the classic struggle of any student—No money, right way through to the more obscure such as for one student who claimed “She didn’t look like she’d rate the mullet”. However, all admitted to having reservations about asking someone out due to the suggested perception that a girl may have towards a guy approaching them, irrespective of the online advice forums. So why is this?
From the words of men around the residential area it appeared that the pressure for men to update their views towards women is reaching a point where those who have or did not need to change are feeling pressured to not express themselves, and this anxiety is one that needs to be settled. One student with the initials ‘J.S’ summarised his opinion for me, saying “its a bit peak cos you don’t want to offend them but at same time you can’t ask someone out if you don’t know them”.
This should not be a mindset for young men to hold, especially amongst university students who are at an age where they are experimenting with all aspects of themselves, whether through work, sport or dating this is a time of discovering what one wants and likes. It is therefore important that young men, mullet or no mullet, with genuine intentions to get to know a woman they like or find attractive and want to date (those who represent the “good guy” that media is asking men to become) are further encouraged to act upon their feelings rather than repressing them. As it seems the current advice of “be yourself” is not enough to counteract the anxiety generated by displays such as the recent controversial Gillette advert.
In short, guys need to be further encouraged to express their positive emotions without fear of being degraded to the title of “creepy” and whilst we must always continue to remind girls that they can say no to any situation we must also reinforce that guys still have the right to approach girls in an appropriate manner without risking sexual harassment or being “creepy”. It is true that men with purely sexual intentions will likely still approach women in years to come so we need to make sure the good guys aren’t being discouraged from entering the field. How else are men to show that they have responded to those who had the courage to speak up and demand change…by avoiding them? I think not.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.