Christmas – the line between flirtation and harassment is still clear as day

The fact that it’s Christmas is not a licence to grope.

By Lucy Ashton

It never usually goes further than a touch on my bottom or the small of my back, but these are not OK places to be touched by a stranger. Would you do that to your boss? Or another man? Then don’t do it to me.

When it happens, I try to forget about it. Like groping is normal, like it happens every day. Because it does happen on most nights out.

December is party month, from the work Christmas do to the reunions with your friends. I’m already dreading the upcoming nights out where tradition forces us to make small talk with colleagues we barely know but also be on the lookout for predatory men trying to turn seasonal get-togethers into an opportunity for unsolicited bum-pats.

The sad reality is that sexual harassment and groping are totally normalised in our social lives. For most women, it is a part of our night out, just as much as chicken nuggets on the way home.

Now, there’s a dress that will record every single time you’re groped – and it’s solid proof that women are not lying about the sexual harassment we put up with in bars and clubs.

Advertising agency Ogilvy has made a dress with sensors sewn into the material that record contact and pressure. Any impact on a sensor is sent to a computer that translates it into a heat map of the location and time of contact.

When three women wore the dresses to a Brazilian nightclub, they were touched non-consensually 157 times in less than four hours – a rate of more than once every five minutes. And as an accompanying video shows, this was despite repeatedly telling the men to stop.

Some men might say that this kind of attention is flattering. It isn’t, lads – and it’s not how you get to know us. When women don’t react, it’s not because we are enjoying it, it’s because we are trying to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation involving a male stranger.

Almost three-quarters of young people have witnessed sexual harassment during a night out, according to a very depressing UK survey published last year. A YouGov poll of 2,013 adults, aged between 18 and 24, found nearly two-thirds of women and more than a quarter (26pc) of men had been on the receiving end themselves of sexual harassment.

Inappropriate comments, unwanted touching or groping and inappropriate behaviour had been experienced by 79pc of women. And 72pc said they have seen sexual harassment in some form.

I am tired of being harassed and I’m equally tired of men pretending they are confused now and can’t tell the difference between harassment and flirting in a post-#MeToo world.

You are still allowed to chat someone up. What is important is your ability to read the message you receive – something every sexual thug seems incapable of doing. I’ve had enough of always putting the responsibility on women to make life easy for the men around them, rather than on men to improve their own behaviour. It’s not that hard to differentiate between a flirty chat-up and backing a nervous woman into a corner.

For most men who know how to behave, the line between flirtation and harassment is still clear as day. We’re not talking about shaking hands too long over a coffee. We’re talking about touching in inappropriate and sexual ways.

We’re talking about the man next to you on the bus who spreads his legs as far as possible, pressing into your calf as you try to fold yourself into a smaller space. We’re talking about the outright sexual propositions and threats that happen when men behave very badly.

If you are still confused, then just stop and try to read a woman’s body language before you stumble over to us with your wandering hands.

And finally, when is it ok to touch a woman’s bottom without her consent? Never. Whether the woman you see is wearing a short dress or a jump-suit, nothing gives a man the right to touch a woman without consent. All I want for Christmas 2018 is to feel comfortable when I’m out.

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