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On licking people

Andy Dick is having a hard time with sexual boundaries. According to a recent article, he'd been licking people and was confused about why they were upset.

Andy's career is not exactly stellar, but I remember him from the 90s sitcom News Radio. Now he's been fired from a small role in a small film for the licking and otherwise sexually harassing people on set. In the item in the Hollywood Reporter, Andy says, "I don't know the difference between sexual harassment and trying to get a date. In the '70s, all the girlfriends I got was by kissing and licking their cheek. I don't know anymore. There were beautiful women and beautiful guys on the set. I flirt with them. I might kiss someone on the set and ask them to go to dinner. They are the ones that took it south."

Oh yeah - it's their problem.

Andy is not the best-adjusted guy, obviously, and as a starting point we could stipulate that licking casual acquaintances is best left to Labrador Retrievers. Like Kevin Spacey and a bunch of other bigger fish, he's been caught up in the Hollywood house-cleaning that's followed in the wake of the Weinstein allegations. The changes in attitudes about sexual harassment and assault that the Weinstein affair has triggered all seem pretty positive. However, Andy's comments are pointing us to something important, and if we want to really solve the problem, we might want to pay attention.

Over the past couple of decades, the world has been making a pretty big deal out of sexuality. We seem to think that if we get our sexuality just right, then the rest of our life will fall into place. There's a belief that once we've determined what we want, how we want it and who we want it with, we'll be well on our way to living the abundant life.

This tendency to explore, examine and label our sexuality ad infinitum mixes with our cultural focus on individualism and autonomy and the result puts ME at the centre of my life and sexuality. This combo creates a deeply consumerist mindset when it comes to sex that could be expressed as, "I know exactly what I want, and I deserve to have it."

So it shouldn't really surprise us when someone like Andy Dick sees something that he wants and makes some clumsy (or mind-bogglingly cringe-inducing, or actually violent, depending on who we're talking about) moves to get it. The whole world has told them they deserve the sex they want, and then when they go after it, it eviscerates them. No wonder he's confused.

I'm not suggesting that the behaviour of these men is acceptable, or that they should not be held accountable. What I am saying is that we should not be surprised that bad systems and bad ways of thinking produce bad behaviour.

We need a better system - a system that puts fences around predators like Weinstein to limit the damage they can do; a system that allows victims to take reasonable steps to protect themselves and report bad behaviour after it (God forbid) happens.

What would such a system look like? That's a complicated question, and I will dig into it more, but we could set up a few rules that would likely help:

1) A good system would have a rule that if you're married, all your little sexual comments, looks, touches, etc. would be directed toward your spouse. Other people should be quick to call out people who step over the line.

2) A good system would frown on romantic relationships at work. Differences in power relationships (bosses and workers) are particularly troubling, especially when it comes to consent.

3) No meetings in hotel rooms at 10pm. Meet in the office, at 8 am, with the door open. Mike Pence was recently pilloried for suggesting something like this. This is because people are kind of dumb.

4) You are only allowed to lick frozen treats and your spouse. I'm a big advocate of waiting until marriage for people-licking. Like really, that's gross.

If everyone began to follow rules like these (not a complete list, by any stretch) then potential victims would feel more comfortable insisting that they be observed and we'd be sending a clear message that we take the trauma of sexual misconduct seriously.

None of this deals with the foundational issue of our self-centred attitude to sex, but it's a start.


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