For some time now I have observed a form of predatory behaviour by some men (including myself) that does not sit well in this day and age. I’m not talking about the behaviour which the #Metoo campaign has been addressing, where men exert financial or other powers over women (although this has heightened my awareness). I’m talking about a more subtle form of predation which, possibly, the men themselves are not aware of. In fact, I’m sure, in most cases, they actually believe that their behaviour is not only innocent, but that many women enjoy being the ‘prey’. (And I have, indeed, had conversations with women to this effect, and some women say they like thinking of themselves as prey).
However, what I’m talking about is not a tacit understanding between a man and a woman that he will do the pursuing and she will do the acquiescing. I’m talking about something slightly different. And the difference is important, because in many cases a man is simply treating a woman as an object – a thing – to be ‘conquered’ or to be taken as a prize – to break down her resistance to him, mostly for sexual purposes. He is not especially looking for a genuine connection with the woman, but is solely focussed on his own desires. He might force ‘consent’, but this consent often has a degree of overcome reluctance.
Why is this important? Because it demonstrates a lack of genuine respect for the woman. It is, in fact, nothing less than a deceptive ploy. Many men are skilled at overcoming innate reluctance. They have learned certain tricks: the right words to use; the right body language; a good sense of timing; the right way to gaze into a woman’s eyes. But, again, these are simply ploys. (I should note at this point that women can be predators too, and many have also developed predatory techniques, but that is a separate subject.)
This deceptive behaviour in men is a form of narcissism. It is really all about them and their needs. And the woman’s needs are only important so far as fulfilling them becomes a means to an end.
I have experienced men ‘lining women up’. What they’re doing, of course, is keeping all their options open. In their minds they might be thinking “if this doesn’t work out, there’s always this one”. And I’ve often seen this behaviour in men who are supposedly already in committed relationships. Perhaps they consider that it’s simply innocent ‘flirty’ behaviour: no-one gets hurt and everyone has some fun. And, yes, it is fun to flirt – as long as we’re clear what it is that we’re doing.
But men are being called to account now, and it would serve all of us well if we were aware of our intentions. That ‘bit of fun’ that we’re having might be taken more seriously by someone else. And I’m simply suggesting that men be clearer about our intentions, not only in ourselves, but also with others.