Interesting article online this week about a woman called Cheryl Yeoh.  Ms Yeoh is a tech entrepeneur who has gone public in respect of the sexual harassment that she was subjected to by a man she was working with.  Working in the tech industry, it is notoriously male-dominated, but I should like to say that her allegations relate specifically to one man only.

She alleges as follows:

1. She was sent a text by this man prior to a meeting, inviting her to his hotel room.

2. There was a meeting in her hotel room (Ms Yeoh states that this was not unusual in her industry) to brainstorm ideas.  The other people at the meeting (male – it is a male-dominated industry so that is not unusual either) brought alcohol and kept pouring whiskey into her glass before it was empty, which she found “a little weird.”

3. Then later on everyone left, but this particular man did not seem to want to leave.  She asked him if he wanted to leave and he said “no”, at which point she offered him her guest room as she thought he was too drunk to get back to his hotel.

4. He then came into her room and told her that he wanted to sleep with her.  She told him that she had a boyfriend and asked him to leave.

5. Ms Yeoh showed him to the door and on the way out he backed her up against a wall and tried to kiss her.  Ms Yeoh then pushed him out and shut the door.  She has commented that she was very pleased that she hadn’t had more to drink and that she was strong enough to be able to do this.

The sad thing is that this incident wasn’t news to me.  Nor, I suspect, is it news to any woman reading this.  And I am equally sorry to say that to some of the men reading this, it probably isn’t news, but they are as appalled as any of the women.

There are numerous accounts of sexual harassment that I can think of from my own life, or those of my friends which show that the attitude of some males to females is changing at a snail’s pace, if it is changing at all.  Examples, off the top of my head:

1. I know of two women who have been raped and who did not take it to the police.

2. A friend of mine was escorted back to her room by a colleague after a work party, and when she emerged from the loo expecting to be alone, found a naked colleague in her bed inviting her to join him.  She invited him to leave.

3. A man I knew quite well at university offered to walk me to somewhere slightly off campus (it was early evening in Winter and therefore dark).  My instinct was to refuse, although I couldn’t put my finger on quite why, so I told myself I was being silly and accepted.  As soon as we reached the dark section of the walk, he grabbed me and pulled me towards him.  I remember spinning round and round to try and get away from him and the tussle ended up with me facing him, him holding both of my wrists.  I debated whether to knee him; he let me go.  As soon as I could get away from him, I telephoned my housemate (who happened to be a man); he collected me from the bus stop and took me home.

4. A man I knew, a good friend at the time, drunkenly asked to feel my breasts one evening and acted as if I was the one being unreasonable when I refused.

5. I have had a hand put up my skirt by a man in a nightclub.  As soon as I turned around to see what the hell was going on, he immediately removed his hand and put it up my friend’s skirt.  A male friend went to punch him, and another stood inbetween them to stop a brawl breaking out.

6. A former boss made repeated and open references to me being “fair game” when he found out I was going out with someone in the office, and asked the person I was dating if I was a “good shag.” Yes, he really wanted to know.  And, yes, he was a prick.

7. A former boss of Man of the House attempted to persuade him to go to a Christmas party by saying that if he played his cards right, he might be able to feel up some of the women there.  When Man of the House advised that he didn’t want to go to parties and sexually assault women, his then boss said that it was absolutely fine to grope a woman’s breasts, because if a woman didn’t like it, then she would slap you.  Yes, he was a prick too.

8. A friend was literally cornered in the office by a male superior to her (in rank only) who congratulated her left breast very warmly, and for a number of minutes, on its recent exam results.

9. Every single woman reading this will know that moment when a man wants to touch, or has touched you, but presents it to you as either a mistake, or friendship and would therefore make you appear the unreasonable one if you were to say anything.

There are four things that are telling about these examples.  The first is that half of them are about me, and I am not trying very hard to think of them.  I am just an ordinary woman going about her day.  There is absolutely nothing so irresistible about me that men can’t control themselves, I assure you.  And even if I did look like Beyonce, I am yet to grasp how that would constitute justification.  So on that basis, I know that most women reading this would have similar stories to tell if you asked them, assuming that they were willing to share.

Secondly, these incidents are over a range of twenty five years, and not just involving “men of a certain age”.  Five of the eight specific examples that I have given relating to me involved men of a similar age to me.  I do not believe that Ms Yeoh’s experience involved a particularly aged male.  This is particularly saddening.

Thirdly, nothing formal happened in respect of any of these incidents.  If we must put aside the first example, then what can you do?  I’m a lawyer and I am really not sure, in formal and legal terms, what you do unless you are feeling particularly brave and are prepared to stake your job and your reputation on it – which is presumably what men who behave like this rely on.

Finally, on several of these occasions, for every man behaving like a Neanderthal, whatever his age, there was another man pointing out that that is not how we treat women.  To the three men who were there when the examples given occurred to me, you may not even remember what you did, but thank goodness for you. I know that two of the three of you are now fathers.  This gives me both comfort and hope for our children.

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay

15 thoughts on “No”

  1. Well they would need to actually see what this guy was like to make a proper judgement on that. This wasn’t some slightly cheeky guy who just brushed up against my boob in a way that I really didn’t like. This guy came up behind me and full on grabbed and squeezed both my breasts for about 10 seconds until I could get him off me. His explanation was that someone had ‘dared’ him to do it for a bet.
    I assure you, there was no disagreement among the women there at the time (the staff were mostly women) that this guy really needed his nuts kicked.
    (I apologise for littering your comment section with all this Natalie, please feel free to just delete it all if it’s annoying. I just feel compelled to respond to guys who make crappy arguments)


      1. I think I would have reacted in a similar fashion at a similar age, had I not been so shocked at what he had done. When my boobs were groped I couldn’t quite believe it was happening. I’m not sure how bad it has to be to expected not to react- is groping genitals okay but boobs not? I think not but then I have the boobs. He was surely old enough to exercise some thoughts in not carrying out such a stupid dare, if indeed it was. I can only hope he has never done it again. I do understand why your employer at the time had to fire you both, but my sympathy lies with you.


      2. Glad to hear we agree Natalie!
        I totally know what you mean about being too shocked to act. I think a lot of women respond that way. I think that will start to improve the more you see another woman stand up for herself, as it gives you confidence to do the same.
        As for when we should act: I really think just touching our boobs at all should be off-limits.
        Would you agree with that? If a guy just kind of casually touches my boob (which has happened often), I’d probably just slap him. But if he’s going for a proper grab and squeeze, or if he’s trying to go up my skirt, I think any woman should have the right to just crush his bollocks then and there. I guarantee that will significantly decrease the likelihood of him trying it again in the future.


      3. I do think that touching boobs is off limits. I think that touching people full stop without their consent, tacit or otherwise, is off limits. I wouldn’t agree that slapping is okay per se- difficult to get the nuance when we’re talking in comments- but the idea that a man can touch a woman and he can expect a slap is an old one and I think we should all move on from that. There are some men who would risk it for a slap and others who wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing, slap or not. What someone should actually expect is to be escorted from the premises never to return and if a work situation, his employment terminated.


      4. Well that works in a perfect situation, sure. But what if you’re out on the street or in private where no-one will see or hear what happens. Or even worse, like with the stuff going on in Hollywood, in a situation where the actual managers in charge of the industry are complicit in helping assault happen.
        That’s why I’d say women need to learn to physically defend themselves and deal with men. Do you not really agree with how I kicked that guy then? Cos that obviously doesn’t fit this particular prescription.


      5. No I think a swift kick in the nuts probably meant he has never done it to anyone else. I suppose what I am saying is that I would prefer people to keep their damned hands to themselves. And I agree with what you say about Hollywood and private situations- which is why rape and sexual assaults are so difficult to prove in court and why so many women don’t come forward. Equally we have a lot in the news at the moment of appalling miscarriages of justice with evidence being withheld or not found by the police (due to budget restraints and therefore not having the officers to do so) which would have exonerated the accused.


      6. Ah ok, glad to hear it. Yes I think we can be very confident he didn’t try it again. He was in so much pain and was so humiliated by how I’d completely incapacitated him that he’s definitely going to avoid something similar happening again.
        I of course do agree that it would be preferable if it just didn’t happen at all. But I do think you need the individual self-defense aspect in order to achieve that because we’ll never be able to completely police what happens in private.
        So to stick with that 1 guy as an example. The reason I think he’ll never do it again is because he’ll worry that other women might punish him equally as successfully. But for that to actually work, women need to be doing that and defending themselves. Guys like that will pick up on the fact if only 1% of women are fighting back. It needs to be much higher than that. Or the deterrent isn’t there.


  2. Sorry to hear that you’ve had to experience all of that. I’ve had pretty much the same. This stuff seems to happen to a lot of women. I think it depends a bit on where you live as well though.
    One of my proudest moments in my teen years was getting fired from working at a bar in our local town because a colleague grabbed my breasts and I responded by kicking him in the balls so hard he collapsed on the floor and couldn’t get up.


      1. No, he got fired too! Luckily the manager, who was a woman, saw it happen and totally took my side. She fired me because the guy’s mum was complaining and putting a lot of pressure on them and they were worried of legal problems I think.
        In private she was awesome about it though. Said he totally deserved a kick in the balls.


    1. That’s insane. Of course you’d get fired for something like that. Assault and groping is no doubt awful but kicking a guy in the balls is so disproportionate a response.


      1. It really isn’t Gary. How many women have you spoken to before concluding that groping someone’s breasts isn’t a big enough deal to warrant a serious response? Of course there are often better ways to solve such issues but I was furious at the time and reacted instinctively with what seemed the best response at the moment.
        I guarantee very few women would say I was particularly out of line. Most would just say “good, he got what he deserved”.


      2. I didn’t say it wasn’t serious. But it’s not bad enough for you to kick someone that hard. I have heard a variety of different opinions from women I know about exactly how bad something like that is. I’m not sure if most would just congratulate you though.


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