Shameless Oglers, Ethics Chess, and the Duty to Confront

Men who openly ogle the body parts of women in public make me want to turn in my Man Card and start dating Chaz Bono. I don’t know how people get like that, but no male should survive into his twenties with the idea that it is socially acceptable to stare at a woman’s breasts, legs, derriere or comely visage without an express invitation—and yes, some clothing choices can constitute such invitations. Absent that, however, a woman has the right not to be made to feel like a pole dancer, meat on the hoof, or a Sports illustrated swimsuit model simply because she is in public and in the presence of Y chromosomes.

The great relationship advice columnist Carolyn Hax addresses herself today to the lament of a woman who found herself unable to muster a response to a man in a restaurant who continued to stare at her chest, ruining her dinner. Hax initially disappointed me by suggesting that the woman should have simply switched seats, removing the attractive nuisance from his view. But she redeemed herself as she went on to urge the woman to prepare for her future encounters with ogling pigs, since given her natural endowments these were likely to occur:

“Learn to perform under duress through preparation.Ask yourself, now, what you can realistically hope to do in these situations, then prepare the words, gestures and/or actions. Say your plans out loud in the shower (seriously); repeat them to your friends by telling them the restaurant story and spelling out what you wish you had done. Even when practicing feels stupid, use repetition to teach your brain where the path is. In time, you’ll be able to find it no matter how rattled you get.”

This is what I like to call “ethics chess;” preparing yourself to handle ethical problems and dilemmas when they arise…thinking ahead regarding your tactics when a predictable event occurs, so you do the responsible and ethical thing.

In this case, the  goal of ethics chess is not only to stop the ogling jerk but also to make up for all those parents, peers and past victims who allowed him to get to this despicable point. This is the duty of confrontation, where anti-social and wrongful conduct must be firmly met with confrontation, reprimand, and shaming.  The ogler…the open racist…the spouse abuser…the child abuser…the teens who are disorderly in a public place…the talkers and texters in movies…the sports car driver who takes up two spaces in the public garage…the line-jumper, and even the shopper who brings 25 items into the ten item or less check-out line—these and other miscreants and boors count on meeting with no interference as they bull their way through life, because they rely on the rest of us to have better manners than they do. Because we usually don’t expect to encounter these asorted blights on daily life, we often find ourselves at a loss to craft an appropriate response, and yes, they count on that too.

Hax. as usual, has the right idea. It is every responsible citizen’s obligation to help police the culture and ensure that civilized standards thrive. That is a duty that should not be taken lightly, and like most tasks, it takes some planning and practice to do it well.

The way to stop oglers is to tell them exactly how offensive and rude they are, and the sooner someone does it, the less ogling there is going to be.

7 thoughts on “Shameless Oglers, Ethics Chess, and the Duty to Confront

  1. There is a young woman who works for the contractor I rent office space from. She got sick and tired of one man who would come in the office and just stare at her chest so she bought a tee shirt on line and keeps it for just when he comes in.
    It says: “Keep Staring They Might Do A Trick.”

    He doesn’t stare anymore.

  2. I’m glad to see Hax encouraging people to practice their responses, because usually situations arise suddenly, and you’re not prepared. Every year my Sunday School students (middle school) have a day where we practice saying “No.” I offer them a drink, they offer each other drugs. Lots of nervous giggling at first, but they do it, and get confident, and I like to think they’ll actually be able to say it should the offer arise in Big Bad High School. I’m also a big fan of calling people out for their misdeeds: leaving a shopping cart in the parking lot, parking in a handicapped spot though fully able, taking candy from the dish without leaving a dime. I’ll be a mom to whoever needs reminding of manners, whatever their age and relationship to me. I do appreciate Jack and Carolyn supporting my arrogance!

  3. Ethics chess… Nice concept. There have been far too many situations in which I have failed in my obligation to do the right thing due to timidness, or an excessive interest in social tact, or a feeling of being ill-prepared. It may be that some people who have a natural inclination to act ethically also have a tendency to be non-confrontational. That would make sense to me – empathy extends both to victim and victimizer.

    It’s also far too often that I encounter other men who openly ogle women on the street. I tend not to be as aggressive as I ought to be, but the shamelessness of it such that it stops me in my tracks, so I always react somewhat. Generally that just means staring at them with wildly crazy eyes. My hope is that at least that much attention reminds them that they’re not wearing the ring of &%$#ing Gyges. With a bit more practice at ethics chess, however, I’ll likely get more vocal.

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