As Celebrity Sex Scandals Heat Up, Here's How To Know The Difference Between Flirting And Sexual Harassment

As Celebrity Sex Scandals Heat Up, Here's How To Know The Difference Between Flirting And Sexual Harassment
Credit: Source; Macleans.ca

Celebrity sex scandals are dominating headlines these days, and some are finding themselves a bit confused regarding the seriousness of the allegations. Campaigns such as #MeToo are spreading on a global basis with women and men sharing their accounts of sexual harassment to rape. Some are also expressing common misconceptions that calling someone sexual names or patting them on the buttocks shouldn't be grouped with the same allegations of forcible rape or sodomy.

Others have even justified their groping behaviors by saying that they were flirting or trying to let someone know they were sexually interested in them.

So what is the difference between sexual harassment, abuse, and assault? How can people in this modern age flirt and let someone know they are interested in them sexually, without fearing they will later be accused of harassment or assault?

The answer is simple and one that everyone needs to be aware of. In order to protect yourself from becoming the next Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman or even president George H.W. Bush, is to make sure you are never approaching someone in a non-consensual way.

Dustin Hoffman faced criticism this week for his crude speech and lewd behavior towards a 17-year-old intern. There were no accounts of forcible rape or sodomy, and some tried to legitimize the behavior by saying Hoffman was "just being a heterosexual male."

The reason why Dustin Hoffman's behavior was and is wrong is that it was unwanted. It was also directed towards a minor.

Consider this, if Dustin Hoffman had been in a consensual relationship with an adult, he could have said all of the same crude talk to his partner, and maybe she would have enjoyed it, and there wouldn't have been a problem.

The difference is what Hoffman (and many men in the 70s and 80s and even still today) believed was a normal way to approach the opposite sex, is actually harassment. In many instances, it can be a crime.

Flirting, when it is unwanted, becomes harassment, and for many, it crosses the line as creepy. Flirting with minors is not only creepy, it can open you up to allegations of being a sexual predator.

When two people share a mutual attraction, flirting can open the door for better communication and deeper intimacy. When there is no attraction and the flirtatious behavior is unwanted and unreciprocated, it becomes harassment.

As soon as one person becomes uncomfortable with the attention, the other person must stop the behavior, because they are crossing a line. This is why the word "No" holds so much legal power.

Imagine two people go on a first date. One feels the date has gone well, the other can't wait for it to end. Though one feels they should make their move and kiss the other, the act is unwanted and unwarranted. To move forward with intimacy when the other person does not want it is to move into dangerous legal territory.

At one time, flirting may have been an unhindered, open door to intimacy. Today, it is an open door to a lawsuit.

Times have changed and the free love mentality of the sixties and seventies is gone. This is not the "make love not war" generation, but rather the generation of gender equality where women and men want to live their lives without unwarranted sexual advances and inappropriate touches.

Even those who continue to speak about sexual topics or make frequent sexual jokes can become guilty of harassment if the listeners don't want to hear it.

Communication is key and those who are confused about the differences between flirting and sexual harassment should just ask the recipient if the attention is wanted or not. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of the latest sexual harassment allegations.

Those who continue to pursue their sexual behaviors after they have been told the attention is not wanted have moved beyond harassment to assault.

What do you think about the latest sexual abuse scandals coming out of Hollywood?

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