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January 27, 2006



My wife and I once had a young friend over who told us that a guy in her workplace had put his hand on her butt without invitation and without warning.

She's a very nice person and pretty politely told him being grabbed that way made her uncomfortable.

I think she was surprised by my response which was that she should have taken his head off, she should have screamed, she should have called the police and had the guy charged with assault.

Something in the culture teaches young women to accept this. It is an unintended consequence of feminism's lowering of sexual boundaries that has left young women open to these kinds of attacks. Now, young women tend to think responding fiercely to this kind of behavior might mark them as prudes or, at least, uncool.

That said, I'd caution you to be slow labeling the "pool boy" as a bad guy. Even as a more mature man now I find I am often oblivious to women's subtle efforts at communication. I'm sure I was even less aware as a teenager.

"Pool boy" might not be so much a "bad guy" as just "a guy." If the girl giggled while she protested, if she didn't say "no" with maximum severity, if she didn't get up and walk away, I'm not sure how many men would clue in that she really wanted him to stop.

The girl in your scenario shares in the responsibility for the situation because it doesn't sound like she asserted herself strongly enough to get the message across. "Pool boy" might have stopped instantly if he'd really understood what the girl wanted. If he'd stopped, would he still be a "bad guy?"

Finally, I have to take a little issue with your claim that " Our bodies, our minds, our emotions are ours to give over to whom we see fit."

If this is true, I don't see where there is any basis for talking about modesty at all. Modesty is a virtue and a virtue can only be a virtue if it coincides with an established moral order. A moral order requires a moral orderer, some Transcendant Intelligence capable of making moral demands. If such a Transcendant Moral Intelligence can make legitimate moral demands, then our bodies, our minds, our emotions are not ours to give over to whom we see fit.

Didn't mean to nitpick. Maybe I misunderstood. If I did, please feel free to set me straight.

Wendy Shalit

Very revealing story about workplace harassment, Dean. I agree with you 100%.

I'm curious if you could explain more about why Transcendent Intelligence seems incompatible with Merav's claim that "Our bodies, our minds, our emotions are ours to give over to whom we see fit." Are you thinking that Merav means giving "our bodies" to a string of men? I thought she was just saying we have the right to choose whom we marry, and we shouldn't settle for suitors who are not really "suitors" at all.

I guess we will have to wait for Merav's elaboration, but in the meantime I see your views as entirely compatible. You can see your body, soul, emotions, etc. as coming from God, but at the same time, free will is given to choose a mate, no?

Also, a technical note: a few of you have asked me to post comments for you because you don't want your email e-dress to show up. If you want to post something anonymously, all you have to do is simply leave the "email" field blank.

DK Jones

"Which brought me to think of all the more subtle ways we allow ourselves to be walked all over and taken advantage of by men. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a male-bashing blog."

Before I was married and up until I meet my husband, I was horrible in relationships. I let myself be treated horribly. I was never beat or abused, but I was never respected. Looking back on it, the saddest part is that I learned to be a pushover from my female peers. It was better to be with someone that to have no one. My value in my circle of female friends was tied to who liked me, who I dated, and who I liked, and what “communicating” happened in those relationships. Granted I was naïve and insecure, but looking back on it wasn’t a “bad” boyfriend that messed me up, it was horrible girl friends. This was from a group of good students, involved in band, sports, and youth ministry. Like much of the converstation going on in "Dressing for wrong person" about feeling like you have to impress other women to hold status, girls can be very cruel to one another - even amongst friends. I didn't believe it when I was in the middle of it, but looking back its heartbreaking to realize what people I considered friends let happen to me and each other.

If that girl at the pool doesn’t value herself before you add the boy to the situation there is no way she is going to demand the respect she deserves. For me it took someone showing me I had value to realize just what I had let happen, and that I had the power to change it.



I suspect our positions are compatible too.

I think a person can recognize the body etc. as coming from God and still choose whom to marry.

This is why I said I might have misunderstood.

The issue is that so much feminist rhetoric has relied on a kind of "property rights" understanding of the person, i.e. my body is mine and I can do what I want with it.

I don't know exactly what Merav was trying to say but I just wanted to point out that so much of our sexual ethics proceeds from our understanding of who has legitimate grounds to make moral commands about the body. Lots of people say only the individual has a right to make such claims. If that's what Merav was saying (and it may may not have been), I wouldn't be on board.


Dean, to be clear, are you saying that a woman can't truly be modest if she isn't religious?


I dunno, I was modest before I was religious. I think it's about basic self-respect.



No, I'm not saying that.

What I am saying is that everyone has an underlying system for answering life's basic questions: what is the purpose of life, what is true, how do I tell right from wrong etc. From these basic beliefs we derive answers to even more mundane questions like-"How should I dress?"

If someone says modesty is a virtue, what that person is saying, in effect, is: my system of underlying beliefs holds modesty to be good.

This basic system of beliefs is what I would call a "religion." So, it's hard for me to understand what a non-religious person would look like.

It's possible that a woman could hold a belief system that says the purpose of life is reproduction or grabbing as much sexual pleasure as possible and at the same time be very modest.

However, if that were the case, I'd suggest either she doesn't really believe what she says she believes or isn't living in a way consistent with those beliefs.


I define "religion," in this context, as a comprehensive system of belief that includes the idea that there is a higher power who created and controls the universe, and who has made His or Her rules and expected behavior explicitly known to humankind.

A person who is not religious can be moral (or even modest) in this context, if that person believes that following a given set of rules is better for oneself and for society as a whole.

The way that I function in my own life is remarkably similar to how a strictly religious person would live, except I don't believe that there is an omnipotent being keeping tabs on me.

This is an important difference, that I think makes religious and nonreligious people mutually incomprehensible sometimes. It also alienates those who are not religious from forums and groups related to modesty or abstinence--when I post in a forum, I want to find like-minded people, not be told that I am going to Hell. (Which has happened to me.)



Who says a belief system has to include a "higher power" to be a religion"?


Wow! You don't check this site in 24HRs and you miss all the action. Sorry for my late response guys, but here it is. I hope it answers and clears up a few things for you Dean, and DK Jones.

I agree with you that the girls own standards have to be reinforced by her friends. You are right in saying that first someone has to respect themselves, before they demand respect from others. This girl obviously did not. Which was exactly my point, I apologize for the ambiguity. You are right, Dean, in saying that this is something brought on by our society. Women's social and democratic rights have been raised, but their own personal and emotional rights lowered. The situation you described has unfortunately happened to me on many different occasions, in different forms... as I am sure it has to many women... and it took me a while to realize that I am not being petty and overly sensitive or dramatic to refute it.

I feel that many women are made to feel that way. By exactly the comments that you made. The girl was OBVIOUSLY not into the sport he was playing, she was not giggling while saying no.... She was serious, but lacked the confidence to assert that. If a girl says NO, she means NO. She shouldn't have to stand up and walk away to be taken seriously. What I am saying by this story, and what it made clear to me, was that this girl said NO, and her boyfriend didn't respect that... we won't call him a bad guy, but an immature guy, ( I still don't think that should excuse him in any way. )
You can use your imagination to transfix the scenario to another one.
A lot of women and this girl lack the confidence to say, "NO, My body, My mind, My emotions, and you don't deserve to have a part in it. You don't deserve to be honored by me sharing them with you. I don't deserve this lack of respect you show me and I should walk away." This lack of confidence in their own self worth, causes women to only feel worthy if a guy does take interest in them, or their bodies, they feel that they are the only ones that should be deserving, not both. They shouldn't have to base it on whether someone is interested in them or not, they shouldn't have to mould themselves to make themselves likeable to someone that is not worthy.

What I wanted to say with my blog, was that women should be aware of their own self-worth and demand to be treated appropriately...otherwise move on.

Jeannine Kellogg


I think it is so wonderful that you spoke to the girl. We all have a gut feel when we see something, and we need to act on it. Behavior can be playful in one situation, but in another situation can clearly cross well over the line into mistreatment or even abuse. You trusted your gut feel about the situation and the girl's feelings, and stepped forward to say something. It is far easier to ignore situations, as so many people do. I commend you for speaking to her. I have come to know that those little words to strangers can have an enormous impact. You are wonderful for trusting your gut, stepping up, and helping her understand what she deserves. Your story reminds us that we always need to reach out with simple, kind, direct words--that was a wonderful thing you did.

Mary O

Hmmm, this is a very tricky one. I agree that too many young women put up with nonsense from guys and don't defend themelves very well. So many young women seem defenseless these days, they're no longer taught how to stay away from troublesome situations, or how to extricate themsleves. But in this case, the woman stayed there for 45 minutes. If this pool play was truly dangerous, she had plenty of time to get out of the pool.

"If a girl says NO, she means NO." That slogan is one of the worst things ever produced by the women's liberation movement. It flies in the face of real human emotions and behaviour, especially in "romantic" situations. There are numerous situtations where "No" means "Maybe" or "try to convince me otherwise", whether we're trying to get a raise from a boss, get a customer to purchase our product, help a teenager who won't admit he needs help, or playfully try to plant a kiss on someone. There are many times when one doesn't take no for an answer. You can't put simplistic slogans on complicated human behaviour. We're humans, not robots.

"She shouldn't have to stand up and walk away to be taken seriously." I disagree - that's EXACTLY what she should have done.



You wrote:
"I feel that many women are made to feel that way. By exactly the comments that you made."

It seems like you're accusing me of something here but I really don't know what.

You wrote:
"The girl was OBVIOUSLY not into the sport he was playing, she was not giggeling while saying no.... She was serious, but lacked the confidence to assert that. If a girl says NO, she means NO. She shouldn't have to stand up and walk away to be taken seriously."

I never said she was giggling. I was simply trying to point out two things.

1) For whatever reason, women, especially young women, often undermine their communication of what they will and will not accept. I never said she SHOULD have to walk away to be taken seriously, just that sometimes such action may be necessary because

2)Men and women are different. In your post it seems you interpret the girl's behavior with much greater charity than the guy's. It seems very likely that he is indeed immature and that part of that immaturity is a failure to realize men and women communicate differently.

If he had been horsing around in a pool with another male and that guy had said "stop," the real message might very well have been "keep it up."

The guy you saw may not have had enough experience with women to know then she said "stop" she meant "stop." The meaning of her protestations may have been much less clear to him than it was to you.

None of this is to say that his behavior was OK or to excuse him of anything. I'm just trying to point out that if it had been clear to him that he was disrespecting her, he might have stopped instantly.

Men need to know that women are not exactly like their buddies. When women say "No" it doesn't mean "Do it just one more time" as it sometimes does between men. Women need to know that men do not always immediately understand the intent of their message, no matter how many times they repeat it. That's why she needs to be told that she's free to do whatever is necessary to get that message through, including walking away.

I never said things SHOULD be this way, I was simply trying to talk about how women need to be equipped to deal with the way things ARE.


Here's an example:

I have one brother. Here's the kind of thing that was pretty typical for us as kids.

We're sitting playing a video game where we are competing against each other.

Like normal, he's beating me. So, I do the most obvious thing. I reach over, grab the controler out of his hand and throw it as far away as possible while I continue to score points.

I do this a couple more times, each time he tells me to stop. The third time I do it, he punches me in the arm. I punch him back. Then, we wrestle. He jumps up and I chase him all over the house and the yard.

The whole time, we're laughing. The experience is one of brotherly affection and something we'll look back on as a good memory.

It's taken me a few years of marriage to understand that my wife does not think like my brother. Never once has this kind of thing lead to a good memory with her.

I love my wife and have no intention of disrespecting her, but I sometimes do because I am a man who has lived a man's life with other men.

Women and men may not be from separate planets, but sometimes it can seem that way.


"She shouldn't have to stand up and walk away to be taken seriously." 'I disagree - that's EXACTLY what she should have done.'

(Merav stated the words in quotation marks; the ones that followed came from Mary)

I agree with both. When a person says no (granted that she says it clearly and directly, without sending mixed signals like with a giggle etc.), that ought to be taken as a flat-out "no." If for some reason the other party ignores it, that's the time the person had better walk away, such as in what the pool girl should have done, in my opinion.

The thing is, based on the story Merav related, the pool girl may have established a "track record" of being weak on asserting herself, leading the boy to believe that she didn't really mean the "no".

Dean also provided the different interprations men and women have of certain phrases and gestures, thus accounting for what happened at the pool.

But I, too, think that Merav did a wonderful thing by approaching the girl afterwards and talking to her. Never underestimate the power of showing a person her true worth, and I believe the girl was encouraged in some way by the fact that someone went out of her way to talk to her, however briefly. =)

I'm learning so much from the stuff here! Happy weekend to all. =)


Thank you Jeanine and Sunnyday for your positive encouragement. It took a bit of debating with myself to finally decide to do it, but I am happy I did approached her. I just wanted to give her a bit of encouragement to have a higher regard for herself. She was a bit caught off guard by my approach, and tried to defend her boyfriend at first... (it was expected) but very quickly agreed with me that he wasn't treating her properly and she was very upset and didn't trust him with her safety. I made sure to tell her I wasn't passing judgment on her boyfriend, just that I wanted to tell her to make sure she is being treated the way she deserves, which was seemingly better than that.

Thank you everyone else for your comments, I'm glad that this brought up such an interesting discussion and expression of diverse opinions.

Ok, so let me first clarify what transpired on that fateful evening in the pool at my fitness club. I didn't think I had to go into explicit detail to make my point, but I will now, just to clarify. From the perspective of an onlooker, since that is all I can testify to, (unfortunately the parties invovled are not available for questioning), it seemed obvious that the girl was not into it. She protested profusely and tried escaping everytime he tried to lift her to throw her in the pool. She remarked " Stop it, I don't trust you. You're going to hurt me."
It was horrendous to watch as the boy litereally picked her up, almost dropped her(so now she is hanging from him in an awkward manner,held by her hand and foot), ran to the poolside, but as he came to the edge of the pool, slipped, and they both toppled onto each other. They were very close to the edge of the pool, the girl, laying in shock, lay with her left hand dangling off the side. Our hero, "pool boy" gave her one last push and shoved her into the pool.
No matter how immature , or what gender you are, this behaviour is inconsiderate and wrong for anyone. And NO, the girl was not laughing all the while, nor sending any sort of mixed messages.

I agree with you all and say, Yes, she SHOULD HAVE yelled at him sternly, gotten up and walked away. But that is exactly my point. She should have, but didn't. It's not a matter of what she should or shouldn't have done, it's a matter of what she didn't do, and WHY!

My observation is that it is because she didn't have the guts to do it. Girls feel valued by the attention they are given, by getting up and walking away, she is risking losing this boy's attention for good. In the same way girls feel pressured to have sex with their boyfriends before they are ready, for fear they might lose them. This girl, as well as most girls her age,(about 16) and women older, crave attention from men in any way they can get it, even if it means being docile and undemanding of their own respect, or sexually available.

What I was trying to say with my blog, was that girls/women, should not have to debase themselves in order to get that attention. They are not being petty and overly sensitive or dramatic by saying that this behaviour is not appropriate and I should not have to stand for it. They are not being too demanding in respecting themselves and expecting the same from others. They are not risking losing that attention for good, because eventually someone will come along that will appreciate and respect them for all they are worth, which is A LOT.

(By the way, these comments are not gender exclusive, the same applies for men)

I am not talking from a pedestal, looking down on the masses. I have been there, where this girl and many like her are, and have come to this realization on my own. I just wanted to share the message.

Mary O

That sounds pretty bad. Sounds like there was no lifeguard around? I would have gotten out of the pool myself and reported this dangerous behaviour to someone at the facility.

Who knows why she puts up with it? She could have a family history of abuse, of herself or her mother.


Thanks, Merav.

Those additional comments were very helpful.


You are definitly correct.
If you dont mind I will be using a small part of your essay and using it as reference for a essay Im creating.

Sexual Activity among Teens.
Letting girls be trampled by guys and later being forced into sex and even more complicated ideas.
You are most definitly correct on your statment though.

Thank you,


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