If a child understands ‘choice’, why can’t Donna Karan & George Hook?

by

At seven, a middle-aged man slid a clammy hand up the back of my T-shirt while I waited at the sweet counter in my local supermarket, and left it there while I squirmed and wriggled from beneath his grasp.

At 11, a young man, wearing a pair of shorts and no underwear, chose to bend over in front of myself and my friend in an effort to purposely expose his genitals to us.

That same man watched us slip through a purpose-built walkway in a cul de sac, got into his car and disappeared from view only to reappear at the other end of the cul de sac, and repeat the lewd action.

While these instances are seared into my memory due to the confusion I felt at the time, they didn’t colour my perception of men, as a whole.

I considered them an anomaly, and thankfully in my life, they were.

I grew up surrounded by men who cared for and protected me, and my gut reaction to these instances was the belief that these men had a choice to do (or not do) what they did.

These two individuals did not represent the male community as I knew it.

As a child, I identified that there were dozens of grown men in the supermarket on that occasion who chose not to invade my personal space or make me feel ‘squirmy and embarrassed’ by the unwelcome touch of their hand.

There were dozens of teenage boys and young men whose paths I crossed on a daily basis who chose not to expose themselves to me like that guy in the 'weird red short shorts' did.

As a child I knew I had choices, and as far as I was concerned, adults had even more. And it was up to them to make the right one.

On those two occasions, they didn’t. And that was not my fault.

This is a concept Donna Karan appeared to struggle with when recently faced with questions regarding Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment of numerous women.

"How do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women?” she asked. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

By suggesting that men are unable to contain their sexual desires at the mere presence of a female (scantily-clad or not), is offensive to millions of men.

If it all comes down to what we’re wearing, then what about the young man who saw me waiting for a taxi in the early hours of the morning, wearing just a string top and mini skirt, using my arms to shield myself from the wind?

Why did he choose to ensure I got home safely by sacrificing his seat in a taxi?

Seeing me clearly drunk and tottering on heels at a relatively deserted street corner, he asked the driver to stop and take me instead.

While I settled into the backseat of the taxi, he made his way to the corner I had just left and waited to hail himself another one.

By Donna Karan and George Hook’s estimations, my ensemble and alcohol intake meant I was prime fodder for unwanted sexual advances that evening.

But here’s the thing; I didn’t fall victim because the man I encountered chose not to commit a crime.

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